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Do you have a question about hybrid cars? Ask a Toyota expert and you could win a £200 Love2Shop voucher - ANSWERS BACK

(66 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 03-Jun-13 12:29:31

This week we're running a Q&A about hybrid cars. Toyota have been making hybrid cars for over 12 years but there are still many myths surrounding this technology, like do hybrids need special fuel? Richard Seymour, a fully skilled technician at Toyota will be answering your questions. Richard has 20 years experience working in the technical team preparing and testing vehicles and has worked with Hybrid technology since its introduction.

So if you have a question about hybrid cars please post on this thread to Richard before 10th June. Everyone who posts a question will be entered into a draw to win a £200 voucher for Love2shop. We'll post up Richard's answers on June 17th.

This Q&A is sponsored by Toyota
The all new Auris Hybrid is the perfect family hatchback with a difference, packed with attitude, fun for the kids and even more fun for you. Find out more here.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 20-Jun-13 11:19:28

Congratulations to missorinoco winner of £200 vouchers for Love2Shop. We'll PM you with info about how to claim your prize.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 11:03:52


What happens about breakdown insurance for hybrid cars - would this be covered by companies such as AA or RAC or do you need specialist companies?

Why are hybrid cars have automatic rather than manual gear boxes - please can you explain.


Roadside assistance companies are fully trained in all our cars, including hybrids. If you do ever have a problem on the road, the services that come to your aid will know and understand the technology.

The reason Toyota hybrids are automatic is to maximise the efficiency of the hybrid system. We link the road wheels, the engine and the electric motor together and the on-board system ensures they work seamlessly to provide the driver with the most efficient, smooth and quiet driving experience.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 11:02:47


Do you think the major recalls of Prius cars will lead to even greater consumer scepticism about the benefits of hybrids?


Do you think the major recalls of Prius cars will lead to even greater consumer scepticism about the benefits of hybrids?

Recalls happen to all manufacturers and not just to hybrids. In 2012, the number of vehicle recalls for all manufacturers was over 600. Toyota instigates recall as the safety of our customers is our top priority.

Looking back at last year we sold over 20,000 hybrids in the UK (2012) and from next year, globally we are on track to be selling over 1 million hybrids a year!

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 11:01:45


How well would a hybrid cope with lots of little journeys?

I know that it is a Bad. Thing. for diesels as they need to have a regular longer run to clear out particulates or something similar (probably over simplifying hugely!).

however, these days I typically do the school run (couple of miles - stop and drop a child - couple of miles - stop and drop next child - mile and a half - stop at home, then the reverse in the afternoons. Pop to the shops or a friends sometimes during the day but maximum of 5 miles journey each way. And often will consist of several short journeys of a mile or two each within maybe a 3 hour time slot). Occasionally get a longer run to visit relatives say but that's probably less than once a month.

Currently I have one car that copes with this with no problem and an older car that, although supposedly the better car, really struggles as the short journeys don't charge the battery up enough (previously the run to nursery 3x/week round trip of 20ish miles and it was perfectly happy). Which then means that I'll be out and do a couple of hops and then discover that the battery isn't charged enough to start the car - which is then a vicious circle as I take the other car more and thus the poor one gets even less driving/charging time).

I worry that if I were to get a hybrid car and do my typical daytime school run / shopping / etc short hop journeys, I'm going to end up paying extra for the hybrid factor but actually using it very little as I never do enough long journeys to charge it up. So in these circumstances, is it worth switching over yet or waiting until they improve even further (or until my circumstances change and I'm doing more long journeys!).

First of all, do not fear as hybrid cars have 2 batteries: your standard car battery that runs all the electrics of the car in a conventional way and then there is the rechargeable battery that is incorporated into the hybrid drive system of the car. The stop/start nature of town driving means that you are using brakes regularly which will consequently recharge the hybrid battery. On top of this, when needed, the petrol engine will also power the generator that is within the hybrid system. This will assist in charging the hybrid battery too and ensure the battery never goes without charge.

Hybrids work just as well on long or short journeys. When driving a hybrid on shorter journeys, particularly in the town or city, you’ll notice the car will run on the electric battery for much of the journey, giving you near silent, emission free driving.

Based on your typical journeys, a hybrid would be perfect. I’d recommend the Prius Plug-in, which operates just like a conventional hybrid car with the additional benefit of being able to charge it through a plug to give you up to 15.5 miles of electric only driving.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 11:00:59


Generally hybrids are more expensive but have lower running costs. How long does it take to pay its increased cost off?

Thanks for the question. This is a difficult one to answer as it depends very much on driving style. I advise that owners should expect to see a 30-40% reduction in fuel used, depending on driving style.

