What's the difference between an electric and hybrid car?
Car manufacturers use the word ‘electrified’ to let you know that the car uses some form of electricity to power its functions. But there’s a huge difference between electrified cars and electric cars.
This has led to some confusion among drivers who are looking to make the switch to electric, especially for eco-conscious reasons.
There are three levels of ‘electrification’. The electric car (EV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the mild hybrid.
What benefits do electric cars get over hybrids?
There are a lot of benefits to switching to electric. If you're considering which car to get next, check out our guide on whether you should choose electric for your next car.
Here's a snapshot of just some of the benefits and incentives in place for driving electric over hybrid.
What’s an electric car (EV)?
The term 'electric' is easy to define. It refers to any car that uses purely electric power to move from one place to another.
What’s an electrified car?
An ‘electrified’ car uses some electrical elements as part of its technology. The most basic version of an ‘electrified’ car is a mild hybrid and the most advanced version is a plug-in hybrid. Both of these cars use both an internal combustion engine and a type of battery to move the car forward.
An easy way to tell the difference between an electric car and an ‘electrified’ car is the exhaust. If it has a tailpipe, it’s not electric.
Are hybrid cars good for the planet?
The short answer is no.
Hybrid technology was a game-changer in the industry in helping the move from fuel towards electric, but in this day and age, it’s outdated and not as eco-friendly as we were once told. Greenpeace recently called the hybrid car the “wolf in sheep's clothing” of the auto industry after research showed they released up to two and a half times more CO2 when driven compared to the result of official lab tests.
Going hybrid was a good choice 5 or 10 years ago when we didn’t have so many options for electric cars, but now it’s not worth it. There are now over 60 electric car models from 25 different manufacturers, so the choice of electric cars is now substantial and is growing.
Battery costs came down 89% between 2010 - 2020 making it possible to get more affordable electric cars with great range, making the hybrid an outdated option. So going electric is better for the planet, and for your wallet.
What are the main features of electric cars, plug-in hybrids and mild hybrids?
The Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)
The 100% electric vehicle is sometimes referred to as a Battery-Powered Electric Vehicle (BEV). It’s essentially tech on wheels that forms the basis for some of the best cars in the world. The car has been redesigned from the ground up to be fully electric and not rely at all on an internal combustion engine (ICE). The electric car has some of the best tech for saving the planet, saving pennies and giving you the thrill of great acceleration.
Battery electric cars use electricity that’s delivered to their battery through a plug. Electric cars are able to charge on a range of different chargers, from three-point pin plugs to rapid chargers that can give up to 200 miles of range within 20 minutes. These plugs can be found at home, at the office, in lamp posts on the street or at service stations.
All major manufacturers have shifted their focus to developing fully electric vehicles. The demand for electric cars paired with the innovation within manufacturer design teams has evolved the technology of electric cars much faster than ever imagined.
As well as having much more power than any petrol or diesel car, electric cars are more cost-efficient, safer and more practical for most drivers. In fact, many drivers regret buying a hybrid over an electric car.
For those with a driveway, it’s super easy to make the switch to electric as you can charge your car overnight when electricity is cheapest. Drivers can make savings with the Intelligent Octopus tariff, which allows you to charge up with 100% renewable energy overnight at a cheap rate. The cost per mile for petrol can be 10 times higher than the cost of energy to charge a car.
Electric car drivers can see big financial benefits, especially when they use their electric car as a company car. The company car tax rate - aka Benefit in Kind (BiK) rate - is set by the government and is fixed for electric cars at 2% until April 2025. A PHEV typically attracts a BiK rate of around 13%, and for petrol or diesel cars it can be anywhere between 20-40%. After 2025, the BiK rate for electric cars will increase by 1% each year until 2028.
An electric car has far fewer moving parts than a hybrid car, and maintenance costs can be lower as a result. A typical plug-in hybrid has thousands of moving parts, plus an electric battery, so there are more opportunities for things to go wrong. An electric car only has around 20 moving parts, so there’s much less to go wrong.
As well as all of the other benefits, electric cars release no tailpipe emissions at all. This is a huge benefit for our communities as an estimated 40,000 people in the UK die every year from air pollution. Electric cars are by far the greenest vehicle that you could buy.
You can get a brand new electric car, plus everything you need to hit the road in it, through your company when they join our salary sacrifice scheme.
The Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) has an internal combustion engine, like all petrol and diesel cars, and has a small battery for short journeys. The plug-in hybrid requires frequent charging to get the best value for money and reduction of carbon emissions. This charge gives the car a small range of between 15 - 50 miles, using electricity only.
A plug-in hybrid can use its electric power to make the school run, a trip to the shop or the commute to work. The engine doesn’t charge the battery in a plug-in hybrid so it needs to be plugged in to get any charge.
When the car is out of electric miles the engine kicks in to keep pushing the car forward, burning fuel to keep you on the road.
The plug-in hybrid is often seen as a stepping stone in the transition to electric, however, with this car you have the worst of both worlds. Often drivers don’t make the effort to form the habit to charge up with electricity, which is needed frequently as it only has a small battery. Some plug-in hybrids have even been returned at the end of their lease having never been plugged in. This shows how easy it is to use a plug-in hybrid in exactly the same way as a petrol or diesel car, and get none of the benefits of driving electric.
Not only do you still need to queue and fill up at the petrol station, but you also need to charge your vehicle. Most plug-in hybrids don’t support fast charging, so drivers are limited to using slow chargers. They’re also heavy as they carry an engine plus a battery which makes them inefficient on fuel.
Hybrid drivers don’t get all of the benefits of driving electric, like the access to fast and rapid chargers and overall lower costs of driving. For this reason, many people regret buying hybrid cars. They have higher fuel costs and higher maintenance costs than electric cars.
Because they produce tailpipe emissions they don’t benefit from government incentives that are designed to support the reduction of carbon emissions. Electric cars are exempt from paying road tax until 2025 and the London Congestion Charge and Clean Air Zone charges in major cities like Bath, Birmingham and Portsmouth.
The Mild Hybrid
The most well known of the mild hybrid cars is the Toyota Prius which came to the market in the early 2000s. The Prius became very popular as one of the first ‘eco-friendly’ car models.
The battery is charged using the rolling energy from the petrol engine. To get any benefit from the battery, drivers still need to burn fuel. Not so eco-friendly.
At slow speed, the electric motor will take over from the engine to push the car forward. At high speed, it might provide enough of a power boost to help you overtake a tractor. Some of these hybrids will drive some miles on electric and they are more fuel-efficient than petrol or diesel cars. You’ll still get more miles for your money, but that money is being spent on planet-destroying fossil fuels.
This tech is now over 20 years old and has been replaced with significant changes in technology for eco-conscious drivers.
Which car is right for me?
If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, reduce your fuel costs and get great acceleration and performance, getting an electric car is the right choice for you.
Is getting a hybrid worth it? We don’t think so. Driving a hybrid doesn't require a lot of effort or a lot of change to your lifestyle, but you’ll also be missing out on all of the benefits of driving a fully electric car.
Electric cars are more fun to drive, better for the planet and cost you less in the long run. The choice is clear to us that electric cars are far better than hybrids.
You can get a brand new electric car through your employer with our salary sacrifice scheme, making savings of up to 40%.