The Difference Between Hybrid and Electric Cars

As we all know, you have regular cars and electric cars.

But no one ever really speaks about hybrids and how they differ from an EV and a regular car with fossil fuels.

Let’s break that trend.

In this article, we’ll explain the key difference between electric and hybrid cars, as well as the different types of hybrids you can get.

Let’s not hang around any longer…

Understanding The Difference Between Electric and Hybrid Cars

To answer your question straight off the bat, the main difference between a hybrid vehicle and an electric vehicle is that a hybrid runs off electric energy, a blend of petrol and electric power.

Compare this to fully electric cars that just run off battery power alone that is charged through electricity. Electric cars are solely based on electricity, whilst a hybrid is in between a regular car that uses petrol and a fully electric car.

A hybrid will typically consume far less fuel than your average petrol or diesel car and it produces far fewer carbon emissions than conventionally powered cars. They do not however produce zero tailpipe emissions. 

Different Types of Hybrid and Electric Cars

Below we are going to show the different hybrid cars available and how each hybrid is different:

Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Very similar to plug in hybrid cars. This type of plug in hybrid car also uses an electric motor to power some of the vehicle, but a hybrid car also uses a conventional engine with petrol or diesel. The big difference between the pair is that you don’t plug a HEV into a charging point to charge the battery.

The battery charges through the energy that is recovered when you are out driving such as braking and cruising for example.

Battery Electric Vehicle

A BEV which stands for battery electric vehicles run off a rechargeable battery and has electric energy stored because of this. The energy used to run the vehicle that comes directly from the battery is recharged from the grid.

You will often need a charging unit installed at home with one of these as they need charged usually every night. If you drive a number of miles, you may even have to top up at a public charging station.

This type of hybrid is a zero-emission vehicle which means they don’t release any harmful emissions into the air as normal petrol-powered cars do.

Extended Range Electric Car

This type of electric car is powered by a battery that runs on electricity. The reason it’s called a range extender is because of the auxiliary power unit that is included in it. This is usually but not always a small petrol engine.

This helps power the electric generator even more than normal which then results in the batteries being charged more and allows the car to cover a greater number of miles than it usually could per charge.

These types of hybrids can be used for between 50-100 miles normally before the range extender engine is used. These cars are quite rare and would usually cost between £30,000 and £100,000 depending on the make and model you wanted.

Fuel Cell Electric Cars

Similar to a couple of the other hybrids, a fuel cell car does not produce any harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

This is because the car is fully powered by gas hydrogen.
This is done through hydrogen and oxygen having a chemical reaction in something called a fuel cell stack which then turns the gases into electricity which is in turn used to power the car.

Refilling the hydrogen tanks is a quick and simple task and usually takes less than 10 minutes and you can be back on the road in no time, with no harmful tailpipe emissions coming out of your car.
Hydrogen makes up 70% of the universe, so is easily sourced and the network for refilling hydrogen is growing year on year.

Long Range Electric Vehicles

This hybrid is very self-explanatory, this is the same as a regular EV but with more focus on going further on a single charge.

With the electric car industry growing at a rapid pace, there is a real focus on developing cars that can travel further on one single charge. Consumers don’t want to have to stop regularly if they are travelling 250 miles, they would rather stop once or not at all and this is where long-range electric vehicles are developing and becoming popular.

Pros & Cons of Hybrids

Hybrids have plenty of pros and cons, and in this section, we will take a look at each point:

Pros:

  • Relatively quiet
  • Fewer maintenance costs
  • Environmentally friendly

Cons:

  • Do still produce some fossil fuels
  • High upfront costs

Similar to an EV, the effects on the environment are reduced drastically, although they do still use some petrol and diesel, which EVs don’t. They are extremely quiet, as soon as you turn the engine on, you can barely hear it or when you pull away.

As with an electric vehicle, maintenance costs are lower as these cars are newer and don’t need as much looking after as conventional vehicles.

Pros & Cons of an EV

There are a number of major benefits to owning a vehicle that runs on electricity without an internal combustion engine and over any other mode of transport, especially over regular cars that use petrol and diesel.

Pros:

  • Zero emissions
  • Pure electric vehicles pay no tax
  • Low running costs
  • Very little maintenance
  • Save money on fuel

Cons:

  • Charging infrastructure not fully developed
  • Higher cost upfront for fully electric vehicles
  • Charging time

As you can see from some of the pros of fully electric cars, they far outweigh the cons. Not only are you saving the planet with zero emissions but you are saving yourself a lot of money long-term by not having to pay fuel prices which continue to increase.

You also save money without having to pay tax on an electric car as you produce no carbon emissions and an electric car usually doesn’t require servicing and as much maintenance as a normal car.

One of the major downsides is the upfront cost of an EV and having a charging point installed at home, but if you can overcome this, then they are well worth the investment as we think these will be the future.

What Is a Plug In Hybrid Electric?

This hybrid is quite self-explanatory and to charge its batteries, can be plugged into an electric outlet. It’s also able to be charged on the move which is useful.

This type of hybrid is in between a parallel hybrid and a full EV. It has an internal combustion engine like any regular car that uses petrol but is larger batteries than most hybrids which allow it to travel further at higher speeds on electric power alone.

It’s great for running around towns and the battery lasts quite a while due to its size. However, once the batteries do start to drain, fuel economy can be poor, especially on motorways. Also, a fully electric vehicle’s batteries don’t need to be charged as much as a plug in hybrids.

FAQs

What is an alternatively fuelled vehicle? (AFV)

An alternatively fuelled vehicle runs on substances rather than petrol or diesel as a normal car would. An example of this includes hydrogen, electric, solar and propane just to name a few.

What is better a hybrid car or electric?

We think electric cars are better than hybrid cars but it all depends on what you want. Hybrid cars give you that stepping stone towards an electric car without fully committing, but for the price of a hybrid, we think you might as well go fully electric.

Are hybrid cars good for long-distance driving?

At the moment they are similar to electric cars and are not ideal for long-distance driving as the charging infrastructure is still developing. They are slightly better than electric cars over long distances at this moment in time, but once electric cars develop more with more charging points around the UK, we expect them to be the go-to car.

Last Word

We hope this article helped you see the difference between hybrid and electric cars and what type of options are out there for you to consider. The key difference is one runs off electric and petrol/diesel whilst the other runs solely off electricity.

As long as you remember that, you’ll always know the difference between hybrid vehicles and electric.

See these articles for those learning more about EVs and what to do to maintain them properly.

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Nick

Nick is the proud owner of a MG ZS EV and is an EV fanatic. He has been featured in notable publications like USA Today and The Times for his expertise in the field.