It is also important to mention the savings made throughout the ownership of a hybrid. Fuel benefits are of course a great reason to embrace hybrid cars but the fact that it doesn't have a starter motor, alternator belt, timing belt or clutch to have to replace, and the regenerative brakes (both pads and discs) last longer than standard ones all add up in the overall savings benefits.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:59:43


Would you say a hybrid car is just as reliable as a non hybrid with regards to breaking down? Would the RAC (for example) still be able to solve the problem roadside?

Does the efficiency of a hybrid show on the amount of road tax you pay?

I generally use my car for short trips with a few longer trips at the weekend, spending roughly £20 p/week on fuel. How would this differ in a hybrid? Would my 'shorter' trips run off the electric side of things?

Our Toyota hybrids have won many awards for their reliability. I have seen examples of Toyota hybrids with hundreds of thousands miles on the clock that continue to serve their owners.

With a new Toyota you get a one year's free AA roadside assistance. Roadside rescue services are fully conversant with our technology and cars so they are able to fix most problems on the side of the road. However, as with non-hybrids, some problems may require more attention and can't be fixed road-side.

Our hybrids have very low emissions, therefore road tax can be completely free of charge or in the lowest cost band, depending on which model you drive. With new congestion charge legislation coming into effect from 1st July our Prius Plug-in will also benefit from being exempt from having to pay this on entering this London zone.

Based on the driving you describe, I'd recommend a Prius Plug-in as the perfect car for you. It has an 'electric only' range of around 15.5 miles, perfect for your shorter trips, with the added benefit of near silent driving and zero tailpipe emissions. Thanks to the hybrid power train's petrol engine, Prius Plug-in is equally able to accomplish long distance trips.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:57:36


Do developments in motor racing, such as formula one's KERS systems, really filter down in to road cars? Are there any areas within your hybrid cars which have come from the motor sport arena?

Interestingly, motorsport KERS systems were inspired by conventional hybrid regenerative braking systems. This uses the energy from braking to recharge the hybrid battery. A key focus for motorsport that does filter to our production cars is aerodynamics. The lessons on complex airflow learned on the track are passed into the production cars with some amazing results. Read a aero blog.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:54:17


As they're not commonly used at the moment would maintainence and repairs on hybrid cars not be more expensive than a non hybrid?
Coupled with the higher outlay cost as well it's not a car for the everyday person currently.

When do you think the tides will turn and hybrids become the norm?

The tides have already turned! Toyota hybrids are extremely reliable and therefore the cost of ownership is comparatively reduced. For example Toyota hybrids have no clutch or starter motor, and the brakes last longer thanks in part to the work being done by the regenerative electric braking system. Big company fleets have already seen the benefit of this and many specify hybrids as much for cost saving as environmental reasons as they see reduced servicing and repairs bills over 60,000 miles.

From a business/company car driver point of view the hybrid cars are a particularly shrewd choice due to their low emissions nature. In fact, a Prius Plug-in (the lowest emitting of them all) carries only a 5% benefit in kind company car tax rating. This equates to less than £52 per month of tax for your average 40% tax payer.

Prices are coming down all the time, for example a new Yaris Hybrid starts at £15,195, but you’ll also get a great deal on the second hand market. With most hybrids, you don’t even pay for road tax as the car has low emissions.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:52:32


Would there be any benefit in learning to drive in a hybrid car? Is the actual 'drive' any different? I'm thinking of my teen DCs and whether we should encourage the more eco friendly route.

Toyota hybrid cars are very quiet, relaxing and easy to drive. You drive a hybrid much like an automatic. The only thing to consider is that passing your test in an automatic will not allow you to drive a car with a manual gearbox.

We've extended the range of our hybrid fleet and I'd recommend a Yaris Hybrid for the teenagers. The Yaris has always been known for being a small, economical car that’s now better than ever with the Yaris Hybrid. It's very inexpensive to run, insure and looks great with LED lights and the 'new look' Toyota design. I think it's the best looking Yaris yet!

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:50:59


How much would a typical car owner save every year on fuel costs by using a hybrid car instead of a standard engine car of the same size? Say 12,000 miles of mixed motoring. I'm sure Toyota must have the figures to be able to work that out for me smile

It is impossible to give exact comparison because everyone has different driving styles, uses different roads, encounters more or less traffic, etc, however it is fair to assume a hybrid will deliver a 30-40% saving in running costs.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:50:16


Will the battery be replaceable in Hybrids or will the car lose its value/the battery very expensive to replace, a bit like an iPhone battery is very hard to replace?

The batteries in our hybrid cars are designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle, i.e. the same as in a normal petrol or diesel car. I have seen examples of Toyota hybrids with hundreds of thousands miles on the clock that have shown no loss in performance.

It is worth remembering that all Toyota cars have a five year warranty and on hybrids the battery has an eight year warranty. In the thousands of hybrids sold in the UK so far, only a handful have had battery failure.

