Hybrid cars deliver more miles per gallon on congested roads but are outperformed by standard diesel engines on motorways, study finds.

Motorists living outside congested cities may get more miles per gallon with a diesel car than a hybrid because they are more suited to motorway cruising, a study has found.

Hybrid cars are often advertised as more efficient than diesel or petrol alternatives because they can use their battery power for gentle acceleration as well as recapturing some energy generated during braking.

But while this makes them perfectly designed for the start-stop nature of urban driving, their engines were found to be far less efficient when accelerating at higher speeds or cruising on motorways.

This is because hybrid manufacturers tend to focus most of their energy on making the battery as efficient as possible and pay less attention to developing the engines, which generally use petrol rather than more efficient diesel, experts explained.

Because official testing regimes analyse cars’ performance at relatively low speeds, there are concerns motorists may be buying hybrids under the false impression they will deliver the most miles per gallon in every situation.

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