Plug In Hybrid Vs Full Hybrid Vs Mild Hybrid


When choosing a new car, there are many options available to you if you want to save money on fuel and reduce your emissions.

Some drivers aren’t ready to make the switch to a full electric car because of their higher asking price and the uncertainty that still surrounds charging availability.

The good news is that there’s a ‘halfway house’ in the form of hybrid cars that mean you don’t have to choose between a petrol powered vehicle or battery powered car. These models have a traditional combustion engine, plus a battery pack and electric motor that provides extra power, reduces fuel consumption and slashes emissions.

There are three different types of hybrid models to choose from, including plug-in hybrid, full hybrid and mild hybrid. Each one has different levels of electrification and depending on your preference and requirements, you’ll find one that’s right for you.

In this guide we’ll show you everything you need to know about each of them and who they’re best for.


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What are plug-in hybrid cars and how do they work?


Plug-in hybrid cars (or PHEVs for short) have increased in popularity in recent times and it’s easy to see why when you look at how these cars operate.

Out of all the hybrid cars available to buy, plug-in hybrids are by far the most fuel-efficient. This is because they have a much larger batttery pack, meaning you’ll get the best range driving on electric power alone (most will travel around 30-50 miles before needing to be recharged). However, their petrol engine means they’re still a practical choice for long-distance journeys.

The key difference between plug-in hybrids and other types of hybrid cars is that, as the name suggests, you’ll need to plug them in to charge the battery when it’s empty. A good way to do this is by installing a home charger (most plug-in hybrid models require a 7kW charger), which will take only a few hours to charge most plug-in hybrids.

Don’t worry if you have off-road parking, as there are now rapid chargers at most petrol stations in the UK that will give you an 80% charge in around an hour.


Who are plug-in hybrids for?


A plug-in hybrid is perfect if you want to drive emissions-free on shorter journeys, without ever really needing to fill up at the pumps. If you live in the city, you can avoid congestion charges that cost around £15 per day – that’s equivalent to thirteen full charges* of a BMW 330e!

Also, if you occasionally drive longer distances, a plug-in hybrid car is ideal because it has a combustion engine that, when combined with the battery pack and electric motor, offers brilliant efficiency. Using the BMW 330e again as an example, you can expect in real world driving around 438 miles before needing to fuel and charge up.

To get the best out of a plug-in hybrid car, you’ll want to install a home charger for the convenience of overnight charging, so if you only have off-street parking, a full hybrid or mild hybrid might be a better option for you.


Most popular plug-in cars


*We’ve used the latest charging data from ZapMap to calculate the cost of charging a plug-in hybrid car


What are full hybrid cars and how do they work?

Hybrid logo on car

Full hybrid cars (also known as hybrid electric vehicles, or ‘HEVs’) are models that use a combination of a combustion engine (usually petrol), electric motor and battery pack. The only difference is that, unlike a PHEV, they use a smaller battery that doesn’t require charging.

Instead, the power of the combustion engine charges the battery, which in turn gives the car a boost of efficiency, but can also power the car on its own for short distances to save fuel by shutting down the main engine. For example, the Toyota Yaris, which is a full hybrid car, has official combined fuel economy figures of 66mpg, much more than your average combustion engine car.

While driving a full hybrid car, the electric motor will provide an added boost of power when you accelerate, especially at low speeds around towns and cities. These short bursts are often enough to mean you don’t need to burn fuel in the likes of stop-start traffic.


Who are full hybrids for?


If you do a lot of driving in slow-moving traffic/urban environments then a full hybrid will be perfect for you. This is because they’re great at using their electric motors and batteries to provide short sharp bursts of electric power that will save you a lot of money at the pumps.

Unfortunately on longer journeys they’re not as efficient, so if you do a lot of long-distance driving, we’d recommend looking at a PHEV model. That’s provided that you have accessible ways of charging a plug-in car.


Most popular full hybrid cars


What are mild hybrid cars and how do they work?

Suzuki Swift Hybrid Facelift

Many new cars are now using mild hybrid technology (often badged as ‘MHEV’, meaning ‘mild hybrid electric vehicle’). Manufacturers are increasingly using this tech for their combustion engines as it tends to get the most efficiency out of the unit.

Unlike PHEVs and HEVs, MHEVs use the smallest battery and electric motor combination in order to provide a boost to fuel-economy figures. The result is often improvements of around 20% to efficiency when compared with standard combustion engine cars.

These cars work by generating a small amount of electric power, mostly while driving at slow speeds or accelerating from standstill, in order to deliver more without using all of the combustion engine’s power, thereby saving on fuel.

You won’t be able to drive a MHEV on electric power alone as the battery and electric motors work alongside the combustion engine. However, the good news is that you won’t need to remember to charge a mild hybrid’s battery. This is done through the engine and, in some cases, regenerative braking (i.e. energy created while braking is fed back into the car to charge the battery).


Who are mild hybrids for?


While mild hybrids may not be the most fuel-efficient kind of hybrid car available, they go a long way in helping to reduce vehicle emissions, which is a big step towards the UK achieving its aim of cutting emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels by 2035.

These models are also very cheap to run when compared with typical combustion engine cars. For example, the Fiat 500 Hybrid has a claimed average fuel economy of 53.3mpg, which is thanks to its mild hybrid engine tech. You can expect it to be very savvy at the pumps and on insurance costs too.


Most popular mild hybrid cars


Which hybrid car is best in 2022?


With the cost of fuel only going up, any hybrid car you consider for your next new car will help you save money when it comes to filling up.

A plug-in hybrid car is a great option if you regularly drive longer distances and have access to a home charger or can afford the time to charge on the move. On the other hand, a full hybrid is great if you predominantly drive in urban areas where you can drive on electric-only power for short distances to save on fuel.

Mild hybrids are the closest thing to a normal petrol or diesel car, so you won’t see as many cost-saving benefits as the other two types of hybrid cars, but are a safe and good choice for your next car if you’re not too keen on the other options.

If you were to ask us, we think that the plug-in hybrid car is the best option in order to get good cost and convenience benefits.


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