One of the biggest questions businesses ask when considering switching to greener transport is whether to use fully electric or hybrid vehicles.
To understand this properly, it’s important to know what your options are as ‘hybrid’ as a category covers a couple of different vehicle types. When businesses decide between electric and hybrid, what they really need to decide between is:
- Fully electric: powered exclusively by an electric motor. Recharged at plugin charge points at home, at places of work and public locations across the country.
- Hybrid: powered by both an electric motor and petrol engine for reduced emissions and increased efficiency. Motor charges as car decelerates, so no need for plug-in charging.
- Mild Hybrid: contains both an electric motor and petrol engine. The electric motor can’t drive the car – it just assists the engine for smaller efficiency gains than a full hybrid.
- Plugin Hybrid: runs off both an electric motor (typical range 30-50 miles) before switching to petrol engine. Needs to be recharged at a charging point.
What are the Pros and Cons of Electric, Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles?
Each of these categories will suit different business needs.
Fully electric vehicles have no tail emissions, low running costs and are eligible for a number of financial benefits from the UK Government. Charging an electric engine is significantly cheaper than using petrol for an equivalent distance, and there are fewer components of the motor that could go wrong.
On the other hand, range varies. Whilst the most efficient electric cars can do 300+ miles on a single charge, larger fleet vehicles like trucks and vans will need charging more frequently.
Plugin hybrids are a useful halfway point if you’re travelling mainly shorter distances and can charge reliably at home. As they have no emissions over shorter distances, they are eligible for some of the financial incentives as fully electric vehicles, but not all. The major disadvantage of plugin hybrids is they tend to be inefficient over longer distances when powered by fuel, thanks to the weight of the electric motor.
Non plugin hybrids (including mild hybrids) offer better fuel efficiency and significant savings on fuel, without the need to invest in charging infrastructure. They are, however, less economical at higher speeds and eligible for fewer financial and tax incentives than their plugin counterparts.
Use this at-a-glance table as a handy reference guide when comparing these vehicle types.
|Vehicle type||Suited for||Pros||Cons|
|Electric||Range of uses depending on vehicle range – vans manage 90-120 miles whilst cars can go upwards of 300+||No emissions – eco-friendly and makes them eligible for tax benefits (more below)
Low running costs – high reliability, lower maintenance costs and cheap fuel
|Typically, more expensive to buy upfront
Need access to a charger. Depending on charger type, this can take a while
Range less good on larger vehicles
|Plug-in hybrid||Travelling shorter distances, with fuel backup for occasional longer journeys||Zero emissions over shorter distances.
Security of extra fuel source if electric charge runs out.
Eligible for some tax benefits and deductions due to low emissions (but not as many as pure electrics
|Need for at-home or workplace charging (and investment in infrastructure to support this)
Extra weight of battery affects drive when using petrol engine as source
Often have relatively poor engine economy
|Hybrid||Great fuel economy – more MPG than petrol cars||Fewer tax incentives than for electric vehicles.
Less economical at higher speeds
|Mild Hybrid||Same as hybrid, but efficiency gains are less significant||Same as hybrid|