The first Toyota Prius was sold in 1997 in Japan and subsequently well over 3 million have been sold worldwide since then. Through this we have vast experience of battery performance and life expectancy. This continues to be some our most robust technology with batteries generally lasting well past the 8 year warranty they have always possessed.

In the unlikely event that the hybrid battery does need to be replaced and the warranty has expired, the cost is approximately £800.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:49:11


We have the 7 seater Prius and, despite massive reservations as I love cars with a strong external design like the mini, I'm a complete convert to hybrid.

I'd be really interested to know about the future smaller hybrid cars coming up. I like quirky and classically designed cars - any plans for making a hybrid that looks cool on the outside as well as being cool in the engine bit?

Thanks smile

Hybrid technology can be built in to any type of car and so there is no technical reason not to have sports cars or convertibles in the future. However, one of the reasons for the shape and design of our current hybrids is aerodynamic efficiency, an important factor in saving fuel.

Toyota is already developing the next generation of hybrid technology that will see smaller and even more efficient batteries produced. These will weigh less and take up less room, allowing for smaller hybrid vehicles to be designed. Our smallest hybrid in the current range is the Yaris Hybrid which launched last July. Take a look here: Toyota Yaris Hybrid | Toyota UK

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:47:48


Is it true that the materials and air miles for shipping batteries for hybrid cars outweighs the environmental impact of not using fuel in the car over it's lifetime?

If not, how long do you need to run a hybrid car before the environmental damage of making and shipping the battery is repaid?

In a word, no. Scare stories about battery production were disproved several years ago.

We use an internationally recognised process called Lifecycle Assessment. In the lifetime of any car the emissions that are generated by driving account for approximately 90% of the total. Manufacturing, shipping, scrapping and recycling account for the other 10%. Therefore a technology which saves fuel will see a saving in emissions overall.

We also make every effort to ensure our manufacturing plants are as clean as possible, for example our UK plant uses solar power (enough to make 7,000 cars) and creates zero waste to landfill. Even the ships coming from Japan have solar panels to assist in lowering their emissions. Here is a short film to explain it: Lifecycle Assessment video

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:45:32


Is the hybrid car also fuel efficient with petrol or do you need to keep it charged if you want to save money/the environment?

The battery in a hybrid is constantly recharging itself automatically so will always be ready to offer the best economy. A hybrid never works by the petrol engine alone.

The only exception is our Prius Plug-in which gives you an additional to 15.5 miles of electric only driving. Once that charge has been used it works like a normal hybrid and will continue to charge through the driving of the car itself.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:38:36


When could we expect hybrid cars to come down in price to say a £6k price bracket or will this never happen?

Due to the cost of the technology in the cars, it would be difficult to offer a new hybrid car for £6k. However, there are two routes to a hybrid that you may well want to consider.

Firstly, having launched Yaris Hybrid last year we now have hybrid technology in one of our city cars. Whilst not below the £6k price tag you mention the good thing about hybrids is there ability to retain strong residual values. The great thing about this is it helps to keep monthly payments low when bought through an Access Toyota PCP plan. Do take a look at our website to see the offers available on the Yaris Hybrid as well as the rest of the hybrid range: New Car Deals | New Car Offers | Toyota UK

The other route would be the used market as a great place to look for hybrids in that price bracket. Toyota hybrids have been on sale in the UK since 2000 so there are cars of all ages and prices. Take a look through the used car section of the Toyota website if you?re interested in picking up a Toyota approved bargain: Used cars

Hybrids are very reliable due to the low stress placed on the components, a function of the way the hybrid system works. As such we see cars with lots of miles on the clock still going strong. For example, we?ve recently seen a customer?s Mk2 Prius with over 350,000 miles on the clock!

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:35:03


Thanks AMumInScotland for your helpful posts.

My question to Richard relates to the sizes of hybrid cars. Do they come in large family car sizes (e.g. 6-7 seaters like a Toyota Corolla Verso)? If so, how much more economical are these than their petrol/diesel counterparts?

We've recently grown our hybrid family with the introduction of new hybrid models to the range. From the small city car Yaris to the Prius+, a seven seat MPV style car, perfect for families who want to take advantage of hybrid driving. In July, our hybrid range will grow further, with the launch of Auris Touring Sports.

Here's a link to the section of Toyota's website which goes through all of the details of the hybrid family

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:33:01


I really want to know why it is "better" to have an electric car when we make most of our electricity from burning fossil fuels anyway. Is it some kind of hope that we will one day get all the electricity from renewable energy?

You are correct to consider the issue of energy generation when considering pure electric vehicles. An electric car charged from solar panels will have lower real world emissions than one charged from energy taken from a coal fired power plant.

Toyota is working on pure electric vehicles, but we believe the better solution is hybrid, now and in the future. Toyota's hybrid system can make any engine more efficient – whether that be petrol, diesel or even energy sources of the future, like hydrogen.

