How much do you know about hybrid and electric vehicles?

While the internal combustion engine is still the conventional choice for many car owners, hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) are clearly going to play an important part the future of transportation – there has been a lot of talk of hydrogen being the longer-term solution; however, this technology hasn’t hit the mainstream yet.

Manufacturers are now offering an increasingly wider choice of EVs, and the Government and other authorities offer incentives for EV ownership, joining the electric revolution becomes more and more appealing.

At our current stage in the journey towards zero-emissions vehicles, there are a variety of engine options involving electric power; it’s not a clear-cut choice between all-electric and petrol or diesel.

Full electric vehicles are still not particularly common, partly because of their cost – they’ve seen most take-up amongst affluent, tech-orientated early adopters, with luxe models such as the Tesla Model S, Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron proving popular. However, uptake is increasing, and as innovation over time brings cost down, we can expect all-electric vehicles to become the norm rather than the exception.

Hybrid cars have become a lot more common in recent years, thanks to an increased number of manufacturers looking at this technology as a way to improve engine fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Where once it was a market almost solely occupied by the Toyota Prius, these days there’s a much broader choice of different models, from tiny hatchbacks to sizeable SUVs – though this technology results in vehicles at more modest price points than full electric, there are models at the luxury end of the market, too, including the Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350 E, Volvo XC90 and Range Rover P400e.

Put simply, a hybrid is a vehicle powered both by an internal combustion engine and a battery-powered electric motor – but there are a few different types of hybrid vehicle, and they suit slightly different driver needs, so it’s worth understanding the difference if you’re thinking about making the switch to this economical, more eco-friendly option.

Here’s our potted guide to the different types of electric car – both all-electric and hybrid varieties:

Full hybrid

A full hybrid, sometimes known as a ‘parallel hybrid’, uses the combustion engine and electric motor either simultaneously or independently. You can drive in electric-only mode (usually at lower speeds and with a limited range), or on petrol/diesel alone (handy if the battery is flat), or with both combined, where the electric motor assists the combustion engine to improve fuel economy (this is usually the most efficient option).

Full hybrids are best for stop-start city driving, because the electric motor gets the most use, and frequent braking recharges the batteries more too – out of town the fuel economy will drop significantly, because the batteries add weight to the vehicle, and the electric motor will soon run out of charge at higher speeds and periods of driving without braking.

Mild hybrid

A mild hybrid uses the electric motor to assist the combustion engine, which could be petrol or diesel, and it’s not possible to use either type of power independently. Mild hybrids save fuel by recovering kinetic energy from braking, storing it in a battery, then using it to support the main engine when accelerating (which reduces the load on the engine, improving fuel economy) and sometimes – depending on the model – while coasting. This type of hybrid is often the most affordable type of electric vehicle.

Mild hybrids are more suited to out-of-town driving than full hybrids, since the batteries are lighter fuel economy of the combustion engine is better. If you’re thinking about investing in a mild hybrid, there are plenty out there – the mild hybrid has proven to be the manufacturers’ answer to a government statement that all cars must be electrified by 2040 (though this is currently under review and may be brought forward).

Plug-in hybrid (PHEV)

With larger batteries than the other types of hybrid, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) has a much better electric-only range – as the name suggests, it’s charged from an external power source. Once the battery power has run out, the combustion engine takes over, so (in theory) if you never exceed the electric range, you can run a PHEV without ever using its combustion engine.

Plug-in hybrids suit those looking to drive under electric power for longer distances and higher speeds, because the batteries are larger – but you’ll need to plug in regularly in order to make the best use of the fuel-economy-improving hybrid capability; because of the weight of the batteries, fuel economy drops significantly if the batteries are depleted. If you’re thinking about investing in a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), consider the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and the entire Volvo range (because the brand now boasts a PHEV variant on every model).

Full electric (EV)

These cars run solely (and silently) on electricity and so produce no exhaust emissions. They are charged from an external power source, and this makes them cheaper to run than traditional petrol or diesel engines. In addition, there are some appealing financial incentives available – which we’ve highlighted below.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are particularly good for short-range, low-speed journeys – so they’re most suited to city driving. If you’re thinking about investing in an all-electric car, consider the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Peugeot 208 – interestingly, several other manufacturers are also now starting to offer full-electric versions of their regular models rather than special ‘electric’ models.

Electric and hybrid incentives

As well as the relative cost of electricity – lower than petrol or diesel – there are a number of financial incentives it’s worth being aware of if you’re considering a hybrid or electric vehicle:

  • The Government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) which provides a discount of 30% (up to £3,500) on a selection of qualifying (all-electric) vehicles.
  • Zero-emission (all-electric) vehicles which meet particular criteria are eligible for a 100% discount on the London Congestion Charge.
  • Zero-emission vehicles valued at less than £40,000 are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED or ‘car tax’)
  • Some London boroughs offer free or reduced-rate parking for electric vehicles
  • From 6th April 2020, Benefit In Kind tax will be 0% in the first year for full-electric vehicles, and 1% in the second year, 2% in the third – so it looks like full EVs will soon become a popular company car choice
  • Businesses can benefit from enhanced capital write-down allowances on electric vehicles
Should I buy an electric car?

If you’d like help with deciding which type of electric vehicle would suit your particular needs – whether you need car for personal or business use – give our team a call on 01473 372 020 or contact us. Remember, if you’re a member of one of our vehicle discount scheme partners, you could also make extra savings on selected EVs.