EVs vs Hybrids vs Plug-in Hybrids: What's the difference?

EVs vs Hybrids vs Plug-in Hybrids: What's the difference?

If you're looking for a greener, more efficient mode of transportation, there are loads of options with a variety of different drivetrains. There are partly electrified cars such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and then there are fully electric cars. That selection is great, but it can also be a little overwhelming in figuring out which electric vehicle is best for you. So we're going to break down what each vehicle is, and what situations each are most suited to. We'll even cover those differences both in text below, and the video at top. And even though the video above is a little dated in terms of available models, electric ranges and other specs, but still does a great job of explaining the mechanical differences and what that means to how they drive and how much fuel they'll save.

Hybrid Vehicles (HV or HEV)

A hybrid vehicle, sometimes referred to as an HEV for hybrid electric vehicle, has two powertrains, one gasoline and one electric, which work together for maximum efficiency. In some situations, the engine can shut off entirely, relying solely on the electric motor. The battery is charged by capturing energy from the braking system or directly from the gas motor. Hybrids come in all shapes and sizes, and the most fuel efficient today can return almost 60 miles per gallon. Hybrids are excellent choices if you're regularly driving long distances, can only have one car, and/or you don't have a place you can plug a vehicle in. All you have to do is keep it filled with gas, and you don't have to worry about finding chargers.

Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV)

A plug-in hybrid, also called a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), is a step towards full electrification. PHEVs typically can go between 10 and 50 miles on electricity alone. Once the battery is drained, PHEVs operate like conventional hybrids and switch between gas and electric operation seamlessly.

Now, PHEVs do require some extra effort. To get the maximum EV range every time you drive, you'll need to plug into a charger daily, but the beauty of the PHEV is its flexibility. For example, a Toyota RAV4 Prime with fully-charged battery can travel 42 miles on electricity alone. That's enough for most commutes. Add a full tank of gas, and the combined range extends to a massive 600 miles. The PHEV's best for people with short commutes who can take full advantage of the EV-only capabilities, but who also routinely venture out on longer-distance trip where recharging an EV would be inconvenient or impossible. Access to a charger in your home or workplace is essential to get the most out of a PHEV. If you can't plug in your plug-in hybrid regularly, you'll likely get worse fuel economy than if you got just a regular hybrid, mainly because you'll be hauling a bunch of extra weight in the form of a battery you're not using.