Hybrid Vs Electric Cars: Which Is Best?

With the UK government agreeing a ‘ban’ on all new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and think tank Green Alliance pressuring to bring this forward to 2030 – the time has come for you to consider your future vehicle.

The options for low-emission and zero emission vehicles are vast, to say the least. Do you want a zero-emission all-electric plug-in model (EV) or flexibility of a combustion engine and battery-powered motor? This is before you’ve looked at what range you need the vehicle to deliver.

Fear not, in this guide we’ll explore everything you need to consider before deciding whether a hybrid or electric car is right for you.

What are electric cars?

electric car

EVs are cars and vans which use one or multiple electric motors to power them, replacing the typical petrol and diesel combustion engines found in most vehicles.

Alongside these motors are lithium-ion batteries – the same ones found in pretty much everything from smartphones and computers to power tools. Each car will have its own charge time depending on two things:

  1. The size of the battery.
  2. The speed of the charging point.

As an example, a typical electric car has a 60kWh battery will take just under eight hours to reach a complete charge using a standard 7kW wall box (which can be purchased and fitted in a private garage or shared car park). However, just like your other devices which are powered by electric, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to let your motor run out of power completely between charges. As such, charge times are likely to be quicker than this on a day-by-day basis.

The main appeal of electric cars is the low running costs and the greener aspect associated with no fumes coming from the exhaust. But how do the next best option, hybrid cars, compare?

What are hybrid cars?

hybrid car

Just like full electric cars, a hybrid vehicle can also be a car or a van.

The main difference between them is that a hybrid uses two or more sources of power, the main example being an internal combustion engine driving an electric generator and this then powering an electric motor.

Also, they generally feature self-charging batteries that reclaim energy through regenerative braking or just through driving. While some advanced EVs such as the Audi e-tron and Hyundai Kona have this feature too, they still require plugging in regularly.

What’s the purpose of these cars then in relation to their zero-emission companions? Well, for starters they can be a nice compromise for those teetering on the edge of wanting the familiar sound and feel of a classic engine unit, all while significantly lowering fuel costs and emissions.

Because there are two motors to draw upon in these cars, there’s great energy-efficiency benefits to be had while you’re driving. For example, you can switch between a pure electric mode at lower speeds, where they tend to produce greater torque and steering. This can then be reverted to the traditional fuel-fed combustion unit at cruising speeds for greater power at higher revs.

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) also fall under this category. Manufacturers saw an opportunity to increase the driving time for the electric motor by producing more powerful batteries that can be recharged the same way as a full-electric car. While the gasoline-powered engine will charge the battery up to a certain point, depending on how you’re driving you can maximise this by charging through a household mains or using one of the many public charge points in the UK.

Eco vs. hybrid cars – which is better?

Now that you’re clued up on what electric and hybrid cars are, you may be asking yourself: ‘what is the best value for money?

Without further ado, let’s look at what each one does well, along with some shortfalls you need to consider.

Range

Nissan Leaf range

One of the biggest talking points surrounding EVs and hybrids is range. In other words, how far (in miles) they can travel on a full charge.

Electric cars are judged harshly on this factor by critics and drivers alike due to being solely powered this way.

The good news is that the market has responded to criticisms and range anxieties by producing vehicles such as the Tesla Model 3. Not only is it the brand’s most affordable model, but in its top spec it can travel a claimed 329 miles.

Even the first mass market EV, the Nissan Leaf, which remains one of the most popular models in its class, will return 168 miles on a WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) combined cycle. This can even be increased to a 242-mile range if you’re predominantly using the car for city driving.

With a hybrid car range is less of an issue. Even if you’re using the pure electric mode for commutes, the battery can be plugged in (if it’s a PHEV) or generate its own energy while you’re on the move if it runs out. Most importantly, the car will automatically turn to the petrol or diesel engine for power if this happens, so you won’t need to factor in a pitstop for topping up the charge on longer journeys.

Cost

Running costs for electric vehicles are among the best on the market. You won’t have to pay for fuel and prices for charging at home, work or public points can be broken down into the following costs:

  • Home charging: On average it costs £8.40 for a full charge.
  • Work charging: Most employers now offer charging points on their car parks, typically offering free access.
  • Public charging: Depending on where it is, places such as supermarkets or public car parks are often free to use.
  • Rapid charging: Usually found at motorway service stations and cost around £6.50 for 30 minutes (100 miles) charge.

