How to Decide Between a Hybrid and an EV?

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Electric Vehicle (EV) technology is a revolutionary transport alternative that has enjoyed skyrocketing popularity in the last decade. This technology includes Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) or hybrid cars and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) or pure electric cars, while both of them are considered EVs, they are quite different.

Figure 1: Hybrid car vs. electric car

If you want to learn more about hybrid cars and electric cars, their similarities, and differences, this article is for you. Here we dive into detail on the main aspects between electric cars vs hybrids, list the most important pros and cons for each one of these, and help you choose between hybrid or electric vehicles depending on what you are looking for.

What Is the Difference Between Hybrid Cars and Electric Cars?

Figure 2: Operation of PHEV vs. BEV

Both PHEVs and BEVs are designed to work using EV technology, where a high voltage Lithium-Ion battery powers one or more electric engines to transfer kinetic power to the wheels. There are important differences between electric cars vs hybrid cars, here we explain each option, detailing how they differ from one another.

How Does the Battery Electric Vehicle Work?

Figure 3: Schematic of a Tesla Model S

BEVs or pure electric cars feature a high-capacity Lithium-Ion battery that stores electrical energy and powers the electric motor of the vehicle. This type of car does not require any gas to transfer power to the wheels and is entirely powered with electricity, featuring zero-tailpipe emissions.

What about the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle?

Figure 4: Schematic of a Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle

On the other hand, a Plug-in EV (PHEV) or hybrid car, combines the technology of BEVs with that of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. These vehicles feature a much smaller Lithium-Ion battery that delivers an average driving range of 30 to 60 miles. The majority of the range for PHEVs comes from the combustion engine powered with regular gas, like ICE vehicles. The PHEV first consumes the available range in the battery and then they run on gas.

What Are the Differences Between Hybrid Cars and Electric Cars?

There are major important differences between hybrid cars vs electric cars. The most important one is that PHEVs heavily rely on the combustion engine to burn gas and send power to the wheels, barely relying on the electric engine for power. On the other hand, BEVs rely only on the electric motor powered with electricity.

Since PHEVs rely more on the combustion engine for driving longer distances, these vehicles generate more tailpipe emissions, they have short electric driving range, and they are relatively more expensive to drive on the long run than BEVs. BEVs on the other hand, are cheaper to drive in general, feature zero tailpipe emissions, and deliver a high electric driving range.

Hybrid vs Electric Cars: Pros and Cons

Figure 5: Hybrid and electric cars

To choose between hybrid or electric cars, you should not only understand how they work and their differences, but also learn about the multiple hybrid vs electric cars pros and cons. In this section, we list the most important ones for each electric vehicle option.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hybrids

Advantages

Since hybrid vehicles feature EV technology and ICE vehicle technology, they share the best of both worlds.

  • The driving range is not limited by the battery. This vehicle combines the range delivered by the Lithium-Ion battery and the gas tank.
  • Hybrid cars are easy to refill in a matter of minutes by relying on the gas tank. This is ideal during emergencies and long trips around the country.
  • The upfront cost for hybrid cars is smaller than for pure electric cars.
  • EV drivers living close to work, can rely solely on the electric driving range and enjoy the cheap driving cost without paying the high cost of a regular BEV.
  • PHEVs produce 34% fewer CO2 emissions than ICE vehicles.

Disadvantages

While PHEVs are excellent starter vehicles for those switching from ICE vehicles to EVs, not everything is perfect. Here we list some disadvantages of hybrid cars.

  • Hybrid cars are more expensive to drive than BEVs due to high gasoline prices.
  • The electric range of a PHEV is fairly limited.
  • While CO2 emissions for PHEVs are lower, they do still produce  tailpipe emissions.
  • Maintenance and repairs may be more complex due to the combination of two entirely different systems.

Pros and Cons of EV

Advantages

BEVs are a popular rising technology, in part due to their amazing advantages compared to ICE vehicles and PHEVs. Let’s analyze some of the advantages from pure electric cars.

  • The electrical driving range for a BEV goes from 200 miles up to 500 miles.
  • There is a large number of incentives available exclusively for pure electric cars or BEVs.
  • The trunk space for the BEVs is much larger than for PHEVs or ICE vehicles.
  • BEVs release zero-tailpipe emissions, but their overall CO2 emissions depend on the electricity used to charge the battery. These vehicles have the potential to produce zero CO2 emissions when powered with clean energy.
  • Noise levels are extremely low, potentially reducing noise pollution caused by vehicles in cities.
  • Driving a BEV is much cheaper than driving an ICE vehicle or even a PHEV (using the gas tank).
  • The electric engine of the BEV converts energy much more efficiently than the combustion engine in ICE vehicles and PHEVs.

Disadvantages

While EVs have many positive factors, there are some disadvantages to this technology. Here we list the most important ones.

  • Charging an EV can take several hours to complete. Charging time varies on the type of charger used and vehicle model.
  • The upfront cost for a BEV is considerably larger than for PHEVs.

So Which is Better: An Electric or Hybrid Car? Conclusion

Figure 6: Hybrid vs. Electric car

Up to this point, you have learned about BEVs, PHEVs, and the difference between hybrid cars and electric cars. In this section we compare the pros and cons of hybrid cars vs. electric cars, going into detail on which option is the best one for you.

Battery Electric VehiclePlug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle
Fuel sourceLithium-Ion batteryLithium-ion battery and gas tank
Electric driving range200 – 500 miles30 – 60 miles
Recharge/refilling timeSeveral hoursA few minutes (gas tank only)
Upfront costHigh upfront costModerate upfront cost
Tailpipe emissionsZero tailpipe emissionsBurns gasoline for power when not using the electric engine
Overall CO2 emissionsPotential to reduce emissions by charging with clean energyThe combustion engine will always release CO2
Driving costLow driving costLow driving cost (electric engine) & high driving cost (gas tank)
IncentivesMost EV incentivesFew EV incentives
Energy efficiencyHigh energy efficiencyLow energy efficiency with gas tank & high energy efficiency with electric engine

Table 1: Comparing hybrid cars vs. electric cars

It is important to understand that separating electric vs hybrid car models and choosing which one is better, is not an easy task. Battery EVs can be the best option for some drivers, while hybrid cars are the most suitable car for others.

Pure electric cars are better for EV drivers looking to fully dive into the EV experience. These vehicles entirely rely on electric power from the battery, feature zero tailpipe emissions, highly reduce CO2 emissions, and use energy more efficiently. They also provide the complete EV driving experience, but they have the setbacks of the long charging time and the high upfront cost.

Plug-in hybrid cars are not so great for those looking for the full EV experience but are ideal for reliant ICE vehicle drivers that want to test the EV experience without fully diving into it. A PHEV is an excellent option if you want to drive with an electric engine, learn more about EV charging, and reduce your carbon footprint, without leaving entirely aside the ease of a gas tank. 

Nick Zamanov
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Nick Zamanov is a head of sales and business development at Cyber Switching. He is an expert in EV infrastructure space and he is an EV enthusiast since 2012, Since then Nick strongly believed that electric vehicles would eventually replace Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars.

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