What you need to know:
- Downside. According to Desh Kananura, a car enthusiast, one of the downsides of hybrid cars is that their spare parts come at a cost. Secondly, because of bad roads, if, for example the longevity of a hybrid car is 10 years, it reduces to six or seven years before you start replacing some parts. Things such as tyre replacements are cheap because they use the ordinary ones.
There are cars that are fully electric and those that are hybrid. Hybrid means; that the car can run on both the combustion engine that uses normal fuel and the battery that supports the engine.
For example, when I test drove the Honda Insight 2009 model, starting the journey at Forest Mall Lugogo, via Uganda Police Headquarters and Kampala Parent’s School at Naguru and eventually to Lugogo Bypass at Nanjing Hotel, its dashboard did not only show how much power was left on the battery but also the fact that I was driving in electric vehicle mode (EV).
The battery mode drive is mostly silent and gives an update of the distance covered in a single drive. Such is the technological beauty of the hybrid Honda Insight.
Robert Mukisa, who drove the Honda Insight when he worked in South Africa for eight years, says the Honda Insight’s 1300cc engine kicks in when driving at high speeds of 140kph and above.
“It has a maximum speed of 180kph and only burns more fuel when going uphill where it needs more power. It is the best hybrid car to drive in traffic jam where it only runs on the battery. The battery can be replaced at approximately Shs8m after driving between 120,000km to 150,000km and this can be covered between eight to 11 years,” Mukisa speaks about the car he is now selling at Shs30m.
Desh Kananura, a car enthusiast explains that when hybrid cars, including a Honda Insight, are moving, the batteries charge continuously, allowing the car to give you an extended mileage range. For example, if your combustion engine covers 300km, the hybrid car will cover approximately 500km because it uses the battery to give you the extended range.
Hybrid cars have different systems. In ordinary hybrid cars, when you drive below 60kph, they run using battery and when you drive over 60km/hour, the engine takes over. However, new hybrid systems, for example those used in Formula One cars, when you brake instantly, it generates power to charge the batteries. There are also hybrids you will park and charge such as the Tesla.
“The biggest advantage with hybrid cars is that they give you extended mileage, are silent and are environmentally friendly,” Kananura says.
Service and maintenance
Charles Ssemukuutu, a mechanic, says in terms of cost, hybrid cars are cheaper not only to buy but also to service compared to cars running on combustion engines.
“You have to replace or blow the air cleaner depending on where you drive. Full maintenance is mainly the engine, transmission system and brakes. If you use three months to cover 5,000km in an engine combustion car, you may use more than nine months to cover the same distance in a hybrid because of the extended mileage the battery gives you,” Ssemukuutu explains.
The lifespan of tyres on a hybrid car, Ssemukuutu says is longer because traction is controlled by the system. Fuel consumption is greatly low and the lifespan of spark plugs is equally longer. Since it has an element of degenerative braking, it means you will not use brake pads all the time, thereby increasing their lifespan and saving on maintenance costs.
“Most hybrid cars have the capacity to engage all wheels to manoeuvre through the road easily when driving on rough roads. They have parking, reverse and drive modes, with no choice of shifting the gear lever to the neutral mode when going downhill. It (neutral mode) is intellectually built in the car computer system,”Ssemukuutu adds.
Some hybrid cars have the economy button, which when pressed, allows the car not to accelerate beyond a set speed, meaning that driving speed can be customised.
Much as servicing hybrid cars is not different from a normal combustion engine, Kananura says mechanics have to think long-term and learn more about repairing hybrid cars that are slowly finding their way to Uganda.
Kananura also urges government to not only encourage local investors to set up infrastructural facilities, especially charging points on major highways and in all Ugandan cities but also reduce or waive taxes on hybrid cars because of the environmental saving benefits they come with.
Most hybrid cars, regardless of size, Kananura says, perform much faster than big SUVs. This is because they are light and have no double differentials, big axles and gearboxes, but just have mortars. Their weight to power ratio is also incredible; that an electric or hybrid car could be 500kg lighter than ordinary car. On the road, the electric or hybrid car will be faster compared to an ordinary car.