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Hybrid Cars Explained

So, you are thinking about going more eco with your next vehicle? Are you considering full EV or Hybrid? Full hybrid, PHEV or mild hybrid? Are you still with us? No, we didn’t think so. Electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids are soaring in popularity and with the rise in choice comes a drop in price, making environmentally friendly vehicles a viable options for most wallets.

If you are buying new with a view to keeping your new car for several years, electric or hybrid may well be the best choice for you. We attempt to demystify the various types of hybrid to help you make an informed choice!

So, what is a Hybrid? A hybrid is partly electric but still has an internal combustion engine. Electric vehicles (EV) rely solely on electricity, but hybrids have fuel engines as backup. This makes hybrids a great halfway house between the “old” – diesel and petrol-powered cars - and the “new” – EVs.

The Full Hybrid

Full, or parallel, hybrids can drive using only electric power, only fuel, or both. Usually, the full hybrid uses a combination of energy from electricity and combustion engine. They have relatively small batteries and aren’t designed for zero-emissions driving, but an ecological combination of combustion and electricity. Big hitters in the full hybrid market include the BMW 330e and the Toyota Prius.


The PHEV, or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle is, well, a vehicle that you can plug in to charge. This means that you can use the battery charge for as long as you need to (or can) without using the combustion engine; you will only start using fuel if or when you need to. The PHEV offers the best of both worlds: reduced or zero emissions with the back up of an alternative power source should you need it for longer journeys. Most PHEVs can go up to 30 miles on its battery before switching to fuel; examples include the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the i8 from BMW and VW Golf GTE.

The Mild Hybrid

The term “mild hybrid” is used for two main types of car: some manufacturers use it to describe a vehicle that uses an e-motor to assist the engine; others use it to describe engines that have energy-saving schemes which cause the engine to cut out when the engine is idling and collect power on deceleration. Most mild hybrids can’t run on electricity alone, but they do offer reduced emissions.

The REX Hybrid

It turns out that the world of hybrids just loves an acronym. The REX (or Range-Extender Electric Vehicle) is technically a hybrid as it is powered by electric, but has a combustion engine. However, the engine is only used to charge the battery, offering a similar belts-and-braces approach to the full hybrid.

Hybrids are definitely part of the future and as the market grows, there is likely to be more choice, both in new and used hybrids. If you are considering taking the plunge, head down to a local car dealership, where they will be able to advise you on the best vehicle for your needs.

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