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Hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full electric car - which one is for me?

Posted by Sam Tonge on 18 October 2017 at 9:45 am

There’s been a lot of talk about electric vehicles in the media recently, following policy announcements here in the UK (and further field) to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 (2032 for Scotland). It seems that many big players in the automobile industry are happy to get on board with this trend, with a range of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully-battery powered cars entering the market this year.

This has us excited here at YouGen as we’re on board with the idea of greener travel which benefits society and the environment as a whole. This is why we thought it would be useful to provide an introduction to help break down the variations in electric car technology to help you explore your options and maybe even find out which suits you!

Hybrid vehicles

This technology has been around a while now, with the underlying principle being that the vehicle is part battery-electric and part conventional engine. A battery storage unit is used to optimise the efficiency of the petrol or diesel engine, with both energy sources working together simultaneously depending on levels of engine loading.

Hybrids provide a useful stepping stone for you if you’re not entirely sure you’re ready to adopt an electric car. Vehicles can be classed as either ‘mild’ or ‘strong’ depending on the degree of power provided by battery storage, i.e. a ‘strong’ hybrid can run solely on electricity for longer periods than a ‘mild’ hybrid. A key benefit of a hybrid is that no electric charging points are required, as is the case with other technologies (see below). However their continued part-dependence on fossil fuels means that they will be only an interim solution in the transition to electric vehicle technology.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)

Here the focus shifts slightly from an engine-powered vehicle, to one dominated by battery power whilst being supplemented by traditional fuel sources. The ability to connect your vehicle to electric charging points as well as petrol or diesel filling stations is the key difference here. This provides you with flexibility and a useful stepping stone into greener forms of travel. A key improvement of PHEVs is that it’s entirely up to you whether you wish to rely on exclusively battery power (zero emission mode), a mixture of sources (eco mode) or solely traditional fuels.

This is the next logical step in adopting electric car technology. Relying solely on battery power is best suited to driving within shorter distances (e.g. up to 40 miles). However this approach arguably results in a much lower running costs due to low charging cost and taxation. Quicker-charging batteries make this an increasingly viable option, especially for drivers in urban areas where charging points are more numerous and air quality is an issue.

Electric vehicles

Cars that are powered fully through the charging of battery storage represent a complete endorsement of everything electric vehicle technology has to offer. The price of fully electric cars in the UK has become increasingly affordable with basic models starting at around £14,000. The speed of charging does vary but has also vastly improved with the fastest chargers powering a battery by 80% in just half an hour.

However deciding if this is currently an option for you does require you to do a little research. For example, you would ideally need access to off-street parking to allow your vehicle to be charged, or alternatively you would need access to an available point nearby. Zap-map is highly informative platform and provides an interactive map where you can search for publically accessible charging points near to you.

However there’s no need to give up hope if you’re not anywhere near a point just yet. There are grants available for individuals to have charging points installed in off-street parking through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). If you rely on on-street parking then you can request your local council (in England) installs a charging point through an OLEV grant, to fund charge-points for plug-in vehicles on your street. Although this does technically mean the point would be available for anyone to use, parking restrictions can be enforced by councils to minimise the risk of potential overcrowding!

As the 2040 deadline for adopting electric vehicle technology looms, it will certainly be an interesting journey to see which of the above approach will reflect reality within the not-so-distant future. However it seems here at YouGen that there is plenty of reason to be optimistic that mobility here in the UK seems to be heading in the right direction.



Image credit: Glen Wallace


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About the author:

Sam has contributed to our blog since 2016 and previously worked for the National Energy Foundation.

He became interested in green energy after completing a degree in Geography (BSc) at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

Sam is passionate about renewable energy and is committed to spreading the word about the role it plays in delivering environmental sustainability. 

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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4 comments - read them below or add one


nnw49Comment left on: 19 June 2018 at 11:01 am

@Joseph88 (Andy)

Our son has a 2005 Prius that we bought new. It has now done 210,000 miles and is still on its original (hybrid) battery and is still running well...

I think the key is that the cars try not to charge the battery >80% or allow it to go < 20%. Thus it doesn't overheat and vent water vapour - which is what tends to kill rechargable cells.

We now have a Plug in Hybrid, and it is true what @Bill15 says: in the winter you get A LOT less range on the battery! Mind you, the traction control is a little overenthusiastic in winter conditions: wheel slipping, reduce power, wheel slipping reduct power - oh we've stopped! :)


There's nothing new in Plug In hybrids: my grandfather had (built!) one in the 1930s: charged it at home (London electric was 120VDC supply at the time..) and charged it at wherever he was working that day... Only used the (small) petrol engine on long trips...

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Joseph88Comment left on: 30 October 2017 at 2:18 pm

Is there a battery cost chart for every kind of electic car somewhere on the internet? I'm looking into buying a used/old hybrid car (or maybe full electric). I just want to know if the hybrid battery needs to be replaced and what would be a cost of it.

Best regards,

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Ross Lammas

Ross Lammas from Comment left on: 24 October 2017 at 11:13 am

Here’s an interesting long-term owner’s experience of the Renault Zoe and electric car ownership…

Overall, they seem very happy. 

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Bill15Comment left on: 18 October 2017 at 12:26 pm

Note that the latest Nov17 Which? magazine has a useful article on electric and hybrid cars - however, like the above article, they fail to mention that winter driving range can be a third less than summer range - see Renault Zoe website for an official quote on the reduced winter range - - readers may also be interested to read about the V2G technology that will be available when the new Nissan Leaf becomes available early next year - see

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