Hybrid and Electric Cars

Many car manufacturers now offer “hybrid” or “electric” cars, which should be considered as an option when you’re thinking of buying a new car. As well as being kinder on the environment with lower CO2 emissions, hybrid cars and electric cars can be cheaper to run and can hold their value better than some petrol and diesel cars. Let us take you through the ins and outs of hybrid and electric cars, and why you should consider both when thinking of buying your next car

What is an electric car, and how do they work?

An electric car is one that runs entirely on electric power. Petrol or diesel are never used to fuel an electric car, instead the electricity that powers an electric car is stored in batteries, before being used by electric motors to drive the car’s wheels. Electric cars are also known as electric vehicles or ‘EV’ for short.

Pros and cons of electric cars

When considering an electric as your next car, it’s worth considering the pros and cons –

Pros of electric cars:
  • Electric cars offer emission-free driving, producing zero harmful emissions into the environment.
  • Electric cars have much lower running costs than petrol or diesel cars. You can even charge your EV overnight at a lower unit rate than you would during the day, ensuring it’s fully charged and ready to use when you wake up! This is dependent on the type of electricity tariff you have.
  • Electric cars costing less that £40,000 qualify for free road tax, and all EVs are exempt from the London Congestion Charge and the new Ultra Low Emission Zone charge (ULEZ), introduced on 8th April 2019.
Cons of electric cars:
  • Electric cars need to be charged up, which can be a complicated and inconvenient task. While charging points and charging schemes are becoming more common, filling up a petrol or diesel car with fuel is still much easier and more conventional than charging an electric car.
  • Unlike refuelling a car, charging an electric car requires a prolonged period which can be inconvenient. Most EVs have a battery range of around 120-150 miles, so any long distance journeys will require frequent and prolonged charging stops .
  • Electric cars are still relatively expensive to buy in comparison to some petrol or diesel equivalents. Depending on how you use the car, the running cost benefits may be negated by the higher purchase cost.

What are some of the most common electric cars?

Some of the most common electric cars are –

  • Nissan LEAF
  • Renault Zoe
  • Tesla Model S

What is a hybrid car, and how do they work?

A hybrid car combines electric power with a traditional engine (an ICE – internal combustion engine), and can be either petrol or diesel powered. This blend theoretically gives you the low emissions and smooth power delivery of an electric car, with the long-distance abilities of a traditional petrol or diesel car. Hybrid cars are also known as hybrid electric vehicles or ‘HEV’ for short.

Pros and cons of hybrid cars

When considering a hybrid as your next car, it’s worth considering the pros and cons –

Pros of hybrid cars:
  • Hybrids generally achieve much better fuel economy than petrol or diesel powered cars.
  • As electric power can be delivered in an instant, the addition of electric power in a hybrid can deliver a noticeable power injection when driving.
  • Hybrid cars are more environmentally friendly, emitting less harmful gases into the environment.
Cons of hybrid cars:
  • Hybrid cars use regenerative braking, a system which recharges the battery when the brakes are applied. For this reason, if you plan to use your car for lots of long distance journeys on motorways, there will be fewer opportunities to brake, meaning you generally get a poorer mpg than you would a diesel powered car.
  • The batteries required for hybrid cars are generally heavy, resulting in a less agile and heavier driving performance.
  • Hybrids are generally more expensive to buy, which can negate any fuel or tax savings

Types of hybrid cars

There are a number of common types of hybrid cars –

  • Parallel hybrids – the most common type of hybrid, where the car can be powered in three different ways; directly by the engine, directly by the electric motor, or by both working together.
  • Range extender hybrids – these cars only use their conventional engine to produce electricity for a generator that recharges the batteries.
  • Plug-in hybrids – as the name implies, this type of car can be plugged into an electric outlet as well as being charged on the move.

What are some of the most common hybrid cars?

Some of the most common hybrid cars are –

  • Toyota Prius
  • Suzuki Ignis
  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Electric or hybrid cars – which is right or you?

We’ve outlined the basics and the pros and cons of both electric and hybrid cars, but which is right for you? Let’s highlight why you should consider them as your next vehicle –

Electric car pros
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Minimal running costs
Electric car cons
  • High purchase price
  • Regular charging required
Hybrid car pros
  • Improved economy
  • Emissions and performance
Hybrid car cons
  • Increased purchase price
  • Performance can be sluggish

Hybrid and electric car FAQs

What are the differences between hybrid and electric cars?

The key difference between a hybrid and electric car is that a hybrid car is in part powered by petrol or diesel, whereas an electric car is entirely powered by electricity.

Do all hybrid cars work in the same way?

Not all hybrid cars work in the same way; some cars can run solely using the electric motor at low speeds, whilst others only use the electric motor to provide the main engine with extra help. Plug-in hybrids are cars that have larger batteries and can run for longer on the electric motor alone. But you need to recharge these at electrical outlets after a certain level of use.

Are hybrid and electric cars cheaper?

The running costs of hybrid and electric cars are generally lower than that of traditional petrol or diesel powered cars, and some also offer additional financial benefits such as lower road tax. However, they are generally more expensive to buy in comparison to some petrol or diesel equivalents.

Why are hybrid and electric cars more expensive to buy?

Expensive electric car batteries are the primary reason why hybrid and electric cars cost more to build than petrol or diesel cars. Offering newer technologies and limited production amounts means that electric and hybrid car prices stay relatively high . The UK Government have announced investment in EV technology development and in next-generation batteries to help improve infrastructure and lower costs in the future.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

The cost of charging an electric car depends on the size of car battery and on the charging source – prices will vary if you are using a public rapid charging point versus a cheaper home electricity supply. For example, a Nissan LEAF has a 40kWh battery, so to fully charge the battery from empty would cost £4 using a 10p per kWh home energy supply. Using a public rapid charging point would be more expensive.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The time it takes to fully charge an electric car depends on the size of car battery and on the charging source – times will vary if you are using a public rapid charging point versus a slower home electricity supply. For example, a Nissan LEAF has a 40kWh battery, so to fully charge the battery from empty would take 4 hours using a 10p per kWh home energy supply. Using a public rapid charging point would be faster.

How far do electric and hybrid cars go?

The range of electric and hybrid cars depends on the size of their battery and precise makeup of their power (hybrids being a mixture of electrically and traditionally powered vehicles). Most electric cars have a battery range of between 120 and 150 miles, but each vehicle will be different.