Are self-charging hybrids any good?

Self-charging hybrid cars use an electric engine and a regular combustion engine. But the difference from plug-in hybrids is that they recuperate lost energy during braking, and they tend to charge the batteries using the combustion engine as well.

Regular plug-in hybrids do this also, but the difference here is that a self-charging hybrid usually offers a smaller battery that does not require any additional plugging in to reach full charge. This means that self-charging cars are only good for a few miles or so.

The term self-charging was introduced by Toyota, Kia, and Lexus, but the general public criticized such terminology as deliberately misleading as it didn’t offer any real-life benefits over a regular hybrid. That being said, self-charging cars do seem like somewhat of a marketing flex.

While they can save you money on fuel and lower your Co2 emissions, they are more expensive to buy than a non-hybrid. Furthermore, there is no need for manual charging but the efficiency of such cars is dismissable, and the packaging can severely detract from interior practicality.

Fuel costs of a self-charging hybrid

Lower fuel costs are the main reason why one would ever opt for a hybrid in the first place, and self-charging hybrids do lower the fuel costs enough for it to be worth mentioning. That being said, they are nowhere near as efficient as a regular plug-in hybrid.

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Such fuel efficiency is mostly beneficial in urban city driving as it does not require any inputs from a combustion engine for a few miles. As such, these cars are better than a mild hybrid, but they are not as efficient as everyone expected them to be.

Charging a self-charging hybrid

Probably the main selling point of a self-charging hybrid is the fact that you don’t have to manually charge the car, and you don’t even have the capability to do so. These cars offer small-capacity batteries that can be charged completely without the need for any manual top-ups.

As such, these cars are way more convenient than a plug-in hybrid as plug-in hybrids are pointless if you don’t charge them regularly. You can leave your car street parked and not worry about charging as the car aims to do that for you.

Price of a self-charging hybrid

If you compare the prices of a self-charging Toyota Prius hybrid and a regular plug-in hybrid Prius, it seems like the self-charging model is a bargain. Depending on the market in question, the self-charging option costs $4-7k less compared to a plug-in variant.

But they are way more expensive when compared to some regular diesel and gas-powered cars from a similar segment. And one could raise the question if a self-charging hybrid is worth it compared to a regular combustion car as it does not offer ‘’true’’ hybrid essentials.

Practicality issues

Another gripe with some self-charging cars is that they tend to sacrifice interior or trunk space for battery packaging. This is a reoccurring theme with many plug-in hybrids, but the difference here is that such cars also offer all the qualities of a hybrid, and a self-charging hybrid does not.

But where self-charging cars ‘’shine’’ is the regular urban environment. In such circumstances, you don’t have to use the combustion engine for a while which does help with the efficiency, but when you do go on a highway the combustion engine is constantly running.

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Highway speeds

If you are predominantly using your car for longer highway trips, a self-charging hybrid should not interest you as these cars are pretty much useless on the highway as the electric juices can only give you up to 30-60mph tops.

Besides the speed, self-charging cars only have a few miles of electric range. And considering the fact that you are not breaking all that often while on highway speeds, the batteries are not really charging that often either.


For a certain type of scenario, a self-charging car might be beneficial. Such scenarios include you not being able to charge the car yourself and the fact that you predominantly drive slower in an urban driving environment.

Besides such a scenario, there really is no logic behind self-charging hybrid cars, especially so when you consider the levels of false marketing these models are associated with. In 95% of situations, a plug-in hybrid is a better option, and one would argue that a regular combustion engine takes the remaining 5% of situations.

FAQ Section

### Does a plug-in hybrid charge itself?

Yes, a plug-in hybrid can also charge itself, but the difference here is that a regular plug-in hybrid offers a larger battery compared to a self-charging hybrid. This means that in order to fully charge the battery you can’t solely rely on self-charging.

Plug-in hybrids should be as the name suggests – plugged in. Otherwise, the whole point of a plug-in hybrid is gone. Battery packs usually associated with plug-in hybrids are way too large for self-charging and they drain battery charge way faster.

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### What are the different types of hybrid cars out there?

Currently, there are three mentionable types of hybrids on sale. The closest thing to a regular combustion engine car is a so-called mild-hybrid (MHEV). Mild hybrids usually offer a combustion engine and a small electric engine used to fill in the power gaps and make the car coast while traveling at constant highway speeds.

Besides a mild hybrid, you are looking at plug-ins (PHEV) and self-charging hybrids. Both of these are capable of traveling on electric energy alone, but a plug-in hybrid offers a lot more electric range in the process.

### What happens if the battery percentage drops to zero?

A great benefit of a hybrid car of any sort is the fact that you can just use the combustion engine if your battery runs out. But, if your battery drops to 0% and you drive an MHEV or a self-charging hybrid, chances are that something has gone wrong as these cars should use their combustion engine to keep the battery at a decent state of charge.

That being said, a plug-in hybrid does not have the ability to completely charge its batteries with just the combustion engine alone. But even in such cases, your battery should never really drop to 0%, and it’s also very likely that something has gone wrong if you drive your car regularly.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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