CAR EXPERTA plug-in hybrid is a car with both a petrol engine and an electric motor. You start electric and switch to petrol as the distance progresses. ‘But what if you only drive short distances and don’t need petrol?’, reader Theo Wielens wonders. Our car expert Niek Schenk answers.
Ask: ‘My Mercedes B 250e is a plug-in hybrid. I can drive it electrically for up to 70 kilometers. The practice now is that I almost always drive electrically, because almost all my journeys are within a limited distance of my home. I used to drive on gas and then you had to drive on petrol every now and then. Does this advice also apply to a hybrid? Or can you drive it electrically indefinitely?’
Auto editor Niek Schenk replies: “This situation is becoming more and more common as plug-in hybrids continue to move towards electric-only power. Thanks to larger and better performing battery packs, there are now hybrids that can drive more than 100 kilometers electrically.
The comparison with a car that runs on LPG or LPG is not entirely valid. Such a car is always powered by the same engine, which runs on both petrol and gas. Driving exclusively on LPG for a long period of time often caused engine damage, especially in older LPG installations. It was therefore advised to regularly switch to petrol.
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However, a plug-in hybrid has at least two engines: a petrol engine and an electric motor. Although there is often cooperation, each engine in such a hybrid can function completely independently. Precisely because this drive system is designed to work separately, it is technically not a problem if one motor is in continuous operation.
But there is another risk. The fuel supply in the fuel tank may be aging. Gasoline that remains in the fuel tank for a long time and is inevitably exposed to the outside air will eventually deteriorate in quality. This can lead to reduced performance and possibly even damage to the engine.
That’s why many hybrids have a system built in that prevents the fuel stock from aging too quickly. As a result, the petrol engine occasionally switches on automatically for a short period of time. Driving exclusively electrically is therefore impossible in principle. Since the engine technology in hybrids is often very quiet and works very smoothly, you will probably hardly notice it in practice.
Finally, one final tip: keep an eye on the regular maintenance of the petrol engine if you are constantly driving on electricity. Motor oil can also age and will therefore have to be changed at some point.’
Our car editor Niek Schenk answers reader questions every week. Mail your question to firstname.lastname@example.org
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