No point farmers towing government line on electric cars
Diesel retains the pulling power when it comes to towing loads and the dirty work around Irish farms, write Eddie Cunningham and Cathal Doyle
The fact of the matter is that diesel is still the only way forward for the vast majority of farmers - in the medium term at least.
That is not being short-sighted. It is not being anti-government or anti-electric vehicle.
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It is simply the reality at farm-gate level - as of now and for some time.
Yes, diesel is good on fuel consumption and has wonderful pulling power.
But set all that aside for a moment and answer this: Where else will you get a vehicle that will tow a trailer, horsebox or whatever to the same degree as a diesel?
Electric cars, generally speaking, are not a match and much the same applies to many hybrids when it comes to pulling appendages.
So if you wish to be a farmer with 'green' transport - and most surely would wish they could be - what are your options?
Petrol? For sure, you can probably get by with a large petrol engine but regardless of how you go, your fuel bills are going to be substantially higher than with diesel. Realistically they are not practical.
Take a typical set-up: Farm-family car (most likely a saloon or compact SUV) and a 4x4.
A farm family can make the passenger car or compact SUV a lot greener by, maybe, going the hybrid or, less likely for the time being, electric route. But how are you going to replace the large commercial 4x4 that does the grunt and dirty work around the place, that pulls the trailer to the mart, the cattle to the outfarm, the bits and pieces that you need every day in some capacity or another?
Take a step back and assume you don't need a large 4x4. Will an electric or hybrid vehicle do the needful moderate towing of a smaller trailer or horsebox?
Maybe some will now; maybe more will in future. But as a general rule it is hard to see people bypassing diesel until they have to and until they trust in a real, viable and efficient alternative.
We can be accused of being negative by writing this but this government squeeze on diesel is a stark choice facing many families, no just those who farm. Think about those with small businesses, long commutes etc.
Is it any wonder they are opting to hold on to their current diesels to see what will happen in the Budget? No wonder, either, they are buying two and three-year-old diesels in the North or across the water. They are hedging their bets because there is no real alternative for them at this stage.
Here's a snapshot look at the real-world options for towing right now that makes the point on towing with some emphasis (all data quoted was obtained from Jato Dynamics).
The family car
Toyota has long been a firm favourite with the Irish farming community. And rightly so. Its reputation for being reliable and affordable to repair is second to none.
The old Avensis typified the kind of car that could usefully pull a small cattle trailer with a couple of animals on board. Fitted with the 1.6 D-4D diesel it had a braked trailer towing capacity of 1,600kg.
You cannot buy a new, stress new, Avensis any more but Toyota do have the new and more expensive Camry. In many respects this is a fine car, but it's only offered with a single engine option - a hybrid matched to a 2.5 litre petrol engine which produces a rather healthy 218PS.
Well able to pull a trailer you'd think, but the maximum braked trailer weight it is allowed to pull is just 750kg. That's hardly enough to pull many trailers unladen, never mind with a load on board.
The mid-sized crossover SUV
The Mitsubishi Outlander is a practical and refined family car offering up to seven seats.
It comes in two versions, one with a 2.2 diesel engine with 4WD, or the Outlander PHEV, a Plug-in hybrid variant (five seats only).
Mitsubishi was an early adopter of plug-in hybrid technology and over the years the Outlander PHEV has become steadily more refined and useful. The latest version, which develops 135PS from its 2.4 litre petrol engine and 13.8kWh battery, can travel up to 45km on pure battery power. It was one of the first electrified vehicles on the road to have a rated towing capacity established at 1,500kg. Which is fairly respectable. However, if you opt for the 147PS DID diesel version you can pull up to 2,000kg.
To put that into perspective, a twin-axle cattle trailer of the kind you see on the road every day can weigh up to a tonne or more. So on the basis that a typical two-year-old bullock weighs around 700-800kg, you wouldn't even be able to transport one animal in that trailer with the PHEV if you're to stay within the letter of the law.
The heavy duty SUV
The Land Rover Discovery Commercial ticks many of the requirement boxes of a farm vehicle. Even its entry level 240PS 2-litre diesel can pull up to 3,500kg.
Petrol powered versions (available in passenger specs only) come with an extra 60PS at 300PS, but tow a maximum 3,000kg - half a tonne less.
There's no hybrid version of the Discovery on sale, but we can compare against the P400e PHEV version of the Range Rover. Despite boasting 400PS, the maximum weight this plug-in hybrid car can haul is a full tonne less than the diesel versions at 2,500kg.
And were Land Rover to put the technology used in the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace into a Discovery Commercial, well you can forget about fitting a tow bar as it doesn't quote any towing capability.
The Panel Van
Small panel vans are a popular alternative for farmers who may not need a full 4WD vehicle.
They're cheaper to buy and run, have plenty of storage space and can easily pull smaller trailers.
This sector of the market is heavily diesel influenced.
In fact, Volkswagen is the only manufacturer to currently offer a petrol variant. The Caddy TSI can tow a respectable 1,050kg but that's still 100kg less than most of the diesel offerings from the brand.
Alternatively, if you wanted an all-electric panel van, Renault can sell you the Kangoo Z.E.
This is one full EV that does quote a towing capacity, though at just 374kg it's really only capable of pulling the most lightweight trailers.
Now let's be clear, we're not picking on these particular manufacturers. It's the same picture across all brands.
A capable towing vehicle is a prerequisite for most farmers, and right now hybrid or electric vehicles are, in the main, not leading the way as towing vehicles.
The reality is that if you want to safely (and legally) tow a horse box or cattle trailer, your options really are limited to diesel….or diesel.
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