back to articles | February 24, 2023 | Staci Bailey

Categories:   Useful Automotive Information   

Fully-Electric, Plug-In Hybrid & Hybrid Technology, Explained

Electric and hybrid vehicles have been gaining prominence. Most people are aware that these types of vehicles exist but there is much confusion as to the differences between them.


Electric and hybrid vehicles have been gaining prominence. Most people are aware that these types of vehicles exist but there is much confusion as to the differences between them. We’re clearing the air on electric vehicle technology!

Fully Electric Vehicles

Fully electric vehicles are also known as battery electric vehicles or BEVs for short. They use no gasoline whatsoever and run solely on electric power. These cars have electric motors that are powered by batteries. Vehicle owners charge their car battery at home or at public charging stations.

Most electric vehicles come with a Level 1 charger that can be plugged directly into a standard home outlet. While there are no upfront costs to this method, this trickle charge will typically only provide 3-5 miles of range per hour or charging. Level 2 charging requires a 240 volt outlet to be installed in your garage but you can get as much as 60 miles of range per hour depending on the vehicle and charging unit.

Level 3 DC fast chargers are capable of adding 10 miles or more for every charging minute. These are bulky, expensive, and incompatible with your home’s electrical system making them impractical for home use. Level 3 charging is popular at public charging stations but be aware that frequent DC fast charging can diminish the longevity of your battery.

Since electric vehicles use no gasoline, their greenhouse gas emissions are zero and that’s good news for drivers looking to minimize their carbon footprint. It means breaking the dependency on gasoline and its volatile prices. You will have to pay for the electricity to power your vehicle but you will no longer pay anything at the pump.

Electric vehicles generally have larger batteries than their hybrid counterparts. They can accommodate a big battery since they don’t have to make space for a gasoline engine. Electric vehicle technology allows sufficient battery power for the average commuter.

Fully electric vehicles have greater battery range than hybrids but they have no backup gasoline engine to take over after the batteries are depleted. This means that they have limited range and long drives have to be planned around charging stations. As new fast charging stations continue to be installed this is slowly becoming less of an issue.

Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, has both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. The electric battery is the primary source of power for the vehicle but when it runs out the vehicle can switch to running on gasoline. Essentially this vehicle has two powertrains both of which are capable of supplying energy to the wheels.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles are the answer to the issue of range that fully electric vehicles experience. The electric motor can do short distances around town of around 30 to 60 miles depending on the vehicle. For longer trips the gasoline powered engine kicks in and the car operates like any traditional car.

The battery of a plug-in hybrid is too big to be charged by regenerative braking alone. Much like fully electric vehicles these cars need to plug in to an external power source in order to recharge the battery. For many drivers Level 1 charging is adequate for the smaller battery of a plug-in hybrid unlike fully electric vehicles which require much more power to fully charge.

These vehicles straddle the middle ground when it comes to price and battery size. They are less expensive but carry a smaller battery than fully electric vehicles. However they are more expensive and have larger batteries than hybrid vehicles that do not plug in.

While you can substantially decrease how much gasoline you use, plug-in hybrid vehicles are less fuel efficient than fully electric cars. The electric range of plug-in hybrids is much smaller. This type of car is not designed to completely eliminate the dependency on gasoline.

Hybrid Vehicles

A hybrid electric vehicle, or HEV, is powered by both electricity as well as gasoline. Much like a plug-in hybrid, these cars become gas fueled vehicles if their batteries run out of juice. The difference is that their smaller batteries can’t be charged externally.

Hybrid vehicles are designed to get more energy out of the gasoline the car uses making them more efficient so they can burn less gas. They recharge their battery through regenerative braking, taking the heat created by the braking system and converting it to electricity. Hybrids can capture power from the internal combustion engine much like an alternator does in a gas powered vehicle but to a greater extent.

There are two types of hybrid electric vehicles, the mild hybrid and the full hybrid. Each type tries to better utilize the energy generated by gasoline but they use it differently.

Mild Hybrid

In a mild hybrid most, if not all, of the driving is done by the internal combustion engine. The electricity the vehicle captures is used to power auxiliary systems such as the stereo, lights, and climate control. Some mild hybrids can assist the combustion engine by offering a boost when accelerating.

Full Hybrid

Full hybrids have larger batteries making them capable of driving on electric power alone. The electric component is more robust and capable of handling a greater workload. Full hybrids still recharge their batteries from the internal combustion engine instead but they can turn off the gas powered drivetrain and switch to electric power when driving at lower speeds.

Which Electric Vehicle Is Right For You?

Electric vehicle technology has come a long way. Choosing the right type of electric vehicle will depend on your lifestyle, charging capabilities, environmental objectives, and budget.

If you frequently drive long distances the range limitations of a fully electric vehicle may be of concern. It may not be practical to buy a plug-in hybrid if you live in a remote location with no public chargers or if you’re unable to install one at home. But if lowering your environmental impact is your priority then you may be willing to overcome these obstacles.

If the upfront cost is a concern then a fully electric vehicle with its big expensive battery might be beyond your means. Find out what you can afford at myAutoloan and shop with confidence.