The electric vehicle industry is growing and developing quickly. Whilst this is fantastic, the quick growth means there is a great deal of confusion surrounding this. There is often a focus from car manufacturers to ‘hard sell’ electric cars, rather than helping to inform the public about the benefits of EV charging technology and the various types of electric vehicles out there. One of the biggest misconceptions is the difference between electric and hybrid vehicles.

The difference between electric and hybrid cars is that electric cars rely fully on electric power charged through a battery, whereas hybrid cars run on a combination of electric power and petrol from the tank.

Here is a breakdown of the main differences between electric and hybrid cars:

What is an electric car?

An electric car, or EV, runs on and is charged up with electric power. Petrol or diesel is never used to refuel an electric car. The electricity that powers an electric car is stored in its battery, before being used by electric motors to drive the car forward.

Popular examples of electric vehicles include the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, and Tesla Model S but the choice is expanding rapidly.

There is an array of benefits to using an electric vehicle, such as:

  • Electric vehicles emit no pollution at the tailpipe, which means they have a much smaller local environmental impact.
  • They are cost-effective, due to the help of OLEV government grants and the lower cost of topping up compared to a tank of petrol.
  • They operate very quietly and are generally extremely easy to drive, with no real gearbox to speak of and a great deal of power at low speeds.
  • You can drive an electric car on an automatic-only driving licence.
  • They can be conveniently charged up at home via a smart home charger.

The cost to run an electric car vs a petrol/diesel car are pretty amazing…

  • Electric: 10,000 miles in a Nissan LEAF (battery capacity 40 KwH) costs £340.00 (based on electricity costs of 0.17p per KW).
  • Petrol: 10,000 miles in a Nissan Micra Fuel Economy (45 mpg) costs £1,281.50 (based on petrol costing £126.98 per litre)
  • This is a HUGE saving of £941.50 per 10,000 miles

Despite electric vehicles revolutionising the automotive industry, they do have a minor disadvantage of having a longer ‘topping up’ period. Electric cars can take up to several hours to be charged, although rapid electric car chargers can bring this down to around 30 minutes. However, the impact on the environment definitely outweighs this minor drawback. Also, homeowners do have the option to charge their electric vehicles at night, which is very convenient.

What is a hybrid electric car?

A hybrid vehicle uses a combination of electricity stored in batteries and petrol stored in a tank to propel the car forward.

A hybrid vehicle can charge its own batteries using the petrol engine. In some cases, this is all the petrol engine is there for – to recharge the batteries, which power the electric motors. In other types of hybrid vehicles, the petrol motor drives the wheels directly, but an additional battery/motor combination adds some electric drive.

There are different types of hybrid vehicles, including mild hybrids and plug in hybrids.

Examples of hybrid vehicles include the ubiquitous Toyota Prius, the generously-proportioned Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and the sporty BMW i8.  In fact, there are well over 50 hybrid cars currently on sale in Britain, ranging in price from around £13,500 (for the Suzuki Ignis mild hybrid) to more than ten times that (for the top-spec £147,000 Porsche Panamera hybrid).

To make things more confusing, some hybrid models are available as a petrol car or as a hybrid. Some hybrid vehicles also have a plug-in option as well as a non-plug-in version.  You’d be surprised at how many cars are now available as a hybrid of some description, though – the Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo XC90 and BMW 3-Series are all now available with hybrid powertrains.

There are some benefits to using a hybrid vehicle, especially if you don’t want to make the full switch to an electric vehicle:

  • Hybrid vehicles allow you to reduce the amount of liquid fuel you use.
  • You can drive without emitting any pollution for relatively short distances. This will save drivers money, as well as reducing damage to the environment. However, it’s important to remember that any savings you make (financial or environmental) will depend on the way in which you use your hybrid vehicle, and that the increased cost of buying a hybrid might outweigh the amount you save on fuel.

What types of electric car are there?

There are four main types of electric vehicles (EV’s): Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (HEV) and Plugin Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (pHEV) and a Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle. If you are looking for a more in-depth breakdown into each type of electric vehicle, then our handy guide below can help:

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

A battery electric vehicle (BEV) is a ‘true’ electric vehicle in that the only driving force is from electrical energy. Battery electric vehicles store electricity on-board with high-capacity battery packs. This battery power is used to run all on-board electronics as well as the main-drive electric motor(s). Battery electric vehicles are powered by electricity from an external source, an electrical outlet or specialty electric vehicle charging stations.

Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (HEV)

A hybrid electric vehicle has a two part drive system: a conventional fuel engine and an electric drive. Hybrid electric vehicles contain all the components of both internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric vehicles. These include an ICE engine, fuel tank, transmission as well as a battery pack and an electric motor. Some vehicles classified as HEV may have only a small electric motor and battery system to propel the vehicle at low speeds. Other HEVs may have smaller fuel engines and relatively larger electric drives.

The degree to which the vehicle is propelled, either by fuel or electric power, determines on the specific make and model of the vehicle. In all hybrid electric vehicles, the only energy source is fuel, electrical energy is generated secondarily via alternator or regenerative braking.

Plug-in Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

Plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEV) are similar to full hybrid electric vehicles, except that the larger proportion of energy used to propel the vehicle is electricity, not fuel.  These vehicles have larger electrical drives and battery storage capacity than full hybrid electric vehicles and are also equipped with a smaller internal combustion (petrol/diesel) engine.  The vehicle is designed to engage the fuel engine when battery electricity is running low or to replace the electric drivetrain when more power is required. Since PHEVs can be recharged from an electrical outlet, it is possible to drive them entirely on electrical energy.

Mild Hybrid Vehicle

A mild hybrid vehicle means the electric powder that drives the wheels is limited. The car won’t normally drive on electric power alone, but a small electric motor can be used to fill in the gaps. These systems are cheaper than ‘full hybrid’ models but have a much smaller benefit it terms of emissions.

If you would like to learn more about the difference between electric and hybrid vehicles or are interested in our EV charging services, get in touch! Simply contact our friendly team on 0191 417 3719 or send an email to