What is the difference between an electric car and a plug-in hybrid?

What is the difference between electric and a plug-in hybrid?

Electric cars have been around since the 20th century, so there has been plenty of time for improvement. When first introduced, electric cars were not very popular because of the limited driving before the next charge was needed and the amount of time it took to recharge the batteries. Over time electric car manufacturers have worked hard to meet the demands of consumers. Electric cars have evolved and now offer a vehicle that looks stylish, produces no tailpipe emissions, are cheaper to operate, and require little to no maintenance.


Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) most commonly refers to vehicles that run purely on electricity. They are propelled by one or more electric motors. The energy for the vehicle is stored in rechargeable batteries. You can plug in PEVs at home, or a public or private charging station. One advantage that the electric motor gives PEVs instant torque, which creates strong and smooth acceleration.

Plug-in hybrid cars are also known as plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), which means that they use the gas engine exclusively for recharging their batteries. A plug-in hybrid car can gain about twice the fuel economy of a standard hybrid, which means minimal trips to the gas station when the car is fully charged. A plug-in hybrid can run solely on electricity or gasoline, but will not reach their maximum range or fuel economy without charging.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles use an electric motor to turn their wheels. Plug-in hybrids will run on electricity until the battery needs to be recharged. At that point the gasoline engine will kick in and generate electricity to power the electric motor. If you are traveling short distances in town, you may not use any gasoline at all. Just plug in at home. There are options on some plug-in hybrid models to have a different capacity battery that will allow you travel further between charges.

There are two different types of plug-in hybrids:

Series Plug-in Hybrids – These are also referred to as Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs). The electric motor propels the wheels. The gasoline engine generates the electricity. EREVs can run completely on electricity until the battery needs recharged. Once the battery needs recharged then the gasoline engine will generate the power for the electric motor.

Parallel or Blended Plug-in Hybrids – The electric motor and the engine are connected to the wheels, and both turn the wheels in most driving situations. The electric only option is usually reserved for only low speeds

There are pros and cons for plug-in hybrid cars and fully electric vehicles. When choosing between the two, it’s best to get the car that will work best for you, your family and your budget.