Ask the Mechanic: Full electric, hybrid or petrol driven?

Hello Paul, I drive a 100 kilometre round trip to work four to five times a week. Would an electric, hybrid or petrol-powered car be better?


Hello Stacy, your choice of car between a full electric vehicle (EV), hybrid or internal combustion petrol will be determined by your budget, travelling needs, environmental issues and your choice; driven by the benefits of each option.

EV as an option has the lowest running costs as electricity charge per kilowatt hour is lower than the cost of petrol. Electric vehicles produce zero emissions making them an ideal option for environmental protection and cleaner air quality. They also have a significantly low maintenance cost. An EV has about 20 moving parts while a petrol powered car has more than 20,000 moving parts. That is how much more wear and tear you have to deal with in a petrol driven car.

EVs are smoother and quieter to run while they have quicker acceleration due to instantaneous torque from their electric motors. Evs can also be charged at home overnight and can run on the same charge for a few days if you do short commutes. Their downside is limited range; while you can commute easily for short distances such as 13kms and charge at home in the evening every few days, your round trip of 100kms will require having public fast charging infrastructure along your route. In Uganda, we do not have a network of EV charging commercial infrastructure yet, although there is promise as some commercial interests in the convenience retailing business may pick interest when EV sales go up.

The cost of owning EVs is higher than that of petrol driven or hybrid cars. In Uganda, it would require introduction of environmental driven incentives such as tax rebates or financing grants to help buyers afford these cars. Arguably, the cost of an average eight-hour plug in full electric charge can be noticeable depending on the cost per kilowatt hour in different markets. So, electric cars are not exactly without any running costs.

Hybrid cars have an internal combustion engine with one or two electric motors. Unlike the EVs, conventional hybrids are not plug-in charged. Their batteries are charged by regenerative braking and the internal combustion engine. However, there are some Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) with battery packs that can be charged by plugging into an external power source.

Hybrid cars have better fuel economy and reduced emission pollution compared to petrol driven cars. For your 100km commute, a hybrid car may be a better option as it is not limited by range issues such as the EV car, with no need for external charging infrastructure for the long commute. Hybrid car options are still more expensive to buy than the petrol driven cars.

Although there are more affordable used hybrid cars on the market, they tend to come with limited battery life, with the cost of a new replacement hybrid battery pack being about Shs20m. Used hybrid cars can be unreliable and costly to fix when their aged inverters and batteries fail. You are better off buying a brand new hybrid car, which will give you 180,000kms battery lifespan since newer batteries give a longer lifespan.

Petrol driven cars have lower purchase costs compared to hybrids and EVs. They are a convenient and anxiety-free options for long distance travel because petrol stations are everywhere. Petrol-driven cars are also easier to repair as their technology has been around for a longer time. The flip side is that petrol vehicles are more expensive to run and leave an environmental footprint. Newer petrol cars are built with fuel economy enhancing technology such as variable valve timing and electronic fuel injection as well as emission reducing technology such as catalytic convertors. This technology is sensitive to inevitable fuel system dirt buildup, which needs to be kept clean. The newer technology in petrol engines significantly improves fuel economy and reduces emissions when you use reputable fuels designed with cleaning additives to maintain and protect the fuel system and engine.


Hello Paul, I bought a used car three days ago. It now has grinding brakes. Should the dealer fix it?


Hello Alex, if you bought a used car from a dealer and the brakes started grinding after three days, your expectation of the dealer’s repair of the brakes should be guided by your purchase agreement. If you bought the used car in a ‘’sold as is’’ condition, it means you take full responsibility and burden for any defects or repair needs of the vehicle at the time of purchase.

However, if the dealer provides some sort of limited warranty against specified defects including brakes, then you can return to the dealership to resolve the defective brakes.

That said, grinding brakes are usually caused by worn out brake pads and brake discs. An inspection of their surfaces can confirm which of the two components are worn out. Seldom, failure of the brake caliper due to jamming can damage brake pads and discs. During inspection, a mechanic can tell if the caliper has jammed.

Dirty or aged brake fluid can cause brake caliper overheating or failure which will cause brake jamming and the grinding noise. This too contributes to brake caliper jamming and grinding noise. Intrusion of dust and corrosion buildup can cause grinding noise. Regular brake cleaning during routine inspection, especially after parking the car for a long time is necessary.

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