Electric Car or Hybrid?
Comparing Hybrid vs Electric Cars
With the sale of new petrol and diesel cars set to be banned by 2030, more and more people are opting for electric vehicles (EVs). They’ve exploded in popularity over the last couple of years and so have hybrids! So we’ve compiled everything you need to know to answer the question “should I get an electric car or hybrid?”
Eco-friendlier models are in high demand right now and, as a result, manufacturers are releasing a wide range of electrified models with bespoke features. From family-friendly SUVs to swanky sports cars with all the mod-cons, you can choose a model to suit your day-to-day needs. But should you buy an electric or hybrid vehicle?
Knowing the difference can be tricky. So read on to find out everything you need to know about the electric vehicles dominating the new and used car market. Discover how they work, how they charge, their electric-only range, typical performance and more.
Hybrid vs electric cars: types available
When it comes to ‘greener’ vehicles, it’s important to decide whether you want an all-electric model that releases 0 emissions into the atmosphere or whether you’d prefer the convenience of a combustion engine combined with a battery-powered motor.
There’s no right or wrong answer, it all comes down to preference. There are many things to think about when choosing your ideal eco vehicle - from how far you travel on a daily basis to whether you want to plug a car in to recharge or not. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the four main types of electrified vehicles. Explore below to compare electric cars vs hybrid models.
Electric car or hybrid: EV
First up - electric cars. Often referred to as EVs, these vehicles offer an emission-free driving experience as no fumes come from the exhaust. EVs appeal to people who want to reduce their carbon footprint, lower their running costs and join the future of driving.
How EVs work
EVs don’t have traditional petrol or diesel combustion engines. Instead, they have one or more motors and a lithium-ion battery pack.
When the accelerator is pressed, the electric vehicle converts stored DC power in the lithium-ion battery into AC power for the motor which then turns the wheels and allows the car to drive normally.
Charging an EV
Electric cars are great, but the main consideration is charging. Charging times vary depending on the size of the battery and the speed of the charging point.
For example, a 60kWh battery will take around eight hours to charge fully using a standard 7kWh wall box. These can be purchased with your vehicle and fitted in your garage to make this process as easy as possible. Or you can get a full charge in under an hour with a rapid charger.
While EV charging is longer than refuelling an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll let your battery run completely flat before plugging your EV in again. Therefore, in reality, EV charging times tend to not be very long at all. Many people also plug their vehicles in overnight when they’re at home or make use of workplace chargers.
Your best bet is to regularly use top-up charging. This is where you charge from 20% to 80% instead of draining and then fully charging. Not only does the top-up system keep you on the roads longer with quicker charging, but it also promotes long-term battery health.
EVs look good, feel good and are wonderful to drive. As most EVs are automatic they won’t jolt as you progress through the gears - and you can give your clutch foot a rest. Many EVs also include advanced specifications such as cruise control for a hassle-free driving experience and offer electric identification such as EV badges or blue trim for prestige.
The main draw is the instant access to torque which creates near-instant acceleration. Put your foot down and you’ll beat most other models off the mark. No engine means there’s no noise, even at higher speeds, for a truly smooth experience.
Electric car emissions
Being emission-free is an electric vehicle’s biggest selling point. With no combustion engine, driving an electric car releases zero emissions into the environment. Whilst hybrid vehicles offer reduced emissions, EVs are truly green. If the UK government’s plan to cut CO2 emissions goes well, we’ll all be driving a zero-emission vehicle in the near future.
Electric car driving range
The latest electric vehicles can travel anywhere between 150-300 miles on a single charge. This means they’re as great for stop-start journeys in inner-city traffic as they are for long journeys. When buying an electric vehicle, always check the range to see if the vehicle suits your travel needs.
EVs that offer driving ranges at the higher ends of the spectrum can rival traditional cars. So if you can conveniently fit charging into your daily routine you’ll see no difference.
Recharging an EV typically costs much less than refuelling, particularly if you charge during off-peak hours. EVs are also exempt from road tax (until 2025) as well as the Congestion Charge and other Low Emission Zones.
There are fewer moving parts in an EV when compared to a traditional engine, which means there’s less that can go wrong. This translates into fewer trips to the garage. Tyres on an EV wear quicker than a similar-sized petrol or diesel car due to their weight so this is also something to consider.
EV main features
The majority of electric cars use a regenerative braking system to regain extra driving range. This system converts energy when braking or slowing down and turns it into battery power.
