Hybrid vs electric cars: which one is best for me?
Considering an electrified car but not sure if it will work for you? We weigh up the pros and cons.
When the time comes to change cars, it’s clear that more of us are buying electrified cars.
The latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that 57.6% of all new cars registered in the UK during the first nine months of the year were electrified in some way.
This includes mild-hybrids, full hybrids, plug-in hybrids and also fully-electric models, with a greater number of these also trickling down into the used market. It means it might be time to consider making the switch to an electrified car, but is this the right choice? We look at the pros and cons of each different type of hybrid and electric car.
A type of powertrain that’s been widely adopted in recent years is mild-hybrid. Available on both petrol and diesel cars, there are different types of mild-hybrids available, which bring light electrical assistance – often through a small generator that replaces a normal starter motor and alternator, as well as a small battery.
Depending on the system, it can bring a small performance boost, and enhance fuel economy – some manufacturers claim by as much as 15 per cent. Some car makers, however, use the system to power other electrical features in the car, such as touchscreens, for example. Most manufacturers now offer a mild-hybrid of some kind, with Ford’s Puma being one of the most popular.
- Improved fuel economy as it can take strain off the engine
- Fairly inexpensive
- Can boost performance marginally
- Efficiency gains can be negligible
- Often seen as a way for manufacturers to reduce their own emissions
- Minimal, if any, zero-emissions running ability
Japanese car makers have been right at the forefront of full hybrids, which are sometimes called ‘self-charging’ hybrids, with Toyota in particular having vast experience when it comes to these. How a full hybrid works depends on the system used, but generally they use a petrol engine that charges the battery, while regenerative braking can help charge the battery too.
Some hybrids, such as those used in Nissan’s e-Power system, use the engine primarily as a generator, with the wheels being driven by one or several electric motors. Full hybrids are generally better suited to urban driving where they’re able to run on ‘electric’ for more miles. Renault, for example, claims its hybrid system can work on electric for 80 per cent of the time in urban areas. That said, all still require you to put petrol in them.
- Great efficiency around town
- You don’t have to plug them in to charge – ideal for those with no access to charging
- Good reputation for being reliable
- Sometimes no more efficient than a comparative diesel engine
- Limited electric-only running ability
- Hybrids can be noisy and lack performance
Plug-in hybrids are essentially a balance between a traditional petrol or diesel car and an all-electric model. They feature a rechargeable battery that needs to be plugged in to replenish. They typically take around three hours to charge, and can then travel for a number of miles on electricity.
The ranges vary significantly on the car and their battery size – some struggle to do more than 20 miles, while some new Mercedes plug-in hybrids can manage more than 60 miles. They should be charged as often as possible for maximum efficiency, and won’t suit those that have no access to charging, as plugging them in at public chargers can be an expensive way to run them. That said, if you occasionally undertake longer journeys, they can quickly be refuelled with petrol, rather than having to wait and charge.
- Can dramatically reduce running costs if charged regularly
- Electric range often lasts for more than 30 miles
- Tax savings for company car drivers
- Can be thirsty if infrequently charged – you’re essentially then driving a heavy petrol car
- Often not as practical as non plug-in hybrid models
- Expensive to buy next to a regular hybrid
If you’re ready to go all-in with electrification, it’s time for an EV. With more than one in six new cars now electric, many have already made the switch. A growing public charging infrastructure and longer ranges mean they’re becoming increasingly popular.
Ranges can vary from less than 100 miles on some cheaper, used EVs to more than 400 miles on the latest range-topping electric Tesla and Mercedes models. There’s now a huge variety of new and used EVs available with models in all shapes of sizes. Electric cars generally suit those that can charge at home, or at work, and don’t do too many longer journeys, but a combination of long ranges and fast charging speeds means they are working for an increasing number of people.
They can bring significant running cost savings if charged at home or in the most affordable ways, while there’s the advantage of zero tailpipe emissions.
- Zero tailpipe emissions
- Possibility of very low running costs
- Smooth and often brisk to drive
- Often more expensive to buy, especially new EVs
- Not ideal for those who can’t charge at home
- Public recharging infrastructure still requires work
Information correct at time of publication [10/2023].Search used Hybrid cars on AA Cars Search used Electric cars on AA Cars