Automotive: hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars – the pros and cons explained

The world of electrified vehicles is growing at an impressive rate. As many manufacturers pledge to phase out new petrol and diesel cars, they are looking to electric vehicles as a way into the future.

But all this variety can make things confusing.

Even the term ‘electrified’ – which applies to just about anything with some type of power assist – can seem like a bit of a headache.

Here, we take a look at the different types of electrified powertrains, what they offer, and what their potential downsides might be…

1. Hybrids

Let’s start with hybrids. You may see the term ‘self-charging’ associated with ‘regular’ hybrids, which basically means that battery power is drawn from the engine or braking systems. It cannot be recharged from the outside, which means you cannot plug the car into the mains to recharge the batteries.

They usually have a more compact battery and electric motors. This means that regular hybrids can’t really deliver ‘proper’ all-electric range and will instead be able to power a car at very slow speeds on battery power. So when you’re parking or weaving through traffic, that’s when a “normal” hybrid will be able to run on electric power alone.

This is the main disadvantage of ordinary hybrids – they cannot feed themselves on electricity all this time. The positive points ? This assistance is accompanied by increased efficiency compared to a conventional petrol or diesel model.

2. Plug-in hybrids

A plug-in hybrid is just that – a hybrid you plug in. They have larger batteries than ‘regular’ hybrids, which means they are able to store more energy, which is then combined with petrol or diesel combustion. engine.

You’ll find plug-in hybrid configurations deployed in all sorts of cars, from Skoda’s Octavia iV to McLaren’s Artura supercar. Due to these larger batteries, plug-ins are able to travel many miles on electricity alone. BMW’s X5 plug-in hybrid, for example, can travel up to 54 miles before it needs to disrupt its gasoline engine.

They don’t take long to charge either, with even the larger battery versions coming with a full charge time of a few hours when connected to a home wallbox. However, plug-in hybrids depend on maintaining top-up in order to achieve the best possible efficiency. You might see companies quoting fuel economy well over 150 mpg for a plug-in hybrid, but that’s with the batteries fully charged.

Without charged batteries, a plug-in hybrid then has to deal with the added weight of the battery and motor, coupled with an often smaller motor that then has to work harder to deliver performance. Once a plug-in hybrid’s batteries are drained, you’ll likely see that fuel economy number drop, which is why it’s so important to keep them charged.

3. Fully electric

A fully electric car has no conventional motor and relies solely on battery power and an electric motor – although some electric vehicles have more than one motor for added performance. Fully electric vehicles have grown in popularity in recent years, with manufacturers starting to produce a variety of models suitable for all types of drivers.

They cost more than an equivalent petrol or diesel model, due to the technology they use. However, with zero tailpipe emissions, fully electric vehicles are a very tangible way to reduce everyday emissions.

The longest EVs can return truly impressive distances between charges, with the Mercedes EQS particularly notable thanks to its 453-mile electric range. Plus, fast charge times mean the time you’ll have to wait to recharge the batteries is reduced. The EQS, for example, can handle a 10-80% load in as little as 31 minutes.

But it is charging that remains one of the main drawbacks of the electric vehicle. For most people, the average range of an electric vehicle will be more than enough for daily trips and medium-sized trips, but charging cars after those trips is much easier for motorists with driveways or garages. . As a result, those without off-street parking rely on public charging, which can often be much more expensive – and harder to find – than home charging.

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