Some EVs offer a one-pedal driving system which is based on regenerative braking. The accelerator pedal acts as normal when pressed, but when released it applied the brakes slightly to recoup energy.
Electric car or hybrid: Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)
Plug-in hybrids can run on electric-only power for short distances but also offer a traditional combustion engine for longer journeys.
Just like EVs, they need to be plugged in for the battery to recharge. Plug-in hybrids offer a greener driving solution for shorter journeys and are a top choice for inner-city or driving or pottering around towns.
How PHEVs work
With PHEVs, a battery and electric motor are used to support the work of a traditional petrol or diesel engine. Batteries in plug-in hybrids tend to be big allowing for a larger electric-only range than other hybrid vehicles.
As the name suggests, the battery needs to be recharged and therefore this sort of vehicle needs to be plugged in like a fully electric vehicle. If the battery is flat, a PHEV can run all day on its petrol or diesel engine, so there’s no need to worry about being caught short.
Plug-in hybrids can be recharged via a household outlet. They are also compatible with public charging points, available in some car parks, car-sharing networks, motorways service stops and other charge points.
Again, the time it takes for your car to charge will depend on the battery size and the source of power. Top-up charging is still the recommended course of action here.
Plug-in hybrid performance
Plug-in hybrids offer an efficient on-road experience designed to suit the modern, eco-conscious driver. Vehicles tend to start purely on electricity, without relying on the combustion engine.
When the battery power is low or more power is needed, the engine can kick in to ensure the performance of your PHEV is always seamless.
The engine and electric motor work in synergy for increased efficiency, swapping between the two as needed. But the motor can add power too, with many models offering sports driving modes for increased performance.
Due to the hybrid powertrain and the fact that plug-in hybrids can travel for many miles on electric power only, emissions are kept to an absolute minimum.
It’s perfectly possible to dash to the shops or complete a short commute without releasing any tailpipe emissions at all. However, as there’s a combustion engine, emissions will be generated once petrol or diesel power is needed.
PHEV driving range
The electric-only range of your PHEV will depend on the make and model of your vehicle, but it’s not uncommon for plug-in vehicles to offer anywhere between 20 and 50 miles of electric driving range.
Plug-in hybrid costs
Plug-in hybrids are typically more cost-effective than cars with a combustion engine only. This is because they use less fuel when fully charged.
They do consume energy and energy prices vary. But if you utilise off-peak tariffs and make the most of short-distance driving using electric-only power, then travel will become efficient.
What’s more, as it stands, plug-in hybrids benefit from lower road tax rates. This is due to change in 2025 when hybrid vehicles will start paying road tax at the standard rate, as well as paying the expensive car supplement where applicable.
PHEV cars also no longer qualify for the Congestion Charge discount for cleaner vehicles.
PHEV main features
So, what are the main features of a plug-in hybrid? Well, under the bonnet there’s the battery and motor as well as the combustion engine.
On the outside, there’s the charge port which allows the vehicle to connect to an external power supply to charge the battery pack. Unlike EVs, plug-in hybrids also have space for a fuel filler nozzle and a fuel tank.
Plug-in hybrids also tend to use regenerative braking to supplement your driving range.
Electric car or hybrid: Full Hybrid (HEV)
Full Hybrid cars, otherwise known as self-charging hybrids, offer added electric power and efficiency without ever plugging in to charge.
They are a highly convenient, eco-friendly alternative as you never have to worry about recharging. Let’s find out more about self-charging hybrids.
How HEVs work
Hybrid cars are clever. They come with a petrol or diesel engine that works in harmony with a separate electric motor. The car can operate using the electric motor alone, the combustion engine or a combination of the two.
An onboard computer calculates when the different power outputs should kick in to guarantee the most economic and seamless performance.
Full hybrid vehicles are charged very differently from EVs or PHEVs. As the batteries are smaller, they charge on the go either by the engine or through regenerative braking.
Hybrids are often referred to as ‘self-charging’ vehicles for this reason. They offer a practical way for those without access to a charge point to enjoy electric power.
Hybrid vehicles make sense in towns and cities. This is because you can creep along in traffic jams in electric mode without wasting fuel.
Then, when the congestion eases, the combustion engine will take over to guarantee a powerful and reliable performance.
The electric motor will also help out during acceleration helping to maximise your on-road experience without drinking fuel.
