Hybrid vs Electric Car: What are the Differences and Similarities?

Whether you’re shopping for a new car or are just curious about the differences between hybrid and electric cars remember this: it’s all about how they are powered. The hybrid car has two ways of powering itself – a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) like you would see in a gas powered car and an electric motor. An electric car only has an electric motor and relies solely on it to run. 

While they both are better for the environment than gas vehicles, what are their differences and similarities? If you’re looking to buy an eco-friendly car, is one option better than the other? What are their advantages and disadvantages? This hybrid vs electric car article will answer those questions.

What is a hybrid car and how does it work?

A hybrid car is a vehicle that is powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. How it works will depend on the type of hybrid car. There are three types of hybrid cars: parallel, series, and plug-in.

Parallel Hybrid Car (Mild Hybrid)

In a parallel hybrid car both an internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor power the wheels. In a parallel hybrid system, the ICE will sometimes shut itself off during no-load conditions, like when the car is going downhill or is at a stop.  It will instantaneously start the gas engine when needed.

Series Hybrid Car

In a series hybrid car, an internal combustion engine charges a battery that the electric motor uses to power the wheels. In a series hybrid system, the ICE is used in high-load conditions while the electric system is used during low-load conditions.

Plug-in Hybrid Car

In a plug-in hybrid car, an ICE and electric motor power the wheels just like in a parallel hybrid car but the battery has a much larger capacity which means it has a longer electric range. Another feature that a plug-in hybrid has that the other types of hybrids don’t is that it can plug into or charge with an EV charging station. The plug-in hybrid is the closest to a battery-electric vehicle.

How does an electric vehicle work?

An electric vehicle is also known as a battery electric vehicle (BEV) or all-electric vehicle. An electric vehicle uses a large traction battery pack to power an electric motor that moves the wheels. The battery must be recharged with an EV charging station.

What are the advantages of a hybrid car?

A hybrid vehicle helps you reduce your carbon footprint and spend less on gasoline costs. Here are the pros of a hybrid car:

  • Great gas mileage
  • Produces lower emissions
  • Regenerative braking
  • Financial incentives
  • Great range (no range anxiety)

Great gas mileage

When you compare a hybrid car to a conventional ICE car, a hybrid car has better fuel economy and fuel efficiency. Hybrid electric cars have 25% to 30% better fuel mileage than ICE vehicles.

Produces lower emissions

With a hybrid car, part of the time you’ll be relying on the electric motor to drive. An electric motor does not emit any tailpipe emissions.

Regenerative braking

In a traditional car, every time you brake to stop kinetic energy goes to waste, but with regenerative braking that energy is stored in the battery to be used later.

Financial incentives

Plug in hybrids are eligible for the federal EV tax credit. Buyers of eligible hybrid vehicles could receive a tax credit of up to $7,500. There are other incentives offered by other organizations that can save you even more money. For example, the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) offers buyers of plug in hybrids a $1,000 rebate.

Great range (no range anxiety)

When you drive a hybrid car you won’t have to deal with range anxiety like you may with an electric vehicle. After the battery runs out, your car can still power on with its internal combustion engine. 

While this is the case, there really is no reason for EV drivers to have range anxiety. It is really more of a mental and familiarity issue than reality.  According to the most recent Federal Highway Administration (FHA) data from 2019, the average number of miles driven per day per driver in the United States is 39 miles. The average electric driving range is 200 – 300 miles with the high end being 400 – 500 miles. 

What are the disadvantages of a hybrid car?

  • Limited electric range
  • Fuel costs
  • Maintenance is expensive
  • Not as powerful
  • Produces carbon emissions

Limited electric range

A hybrid car does not have a long electric range as an electric car does. For example, the EV with the current highest range is the Lucid Air at 516 miles, while the plug-in hybrid (the type of hybrid with the longest range) with the current highest electric range is the Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid at 31 miles.

Fuel costs 

A hybrid car sometimes relies on an internal combustion engine, which runs on gasoline. Fuel costs fluctuate all the time and their exorbitant prices are sometimes the reason car buyers explore alternative options like hybrid or electric cars. You won’t be able to rely on just the cheaper electricity rates with a hybrid car.

Maintenance is expensive

Maintenance costs for a hybrid are high since it has an ICE and an electric motor, which calls for double the work. The good news is the electric side of a hybrid doesn’t require much maintenance so most of what you will be going to the mechanic for is for issues that arise from the gas engine components of the vehicle.

