Unleaded or diesel? For decades, these were the only choices when it came to how your car was fuelled.
Today though, it’s a little less straightforward following the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles, while hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could be just as commonplace by 2030. These are what UK automotive bodies deem to be ‘alternatively fuelled vehicles’ or AFVs, and they currently make up more than three per cent of all new cars sold in Britain.
Motorists can’t rely on petrol and diesel indefinitely and while they undoubtedly remain the mainstream options, environmentally-conscious drivers and car makers are keen to investigate new technology and solutions that are less polluting at the point of use.
Monday 17th October will be Alternative Fuel Day so to mark the occasion, here’s our pick of the best alternative fuel cars out there today.
This is the car that started the whole hybrid craze back in 1997 and almost 20 years and four generations on, it is still leading the way for what is possible when you combine electric motors with a petrol engine.
Early 2016 saw the arrival of an all-new completely redeveloped Prius that pushed fuel economy to new highs with a 94.1 combined mpg and 70g/km CO2 emissions. Its previously podgy cheese-wedge shape was toughened up with more aggressive lines while it became more engaging and comfortable to drive. Yep, the Prius is better than ever.
Toyota has adapted and developed the Prius idea in recent years, offering the Prius+ seven-seater MPV and a plug-in version in 2012, but neither have resonated with the public (and taxi drivers) quite as much as the conventional Prius.
Volkswagen Passat GTE
One way of maximising the efficiency of a hybrid is the ability to hook it up to a plug socket and that’s exactly what you can do with VW’s Passat GTE.
Even before the Dieselgate emissions drama, VW was rolling out plug-in versions of its most popular models with the e-up! and e-Golf, but the solely electric range is a put-off for many.
This Passat though calms any range anxiety by firing up a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine when the 31-mile electric range is all used up for another 500 miles of driving.
With five doors, five seats and 650 litres of boot space (in the estate), the Passat GTE is one of the most accommodating plug-in vehicles on the market.
Kia Soul EV
We owe this car an apology. It really should have featured in our best electric cars feature earlier this week, but you can’t please everyone so hopefully this battery-powered compact SUV can find it in its heart to forgive us.
If you can dig its right-angled exterior, then you’ll love everything else about the Kia Soul EV.
Hyundai ix35 FCEV
Not much has been said about hydrogen so far; that’s because there aren’t many models to choose from and current infrastructure is skeletal. As it stands, there are only a handful of publically available filling stations, but the government hopes to increase that to 12 or 14 by the end of 2016.
It’s a similar problem to what electric cars had not too long ago: no car maker wanted to sell an electric car because there was nowhere to charge it. Similarly nobody wanted to invest in developing a charging network because there were no electric cars to use it. A real catch-22 situation.
So why have we settled on Hyundai’s hydrogen-fuelled Qashqai rival? Because it’s a record breaker. It made history after racking up the longest ever continuous journey by a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle. Sure, it’s a bit of a convoluted claim but it still counts as a world record.
Tesla Model S
Proof if ever you needed it that electric cars can compete with their petrol and diesel counterparts. The Model S secured a spot in our best electric cars rundown and it’s tough to exclude here too.
It is currently the quickest production car in the world, striking 62mph in 2.5 seconds, while its 366-mile range is better than any other electric car out there right now.
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