Common hybrid and electric car questions answered by Honest John

Honest John
Common hybrid and electric car questions answered by Honest John

Honest John has been the resident “agony uncle” at The Daily Telegraph for more than 20 years, responding to readers’ car-related queries with his trademark blend of experience, authority and, sometimes, bluntness.

He remains undeterred by the volume of correspondence he receives every week, from car-buying advice to the sort of complex legal cases from which he has gained a solid reputation as a champion of consumer rights.

Despite receiving many hundreds of queries each week from Telegraph readers and via his own website, Honest continues to deliver his no-nonsense - and, always, highly trusted - advice.

For ease of use, we’ve broken batches of Honest John queries into sections relating to the nature of the problem, such as tyres, odd noises, diesel issues, automatic gearboxes and the like.

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing honestadvice@telegraph.co.uk

And if you’re one of the many readers who simply enjoys the amusing headlines (credit goes to Simon Arron for these), then go to our selection from the extensive Honest John archive.

Buying a used electric car

We are about to purchase a second-hand Renault Zoe from a main dealer. I asked the salesman about servicing costs and he mentioned that only accredited electric car dealers could change the tyres and that we must stick with eco tyres. Is this correct? Secondly, do you think the depreciation will level off for electric cars, as the Zoe has lost more than 70 per cent of its value in just over a year. Finally, how easy will it be to trade it in after a few years with a dealer other than Renault? AK

The eco tyres are necessary to cut rolling resistance and extend the electric range. If you fit more resistant rubber, the range will decrease. The best way to have an electric car is to own the car and lease the battery. Batteries gradually lose their capacity, but if they are leased you are covered for replacements. Demand for electric cars is now increasing massively and there’s not much (apart from the battery) to wear out, so I’d have no worries over resale.

Hybrid car road tax

I changed my VW Golf 1.6 TDI for a new Kia Niro hybrid. I used to pay £30 in VED for the VW, but must now pay £130 for the Kia. What is the point of trading in a fairly recent diesel for a more eco-friendly modern car? Likewise, where is the encouragement from the government when, with a hybrid, you only save £10 a year on VED? JW

Before April 2017, the Niro was tax-free. Showroom tax on your Niro from April was £25. CO2-based showroom tax actually rose to £2,000 for the highest emitters. The general change in taxation has switched from CO2 ratings to a straight £140pa from the second year plus an extra £310pa for four years on cars costing more than £40,000. The general tax of £140 is supposed to pay for the UK's roads, which the old CO2-based regime failed to do.

A Porsche AG Mission E hybrid automobile stands on display on day two of the 88th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Can a hybrid car tow a caravan?

As it appears that petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned in the future, how on earth are we going to tow? I own a caravan. Are there any existing hybrid or electric cars that can do the job?GH

They won't be banned. Only new ones, and probably only private cars because it simply isn't possible to convert the whole of Europe's trucking fleet to electric or hybrid operation. Some petrol hybrids are already capable of towing - for instance the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Volvo XC90 T8 and BMW X5 xDrive 40e.

Should I pay the final optional payment of a contract?

My wife purchased a new Ford Fiesta Zetec in 2016. The car is a 1.0 Ecoboost 100, bought on a two-year personal contract with the final optional balloon payment of £6,030 due in October 2018. If we were to buy, is this a good price for a two-year-old Fiesta? You indicated that the Ecoboost Focus could suffer from clutch failure. Is this also true of the Fiesta? GW

Complaints about the Fiesta are mostly about clutch packs with Getrag Powershift automatic gearboxes. Yours has a five-speed manual, not the six-speed auto that has caused problems. I don't predict future values, so can't tell you which side of £6,030 your car will be worth in a year, but it doesn't seem excessive.

Problems with self-driving cars

How long will it be before the so-called experts and politicians decide that there are issues with driverless vehicles and electric power? DC

Some electric cars, such as the Smart ForTwo Electric, are brilliant to drive in traffic. But, so far, there have been problems with all types of autonomous driver aids. For cars to be truly autonomous we will need a new road network; the idea of driverless cars for the masses is still a long way from reality.

Replacing car parts

Our 2012 Skoda Superb Greenline estate (with EA189 engine) has just been called in for the “emissions service action” fix carried out. We have yet to book it in but are wondering if it would be advantageous to have the exhaust gas recirculation valve replaced at the same time. What do you think? Also, when should we have the timing belt done? The car has done only 30,000 miles. PB

Main dealers can charge about £1,200 to replace an EGR valve, but at 30,000 miles it should still be in decent shape. If you don’t replace it, but go ahead with the fix and the EGR fails soon afterwards, the dealer who carried out the work is liable to replace it at no cost. I’d be thinking about getting the timing belt, tensioner, water pump and alternator belt replaced fairly soon.

The Tesla Model 3, which the automaker has touted as its most affordable electric vehicle. Credit: AP

Should I consider a hybrid or electric car?

I own a 2006 Skoda Octavia and feel it is time to change. As the trend in cars seems to be moving towards hybrid or electric to reduce pollution. I am considering the Toyota Auris Sports Tourer, Toyota Prius or the Hyundai Ioniq. I understand also that the Tesla Model 3 mass-market vehicle might be available in about two years. Any suggestions? BW

Elon Musk certainly got it right, but the world will need a thousand times the production level of the Tesla Model 3 by 2040 if it is to cope with the projected ban on petrol and diesel cars. Meanwhile, for the next 20 years, any car on your list make sense. The Toyotas are the most extensively proven. The Ioniq (and the Kia Niro) use a more positive dual-clutch transmission rather than Toyota's epicyclic CVT.

Making your petrol or diesel car eco-friendly

I wonder if there are companies that could convert cherished vehicles to electric. I might consider it for my 1999 VW T4 Campervan if the EU and government start banning old diesels. RO

Conversion of rear-engined VW Type 2s is common in the USA. These people have been around for a long time: http://www.batteryvehiclesociety.org.uk/forums/index.php.