Hybrids vs Electric Cars: What's the Difference? — Lectron EV Skip to content
Hybrids vs Electric Cars: What's the Difference?

Hybrids vs Electric Cars: What's the Difference?

With the 2030 ban on sales of conventional gas-powered cars looming in, drivers transitioning to the greener side could find themselves at a crossroads. While electric vehicles (EVs) promise zero emissions, lower costs, and a smaller carbon footprint, those who have become accustomed to the virtually unlimited driving range of traditional cars could be thinking twice about relying solely on electric power. The good thing, though, is there's another type of car that could ease this transition to fully electric vehicles - hybrid vehicles.

What Is a Hybrid Car?

Image courtesy of NREL

A hybrid vehicle, as the name suggests, combines two or more distinct power sources to propel itself. Most commonly, hybrid cars integrate a gasoline engine with an electric motor. The primary goal of hybrid technology is to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions by utilizing the electric motor to supplement the gasoline-powered engine. There are four main types of hybrid cars: mild hybrids, full hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs with Range Extender.

Types of Hybrid Cars

Mild Hybrids: These hybrids don't require external charging. Instead, Mild-Hybrid Electric Vehicles recharge their batteries using power from the gasoline engine and energy from regenerative braking.

Full Hybrids: These hybrids have a more capable electric component than mild hybrids. Full hybrids can run on battery power alone for a distance. They are further divided into two types: parallel and series. Parallel hybrids can draw power from both the gasoline engine and electric motor. Series hybrids solely rely on the electric motor powered by the gasoline engine.

Plug-in Hybrids: Plug-in hybrid cars primarily rely on battery power for propulsion and only use the gasoline engine when the battery is low on charge. They offer extended electric-only driving ranges.

EVs with Range Extender: Although not technically hybrids, Range Extender Electric Vehicles (REEVs) use a gasoline engine to charge the battery or sustain the electric motor's operation once the battery is depleted. This feature ensures you won't be stranded without power.

Differences Between Hybrid & Electric Cars

The Toyota Prius is one of the world's best-selling hybrid cars

Image courtesy of Toyota

Hybrid and electric cars differ primarily in how they generate and store energy for propulsion:

  1. Power Sources:

    • Hybrid Cars: Use a combination of a gasoline engine and an electric motor to drive the wheels. The gasoline engine charges the battery and provides additional power when needed.

    • Electric Vehicles: Rely entirely on electric car batteries. They do not have an internal combustion engine and produce zero tailpipe emissions.

  2. Fuel Efficiency:

    • Hybrid Cars: Offer improved fuel efficiency compared to traditional gasoline cars, but they still rely on gasoline for propulsion.

    • Electric Vehicles: Are highly energy-efficient and produce zero tailpipe emissions, relying solely on electricity for power.

  3. Charging:

    • Hybrid Cars: Do not require external charging since the battery is primarily charged through regenerative braking and the gasoline engine.

    • Electric Vehicles: Need to be charged regularly using electrical outlets or charging stations.

  4. Electric-Only Range:

    • Hybrid Cars: Have a limited electric-only range, typically a few miles, for low-speed, stop-and-go driving.

    • Electric Vehicles: Can travel much longer distances on electric power alone, with ranges varying from around 100 to over 300 miles on a single charge, depending on the model.

Pros & Cons: Hybrids vs. Electric Cars

Electric Cars


  1. Zero Emissions: All-electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, especially when charged with renewable energy sources.

  2. Lower Operating Costs: Electricity is generally cheaper than gasoline, resulting in lower fueling costs. EVs also have fewer moving parts, reducing maintenance expenses.

  3. Quiet and Smooth: Electric cars provide a quiet and smooth driving experience due to their lack of an internal combustion engine.

  4. Instant Torque: Electric motors deliver instant torque, providing quick acceleration and a responsive driving experience.


  1. Limited Range: While EV range is improving, many electric cars still have a limited driving range compared to gasoline-powered cars, which can be a concern for long-distance travel. If you prioritize extended range, it's worth exploring options among electric vehicles, with some models standing out as the longest range electric cars on the market.

  2. Charging Infrastructure: Access to charging stations can vary by region, and fast-charging options may be limited in some areas, leading to longer charging times.

  3. Upfront Cost: Electric cars tend to have a higher upfront purchase price compared to traditional gasoline cars, although this gap is narrowing.

  4. Charging Time: Charging an electric car can take longer than refueling a gasoline car, especially when using standard home chargers.



