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What's the Difference Between an Electric Car and a Hybrid?

Many drivers are now making the switch from conventional petrol and diesel cars to more environmentally friendly vehicles. If you’re considering getting a green car 🍃 you may have already encountered various car models that are labelled as fully electric, hybrid, mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or another similar term. Your first question is probably, “What’s the difference between an electric car and a hybrid?” And that’s a good place to start. Let’s compare these two types of eco-friendly cars and then also learn about the different types of hybrid vehicles. 

Electric Cars vs Hybrid Vehicles

When a car is fully electric, it means the car runs completely on electricity alone so it has zero Carbon emissions and helps to reduce air pollution in our cities. It has a battery where the electricity is stored and an electric motor to drive the wheels. To top up an electric car, you have to plug it in using a charging cable. The power source could be the usual wall socket, but you may also have a dedicated home wall charger installed in your driveway. Another option is a public charging station that could even be free to use. 

Now, how about hybrid cars? Hybrid vehicles also run on electricity, depending on what type of hybrid car it is. For example, some hybrid cars cannot run on electricity alone. Instead, the electric motor gives a boost to the conventional petrol engine so that the car is more fuel-efficient. The key difference between an electric car and a hybrid is that hybrids have both an electric motor and a combustion engine. It will still emit greenhouse gases but not as much as a pure diesel or petrol vehicle. It’s a greener choice, and it’s also a good option for drivers who want a more eco-friendly car but are not quite ready to go full-electric. 

Types of Hybrid Cars

Not all hybrid vehicles are the same. There are mild hybrids, parallel hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and range extender hybrids. It may seem overwhelming at first, but once you know their main characteristics, it will be much easier to start thinking about which among them is most suited for your driving needs. Let’s start!

Mild Hybrid

A mild hybrid car has an electric motor, but it’s not powerful enough to make the car run on electricity alone. The best that it can do is to assist the combustion engine during difficult acceleration. It also helps the car run smoother in start-stop traffic that’s common in congested city streets. The combustion engine will automatically turn off while coasting, braking, or when the car is not moving. A mild hybrid system allows the car to be more fuel-efficient. 

Parallel Hybrid

A well-known parallel hybrid is the Toyota Prius. This type of hybrid can run either by electricity alone, with a combustion engine solely, or both combined. The Prius, for example, goes full-electric when the speed goes up to 15mph, but its range is only 1.25 miles. Whenever you press the brakes or decelerate, the car’s regenerative braking system will recover that energy and then store it back in the battery. 

Plug-in Hybrid

With this type of hybrid, you’d have to recharge the battery by plugging it into an external power source like a wall socket. It can still get power from regenerative braking, but it is still ideal to charge it properly like a fully electric car. If you’re looking for the midpoint between a hybrid and an electric car, the plug-in is your best choice. As a hybrid, it still has a combustion engine, but its electric motor is more powerful, and you can drive it for longer distances, around 15 to 30 miles, with just electricity alone. 

Range Extender Hybrid

A range extender hybrid car has a small petrol engine and a battery. The combustion engine is used as a generator only, producing electricity that allows the battery to be recharged. This means the engine does not have enough power to drive the wheels. The best example of a range extender hybrid is the BMW i3S. With its hybrid system, you can get an additional 90 miles of range compared to what the regular BMWi3 is capable of. 

Should I Get a Hybrid or an Electric Car?

If you’re not yet sure which one to get, electric or hybrid, then the best way to go about it is to assess your driving needs. For example, if you drive longer distances, then you may want to have a hybrid car so that you’ll have a smooth ride on motorways. For city driving, an electric car is perfect because you don’t have to worry about range or battery life because you know there’s a charging point around every corner. But this isn’t to say that electric vehicles are no good for long-distance driving because they are also capable of that. 

If this is your first green car, you may want something that feels familiar. For some, having that combustion engine in their car makes them feel more comfortable in their driving, knowing that if they ever run out of battery, they can still drive the car using the combustion engine. Other than your driving needs, you’d also want to think about your budget. Hybrid cars are more affordable than full-electric vehicles. However, you still need to refuel them. While full electric cars are pricier, they’re more cost-effective to run because electricity is a lot cheaper than petrol or diesel. 


Electric cars and hybrid vehicles are great options if you want to have a smaller carbon footprint. You can help reduce air and noise pollution in your city by choosing a green car. Even if a hybrid still emits greenhouse gases, it is less polluting than the usual petrol or diesel car. You can start with a hybrid car, and then down the line, you may find that you’re comfortable driving a full-electric car already. When shopping for a green car, take the chance to test drive it, so you’ll know which type of vehicle you like most. 👍😀

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