Electric vs Hybrid: Which is better?

Date Posted 9th March 2022
Read Time 9 min read

If you’re considering your next vehicle, the chances are that you’ve been shown electric and hybrid options. More and more dealerships and motor traders are stocking ultra-low emission vehicles in a bid to power on with the UK Government’s Road to Zero strategy. Its aim is to ban the production of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. But when it comes to electric vs hybrid, which is better?

Navigating this segment can feel overwhelming. The choice of electric and hybrid vehicles is now quite vast. From BMW to Audi, Ford and Nissan, some 35+ car manufacturers have electric and hybrid models. And there are benefits to both.

For those who prefer to go all in, a zero-emission, full-electric, plug-in car could be the right choice. Alternatively, if you want to test the waters, a car with a combustion engine and a battery-powered motor would be a good decision.

But there is so much more to consider. Here, we evaluate the pros and cons of pure electric vehicles (EVs) vs plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), to help you decide which one is the better choice for your driving and lifestyle requirements.  

Let’s talk range

For many drivers, range – the distance an electric vehicle can travel on full charge, before it needs to be plugged back into the charger – is one of the most important factors when considering EVs. On some points, such as running costs and emissions (more on that below) EVs are ahead of the race against hybrids. However, range is a trickier element of full-electric vehicles.

Electric vehicle range

Unlike plug-in hybrids, pure EVs are powered solely by a battery motor. So, motorists will have to consider their driving habits and lifestyle needs when thinking about getting an EV. Though UK drivers travelled only an average of 4,334 miles, making an average of 739 trips, in 2020, this is likely to increase as the pandemic restrictions ease and both work and leisure trips rise once more.

Nevertheless, EV manufacturers are stepping up to the plate to deliver on range. The highest range EV, the Tesla Model S, can travel up to 373 miles on a single charge. Whilst the average EV offers up to 194 miles on full charge.  

Even one of the most popular EVs on the market, the Nissan Leaf, has a WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) combined cycle of 168 miles. And that’s only if you use it for frequent journeys. Just zipping around town can increase its range to 242 miles.

Many drivers won’t need their EV to cover 300+ miles on a single charge. Realistically, and depending on which model you choose, you can expect full-electric vehicles to give you a range of 100-250 miles on one charge. It just means that any longer car journeys will need preparation and planning to factor in a stop for rapid charging.

The good news? The UK now has more EV charging points than petrol stations. You can find all the available charging points using Zap Maps. Plus, many EV users are opting to have charging points installed at their homes, making overnight charging an option.  

Hybrid vehicle range

As for hybrids, range isn’t a big issue. Plug-in hybrids can be charged the same way as EVs. If you’re taking short trips like school runs and errands, it’s possible a plug-in hybrid will work in the same way that an EV would for you.

However, if you have a long commute and regularly take leisure trips, the option of having a petrol or diesel engine besides the electric motor means that when you run out of charge, the car will just switch over to fuel. Hybrids are good for coping with longer journeys, so you won’t have to factor in a pit stop for charging.

Which is greener?

This one is quite self-explanatory. EVs are zero-emission vehicles – and you can’t get any lower than that from a tailpipe. If you consider the full life cycle of a car, from the raw materials used to its end-of-cycle disposal, EVs produce less greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants than a plug-in hybrid vehicle. 

EVs do, however, bring into question the use of electricity drawn from the grid. And there’s a plan for this too. The UK Government’s Road to Zero initiative is encouraging communities to implement low-carbon energy sources. This means that the future of decarbonisation will ensure a healthy electricity supply and our cars will be even cleaner and greener.

Let’s turn this conversation to plug-in hybrids. Though PHEV emissions are low, the general productivity heavily depends on how much the vehicle is charged. It also depends on the way in which the vehicle is being used.  In most cases, a plug-in hybrid is less environmentally friendly than an EV.

Drivers who don’t charge a plug-in hybrid and rely on just the fuel power are contributing to higher emissions – and they’ll be losing the cost benefits too. Plug-in hybrids are usually heavier than their combustion equivalents, so in real-world driving, PHEVs in fuel mode can produce up to four times more CO2 emissions than the national regulations allow.

Therein lies the dilemma for plug-in hybrid buyers. Most want to reduce their carbon footprint whilst retaining the ability to drive long distances without the need to stop for a charge. However, it’s specifically long-distance driving that lowers the eco-friendly benefits of a PHEV.  

