It’s not something I have ever thought of before, but driving a hybrid or electric car can be a real test of friendship.
Call at a pal’s house for a drink and then ask if you can plug your car into their electricity supply to bring the batteries up to a suitable level – and watch their face drop.
Your real friends will agree without hesitation, but don’t be surprised when they then, tongue-in-cheek perhaps, tell mutual acquaintances how tight you are for using their electricity instead of your own.
To be fair, when driving the new Volvo V60 Hybrid it’s not absolutely essential to recharge that often because the car has a 2.4-litre diesel engine under the bonnet which, with a full fuel tank, is capable of several hundred miles.
But that wasn’t the point. To use the Volvo Hybrid to its full potential you need to keep the batteries charged so they can work in tandem with the engine to give you exceptional economy not to mention blistering performance.
And at my friend’s home it was easy to pull up close to a 13amp socket, while at home it wasn’t. And that’s one of the reasons why I have mixed feelings about both plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars. It’s not always easy to find a socket that’s within range of the car’s power cable. And that’s a basic requirement.
That apart the V60 Hybrid – which can be fully charged in around four hours at a cost of around £2 – is a very well engineered, very clever vehicle, and certainly one alternative to cleaner, greener motoring.
And if you have constant access to a charging point you do, in theory, have a car capable of achieving an extraordinary 155 miles per gallon.
What is impressive is how Volvo has made the whole thing simple, with just four buttons on the central console which allow you to use diesel, electric or a combination of both with the flick of a switch.
Press the PURE button and you can drive in complete silence with the 70bhp electric motor powering the rear wheels, giving you a range of just over 30 miles. Press the SAVE switch and the car uses the diesel engine only, driving the front wheels and at the same time giving some charge to the batteries.
In HYBRID both electric and diesel power are used in tandem or independently, with a computer working out the best combination at any given time.
Switch to POWER and both power units stay permanently in use to give you supercar-like performance with 0-62 mph acceleration achieved in just over six seconds. And the best of it is you are then in all-wheel-drive so you have the extra grip to handle that extra power.
You can also switch to all-wheel-drive using yet another button should you encounter adverse weather conditions, which gives the safety of four-wheel-drive without the extra power.
And while the multiplicity of buttons may sound complicated you soon get used to it and the system won’t let you engage any of them when it’s not suitable to do so.
But like almost all new things there is a downside. And the biggest downside with the V60 Hybrid is the price, which is some £10,500 more than the top-of-the-range diesel V60 model.
The batteries in the rear also mean a reduction of luggage capacity from 430 litres to 305 litres and – probably less important in this case – the fuel tank is almost a third smaller than the conventional car at 10 gallons.
What did surprise me was just how sporting this car is. Apart from its superb acceleration it has the handling of a super sports saloon with firm suspension, tenacious grip and great road holding.
It will, however, in the long term be interesting to see just how many of these cars Volvo sells. There is no doubting it’s an exciting, revolutionary product, but whether in today’s market drivers will pay such a large premium for it remains to be seen.
Model: Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid
Mechanical: 2,400cc, 5 cyl diesel engine and 70bhp electric motor all four wheels via 6 spd automatic gearbox.
Max speed: 143 mph
0-62mph: 6.1 secs
Combined mpg: 155.2
CO2 emissions: 48 g/km
Insurance group: 41
Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles
The Birmingham Post has launched a free app for iPad and iPhone. Download it here.