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Hybrid, Plug-In, Electric…What Are The Differences?


Published May 11, 2018

Low- and zero-emission vehicles are clearly a hot topic among the media and followers of the automotive industry. However it can be a struggle to figure what you best option is when it comes to choosing between a Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicle. Understanding the difference as well as the positive and negatives of each vehicle will better help you pick the right car for you.
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Low- and zero-emission vehicles are clearly a hot topic among the media and followers of the automotive industry. There’s been a global shift in attitudes towards vehicle-generated pollution, so now virtually every mainstream manufacturer (and some niches ones, too) now have Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrids or full Electric Vehicles either in the showrooms or on the drawing boards.

But what's the difference between an electric car and a hybrid? Why are some hybrids different than others? Which sort is best? And is a hybrid an electric car? Unfortunately, the automakers are at least partially to blame, as they have often followed their own path when designating their low- and zero-emissions vehicles. Let’s compare the three.

What is an electric vehicle (EV)?
An electric vehicle is one that is plugged in and charged up and then operates solely on electric power. An electric car carries only electricity itself, which enters the car primarily by means of a charging cable, and never by gasoline and there’s no fuel tank). The electricity is stored in a sophisticated array of batteries and is then directed to electric motors to drive the vehicle’s wheels.

Electric cars are becoming more popular, due to tax credits and the lower cost of per mile compared to a similar gasoline-powered vehicle. They’re typically considered better for the environment due to the fact they emit no exhaust gases. Other benefits include quiet operation and are typically easy to drive, with no need to shift gears in most models. EVs also provide a great deal of power at low speeds.

Disadvantages of EVs include the time it takes to charge an electric vehicle, which takes far longer than filling a tank of gasoline. Some EVs provide the ability to drive a shorter distance on a lower recharge, and depending upon where you live and work, there may or may not be facilities nearby to provide for rapid charging. The good news is that several companies are working hard on a high-powered fast-charging system that’s safe for the operator, passengers, and vehicle.

What is a Plug-in Hybrid or Mild Hybrid Vehicle?
Some hybrid cars are what’s known as Plug-in Hybrids. As the name suggests, these cars can be plugged-in to an electrical receptacle by means of a cable, ranging from an extension cord in your garage to a fast-charging station found around office buildings, city centers, and shopping malls. This will charge the vehicle’s batteries and allow for the Plug-in Hybrid to be driven a certain distance on electrical power alone (often within commuting range). So on short trips, it performs like an EV but can make longer trips with the assistance of a small gasoline engine charging the batteries (and in some cases, powering the vehicle directly). As newer EVs, with a greater range, are being introduced some customers are turning away from Plug-in Hybrids, while others appreciate the ability to travel long distances without concern over stopping and recharging batteries for a long period of time.

A Mild Hybrid is a vehicle that’s been fitted with a smaller electric motor and battery array than a Plug-in Hybrid but features a larger gasoline engine. The purpose is to provide an incremental amount of torque when needed and is often fitted to pickup trucks. It also offers the advantage of shutting down the engine at a stop, powering the vehicle through the battery, and then restarting the engine when the driver lifts their foot off the brake pedal. The disadvantages are minimal, with typically just 100 lbs. added to the vehicle’s weight.

And a Traditional Hybrid?
A Hybrid vehicle is one that features three key components. An electric motor to propel the vehicle, an array of batteries to power the electric motor, and a small gasoline engine that recharges the batteries. There is no option to add electricity directly to the batteries, the only energy source that can be added is gasoline into the fuel tank. Full Hybrid vehicles offer a very short range on electric power alone, as the batteries typically have a lower capacity than an EV or Plug-in Hybrid

To make things more difficult for customers to understand some manufacturers offer both traditional Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid versions of the same car. In shopping for one of these vehicles it’s important to understand the financial implications as well as the environmental ones. It’s important to remember that any savings you gain will depend on the way in which you use your vehicle and that the increased cost of buying a Hybrid or EV might outweigh the amount you save on fuel.

If you have more questions on Hybrids or Electric Vehicles turn to the experts at AutoMaxx Battle Creek. They can explain the advantages of each, let you take different models out for a test drive, and provide you all the information you require to make the best decision for you and your driving habits.


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