Having been driving for some time now which also happens to be another way of realising how old I am, I decided to cast my thoughts back over the last twenty years and think about how much engines and the fuelling of them have changed in my cars.
At nineteen years old and a lot of my friends at some point owned a Vauxhall Nova SR, this 1.3cc, 69bhp machine was the holy grail at the time and at the top end of the budget for most of us. A four cylinder petrol car known for its good entry-level in to cool motoring. By today’s standards they were not quick by any description but were a robust small hatch that were relatively cheap to insure.
My vehicles at this time like the Nova were petrol and remained so for sometime, the thought of moving over to diesel at that time was not even a consideration, it was the thing parents had!
Petrol was so smooth and clean, pulling up at the petrol station you would look at the diesel pump with horror at the level of filth surrounding it, whilst the petrol pump glistened in the sun.
The noise from diesel vehicles was awful at the time too, the old Peugeot 405 and 306 often driving past like there were bags of marbles under the bonnet! Eventually the inevitable started to occur and diesels were becoming more popular as time passed. Company car drivers were elated at the miles per gallon being returned and parents joyful at only filling their cars up once a month for family journeys.
Whilst all of this was going I continued to battle on playing my part in the war on diesel. Having bought a Subaru Impreza WRX I was filling up with Shell V-Power as it was then on a daily basis and loving it but after two and a half years of love with the boxer engine Subaru it was time to move on.
During my apprenticeship I worked on and repaired BMW’s and this is where my love of that brand was born. The next car for me was a gorgeous E36 3.0 5 speed M3 Coupe. This straight six ultimate driving machine in Hell Red, with Black leather vadar seats was beautiful. It was without doubt a complete handful in comparison to the 4WD Subaru I had come from and being an early car it had very little driving aids.
After a while I parted company with the M3 and had a few cars that were much better on my wallet, a Cavalier, Toyota Mr2 (Mk1), Mondeo and a lovely Honda Civic VTI-S and all of which were petrol but in many different engine styles.
At the same time of owning the Honda I became a parent, my job also saw me start to go out spending more and more time away from home and covering the length of the UK, it was at this point I received my first company car and it was a diesel..
I had become a diesel driver for the first time in 2011. The vehicle was a 2.0cc Vauxhall Insignia which was a recent addition to the range. My needs had changed both through work and in my personal life.
It had a huge boot for all the baby related paraphernalia and for work returned me 65 miles per gallon. It moved off the line pretty quickly for a family car but soon ran out of puff in the rev range as expected. All in all I was a little bit annoyed to say it was nice to drive.
I had the Vauxhall for three years and returned it to the lease company, replacing it with another diesel in a Volkswagen Passat CC. I couldn’t get petrol, I covered too many miles in my day job for it to even be a consideration.
The Passat CC was a big step up from the Vauxhall both in quality and driving experience, still a 2.0cc six speed, it was elegant in its dress of pure white paint and black leather interior. Diesels had clearly moved on again in the three years since I had received my first one, the CC was exceptionally quiet, BHP had increased too with most 2.0 litre diesels on the market now around the 170 mark. It was quick and nimble but I still missed the joys of a wound up petrol engine.
My love of BMW still raged on inside and I decided whilst my Passat CC was lovely for family and work I needed a second vehicle to go out on Sunday mornings to use solely for clearing my mind of the week’s pressures.
I found a 2001 BMW E46 M3 Convertible and I fell in love with it. Straight six, 338bhp, bulging arches, what’s not to love! Petrol was back in my life and I was buzzing!
A couple of years passed, I was continuing to enjoy every moment of the M3 at the weekends and my Passat CC was due to be returned, I had to make another decision on what my new daily driver would be.
Running through all the options available to me on the company’s extensive list of vehicles it was still clear my life/work balance still wasn’t able to escape the clutches of diesel life so in 2016 I ordered a Mercedes 220d AMG line.
Again this car was far superior to the previous VW in quality, driveability and all round road presence. Not only had diesels continued to get stronger, quicker and more agile but I still had my E46 M3 to fall back on for that petrol buzz when I needed it most.
Eventually I decided to part with my M3 after five and a half years of ownership. A decision I didn’t make lightly but if truth be told I got bored with it. I had never owned a car that long before and I had achieved what I wanted to with it whether that be in appearance enhancement’s or the opportunity of owning a vehicle I so adored as an apprentice many years before.
I was using the Mercedes all time at this point whilst I weighed up in my mind what the M3 replacement would be. Eventually and after test driving a couple I purchased an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
Another petrol vehicle in my life to sit alongside the daily diesel Mercedes.
Roll forward to late 2019 and my Mercedes is due for change, our household has now had nearly nine full years of petrol and diesel cars within it and it’s about to all change.
I’m older (and allegedly wiser) now, thinking of things like company car tax and how much the car is costing me. My BMW love is telling me to take the M140i on the company car list as it would be a brute, my brain and the benefit in kind tax matrix soon put that thought to bed with its eye watering sums..