What is "better" about hybrid technology is that is recycles the energy that would normally be wasted in a conventional engine. Putting the energy naturally generated during the use of the car back into the battery for further use means less use of fossil fuels.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:31:11


What is the lifespan of the batteries used in hybrids/EVs?

What developments can we expect in the near future in terms of battery size/weight/energy density?

The batteries in our hybrid cars typically last the lifetime of the vehicle, i.e. the same as a normal petrol or diesel car. I have seen examples of Toyota hybrids with hundreds of thousands miles on the clock that have shown no loss in performance whilst still on the original battery. Don’t forget, all hybrid batteries come with an 8 year/100,000 mile warranty.

Toyota is already developing the next generation of hybrid and battery technology. We've seen the use of smaller, more powerful lithium-ion batteries in the Prius+ (the seven seat hybrid family car) and Prius Plug-in. Expect to see batteries getting smaller, lighter and more efficient which will continue to improve the overall performance of the vehicles.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:29:31


My biggest concern is it's reliability. What happens if I run out of charge when I was out and about? Is there a way of charging the battery up again, or is the likely hood of this happening very slim?

A hybrid car (like the Prius, for example) doesn't need to be charged as it charges itself automatically. The car chooses the most efficient use of both the petrol engine and the electric battery, seamlessly switching and blending between the two where necessary.

Toyota hybrids are very reliable. They have fewer moving parts than a non-hybrid car, therefore there's less to go wrong. My parents run a Prius and apart from servicing, it has never needed to be repaired. The brakes even last longer than a non-hybrid car due to the regenerative braking system which recycles energy from slowing down to the recharge the car's battery.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:26:22


I am fascinated by the concept of Hybrid cars, but also very oblivious! My apologies if the below are incredibly stupid questions.

From the driver's perspective, how does it actually work? Is there a special button you press to switch between electric/petrol, or does it do it automatically? Does the engine noise and the car handling change when you switch between types?

How do you actually charge the battery? Does the fuel powered engine do it as you drive, or is there a cable you need to plug in, or both? If there is a cable, does there have to be a special power connection port it hooks up to, or does it go into a regular household socket?

First of all, driving a hybrid is a very similar experience to driving a conventional automatic – if you can drive an automatic you can drive a hybrid! The hybrid system automatically switches between two power sources: a petrol engine and an electric motor. The Toyota hybrid system is also unlike many other hybrid systems as both the petrol and electric motors can power the car alone or in combination.

The hybrid system tells the car when to switch between petrol and electric power for maximum efficiency or it will simply combine the two. When the petrol engine is running it also charges the battery and when the car brakes, energy that most cars waste as heat lost during braking, is recycled to electricity for the car to use later.

Because the battery receives plenty of charge from the petrol engine when coasting and from the regenerative braking system when slowing down, the car doesn't need to be plugged in (although there is a Plug-in version of the Prius that does allow you to charge it battery from the mains. This gives an added benefit of being able to drive further solely on the electric motor).

Petrol engines are very efficient when running at a constant speed, like on motorways. They are not as good when accelerating. Electric motors however are very good for accelerating. A hybrid car uses a blend of each at the right time. Although you may well hear the petrol engine step in, the seamless change between sole electric power and the petrol engine power has no impact on the handling of the car.

Overall, it’s a very quiet and relaxing driving experience with no fear that the battery is going to run out, before your final destination.

RichardSeymourToyota Thu 20-Jun-13 10:21:43


How far can you travel on a fully charged battery before you have to switch to petrol? Or doesn't it work like that? Does petrol kick in over a certain speed instead or something? As you can tell, I'm not quite sure how hybrids work!

The hybrid system is fully automatic and requires no input from the driver to operate to maximum efficiency. On a Toyota hybrid the system is constantly deciding which mix of electric motor or petrol engine to use, and recharges the battery several times per minute, sometime for only a few seconds at a time. It does this using energy harvested from engine power.

The net result is that on a typical town journey the petrol engine will not be running (burning fuel) for approximately 30-40% of time. While the engine is turned off you’ll experience near silent driving with zero tailpipe emissions, and the car will do this all automatically. You simply drive the car as you would a conventional, automatic car.

LaraMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 20-Jun-13 10:05:14

We now have the answers back from Toyota, and we will be posting them up shortly.

crazymum53 Thu 20-Jun-13 08:46:52

What has happened to the answers due to be posted on 17th June?

crazymum53 Sun 09-Jun-13 14:48:28

What happens about breakdown insurance for hybrid cars - would this be covered by companies such as AA or RAC or do you need specialist companies?

Why are hybrid cars have automatic rather than manual gear boxes - please can you explain.


janekirk Sat 08-Jun-13 19:47:27

What is the overall cost per mile compared to other Toyota models?

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