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With more choice than ever before, it can be a challenge to decide which fuel type to go for when choosing a new WAV for private purchase or through the Motability Scheme. As petrol, diesel, hybrid, and fully electric vehicles are all available, understanding their differences can help to make the right choice for an individual easier.

  • Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles are available as petrol, diesel, hybrid, and fully electric.
  • Understanding different fuel types can help make the choice easier.

Since 1885 when Karl Benz developed the first petrol-engine car, liquid hydrocarbons and refined petroleum products in various iterations have been the dominant fuel for internal combustion engines.

In 1997 however, the Toyota Prius became the first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle and Tesla Motors was formed in 2003. The Nissan LEAF was launched in 2010 and today, most mainstream manufacturers produce cars for the electric/hybrid market.

Although new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans are set to be banned from sale in the UK in 2030, and new hybrids from 2035, there are still many new petrol and diesel cars available.

Both petrol and diesel cars only run on the fuel that is put into them and many can be obtained through the Motability Scheme for drivers who currently prefer a traditional car.

Petrol is usually cheaper than diesel to buy, generally produces lower CO2 and particulate emissions, and provides a quieter, smoother drive. This means it is often better for shorter journeys, and better for the environment.

However, diesel cars tend to be more fuel efficient so depending on the mileage to be done, a diesel car may still be more economical because although it is less costly, more petrol will be required to cover the same distance. Similarly, the distance between fill-ups will be longer with diesels and they tend to be a better option if the vehicle is needed for towing as their low torque means there is less wear and tear on the engine.

Hybrids are an engine option that sit in between petrol or diesel and electric. This could make them a good choice for drivers who are not sure about making the switch to a fully electric vehicle.

Basically, a hybrid engine combines the use of standard fuel and an electric battery but there are three types of hybrid vehicle which all have different levels of electric input:

Mild hybrids refer to vehicles that run with a standard combustion engine but use a small electric generator to help improve efficiency and reduce emissions. A mild hybrid cannot run on battery power alone but can give light electrical assistance.

Full, or self-charging hybrids are able to run on battery power alone or on standard fuel. Again, they combine the use of a combustion engine with a battery as the battery is recharged by running the combustion engine and regenerative braking. This means that fuel efficiency is improved and power can be boosted without the need for the vehicle to be plugged in to a charging source.

Plug-in hybrids fit in the space between petrol or diesel vehicles and fully electric vehicles. With a larger battery than those found in other hybrids, a plug-in hybrid attaches to an external power source using a charging cable. When charged, the main source of power for the vehicle is the electric motor and battery. The internal combustion engine takes over when the battery has run down. When the battery has been recharged then the vehicle drives on battery power again, and so on.

Clearly, because they use less fuel, hybrids are more efficient in terms of economy, better for the environment as they result in fewer particulate emissions, often provide a smoother engine and apart from a plug-in hybrid, have no requirement for change in driver behaviour.

Nevertheless, the addition of a battery reduces luggage and storage space while the advantages of a hybrid car do tend to make them a little more expensive. In terms of a plug-in hybrid, the user must factor regular external recharging into their routine to get the benefits of the vehicle, and there is the cost of a home electric vehicle charging point to be considered.

Ideally, a hybrid vehicle combines the driving range of petrol or diesel with the lower emissions and smooth running of an electric vehicle and requires no intervention from the driver to move between modes.

A wheelchair accessible vehicle provider that specialises in bespoke quality conversions and offers professional and experienced customer service will provide specialist advice and help buyers to make the best choice for their requirements.