What Are The Differences Between An Electric Car And A Hybrid, And Which Is RIght For You?

What are the fundamental differences between hybrid and electric cars, and what should you consider when thinking about which you might like to own yourself?

With the rise of more eco-friendly and fuel efficient cars, more and more people are considering buying either a fully electric or hybrid car. But what are the fundamental differences between the two, and what should you consider when thinking about which you might like to own yourself?

How Are They Different?

While the difference between an electric car and a hybrid may seem obvious to some, things can get a little more complicated when we consider that there are different types of hybrid cars. Here are some definitions to help to differentiate between them : Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) - A BEV is a ‘true’ electric vehicle. It stores power in its batteries and uses this power to run the on-board electronics as well as the electric motor. This motor, in turn, is the only thing that powers the drivetrain. There is no petrol engine in a BEV at all. The batteries are charged from some sort of external source, such as an electrical outlet or specialty electric vehicle charging station.


Parallel Hybrid - A Parallel Hybrid car, like all hybrids, has both an electrical and internal combustion engine. Parallel Hybrids are the most common type of hybrid car. In this type of hybrid the engines are both connected to the gearbox or transmission, so they can be used either separately or together depending on the situation. For example, the car may be running on its electrical motor and then have the combustion engine kick in for more power when overtaking or climbing a hill. The batteries for the electrical engine are not powered externally; they are recharged by running the combustion engine and / or from regenerative braking. The relative sizes of the electrical and combustion engines differ between car makes and models.


Series Hybrid - In a Series Hybrid car, the combustion engine is not connected to the drivetrain and doesn’t propel the car. In other words, all the actual work is being done by the electrical engine. The combustion engine is only present to create electrical power to recharge the batteries. This type of hybrid is also sometimes referred to as a ‘range extender’ - they are effectively electric cars that can go further than full BEVs due to the petrol engine’s charge.

Plug-In Hybrid - The Plug-In Hybrid is somewhere between the Parallel Hybrid and the full electric BEV. The Plug-In Hybrid has a larger battery pack than a standard Parallel and, although they will also charge while the petrol engine is running, they can be recharged externally from an outlet or charging station. This mix gives it more range than a BEV, and better fuel efficiency than a standard Parallel Hybrid.

Mild Hybrid - A Mild Hybrid is basically the opposite of a Plug-In Hybrid. It’s a Parallel Hybrid with a smaller electric motor and is more reliant on its petrol engine. Mild hybrids are mostly being produced by car companies in order to have what is essentially a regular petrol-powered car with lower emissions and improved fuel efficiency.


Two-Mode Hybrid - The Two-Mode Hybrid, also known as ‘Global Hybrid’, is a little more complicated. The simplest way to describe it is a mix between a Parallel and Series Hybrid, which chooses how to perform depending on the circumstances. The idea behind the Two-Mode Hybrid is to have the best of both worlds; high fuel efficiency when cruising along and then power when running at high speed or under heavy load / strain.

So Which One Should I Buy?

As with any car purchase, there’s a whole host of factors to think about when choosing what’s best for you. But to try to simplify things, here are a few differences to consider when weighing up the benefits of a hybrid or fully electric car.




Range - This is a big one; how far do you need to go in a day? Though they may be getting better all the time, electric vehicles still can’t compare to hybrids when it comes to range. If you tend to make shorter trips, especially in cities, then an electric may be fine. But if you need to drive longer distances then you probably need a hybrid.


Power - Electric cars just don’t have the ‘grunt’ that hybrids do. Again, if you do a lot of city driving then this may not be an issue. However, if you haul a lot of weight, do a lot of highway driving or live in a hilly area, then you may need the extra power of the petrol engine in a hybrid.


Emissions - While hybrids are more environmentally friendly than regular, petrol-powered cars, the only vehicles with zero emissions are fully electric cars. This may be an ethical consideration or a practical one. Depending on where you live, owning a fully electric car may give you access to Clean Air or Low Emission zones, and vehicle registration tax rates may be lower. For example, UK fully electric vehicles don’t pay any road tax, while hybrids pay a varying rate depending on their emissions.


Savings - Electric vehicles are cheaper to run not only because they don’t consume any fuel, but their simpler engines means that their maintenance costs are also usually lower. Just in terms of fuel consumption, one test showed that the fully electric Nissan LEAF used £340.00 of electricity to run 10,000 miles, while the petrol-powered Nissan Micra used £1,281.50 of petrol to run the same distance.


Access - Lastly, you should consider where you live and where you’ll be driving in terms of how easy it is to operate your car. If the electric car you’re considering needs a special charging station, then how common are they where you live? How about parking: are there ‘electric vehicle only’ spots that you can’t use in a hybrid?


At Quick Car Finance, we offer financing options for both fully electric and hybrid cars and we would be happy to answer any additional questions that you may have.


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