Much like with PHEVs and EVs, full hybrids usually come with selectable driving modes suited to efficiency, sporty fun or normal driving. These vary by model and make.
If you’re just gliding along on electric power only then emissions will be low. Hit the motorway, however, or gather pace and hybrids aren’t as green as electric vehicles or plug-ins with a larger battery.
They still offer lower emissions than pure petrol or diesel cars so HEVs are a step in the right direction.
Hybrid driving range
Full hybrid cars offer shorter electric driving ranges due to their smaller batteries, but they’re still able to offer zero-emission driving for a short while.
If this is something you’re looking for then a PHEV or EV would be a better option.
Hybrid drivers are not exempt from road tax or the Congestion Charge as they produce emissions. While savings on fuel are possible, this will depend on the type of journeys you do regularly.
Careful stop-start driving in a busy environment can cost less than motorway driving due to electric-only power. Considerate driving like in any vehicle will increase fuel efficiency. This includes steady driving with no harsh acceleration or braking.
Hybrid main features
Unlike other electric vehicles, full hybrids do not have an electric charging port as this is not needed. Hybrid cars also have a combustion engine, battery, DC/DC converter, electric generator and an electric traction motor.
Some full hybrids offer driving modes whilst some don’t. It all depends on the make, model and trim level.
Electric car or hybrid: Mild Hybrid (MHEV)
Mild hybrid systems help to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of petrol and diesel cars. MHEV technology is used by many car marques to ensure vehicles with traditional engines operate as efficiently as possible.
The electric motor and battery setup of an MHEV tends to be relatively smaller and doesn’t offer pure electric driving.
How mild hybrids work
The battery in a mild hybrid vehicle powers various systems so the engine can run more efficiently. It consists of a small electric generator that replaces the traditional starter motor and alternator, plus a small lithium-ion battery.
MHEVs do not drive on electric power but instead use the powertrain to assist with turning the engine on and changing gears.
Mild hybrids don’t need to be plugged in. They use regenerative braking to charge the battery while driving.
Mild hybrid performance
Mild hybrids benefit from extra pulling power, with the hybrid technology taking pressure off the engine for a more determined performance.
Mild hybrid technology kicks in whenever the engine needs a bit of assistance, helping to improve fuel economy.
While mild hybrids don’t offer the emission-free benefits that you get with an electric car, they’re a step in the right direction.
This is because they offer better fuel economy and lower fuel emissions than a traditional petrol or diesel car.
Mild hybrid range
Mild hybrids do not offer an electric-only range, but they help to create an eco-friendly driving experience.
Mild hybrids aren’t as economical as many full hybrids, PHEVs or electric vehicles and they don’t benefit from the lowest rates of company car tax.
But they do improve fuel efficiency which goes towards a more economical drive, and they’re usually the most affordable type of hybrid powertrain.
MHEV main features
The main features of a mild hybrid are the internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor which recovers braking energy for additional power.
Electric or hybrid car: points to consider
So there you have it - a rundown of all four main electric vehicle options. Here’s what you should keep in mind when comparing hybrid vs electric cars and making your final decision.
Electric cars vs hybrids: upfront costs
First thing first - consider the cost of a hybrid vs electric car.
Electric and hybrid vehicles tend to be more expensive than traditional diesel or petrol models. This is because the technology is still relatively new and improving all the time.
High-end model specs can also be more expensive, as you might expect. That said, more electric models are now entering the used car market where prices are reasonable.
A range of government grants and incentives are on offer to make EV uptake easier and more affordable.
Electric cars vs hybrids: charging
Next you should consider the charging need of a hybrid vs electric car and if you want a plug-in model. EV and plug-in hybrid owners need regular use of a charge point and may have to invest in a charging system.
EV and plug-in owners also need to be prepared to charge on the go if needed as there’s no backup system in the form of a diesel or petrol engine.
You’ll need to plan your route and find out where the public charging points are when required.
Electric cars vs hybrids: driving range
Finally, consider the electric driving range of electric cars vs hybrids. Every electric vehicle, plug-in and hybrid car has a specific driving range. Make sure you find a vehicle that matches your daily needs.
You’ll be able to find plenty of models that offer around 200 miles on a single charge. Consider your daily mileage, including your commute, school runs and shopping trips.
This is one of the biggest factors to consider when thinking about electric cars vs hybrid vehicles.