Electric Vs Hybrid: Understanding The Pros And Cons Of Each

The number of electric vehicle propulsion technologies that have become available is significant. The general impression is that pure electric vehicles have become the dominant technology, and for the time being, this is true.

At a Glance:
Acronyms like ICE, MHEV, HEV, BEV, PHEV, and FCEV have been introduced into modern-day language and, to many, seem very confusing.

There are four hybrid electric vehicle categories: MHEV, HEV, PHEV and Range Extender. Each offers a range of benefits (and disadvantages) to the owner.

Improved battery technology and the scaling up of battery recharging stations are making electric vehicles the more dominant technology.

These acronyms stand for the following:

ICEInternal Combustion Engine Vehicles
MHEVMild Hybrid Electric Vehicles
HEVHybrid Electric Vehicles
PHEVPlug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Range ExtenderElectric Vehicles with Range Extender Hybrids
BEVBattery Electric Vehicles
FCEVFuel Cell Electric Vehicles

Understanding Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles are a mix between ICE (internal Combustion Vehicles) and electric motor technology. There are four categories to be aware of.

MHEV (Mild Hybrids) 

MHEV systems are the most recent developments from several manufacturers. Companies that use the technology include.

In these systems, the electric battery and motor serve two purposes:

  • Mild hybrid systems are also called “power assist hybrids.”  In these configurations, the electric motor is not powerful enough to move the car by itself. Instead, it provides small power increments to assist the ICE engine when needed. 
  • The technology lets the gas-powered engine switch off when the vehicle is coasting.
  • All systems previously powered by the engine are powered by the battery or electric motor (fuel pump, cooling fan, etc.)
  • The traditional starter motor is also replaced, and the electric hybrid motor serves this purpose.
  • Mild hybrids use the gas engine and regenerative braking systems to recharge the battery.

While mild hybrids offer better economy than pure internal combustion engines, they do not achieve the savings that full hybrids do.

HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicles)

Like mild hybrids, a full hybrid consists of an internal combustion engine and an electric unit.

The electric motor is more powerful than one in a mild hybrid, and the batteries are larger.

The electric motor on a full hybrid can power the car without assistance from the internal combustion engine. The electric motor is ideally suited to provide full motive power at lower speeds or in traffic congestion.

Once the speed increases or the battery drains, the gas-powered motor starts up.

Both motors can work in tandem, increasing the drive wheels’ power and acceleration speeds.

The electric motor is charged by the gas engine and through regenerative brakes.

An interesting anomaly with full hybrids is because the electric motor is used in city driving, these cars will be advertised as having a better fuel economy in the city than on the open roads!

Examples of Full hybrid vehicles are listed below.

  • Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
  • Ford C-Max
  • Honda CR-Z
  • Kia Optima Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius and Camry Hybrid

There are two drivetrain architectures with full hybrids:

Parallel Hybrids

In the parallel hybrid configuration, the electric and gas motor can power the drive wheels independently.

This enables three configurations of power:

  1. Gas engine only
  2. Electric engine only
  3. Combined with both engines.

Serial Hybrids

In this configuration, the gas motor powers the drive wheel through the electric motor, which enables it to act like a generator.

Both engines can operate simultaneously, with the gas engine assisting the electric unit.

PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles)

A plug-in hybrid employs the same configuration as a full hybrid, except the electric engine is a larger, more powerful unit.

These units use the same in-car recharging mechanisms, including the engine and brake regeneration. In addition to this, they provide standalone recharging from an AC plug-in EV charger.

Plug-in Hybrids generally have larger batteries, resulting in increased range capability over pure hybrids.

At this point, you may be wondering. ‘Larger batteries and electric motors’ aren’t they just battery electric cars? This article covers the differences between Battery Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrids.

Examples of Plug-In Hybrid cars include the following:

  • Chevy Volt
  • Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi
  • Fisker Karma
  • Porsche Panamera S
  • E-Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in

Electric Vehicles with Range Extender Hybrids

Electric vehicles with range extenders are essentially full electric vehicles with a small internal combustion engine that functions as a generator recharging the battery.

In the BMW i3, the range extender engine is a 647 cc two-cylinder gasoline engine fed gasoline from a 2.4-gallon (10 l) petrol tank.

When the battery drops below 6%, the gas-powered motor starts up and recharges the battery providing an additional 80 – 190 miles of range.

Range extender hybrids include the following:

  • BMW i3
  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Cadillac ELR
  • Fisker Karma

Advantages Of Hybrid Vehicles

The advantages of hybrid vehicles are as follows:

There Is No Range of Anxiety

Being able to power the vehicle using normal gasoline means that the “range anxiety” associated with fully electric vehicles is removed.

Even Range extender vehicles can be filled with gas. The “gas generator” can keep the battery charged, so traveling longer distances than a pure electric vehicle.

Better Gas Consumption

To a greater or lesser extent, hybrid electric vehicles offer lower gas consumption than the equivalent gas-powered car.

The degree to which gas is saved depends very largely on the size of the electric and gas engines; however, the fact that the electric engine supplements the gas unit reduces consumption.

Environmental Benefits

The smaller and more economical the gas engine, the fewer carbon emissions are passed into the environment; in hybrid engines, which can travel longer distances on pure electric power, the environmental benefit is greater.

Cost Savings

As a rule, hybrid vehicles have a lower sticker price than pure electric unit

Disadvantages Of Hybrid Vehicles

The disadvantages of hybrid vehicles over pure electric and gas power vehicles are listed below.

Increased Complexity

Hybrid vehicles contain similar internal combustion engines to gas-powered cars and similar, but smaller scale components to pure electric vehicles.

