Hybrid Cars: What are they and should I buy one?

With new petrol and diesel cars set to be banned from 2030, there is currently an increased emphasis on other options when it comes to powering vehicles on the road. There is already a wide variety of options when it comes to alternative power, including fully electric, mild hybrids, full hybrids and plug-in hybrids.  However most people aren’t ready to go fully electric, with motorists identifying a lack of charging points as one of the key issues cited for not making the jump to battery power. With this in mind, some are opting for hybrid powertrains, which are usually conventional internal combustion engines supported by a small electric battery, which helps keep running costs and emissions down.  The problem is, it’s a minefield when it comes to choosing a hybrid car, there are so many options available, including mild hybrids, full hybrids and plug-in hybrids.


What is a hybrid car?

A hybrid car is one which uses a combination of powertrains, usually combining a petrol or diesel combustion engine with an electric motor or battery. However, there are different types of hybrid power, including mild hybrid, self-charging hybrid and plug-in hybrid. 


What is a mild hybrid car?

Mild hybrid cars are typically around 15% more efficient than conventional cars, as they carry a small battery, usually 48 volt, which helps to power elements of the car which would usually be powered by the engine.  Hybrids of this nature also use a motorsport-inspired kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), which captures kinetic energy under braking and stores it as electricity in the battery. With a mild hybrid system, there’s no need to plug in to a charging point, much like a self-charging hybrid.

Many manufacturers, including Ford with their 1.0 EcoBoost 125 engine found in the new Puma, along with SEAT and their new 1.5 eTSI unit found in the latest Leon, have adopted mild hybrid power. 

So why should you consider a mild hybrid? Well, there are several reasons, the main one being that they’re a bit less complicated than other options, with no need to plug in and charge, and they’re often cheaper than self-charging and plug-in hybrids. The downside of mild hybrid cars is that they’re not quite as environmentally friendly as many full hybrids and plug-in hybrids, as they don’t rely on the electric motor as much.


What is a self-charging hybrid?

A self-charging hybrid vehicle is one which charges its own battery as it drives along, much like a mild hybrid. However, unlike a mild hybrid, a self-charging variant can work on electric power alone.

Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Lexus are two of the leading manufacturers when it comes to self-charging hybrids, with the former claiming that “you can enjoy pure electric power for up to 50% of your city journeys and when cruising at speeds up to 50 km/h” in one of their vehicles! 


What is a plug-in hybrid car?

A plug-in hybrid car is a vehicle which, as the name suggests, needs to be plugged into a charging point in order to charge the electric battery. Owners of these types of hybrid vehicles typically have a charging point readily available to them, such as having one installed at home or at work. With larger batteries, plug-in hybrids usually allow you to travel further on electric power alone, which reduces running costs considerably. Mercedes GLE 350de is a great example of this, with an official electric range of 60 miles. 


Should I buy a hybrid car?

This is the key question! It really depends on what you use your car for. If you do significant mileage, which is mainly on the motorway, then you might be better off with a more efficient diesel powered car. On the other hand if you do fewer miles, and typically travel about town, nip out to the shops or do the school run, then a hybrid could be perfect for you! 

If you’re looking at a hybrid option, but don’t want the faffing around with plugging in and finding a charging station when you run out of range, then we’d suggest you take a look at WhatCar’s article on the best hybrids without plugging in!

However, if you’re rather environmentally conscious, want to reduce your carbon footprint, and need that little bit extra when it comes to electric power, then a plug-in hybrid could be an ideal. 

If you’re thinking about going fully electric, then you might want to head over to our blog about why you should buy an EV. In the meantime though, hopefully you found this piece useful when it comes to hybrid cars! 

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