So what else is available to me, well one did catch my eye!
I decided it was time for me to venture into the world of hybrid vehicles. I decided to order a BMW 330e M-sport in the absolutely stunning colour of Portimao Blue Metallic. Being my entry vehicle to hybrid I decided to add a few options to the vehicle such as larger 19” alloy wheels, heated steering wheel, privacy glass, enhanced Bluetooth wireless charging and a couple of other smaller items.
I knew I had the V8 of the Aston proudly sat in the garage ready to roar at a moment’s notice which reassured me further before entering this unknown world of electricity.
For the first time since 2010 we no longer have a diesel in our family. I didn’t think that day would come. Ironically it was similar to never thinking I’d own a diesel all of them years earlier.
The end of February 2020 arrived and delivery day was here, the truck pulled up outside the house with my very and almost chrome effect blue electric hybrid vehicle sat on the back. In comparison to the Mercedes I handed back, the interior was like a spaceship.
There are so many options to filter through it took me well over an hour and a half to set the car up. It has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a modern premium saloon such as electric everything, Apple Car Play, multi-climate control zones including rear passengers, cabin lights available in multiple colours, it even has the ability to play you music to relax you or wake you up depending on your mood.
A phone app accompanies this vehicle allowing you to lock/unlock the vehicle, sound the horn, see its current location, enter a destination to the sat-nav, fuel and electric availability is also there to view. There is even an option via the app to heat the seats, steering wheel, front and rear windows and overall cabin temperature so when you arrive at the car on a cold morning it’s all toasty and ready to simply drive off with ease.
Time to have my first drive, it’s so quiet! A gentle whine when pulling away, but the silence is definitely something you have to get used to. For those reading who are yet to venture in to this area or take notice of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV), they are essentially a petrol engine combined with a battery. The default mode of the car is often the ECU of the vehicle making the decision to run on either of the two propulsion methods. On any PHEV the vehicle can be charged via a standard three pin house plug or using a type 2 cable which allows a faster charging time through charging stations either specifically added to your home or seen at various places around the country such as motorway service stations.
The 330e is equipped with a 2.0 turbo petrol engine with a lithium ion battery located behind the back seats. The vehicle produces 288 BHP with the engine and battery combined and due to the 110 BHP from the battery, pick up speed from standstill is extremely quick.
Options to drive in electric only or hybrid mode which uses both engine and battery working together in harmony or on a clear road a sport mode variation named “extra boost” will provide every ounce of both engine/turbo/battery power possible giving you full opportunity to move quickly.
fast forward just over 12 months and It’s now April 2021. The vehicle has been in our family for over a year and I will try and sum up my thoughts on ownership, changing from diesel and was it the right thing to do?
For me I have not looked back, the vehicle is far superior to any I have owned before. By changing to hybrid it was a lot cheaper in BIK (company car tax) and in fact put a hefty sum back in my pocket each month. The driveability of the car is fantastic, the instant power when you need it and the quietness of the experience is wonderful. It has truly been a welcome change.
Charge time is around 8 hours on the 330e and it isn’t capable of fast charging so putting the vehicle on charge overnight is the only real option and being honest, I don’t bother, nor do I have the ability with my house/driveway setup. There is a button in the vehicle where you can use the engine to charge the battery whilst driving and a full charge will see a total of 25 miles available in full electric, I do use this often to re-generate the electric level.
I will also add that due to the battery size the fuel tank is tiny, at £40 to fill it up you are constantly at the filling station with that faithful green pump in your hand.
If like me you are charging up and down the country for work the only real benefit you get from a plug in hybrid during working hours is the low BIK tax rate and entry to some city areas free of charge due to emissions.
However if your private life is made up of local journeys, popping to the shops and seeing friends nearby and you are charging the vehicle each time you return home there are some serious cost benefits to running on electric over fuel.
In a word, no.
For my work/life balance it simply wouldn’t work for me. With no ability to plug in at the home address right now I would need to find local charging stations. For work and travelling long distances I would need to plan a route which included stops to charge the vehicle paying retail rates for electricity and also being mentality unable to not buy food/drink at those stops would be bad for my gut and ruin any potential savings a full electric vehicle would provide.
I have found my perfect balance. I have a petrol guzzling Aston Martin V8 for weekends to blow off the pressure of the working week and my daily drive is in some weird way paying back some of that carbon footprint by covering local journeys on full electric drivetrain.
For anyone who is still awake and continuing to read this blog my advice to you if you’ve never considered a hybrid would be to test drive one before denying it as a possibility. A study by BMW showed the average person believing their daily journeys were in excess of 60 miles a day, truth be told it was actually less than 20.
If you don’t travel far or like me you want the tax efficiency a hybrid could provide then try one. Maybe even a full electric vehicle is better for you?
One thing is for sure, the government and manufacturers are all heading one way and its electric, so like myself all those years ago thinking a diesel wouldn’t ever be on my drive and now having evolved in my motor car ownership to being powered partly by electricity, times are changing and you will need to change with them!
Peace and Love