These dual technologies expose the vehicle to the same potential mechanical issues as gas-powered and electric-powered cars.

Understanding Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are gaining popularity due to the continual development of battery and electric motor technology.

One of the companies to lead the way in electric vehicle design and production was Tesla.

Before, manufacturers had made halfhearted attempts to convert existing gas-powered models to electric power while retaining the gas-powered architecture.

This meant the electric engine replaced the gas unit in the engine bay, and space was found to squeeze batteries into available spaces, under the floor or in the rear boot area. Engine mounts, drive shafts, transmissions, differentials, and other parts were all carried through.

All the inefficiencies associated with gas-powered vehicles were carried over to the electric versions. 

Tesla threw out the legacy components and revolutionized the architecture of the vehicle.

  • The gearbox, clutch, driveshaft, and differentials were discarded, and the motor (three in the case of model S) was located directly on the axle.
  • The engine bay became an additional storage space.
  • Electric brake regeneration systems help recharge the battery when slowing down.
  • As engine cooling was not required, the front end was redesigned to become more aerodynamically efficient.
  • Mechanical/hydraulic steering systems have been replaced by lighter electric units.
  • With the removal of the driveshaft, the center tunnel in the car was removed, creating more space.
  • Petrol and oil tanks are not needed.
  • The battery is installed in the chassis creating a lower center of gravity which improves handling.


The fears with early electric cars were the lack of range and the ability to recharge the vehicle while traveling.

Although range anxiety is still an issue, the situation is continually improving, as listed below.

  • There has been a proliferation of charging stations on all major routes and cities. This will continue, and the time will come when there are more than enough.
  • Battery technology continues to develop, and new technologies being researched will all but eliminate range as an issue.

Advantages Of Electric Vehicles

Electric cars provide more functionality than Hybrid or internal combustion engine cars.

  • An electric car has none of the internal combustion components, which increases the complexity of hybrid cars.
  • While driving, the only emissions from an electric car are from the carbon being worn off the brakes – beyond that; they are emission-free.
  • Electric cars are much quieter than hybrid cars. 
  • There is no cranking a cold engine to start in bad weather. Electric cars are available by simply pressing the accelerator.
  • Because there is no engine up front, this space increases storage capacity.
  • The air-conditioned can be run when the car stops and the engine is “off.”
  • Electric cars are more secure and less easily stolen.
  • Electric cars are capable of faster acceleration.
  • Because one or more motors power an electric car, the response to anti-skid or slip controls is more precise, meaning zero wheel spin when pulling away.

Disadvantages Of Electric Vehicles

The disadvantages of electric cars are:

  • Electric cars are generally more expensive than other types.
  • The range is a problem on long trips, and these need to be planned carefully.
  • Electric vehicles are not suitable for towing as the range of an electric vehicle reduces exponentially when pulling a trailer.
  • At the end of the battery life, replacement costs are very high and may even financially total the car.
  • The range is substantially reduced in cold weather.
  • Battery recharging time is substantially slower than filling up with gas.

Comparison Of Hybrid And Electric Vehicles

Hybrid Electric VehiclesElectric Vehicles
Efficiency40% of energy from gasoline converted to motive power75% of battery chemical energy is converted to motive power
Initial Cost Higher the ICEHigher than hybrid
Maintenance CostHigh maintenance owing to the number of complex systemsSimple system with low maintenance cost
Running CostSubject to gas pricesCurrently, under 20% of the cost of a hybrid
AccelerationModel depending on the same as of 10% faster than a gas-powered carTesla Model S fastest accelerating car in the world
Overall PerformanceLower torque, higher top speedHigher torque, lower top speed
EmissionsExhaust (tail pipe)Zero emissions
Refilling (charging time)Five minutesFrom 1 hour to 24 hours charger dependent

Factors To Consider When Choosing

These factors will influence your choice between a hybrid and an electric vehicle.

  • You’re driving style will make you favor one or the other vehicle types. The faster acceleration of an electric vehicle is more fun but shortens range considerably.
  • If you commute less than 50 miles daily (the average in America is approximately 40 miles), an electric vehicle makes a lot of sense.
  • EVs are still not ideal for regular long-distance driving.
  • EVs are more expensive to purchase (substantially so), but the federal EV tax credit and lower running/maintenance costs even the equation out over time.


Do Hybrid Cars Last Longer Than Electric Cars?

Proponents of hybrids state that they will last longer than EVs because the batteries and electric motors are smaller and used less than in an electric car.

All-electric supporters will point to the complex drive trains in hybrid cars, which have to switch power between or combine the power from the motors.

In addition, a hybrid has a gearbox, drive shaft, clutches, radiators, starter motors, and many more systems which may fail.

Time will tell which point of view is correct.

What Is The Difference Between Hybrid And Hybrid Electric? 

The term hybrid implies that more than one power source is moving a car. This could include:

  1. Internal Combustion engine/electric
  2. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
  3. Pedal Power/Electric 

Key Takeaways

1️⃣ EVs are gaining popularity due to battery and electric motor technology advancements.

2️⃣ Hybrid vehicles offer lower gas consumption and environmental benefits but are more complex and have higher maintenance costs.

3️⃣ EVs are emission-free, quieter, and provide more functionality, but are more expensive and have range limitations.

4️⃣ Factors to consider when choosing between a hybrid and electric vehicle include driving style, daily commute distance, and long-distance driving needs.

Next, I recommend exploring whether hybrid cars require oil changes and their maintenance needs. Or check out the different types of electric vehicles available in the market today.