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Hybrid vs plug-in hybrid vs electric cars

April 19, 2023

Hybrid vs plug-in hybrid vs electric cars: which one to choose?

Knowing you want an environmentally-friendly car is just the beginning of identifying the right low-impact vehicle for you.

Today’s market offers a range of options including fully electric, mild hybrids and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

But, how can you decide which best suits your lifestyle and budget?

A good place to start is getting to grips with their key characteristics:

●      Hybrid: Powered by both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, hybrid cars improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. The electric motor is powered by a battery that is recharged by the engine and regenerative braking.

●      Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV): Similar to hybrid, plug-in hybrids have larger batteries that charge by plugging into an external power source. This allows them to operate on electric power alone for a certain distance before the petrol or diesel engine kicks in.

●      Electric: Also known as battery electric vehicles (BEVs), electric cars are powered entirely by electricity stored in a battery. They have an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine, and must be charged by plugging them into an external power source such as a charging station or wall outlet.

Hybrid cars

Often referred to as self-charging hybrids, hybrid cars come with a petrol or diesel engine that works together with a separate electric motor. You can choose to drive with either the electric motor alone, combustion engine alone, or with a combination of the two.  

The car's computer system determines how much power is needed and which power source should be used at any given time. For example, when you’re driving at low speeds or starting from a stop, the electric motor is used because it is more efficient. Alternatively, when you’re driving at high speeds or when more power is needed, the fuel engine takes over.

The benefits of hybrid vehicles include:

●       Less expensive to purchase thanplug-in or fully electric cars

●       Efficient for city trips andshort journeys

●       No plug-in point required - greatfor drivers without off-road parking

●       Zero time spent on recharging

●       No panic about running out of power on long journeys

●       Lower fuel consumption, lower emissions and cheaper to run than conventional cars

There are also some drawbacks to hybrids, including:

●       Not as environmentally friendly as plug-in hybrids or fully electric cars

●       Limited electric-only range

●       Upfront and servicing costs can be higher

●       No tax exemptions and few available discounts or incentives

●       Not as powerful as other electric vehicles

Establishing whether a hybrid car is best for you is a balancing act because for every disadvantage, there’s an advantage to driving a hybrid. For example, it’s worth bearing in mind that the higher upfront costs associated with hybrid cars may be offset by long-term savings on fuel.

If hybrid is the best option for you, there are some excellent options on the market. The Toyota Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid car and remains one of the most well-known hybrid models with a reputation for excellent fuel efficiency and reliability.

Another hybrid worth looking at is the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: a compact car that offers excellent fuel efficiency, a comfortable ride, a user-friendly infotainment system and a suite of advanced safety features as standard.

At the top end of the market, the Lexus ES Hybrid is a luxury sedan offering a smooth, quiet ride, a spacious interior and a great reputation for reliability and fuel economy.

Plug-in hybrid cars

Plug-in hybrid cars (PHEVs) have both a conventional engine and an electric motor, but they also have a larger battery that charges from an external source. This allows PHEVs to operate on electric power alone for a longer distance than traditional hybrids.

In a PHEV, the engine and electric motor work together to power the wheels, just like in a traditional hybrid car. However, when the battery is fully charged, the PHEV can operate in electric-only mode by using just the electric motor for propulsion. This allows for a longer electric-only range - typically between 10 and 50 miles (16 to 80 kilometres), depending on the model.

Most plug-in hybrids currently require a 7kW or 11kW charger, which will take a few hours to fully charge a 40kWh battery (the most common plug-in battery type). You can, however, charge to 80% in around an hour via rapid chargers at petrol stations or on the road.

The benefits of plug-in hybrids include:

●       Larger battery - so even fewer emissions and better fuel efficiency

●       Fuel-powered engine automatically kicks in when the battery is low

●       Short journeys using electric battery are low in cost

●       Regenerative braking technology reduces energy waste

The disadvantages of PHEVs include:

●       Higher purchase price than self-charging hybrids

●       Electric charging facilities required at home

●       Longer electric-only range compared to hybrid cars

●       Fuel economy isn’t optimal due to extra weight of large battery

If you regularly make long journeys, a PHEV isn’t ideal - you’ll quickly run out of battery power, which will make the PHEV more expensive to run.

PHEVs offer a balance between the benefits of electric vehicles and traditional fossil fuel-powered cars, so they’re a popular choice for drivers who want to reduce their environmental impact whilst still enjoying the convenience and reliability of a conventional engine.

