03:20PM, Saturday 29 February 2020
British buyers of new cars had been finding less electrifying appeal from plug-in hybrids than they used to.
In a bid to empower the market, Volvo has come up with a novel scheme lasting until the end of June that gives buyers of its PHEV range a refund of their electricity costs for a year, starting in May 2020 and repaid at the end of the first year’s ownership year as a lump sum based on UK average electricity prices.
It appears to be just the incentive PHEV buyers need to drag that cable out of the bag and connect to the charging socket; Volvo saw its range of PHEVs take 14 per cent of its UK sales in January and reckons to achieve its 25 per cent target by year end. If charging can be done at work, where the electricity may be free, the offer could be even more attractive especially as the offer applies to company and business vehicles as well as private purchases. And where the first two are concerned, it’s the driver who gets the cash to empower the incentive to plug in at every opportunity.
Volvo no doubt felt something was needed to kickstart the PHEV sector, which plummeted in popularity once the generous green grants for purchases were abandoned by the Government. To be honest, being green should be a mindset rather than a way to grab grants but whatever works is worth trying.
We’ve just been driving a V60 PHEV, badged the T8 Twin Engine to reflect the presence of both a petrol motor in the usual place and electric one to give that whisper-quiet, “emission-free” ride as it sups from the battery rather than the petrol tank.
The latter remains of a decent size; Volvo has resisted the temptation to shrink it to 35 litres or something equally silly that makes the internal combustion range impossibly short especially when the battery-powered range is around 30 miles. So with the V60 you can carry 60 litres of fuel and get a battery with a suggested range of 31.1 - 36.7 miles, enough to see off the commute for most people.
When you bear in mind that running on unleaded you would most likely get 20-22 mpg on an urban commute, the effort of dragging out the cable and plugging the car in begins to make sense, even on a wet winter’s night. If, like our accountant, you have a charging point in the warmth of your garage and can connect to solar energy while the house runs via an air source heat pump suddenly you are quids in, especially if you install a battery pack to harvest surplus daytime energy to bang into your car at night.
There are some other upsides to the T8, not least of them that this becomes one very fast car. With a 0-62 mph time of 4.9 seconds, no-one in anything less than a supercar will outdrag you at the lights and not even those drivers can realistically wear a smug, self-righteous smile as wide as the one to which you will be entitled!
Remember, every car produces emissions, no matter how convincing the hype. Electricity has to be generated somewhere and that’s where the CO2 pollution drops with the advantage that you can’t smell it. Every car leaves particles of dust as tyres and brake pads wear away. To be honest, though, that’s not as evident as the “exhaust” all the horse riders leave around our village!
The V60 itself is a pleasant enough car, with 529 litres of luggage space to the glass line as a five seater and 1,441 litres to the roof with the back seats down. Maybe the only real dislike was the lack of headroom entering the front – the door opening is too swept back for tall people.
With its 36 mpg average when running on a discharged battery, the car offers a very usable range and if you stop for a coffee break at a service area you can always bang a bit more energy into the battery. The T8 will also pull two tonnes, a major advance on the lack of towing ability hybrids have suffered in the past. As plug-in hybrids go, this is the best we’ve driven.
Car: Volvo V60 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design Plus
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 4.9 secs
Top speed: 155 mph
Bhp: 303 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 400 Nm @ 2,200 – 4,800 rpm
...and your wallet...
Combined: 113.0 - 166.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 39 g/km
Best bits: green, and goes like the wind