  1. Improved Fuel Efficiency: Hybrids offer better fuel efficiency than traditional gasoline cars, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

  2. No Charging Required: Hybrids don't need external charging; they recharge via regenerative braking and the gasoline engine.

  3. Proven Technology: Hybrid technology is well-established and reliable, with many models available.

  4. Reduced Maintenance: Hybrids often have lower maintenance costs due to less engine wear.


  1. Limited Electric Range: Traditional hybrids have a limited electric-only range, mainly suited for city driving.

  2. Less Fuel Savings: While more efficient, hybrids may not provide the same fuel savings as fully electric vehicles.

  3. Reliance on Gasoline: Hybrids still rely on gasoline, so they're not emissions-free like EVs.

  4. Complexity: Some hybrids can be more complex, potentially leading to increased maintenance costs.

Does It Make Sense to Buy a Plug-in Hybrid Car?

The Chevrolet Volt is one of the world's best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicles

Image courtesy of Chevrolet

Whether it makes sense to buy a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) depends on several factors, including your driving habits, access to charging infrastructure, environmental concerns, and budget. Here are some considerations to help you decide if a PHEV is a good choice for you:

  1. Driving Habits: PHEVs are well-suited for individuals with relatively short daily commutes or regular access to charging stations. If you mainly drive short distances and can charge your PHEV at home or work, you can maximize the electric-only portion of your vehicle's capabilities, reducing your reliance on gasoline.

  2. Charging Infrastructure: Owning a PHEV is more convenient if you have access to charging infrastructure. Without easy access to charging, you may struggle to use your PHEV to its full potential and may end up relying on gasoline more than electricity.

  3. Environmental Concerns: If reducing your carbon footprint is a top priority, a PHEV can be a meaningful step toward sustainability. It allows you to minimize gasoline usage during everyday driving, which can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional gasoline cars.

  4. Budget: PHEVs often have a higher upfront purchase price compared to traditional gasoline cars. However, you may qualify for government incentives or tax credits that can help offset the initial cost. It's important to consider the total cost of ownership, factoring in fuel and maintenance savings over time.

  5. Range Needs: Consider your typical driving range. PHEVs have a limited electric-only range, usually between 20 to 50 miles, although some models offer more extended ranges. If you frequently drive longer distances, a fully electric vehicle (EV) or a hybrid may be a better choice.

  6. Convenience: PHEVs offer the convenience of both gasoline and electric power sources. If you want the flexibility to switch between the two and avoid range anxiety, a PHEV can be a suitable choice.

  7. Incentives: Check for any government incentives or rebates available in your area for PHEV purchases. These incentives can make the PHEV more financially appealing.


  • What’s the environmental impact of hybrid vs. electric cars?

    Hybrid cars still make use of internal combustion engines that burn gasoline, which means they still emit some gas and add to your carbon footprint. Electric cars have no tailpipe emissions and can be charged using greener energy sources like oil, natural gas, and even solar power.

  • Which is better: a hybrid car or electric?

    The choice between a hybrid car and an electric car depends on individual needs and priorities. Hybrids are a suitable option for those seeking improved fuel efficiency without changing driving habits. Electric cars are ideal for those prioritizing zero emissions, shorter daily commutes, and access to charging infrastructure. The "better" choice varies based on factors like range requirements, charging convenience, and environmental goals.

  • What is the downside of a hybrid car?

    The major downside of driving a hybrid car is that it still uses fossil fuels and emits harmful gas.

  • Do hybrid cars last longer than electric cars?

    Since hybrid cars are essentially just internal combustion engine cars, they have more moving parts than electric cars. Which means more parts to maintain and more maintenance costs incurred throughout its lifetime.

  • Is it cheaper to drive a hybrid or electric car?

    The cost of driving a hybrid or electric car depends on various factors, including the specific model, local electricity and fuel prices, and driving habits. In general, electric cars tend to have lower operating costs due to cheaper electricity and fewer maintenance needs. However, the upfront purchase price of electric cars can be higher than hybrids. Over time, cost savings in fuel and maintenance may offset the initial investment, making electric cars a cost-effective choice for some drivers.

  • What are the 3 drawbacks of a hybrid electric vehicle?

    Compared to fully electric cars, hybrids are not as energy efficient. They also need regular oil changes and maintenance checks on moving parts. Lastly, hybrids don't have the same smoothness and silence as EVs.

  • What is the major difference between a hybrid car and an electric car?

    The major difference is the power source. Hybrids are 100% gas-powered with a backup electric motor, while electric cars rely solely on batteries.

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