So, what are your options for plug-in hybrid cars? Some of the most popular PHEVs on the market today (with estimated fuel economies when operating as hybrids) include:

●      Peugeot 508 PHEV: estimated fuel economy of 50 mpg

●      Volvo XC60 Recharge: estimated fuel economy of 55 mpg

●      Ford Kuga PHEV: estimated fuel economy of 46 mpg

●      BMW 330e: estimated fuel economy of 67 mpg

●      Hyundai Ioniq PHEV: estimated fuel economy of 59 mpg

It’s also worth considering the Toyota Prius Prime - a compact car with a 25-mile electric-only range and a total range of 640 miles on a full charge and a full tank of fuel. It offers an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 54 mpg combined when operating as a hybrid.

Electric cars

With a large onboard battery pack for storing energy, electric cars use an electric motor to turn their wheels. When you hit the accelerator the motor converts stored energy in the battery into kinetic energy, which moves the car.

Energy used to charge the battery can come from a variety of sources, as follows:

Home charging: Electric cars can be charged at home using a standard electrical outlet or a dedicated charging unit. This is often the most convenient and cost-effective option for drivers.

Public charging: Public charging stations are available in many cities and towns, allowing drivers to top up their battery when they're out and about.

Fast charging: Fast charging stations can charge an electric car's battery to 80% in as little as 30 minutes, making them ideal for long-distance travel.

Key benefits of fully electric cars include:

●       Significantly lower running costs

●       Typically lower operating costs

●       Inexpensive EV servicing

●       Government incentives and discounts

●       Zero emissions and no road tax

●       Very quiet and enjoyable to drive

Electric cars have a few disadvantages, including:

●       Costly to buy

●       Limited battery range

●       Not always ideal for long journeys

●       A reliable charging infrastructure is essential

Some of the most popular electric car models currently available include the Tesla Model S - a luxury sedan with a range of up to 405 miles per charge, depending on the battery configuration. It offers impressive performance, with acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 1.99 seconds, and a top speed of 200 mph.

A more cost-effective option is the Nissan Leaf: a compact electric car with a range of up to 150 miles per charge. More affordable than many other electric cars, it offers a comfortable ride and a spacious interior.

Another one to check out is the Volkswagen ID.4 - an SUV with a range of up to 250 miles per charge.

With an ever-expanding market, and each model offering both strengths and weaknesses, choosing the right electric car for you is a deeply personal choice.

Which one to choose?

Hybrid vs plug-in hybrid vs electric cars: three motor options, multiple models and a host of factors that will influence your choice.

To help you choose the right vehicle for you, it’s worth considering:

Budget: Hybrid cars are generally the least expensive vehicles to purchase, followed by plug-in hybrids, and then electric cars. However, electric cars often offer lower operating costs, as they require less maintenance and have lower fuel costs.

Daily commute: If you have a short commute, a plug-in hybrid or electric car may be an ideal choice as they can be recharged overnight and offer low operating costs. If you have a longer commute, a hybrid may be a better option, as it can run on gas for longer distances and offers greater range.

Driving habits: If you do a lot of motorway driving or have a long commute, a hybrid or plug-in hybrid may be a better option, as they have longer ranges and can be refuelled quickly. If you mainly drive short distances and have access to a charging infrastructure, an electric car may be more suitable, as it offers zero-emissions driving and lower operating costs.

When researching different models, it’s a good idea to define your priorities - including range, performance, features, and environmental impact. This will help focus your research and highlight models that are best suited to your needs.

Look for expert reviews from reputable sources, such as automotive magazines and websites, to get an unbiased opinion on different models. These reviews often cover factors such as performance, range, features, and safety.

Don’t forget to consider the total cost of ownership, such as fuel costs, maintenance, and insurance, when you’re researching. And remember - some models have lower upfront costs but higher operating costs, and vice versa.


Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric cars are all excellent options for reducing your carbon footprint and saving on fuel costs. By considering your specific needs and priorities, you can choose a vehicle that best meets your needs, preferences, lifestyle, and budget. But there’s no doubt about it: the choice available in this rapidly expanding market can feel overwhelming.

Although hybrid cars can be less costly upfront, they produce more emissions than electric and PHEV options. In comparison, electric cars boast zero emissions but they are limited to a range of miles and can be more expensive to buy. Choosing a plug-in hybrid car means you need home charging facilities, but the regenerative braking technology reduces energy waste - and short journeys are extremely cost-effective.

If you’re feeling unsure about which option is best for you, why not consider a car subscription with Drive Fuze?

Offering a range of hybrid and electric vehicles, Drive Fuze offers the opportunity to drive electric, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid and switch to a different fuel-type or a new model as and when your needs change. Our hybrid and electric car subscriptions are a cost-effective and sustainable solution to driving without the hassle of long-term, fixed contracts. Jump into your sustainable driving future and feel the freedom with a car subscription from Drive Fuze.