The upside now is that manufacturers are upgrading their plug-in hybrids to contain bigger battery packs to increase electric range capabilities. Check out new PHEV launches this year, including the Kia e-Niro, the Audi Q9, the Alfa Romeo Tonale and more, all of which are worth looking at as viable plug-in hybrid options.  

What about the costs?

Lower running costs is one of the most beneficial aspects of switching to electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. But when you pit them against each other, one outshines on the money-saving front.

Electric vehicle running costs

There are ample benefits to EVs when it comes to costs. The obvious being that you’ll be spending zero on fuel. Also, based on your electricity tariff, you can charge the vehicle at home during the hours when electricity is cheapest. Plus, having an ultra-low emissions vehicle and charging at home qualifies you for paying only 5% VAT on the electricity you consume.

In addition to this, you won’t have to pay road tax for any brand-new models priced up to £40,000. The UK Government has recently cut the electric car grant; however, you can still get £1,500 for a new EV priced up to £32,000.

The only downside to EVs are the upfront costs associated with buying one. A quick search on the EV Database site will show you that the average price of most new EV models. They are significantly higher than what you might pay for an approved-used or nearly new EV.

For businesses, full-electric vehicles hold a ton of benefits. From this financial year, 2021-22, car tax is calculated at 1% of the vehicle’ list price. It makes sense for companies to switch to EV fleets. These tax savings makes it a more logical decision for them to opt for electric over plug-in hybrid.

Plug-in hybrid vehicle running costs

PHEV emissions tend to start from 75g/km of CO2 for hybrids. Many PHEVs won’t be exempt from road tax or congestion charges in ULEZ areas such as London. However, plug-in hybrids are still more cost-effective than petrol or diesel cars. Depending on your driving – if you use a PHEV on short, snappy trips, you can make use of EV mode and will need less fuel stops in your day-to-day.

Battery and charge time

When it comes to charging, pure electric cars are more susceptible to increased charging rates. This is because their batteries have more capabilities for rapid charging. On a rapid charge, an EV can reach 80% charge in around 20 to 30 minutes.

For plug-in hybrids, depending on the size of the battery pack and the power rating of the charger, you’re looking at between two and four hours for a full charge. Plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries can recharge in about 3 hours at 120V and 1.5 hrs at 240V.

Future value

Ultra-low emission vehicles have been on a steady rise for the last decade. According to Department for Transport statistics, EV car sales increased by 76.3% in 2021. Currently, there are an estimated 400,000 electric cars on the road in the UK.

The good stream of EVs in the market will flow into the used car segment. Drivers will have more choice and better price points. Add to this the long warranties offered by manufacturers, and you have more reason to switch to an EV.

When it comes to plug-in hybrids, the same findings revealed that there are currently over 750,000 PHEVs on UK roads as of January 2022. However, the sustainable benefits of PHEVs are heavily outdone by all-electric vehicles. Additionally, a ban on selling new hybrid cars in the UK was brought forward from 2040 to 2035.

For now, plug-in hybrids offer a combination of reduced electric range alongside a fuel engine. This is a flexibility that could fit your lifestyle and driving habits better. It’s highly likely that EVs will fully replace hybrid cars in the future.  

Which models are available?

We have a wide range of EVs and PHEVs available on finance. Use our Apply Now soft credit check and get your pre-approval within 60 minutes, with no impact on your credit score.

EV recommendations

From the popular Nissan Leaf to the all-new Kia Niro, the Jaguar I-Pace and market-leaders Tesla, we have several great electric vehicle options for all budgets. Currently, we also have two hard-to-find cars – the Audi E-Tron and the Ford Mustang Mach-E in stock.

Plug-in Hybrid recommendations

With new models launching all the time, some of the most requested and reliable PHEVs include the BMW 3 Series saloon, the Range Rover Sport, the iconic Toyota Prius, and Hyundai’s Ioniq, to name but a few. Most can be ordered brand new and

Electric vs Hybrid: Verdict

When it comes to electric vs hybrid: which is better? you should begin with what your individual driving habits and lifestyle requires. A pure electric can save you money, has plenty of tax benefits, and will heavily reduce your carbon footprint in the long run. Whilst a plug-in hybrid allows you to switch to fuel if you run out of charge, easing the stress of making a stop on longer journeys.

Fortunately, there are more and more appealing ultra-low emission vehicles coming out all the time. Your options are plenty, and the future is looking cleaner and greener for UK driving.