Electric, Hybrid, & Plug-in Cars: What is the Difference?

Choosing an electric car can be confusing with fully hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric models on the market. Before even looking at cost, colour, or trim levels, it's essential to know your BEVs from your PHEVs when selecting your next car.

This article will break down the different types of vehicle to choose from and what environments/lifestyles they would best suit.

Fully Electric Cars

First up, we have battery electric vehicles (BEVs). These vehicles don't have a traditional motor and are powered by an electric engine. Fully electric cars have been steadily increasing in power and popularity consequently.

New models released boast incredible ranges, such as the SEAT Mii having a 161-mile range on a single full charge. More than enough for someone looking for something to zip around the city for day-to-day commuting.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the robust Jaguar I-PACE, which runs for an impressive 292-miles on a single charge.

Ultimately, the style of EV will likely be determined by your lifestyle and budget.

Thanks to a vast array of models available on the market, there are electric vehicles to suit all needs. Before committing to buy one, you would be best served to check Zap-Map to find the location of charging points in your local area. It also helps to get a dedicated charging station installed in your home for convenience.

This vehicle style will cost a bit more than the ICE or Hybrid alternatives. However, those costs are mitigated over time with reduced running costs and maintenance. Not to mention being better for the environment and improving air quality.

Plug-in Hybrid

Plug-in Hybrid's (PHEVs) still feature a standard petrol/diesel engine and a small electric motor. The capacity of this electric motor will vary from model to model, but typically, you'll get around 20-miles out of it. There are models which boast impressive electric ranges, such as the Volvo XC40 Recharge, which can run 28.5miles on the battery alone.

The benefit a plug-in hybrid brings is driving around urban areas or nip to the shops at a meagre cost. Once the charge in your electric motor runs out, it switches over to the petrol engine and keeps going - pretty much electric driving without any range anxiety.

You will need to plug in to keep that electric motor charged, although some models might use regenerative braking to top up the battery. Driving a plug-in hybrid can be cheaper than a full hybrid if you stay on top of the electric battery charge.

This car style will be best suited to those who want the option for cheap urban driving with an electric motor without having to rely on finding charging points solely.

Full Hybrid

Then we have full hybrids (HEVs). This car style has an electric motor and engine just like the plug-in hybrid but never actually plugs in. The electric motor charges through regenerative braking. This means when you apply the brakes, the energy generated is not wasted but harnessed into charge for your battery. Pretty clever, right.

Like the plug-in variant, this style of car is ideal for urban life. Short trips to the shop can be made at no cost, and as you'll be stopping and starting constantly in the city, you'll be charging your car at the same time!

Cost-wise, these cars are typically cheaper than buying a plug-in model. The reasons for purchasing a full hybrid is the same as the plug-in variant.


If you've made it this far, you are now more than ready to pick the best electric car style for your own needs.

No matter which works best for your lifestyle, going electric today is hard to get wrong. If you'd like more information on electric cars, why not check out our car reviews?

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