Not as powerful

A hybrid car won’t have the acceleration “jump” like you would with an electric car. A plug-in hybrid car is the heaviest of the three types of hybrid electric cars because it houses so many more parts than the others and will be the slowest of the three. An EV has a quick take-off speed due to its electric motor and low center of gravity.

Produces carbon emissions

A hybrid car will still produce carbon emissions due to its gasoline engine. To truly have a net zero carbon footprint and not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions when you drive, you’ll have to own an EV. 

What are the advantages of an electric car?

  • Zero tailpipe emissions
  • Robust financial incentives
  • Instant torque
  • Regenerative braking
  • Nearly silent operation
  • Less maintenance than ICE or hybrid vehicles
  • Low center of gravity 
  • No more gas stations

Zero tailpipe emissions

When you drive an EV, you emit zero tailpipe emissions. An EV is the best car to drive if you want to be environmentally friendly. When compared with an ICE vehicle, the production of an EV can cause more greenhouse gas emissions, yet over the lifetime of an EV, you produce fewer carbon emissions.

Robust financial incentives

Battery-electric vehicles are currently having a moment and have the most robust incentives as compared with other similar incentives. Electric vehicles have more rebates and tax credits and are eligible for more cash than hybrid vehicles.

Instant torque 

An electric has instant torque, almost like an expensive sports car. When you accelerate from a stop sign an EV takes off incredibly fast. Many new EV drivers find the instant torque a delightful and fun surprise.

Regenerative braking

Just like with a hybrid car, an electric car has regenerative braking and can store what would normally be wasted kinetic energy for later use.

Nearly silent operation 

An EV is nearly silent and is a nice alternative to loud gas engine cars. An electric car is also quieter than a hybrid car.

Less maintenance than ICE or hybrid vehicles

EVs don’t require much maintenance. No more oil changes and fluid changes (except for windshield wiper and brake fluid replacement). An electric car doesn’t have as many moving parts as a hybrid car or a traditional car so it won’t need frequent trips to the mechanic. Most of your maintenance will be rotating tires, brake replacement, coolant refill, cabin air filter replacement, and similar minor issues.

Low center of gravity

An electric car has a low center of gravity due to its battery pack. This means better handling and a lower chance of a rollover accident.

No more gas stations

With an EV you will never have to go to a gas station again! You can go to a public charging station to “juice” up, but you’ll have to deal with issues like having to figure out what to do while your car charges or deal with higher prices than if you charged with a Level 2 home charging station. The best way to keep an EV battery charged is to have a home charging station. WattLogic offers an easy EV charging solution without the hassle.

What are the disadvantages of an electric car?

  • More expensive than ICE or hybrid vehicles
  • Range anxiety
  • Battery replacement
  • Fewer choices 
  • EV charging infrastructure need to grow

More expensive than ICE or hybrid vehicles

An all-electric car is usually more expensive than a traditional car or hybrid vehicle. The sticker price may be higher but you end up saving more through gasoline savings and incentives.

Range anxiety

One of the biggest reasons drivers are afraid to buy an electric car is range anxiety or the fear that one will become stranded if their EV battery runs out. This is an unwarranted fear as mentioned earlier in this article. The average number of miles driven by a US driver is 39 miles and the average electric driving range is about 250 miles.

Battery replacement 

An EV battery replacement can be a large expense, anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000. You can buy a refurbished battery for much less. Electric car batteries have lifespans of 8 to 15 years so you won’t have to replace it very often.

Fewer choices

Since EVs have only recently become popular in the automotive industry, you won’t have as many vehicle options as you would with ICE vehicles. Yet, auto manufacturers are releasing new EVs every few months and many automakers have made commitments to no longer sell gas powered cars in the future. For example, General Motors has an all-electric target for vehicles by 2035 and plans to be carbon neutral by 2040.

EV charging infrastructure needs to grow 

The US EV charging infrastructure is currently not keeping pace with EV ownership. The federal government and local governments are working to change this. There are plans to build a huge network of EV charging stations across the country.

If you have a home EV charger you won’t have to worry about looking for a place to charge. A home charging station is a perfect way to charge an electric car overnight. You can begin each day with a full battery. Reach out to WattLogic for the simplest, least stressful way to get a residential EV charger!

Is it better to have an electric or hybrid car?

Hybrid and electric cars are both great choices. If you’re looking to lower your gasoline expenses and do something good for the environment and your air quality they both help you achieve those goals.

When you take into account all of the factors, EVs are a better investment. When compared with a hybrid car, an electric car is better for the environment, saves you more on gasoline costs, and has added perks like being able to charge in the comfort and safety of your own home and being able to drive in the High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane.