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Electric cars explained – What’s the difference between a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV?


Electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and EVs are all low-emissions vehicles

As the dust settles on the Government’s announcement that many motorists are wondering about what will happen to their vehicle until that point. 

Whether the laws will ban older diesel and petrol cars owned before that time is unknown, but higher taxation on driving these vehicles and clean air zones are likely to be introduced to dissuade motorists from driving them as the Government push towards electrified travel.

While pure petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2040, hybrid vehicles which contain both a clean conventional combustion engine and an electric motor will still be available to purchase. 

However, what has become apparent is that some Brits are still unsure about what the various types of electric cars and vehicles are. 

A new survey by NewMotion has revealed that whereas motorists are open to switching to an EV, many still aren’t too clued up on the types of vehicles.

According to the research 69 per cent of people would consider switching to an electric vehicle in future. 

However, over three quarters of respondents were unaware what EV meant and over a quarter were unsure how they would charge their vehicle. 

One of the biggest problems with attitudes towards electric cars is ‘range anxiety’ and a lack of understanding on how powerful these vehicles are. 

The majority of people believe that the average range for electric cars is around 63 miles on a single charge – a Nissan Leaf can achieve 107 miles and Tesla Model 3 can achieve up to 310 miles of range.  

At the moment general consumer awareness of EVs is pretty low in the UK

Sander van der Veen, UK Country Manager, NewMotion

Sander van der Veen, UK Country Manager, NewMotion, commented: “At the moment general consumer awareness of EVs is pretty low in the UK. 

“However, this is going to have to change pretty quickly as the world around us adapts to a new normal. 

“It’s the responsibility of governments, car manufacturers and companies like NewMotion, who support the charging infrastructure, to help raise awareness and educate the next generation of car users.  

“We’re on the verge of an electric vehicle revolution that won’t suddenly go away.”

Tesla Model SGETTY

The Tesla Model S is one of the best performing EVs on the planet

What is an EV? 

EV simply means Electric Vehicle. 

An electric car or EV is one that runs purely off electric power and only ever recharged using a charging cable and never with fuel. 

Powering an EV is an electric motor, sometimes multiple motors, and a battery pack. Inside the battery pack is where the electricity is stored. 

Only cars powered purely by electricity can be classed as an EV although sometimes people refer to hybrids as electric, despite there being a petrol motor present. 

Popular examples of all-electric cars in the UK are the Tesla Model S, a premium saloon, Renault Zoe and the Nissan Leaf. 

Steadily, electric cars are becoming a combination of more affordable and more capable. 

The new Tesla Model 3 was launched last month with a starting price of $35,000 and that boasts 220 miles of range which can be upgraded to 310 miles of range with the optional long range battery pack costing $9,000 more. 

This is perhaps the biggest drawback of electric cars is the price. EVs do not match up to the power or have the same range as combustion cars yet across the board. 

Another downside is how long these cars take to charge. Full recharges can take up to 11 hours and the car has to be attached to a mains socket, which makes EV ownership impractical if you don’t own a driveway. 

Some batteries recharge quickly and certain vehicles also have fast-charging capabilities but even these recharging times can take between 30 minutes and two hours – a lot longer than it takes to fill a car up with petrol or diesel. 

Despite these drawbacks, electric cars do also have a range of benefits. Being electric they produce zero-emissions and have a much smaller environmental impact. 

Additionally electric cars do not pay Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) if they cost less than £40,000. 

Electric cars can also be operated by drivers who only possess an automatic-only licence and due to the fact they don’t have a clutch they are easier to operate than manual cars. 


BMW i3 is a plug-in hybrid vehicle which is popular in the UK

What is a Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid?

A hybrid car is a vehicle that uses a powertrain which combines petrol and electric power. 

This means the vehicle will be propelled by both power of the engine and of electric motor and batteries. 

How this power is delivered will differ between cars but some vehicles will use the petrol engine to charge the electric batteries. 

In some hybrids this may be the only function of the petrol engine but in others it differs slightly. 

Some hybrid vehicles use the petrol engine in conventional sense while the electric motor provides an extra boost of power. 

Other hybrid cars will use the electric motor at low speeds to power the car but once a threshold of power is met the petrol engine will kick in. 

Plug-in hybrids have a charging port much like the ones of a typical EV which is used to recharge the batteries meaning that less petrol is used to recharge the battery pack. 

Chasing to plug the car in can reduce the overall cost per mile but it is also not a requirement motorists have to fulfil. 

Modern examples of hybrids and PHEVs include the BMW i3, Suzuki Ignis and the Mitsubishi Outlander. 

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