Check Engine

Reliable Vehicle Service & Care Info

Closeup of a green PHEV charging outside a home.

The Lowdown on Hybrids vs PHEVs

If you’re like a lot of people, you may have grouped all vehicles that have a battery as their main source of operation into the electric category. However, there’s more to it than that. There are many ways to get from Point A to Point B besides the age-old internal combustion engine. Hybrid vehicles are seeing a surge in sales, especially when saving money at the pump is a main priority. By now, you probably know what a hybrid is, thanks to the Prius, but what about a PHEV? Learning the lingo of the automotive industry can take time, but if you’re curious about the similarities and differences between hybrids and PHEVs, you’ve come to the right place.

What Is a Hybrid Car?

There’s a good chance that you’ve experienced a hybrid quietly zipping past you on the street. Known for their nearly silent operation and impeccable fuel economy, hybrid cars are frequently sought after, especially by everyday commuters. What is a hybrid, exactly? The name says it all. It’s a combination of an internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor, which share in the overall propulsion of the vehicle. In certain circumstances, the ICE is working to propel you forward, and in other situations, the electric motor takes over to maximize efficiency.

Hybrids are known for their regenerative braking feature, which takes the kinetic energy created by braking and feeds it back into the batteries, thus keeping them charged and creating a more efficient way to travel. The ICE component works to charge the battery as well, leading to fewer trips to the gas station and incredible range, especially during stop-and-go city traffic. Hybrid cars provide the best of both worlds, allowing drivers to utilize both gas and electricity to power them forward, all the while reaping the benefits of the level of efficiency achieved through this system.

The information screen in a hybrid vehicle displaying energy flow information.

Benefits of Hybrid Cars

The benefits don’t end with the ideal blend of gas and electricity, though. In addition to their epic fuel efficiency, they’re also much better for our environment, with lower emissions to help reduce overall pollution, as well as being less dependent on gasoline. Hybrid cars are also easier to maintain since both the ICE and electric motor share the burden on the road, which results in less wear and tear on each component. This means lower maintenance costs and fewer trips to the mechanic.

Limitations of Hybrid Cars

Hybrids aren’t for everyone, and as with anything, there can be some drawbacks to driving one. First and foremost, some hybrids can carry a higher sticker price than their gas-powered counterparts. This is due to the series of components under the hood, which include both an internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor, instead of one or the other. Another limitation is that some hybrids aren’t as quick off the line as gas-powered cars unless you upgrade to a more powerful motor, which will cost a bit more money.

Where hybrids really shine is on city streets and stop-and-go traffic. If you have a lot of highway driving waiting for you daily, you may find that a hybrid performs just as well as a gas-powered car. Those residing in harsh climates with frigid winters may also experience diminished battery performance, but this can often be mitigated by driving your vehicle regularly to warm up the battery and keep it charged up. These are just a couple of factors that may play a role in whether or not a hybrid may be right for certain travel situations and lifestyle needs.

What Is a PHEV?

Another form of a hybrid car is a PHEV, or Plug-In Hybrid EV. Like hybrids, PHEVs utilize a gas-powered engine combined with an electric motor. However, the biggest difference is the allocation of power. PHEVs have larger battery packs, which means that they can drive using all-electric power for a longer distance than traditional hybrids. Once the PHEV’s battery power runs out, the ICE takes over, slowly recharging the battery and guiding you to your next destination with confidence.

Essentially, PHEVs are a step between traditional hybrid vehicles and fully electric vehicles. They rely on large batteries to drive electric motors for propulsion the same way as a fully electric vehicle. However, PHEVs still have a gasoline engine that can power the vehicle and charge the battery like a traditional hybrid, eliminating the range anxiety many people have with fully electric vehicles.

Another big difference between hybrids and PHEVs is how their batteries charge. Hybrid cars have smaller batteries, which means that the ICE can charge these batteries easily on your journey. PHEVs and their larger batteries aren’t able to do this as quickly, which means that they must be plugged in to fully regain their power for the next trip. PHEVs can be charged by a typical wall outlet, so you won’t have to splurge for a home charging station. All you have to do is plug it in when you get home, and it’ll be charged fully in a matter of hours. Opt for a fast-charging option and get a full charge in an hour or less instead.

The battery and internal combustion engine under the hood of a PHEV.

Benefits of PHEVs

Like hybrids, PHEVs have many benefits. They are environmentally friendly and have even lower emissions than hybrids due to the greater use of their electric motor over their ICE. The range tends to be better than traditional hybrids as well, due to the larger battery pack inside. This means that you’re able to travel longer while utilizing electric power, taking advantage of optimal efficiency during your time on the road.

You’ll also get to enjoy tax incentives and rebates. Driving a PHEV can help you save money when it comes time to do your taxes, as these vehicles come with a tax credit. You may also be able to take advantage of rebates and lower registration fees, making it easy to choose a PHEV when you want to keep more money in your pocket.

Limitations of PHEVs

The most apparent disadvantage of PHEVs is the fact that, optimally, they need to be plugged in to charge their large batteries. To many, this isn’t a big deal, considering the range they’re able to achieve while utilizing all electric power. This heavier battery, however, can reduce efficiency when the ICE takes over, which is why many drivers choose PHEVs when their commute is frequently on traffic-laden city streets. Since bigger batteries are used in PHEVs than hybrids, plug-in hybrids tend to be a bit more expensive. However, drivers can save money in the long run, especially when it comes to fuel costs, as well as taxes.

Hybrids vs PHEVs

It’s evident that hybrids and PHEVs are very similar, but also very different when it comes to how they choose to utilize their power and how they charge their batteries. For drivers who want to charge their vehicle while they drive and take advantage of stellar fuel efficiency, hybrids may be ideal for these situations. However, for those who want to utilize electric power more than gas, PHEVs will deliver this possibility. The choice comes down to personal preference, but rest assured, both hybrids and PHEVs are exceptional at providing a spectacular ride, no matter what type of travel scenario they’re taking on next.