Hybrids: What are they and should I buy one? | AA Cars

Vehicle electrification is becoming more common. By adding an electric motor to a fuel-powered setup, you can reduce vehicle emissions and improve fuel economy. 

These types of models are called hybrids, and buyers are snapping them up both new and used. Here’s how they work, and what the benefits are.

What’s a hybrid?

The word ‘hybrid’ means ‘a thing that combines two different elements’ – and for vehicles, that means combining fuel and electrical power.

The electric motor on-board is powered by a battery pack to help with low speed driving and acceleration – where fuel-powered engines are less efficient. The fuel engine is used at higher speeds, and when it needs less effort to run.

Using these 2 types of power results in better fuel economy and lower emissions.

Types of hybrid cars

There are 3 different types that you’ll come across – Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs), Hybrid and Mild-Hybrid.

Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs)

As the name suggests, PHEVs can be plugged into an external source to charge the battery up. 

That means – much like an electric vehicle – you can charge it up at home or at work and get the most out of the electric range. That helps to save you plenty of money on fuel, especially if your commute is shorter.

The charging technology and larger batteries makes them more expensive than other hybrids, but they can save you money in the long run if you use one correctly.

Standard hybrid

Also known as ‘self-charging hybrids’, these models offer some electric range – but instead of plugging it in, the range is recharged by regenerative braking or decelerating. This can mean a long distance drive will leave you with little to no electric charge left for town driving, though.

They’re normally cheaper than PHEVs as they don’t need any extra charging kit and have smaller batteries. They’re also more economical than mild hybrids.


Also known as power-assisted or battery-assisted hybrids, these have a smaller battery than other hybrid models. That means that the electric motor is used to power systems like the air conditioning and headlights, rather than drive the wheels. 

It also allows the engine to switch off when cruising, as the electric motor can power everything else instead of the engine. The electrical system can offer assistance for the engine under acceleration, too.

The fuel economy gains are quite small with a mild hybrid. But, they’re normally cheaper than PHEVs and self-charging ones. 

Should you buy one?

If you live in a town or city, have regular access to a charging point or cover mostly short distances, then a hybrid can help you drive running costs down – especially if you run it mainly on electric power.

In terms of emissions, hybrids do a lot of low speed and urban driving on electrical power. This means there’s less localised pollution. And when the engine is in use, the electric power helps with acceleration and cut down where most emissions are produced.

Mild hybrid models can help people needing to travel further afield. And although there’s no pure electric running, the coasting and running of other systems can definitely bring fuel bills down. 


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