Thinking about switching to an Electric or Hybrid car? If you’re new to the world of electric and hybrid cars, our simple guide below will help to answer all of your questions...
What’s the difference between an electric and a hybrid car?
An electric vehicle is powered entirely by a motor. A hybrid vehicle has an electric motor and a petrol engine. A plug-in hybrid tends to have a more powerful electric motor and a petrol engine.
Why Are Hybrids More Expensive to buy?
Developing a hybrid vehicle takes years of research. It’s the same for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids – so the up front investment needed by manufacturers is reflected in the price. However, the higher price is usually offset by much lower running costs.
Are hybrid cars good cars?
Yes, the build quality of pure electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids is outstanding these days, especially at the top end of the market. They often have the same levels of luxury and convenience in the cabin as a conventional car, plus there's the added benefit of being cheaper to run and emitting less CO2 – so you avoid congestion charges.
What is the range of a hybrid car/electric car/plug-in hybrid?
A hybrid car uses the electric motor at lower speeds, and the petrol engine after that, so the range tends to be the same or better than a conventionally powered vehicle. A plug-in hybrid has more powerful motors, so it can travel further on electric power alone (usually around 30 miles) with a total range of around 300 miles when you factor in the petrol engine range. Some pure electric vehicle manufacturers claim their cars have a range of over 280 miles.
See how electric vehicles (EV), hybrids and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) are different.
Electric motor only
An electric vehicle (EV) is powered only by an electric motor. Because it runs on electric power, it's better for the environment and your wallet. The battery must be charged from an external power supply.
A Hybrid Vehicle:
Electric motor and petrol engine
A hybrid has both a petrol engine and an electric motor. The electric motor starts the vehicle off, then the petrol engine takes over. This improves fuel efficiency and reduces running costs. The battery charges when the vehicle is in motion.
A Plug-In Hybrid:
More powerful electric motor and petrol engine
A plug-in hybrid electric Vehicle (PHEV) tends to have a smaller petrol engine and a more powerful electric motor. This makes it fuel-efficient and better for the environment. The battery can be charged by the car or external power supply.
Are Electric and Hybrid Cars Safe?
Yes. All electric, hybrid car and plug-in hybrid vehicles go through the same European NCAP safety checks as ordinary vehicles. They all have larger, more powerful batteries, but these are housed in protective compartments, so they're just as safe as ordinary cars.
Can I drive an Electric or Hybrid car in a thunderstorm?
Yes, hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles are just as safe as ordinary cars in a thunderstorm. The car bodies are built the same way, creating a ‘Faraday cage effect’, meaning the lightning current flows from the car's metal cage into the ground below. So, you’re just as protected and insulated as you would be in an ordinary modern car.
What are the hybrid cars with the longest/best range?
A hybrid car range can vary a great deal between the manufacturer's claims and its actual range. For an accurate guide, look for the new official WLTP figures. A plug-in hybrid usually has a longer range because it has more powerful motors and bigger batteries. One manufacturer claims their plug-in hybrid has a range of 97 miles on electricity alone.
Are hybrid cars more expensive to insure?
In short, yes. This is because the technology involved on board electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars is expensive to develop, which is reflected in the purchase price. Expensive cars tend to have higher insurance premiums.
Will a hybrid car save me money?
Yes. Take a closer look at the running costs for electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
An electric car costs £5.00 per 100 miles*
An electric vehicle (EV) doesn’t need petrol at all, running on 100% electricity. A fully charged battery charge costs around £8.40, compared to a full tank of petrol that costs on average a hefty £75.00.
A hybrid car costs £14.50 per 100 miles*
A hybrid uses an electric motor to power the car at lower speeds. This reduces petrol consumption. An ordinary car might return 36mpg on average. A hybrid could offer 50mpg, meaning you fill up less often.
A plug-in hybrid car costs £12.20 per 100 miles*
A plug-in hybrid has a more powerful motor and bigger battery, so it can go further and at greater speeds on pure electricity. Use it for average commutes and you’ll hardly ever need the petrol engine – so running costs are much lower.
Can you charge a hybrid car?
No, a hybrid car has an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. The electric motor accelerates the car from standing start, to speeds up to approximately 25mph. At that point the petrol engine kicks in. The battery recharges itself through a process called regenerative braking or by using power generated by the engine.
Can hybrid cars be charged at home?
You can’t charge a hybrid vehicle. But you can charge both an electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid using mains electricity from your home. The best time to charge is at night when electricity is that bit cheaper. Get into the habit of hooking it up every night, that way it’s always ready for the next day.
How long does a hybrid battery last?
It depends on how much mileage you do and how well you look after your vehicle – it can vary from as little as five years to over ten years. It’s the same for electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles.
How often does the hybrid battery pack need replacing?
The chances are you won’t have to. Most hybrids, EVs and PHEVs have batteries that are warrantied for eight years or 100,000 miles.
Is it true that battery replacements cost as much as the car itself?
No, that’s a common myth. Over the years, hybrid vehicle batteries have improved and now last much longer. In the unlikely event that your hybrid battery does need to be replaced, you should expect to pay around £5,000.
Will the hybrid battery become damaged in the winter?
No. Hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles have batteries that are all designed to operate within the same temperature range as an ordinary car. But, just like your phone, electric and hybrid car batteries do drain more quickly in cold weather, so you'll get slightly fewer miles in the winter. Some manufacturers even claim that their batteries will operate in temperatures as low as minus 22 degrees.
When do hybrid cars use petrol and when do they use the battery?
A hybrid car uses the electric motor for pulling away and at low speeds (to reduce engine wear and emissions) the petrol engine then kicks in. However, with a plug-in hybrid you can choose to drive in either petrol or electric mode, or the vehicle can select it automatically. A pure electric vehicle (EV) doesn’t use petrol at all.