November 29, 2022
The Ministry of Transport has ruled that mild hybrids, like all electric vehicles (EVs,) should be exempt from emissions testing. DVSA policy defines a hybrid as a vehicle in which “the engine and battery can run independently or seamlessly together”. Mild hybrids, however, do not fit this definition. The electric component supports the internal combustion engine (ICE) to improve efficiency, not to solely power the vehicle. Given the continual reliance on the ICE in the mild hybrid, is it right that these vehicles should be exempt from emissions testing that other ICE vehicles are subject to? We’re not so sure.
In mild hybrids, the cheapest hybrids on the market, the electric motor is used solely to assist the ICE in achieving increased fuel economy or greater power. A few hundred yards will be the furthest a mild hybrid will go on electric power alone. Therefore, it falls significantly outside of the restricted definition provided in DVSA guidance. Cars are now entering the market, using electric power solely to power ancillary electrical systems within the vehicle rather than assisting the engine in powering the car’s motion. Yet, these are still often classed as mild hybrids.
Since the conception of EVs and hybrids, nobody has redesigned the ICE. It has, of course, been undergoing continual improvement for greater efficiency as a stand-alone component. The ICE in mild hybrids is the same ICEs used in standard ICE vehicles. Given this, the idea that they wouldn’t be subject to emissions testing in the usual way is ridiculous.
If we look at other hybrids on the market, with the full hybrid and the plug-in hybrid (PHEV), we still see a high reliance on ICE. Electric power will only be solely used when you drive “low and local”: low speed and local area. The ICE is likely providing 50-80% of the power for your vehicle, depending on your driving habits. All the while, no one is checking the safety or volume of emissions released from said engine.
Emission is high on the government agenda, particularly in this post-Brexit reality. Over the last few years, Britain, like most international players, has failed to meet the lowered emissions targets. These have recently been revised during the most recent climate summit, and government policy must be firm if they are to be achieved. One wonders whether excluding hybrids from emissions testing would also exclude them from international reporting on emissions.
The fact is that mild hybrids, and hybrids in general, are still highly reliant on ICE. This reliance warrants emissions testing of the ICE component in the same way standard ICE vehicles are subjected to. The tools and equipment that are necessary to do this exist. In this growing market of electric hybrids, regular checks would allow us to monitor and maintain efficiency regarding emissions. And this kind of efficiency transparency would be better overall for the planet and its inhabitants.