These figures are for the UK and are based on a typical EV with a 60kWh battery and 200-mile range.

Emissions and tax

On top of this, you’ve also got the additional saving of not having to pay road tax for brand new models if it has a list price of less than £40,000.

Many businesses are now turning to full-electric fleets because of the implications. For example, company car tax for the current financial year is 0%, meaning now is a great time to look at business deals for these cars.

Emissions tend to start from 75g/km of CO2 for hybrids, meaning you won’t be exempt from road tax or congestion charges in areas such as London.

With a hybrid, you won’t see as much of a financial benefit when it comes to running costs than you would with its zero-emission counterpart. While the fuel-economy is a lot better than regular petrol or diesel cars (around 15-30% more efficient), you’ll still have to purchase fuel. On average, this will cost around £1.24 for petrol and £1.30 for diesel, though will vary depending on your location.

Should you choose a PHEV and rack up a lot of miles, you’ll also have to factor in charging costs, such as the ones listed above. This could also lead to higher running costs when compared with an electric car.

Purchase price

Where these dual motor cars have the advantage over EVs is their listing price. This tends to be higher for the aforementioned due to the plethora of the latest technology onboard. On the other hand, the market recognises that a hybrid model draws more comparison to a car which has a conventional engine, which generally makes the asking price lower.

Having said this, prices will largely be down to the manufacturer and model you choose. For example, you’ll pay a lot less (around £28,000) for a Toyota Prius plug-in than you would for a Jaguar I-Pace, mostly because the latter uses better quality materials and is a more powerful model. You’ll also notice a disparity in price if you’re looking at used EVs and HEVs/PHEVs.

Insurance price

Insurance is a strange one. Some insurers specialise in offering discount on premiums for people who decide to go electric and making a greener choice. Also, these cars tend to be readied with advanced safety tech which insurers can reduce prices, recognising the driver as less of a risk on the road.

In general, EVs tend to be the most expensive kind of cars to insure because they feature expensive parts, with few mechanics being qualified to repair them in the event of an accident or fault.

Charging time

Charging times, much like range, is one of the most important considerations when you’re looking for a new electric car or hybrid. Even standard HEVs, which don’t require plugging in to top up the motor, must still be looked at in terms of how quickly the recharging process takes process.

Rapid charge from DC (direct current) charging stations is, for the most part, only available to EVs. What’s more is that their batteries are designed to be able to handle higher rates of charge.

When it comes to hybrids, there are very few PHEV offerings that can make use of this. For example, the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in model can be charged at these stations, although you’ll have to pay a bit extra for this privilege.

This might not be a concern of yours if you’re only using battery power sparingly, such as when you’re driving in the city

Battery life

electric car battery

In terms of battery longevity, both electric and hybrids score well.

Almost all new EVs are warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first) which is a decent amount of protection. You’ll see the benefits of this from the beginning of your agreement if you’re leasing as all leased cars are brand new and come with the full manufacturer’s warranty.

Even if your electric car is second-hand or is out of warranty, it’s estimated that a battery will last between 10-20 years before needing to be replaced. If it does need replacing, the price to analyse the condition of the battery and replace damaged cells can be around £1,500.

Leasing a battery but owning the vehicle is an option offered by manufacturers such as Nissan and Renault. However, with advances in technology since 2011-12, when mass market electric cars were introduced, this is in place to make the upfront price more affordable.

Because of the dual-motor nature of HEVs and PHEVs, the battery won’t be used as much as in a pure electric model. For this reason, it’s less likely that it will need replacing. As a general guide, drivers have reported that they will last between 70,000-200,000 miles. However, the same warranty can be found on both types of vehicle, which is added protection if the car is new or is less than eight years old and hasn’t clocked up 100,000 miles.

Overall, there’s greater flexibility of choice when it comes to hybrid cars versus electric vehicles. However, our list of the most anticipated cars for this year suggests that most manufacturers are taking the plunge and producing more EVs, which will ultimately lead to them becoming more competitively priced.

Want to learn more about zero and low-emission vehicles, or leasing in general? Then check out our guide to answers to all your questions.

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