Electric Cars

Different EV Options Explained: Electric vs Hybrid

January 20, 2022

Exploring Electric Cars? You Have Options!

So, you’ve decided to make the big leap into an electrified vehicle. Your reasons could be one of many. Maybe you’re attracted by the prospects of improved performance and silent running. Perhaps you’re looking for lower running costs. Or maybe your motives are environmental; to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a greener, more sustainable world. No matter why you’ve decided to dig a little deeper into the world of EVs, GreenCars is here to help you learn more about how these various types of electric cars work.

What are the Different Types of EV?

In broad terms, there are three different kinds of electrified vehicles available to you in 2022 – hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric. Each of them represents potential savings in fuel economy and green-house gas emissions, but each also has specific nuances to how they operate and that will help determine what’s best for your needs.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), sometimes referred to as “mild hybrids” use a gasoline engine married to an integrated electric motor/generator to recuperate normally-wasted energy under braking, storing it as electricity in a battery. Some hybrids use this electrical energy to power accessories in the car such as the heating/air conditioning system, reducing the load on the gasoline engine. Most of the Audi SUV lineup, for instance, incorporates mild-hybrid technology. Some hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and RAV4 Hybrid, have a larger battery that can be used to drive the vehicle short distances under electric power, and supplement the gasoline engine to reduce fuel consumption.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Plug-in hybrids (PHEV) operate on the same basic principles as mild hybrids, with two significant differences. First, plug-ins have a significantly larger battery pack, allowing them the ability to drive significant distances under electric power alone. Second, they have the ability to recharge the battery by plugging it in when you’re not driving. How much more distance do you get with a plug-in hybrid? While a “regular” Prius can go less than a mile under electric power alone, the plug-in Prius Prime can go up to 25 miles without using any gasoline.

Hybrid vehicles, as suggested by their name, still carry around a gasoline engine and its associated support systems, like a fuel system, exhaust, and transmission. On the plus side, having this other drivetrain on-board means you can drive on gasoline when the battery’s charge is depleted, making both types of hybrid cars convenient on long journeys, or in areas where charging is hard to find. On the other hand, this extra machinery increases complexity and weight. Also, such hybrid technology doesn’t reduce overall maintenance costs and ongoing service such as oil changes. Plus, there are many driving situations where you’re still producing greenhouse gases.

Battery Electric Vehicles

Pure battery-electric vehicles (BEV) are all-electric and get rid of the gasoline drivetrain completely focusing purely on electric power, with much more powerful electric motors and much larger battery packs. By going full electric, you end up with a significantly less complex car with reduced maintenance costs and zero emissions. Depending on the make and model, range can be anywhere from about 145 miles for the small Mini Electric to over 500 miles for the Lucid Air luxury sedan.

So, which kind of green car is right for you? The answer is... it depends on both your circumstances and driving patterns.

Where Do You Live? Your Driving Patterns?

Where you live in the U.S. can have a significant effect on your choice of green car from a usability perspective as well as a financial one. The closer you are to a city center, the more it makes sense to go all-electric. Whereas the further away you are from a city and its EV charging stations, the more likely you might choose a hybrid or plug-in hybrid for their ability to drive using gasoline.

In the city, driving distances are normally shorter, and you’ll spend more time sitting in stop-and-go traffic than the open road. While all types of hybrid and electric vehicles work well in city settings, a BEV gives you the best environmental benefit as well as reduced complexity and lower maintenance costs. Shorter drive distances mean that driving range will typically not be an issue, and public charging stations will be easier to find.

As you get further away from the city, your specific driving patterns will have a greater effect on what type of vehicle is right for you. Lots of short trips between your home and the general store? You can probably go all-electric. Long distances to drive even to accomplish everyday errands? Hybrid or plug-in hybrid might make more sense. Keep in mind that the typical American drives fewer than 50 miles per day.

Also consider the federal, state, and local incentives available to buyers of green vehicles. Depending on where in the country you live, there could be significant financial advantages to going all-electric, or plug-in hybrid. Many incentives are tied to battery capacity, so the “more electric” your vehicle is, the more money you could potentially save.

To find out more about EV incentives, visit the GreenCars Incentives Tool here.

Charging at Home

Home charging is an essential component to having a good experience with an all-electric vehicle. Lots of BEV owners just plug in using a standard 120-volt outlet in their garage for level 1 charging. A level 2 home charger will require at a 220-volt AC outlet (the same as used for your clothes dryer) in your garage so you can easily charge your electric car overnight. If you have to park outside, it may be possible to install a charger in your driveway.

If you live in an apartment in the city, where pure electric driving makes the most sense, you may have to work with your building’s management to install a charger in your parking spot. The costs can vary widely based on the age of the building and available infrastructure. Many newer buildings actually have chargers available to residents and some municipalities actually require a percentage of parking spots to have charging available.

Remember that many states and local governments offer financial support for the installation of home charging equipment, so research your options to maximize your financial benefit.

Finding the Right Electric Vehicle for You

If you’re just starting your green car journey, the array of choices available on the market can seem bewildering. How do you decide which of the many hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or all-electric vehicles on the market is right for you? A clear understanding of what each kind of vehicle has to offer, as well as your specific driving circumstances, home charging situation, and regional and local incentives, will help you make the best choice for your personal transportation needs.