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

Our world is constantly progressing, newer technologies are being revealed daily, and it seems like we are at the brink of a glorious EV automotive revolution. However, it also seems like the revolution is not catching up as fast as some tend to believe which leaves room for hybrids and EVs to prove us otherwise.

Be that as it may, there are many different types of hybrid vehicles out there. The word “hybrid” only means “of a mixed origin”, and the method of execution is worlds apart. In any case, a conventional hybrid and a plug-in (PHEV) hybrid are the two most popular hybrid car technology executions yet.

The main two differences between a conventional hybrid and a plug-in are the size of the battery and the ability to plug the car into a wall to charge it up. All of this means that you can indeed drive a plug-in hybrid in electric mode alone, while a conventional hybrid can not be driven using only the battery.

Nonetheless, the effectiveness of a hybrid depends largely on how you drive it, and most people are not enjoying those extremely high MPG results. If you pair the relatively better MPG results with government grants and low tax obligations, a hybrid might as well be a worthy consideration.

Conventional Hybrid Vehicles: The basics

The very first hybrid was not actually the now-iconic Toyota Prius, it was rather a weirdly shaped Honda Insight hatchback that never got the recognition it deserves. Conventional hybrids use their engines to charge up the battery while you drive along which means that there is no need for plugging them in.

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Compared to a combustion engine car, a conventional hybrid offers superior fuel efficiency, especially in urban stop-and-go traffic. They achieve this by using a technology called regenerative braking which catches the lost energy used while braking, and stores it in the battery for later use.

All of this means that a conventional hybrid is not all that efficient while traveling at highway speeds. Given the fact that these can not be plugged in, and the fact that most of them can not be driven in electric mode only means that they are not all that interesting to environmentally conscious drivers as plug-in hybrids are.

Plug-In Hybrids: The basics

As previously stated, plug-in hybrids are equipped with considerably larger batteries which enable them to be recharged using either a standard 120-volt household outlet or a more powerful 240-volt charging station-rated outlet.

The difference in charge between these two types of charging is huge as a regular Toyota hybrid with 25 miles of EV range takes as much as 6 hours to charge on a 120-volt outlet. On the other hand, if you plug that same car into a 240-volt charging infrastructure, those charging times are more than twice as fast as that.

Plug-in hybrids only make sense if you charge them up regularly, if not, they don’t make any sense because you will not be seeing all those amazing MPG results, but you will however pay a plug-in considerably more than a conventional hybrid.

 Combustion Cars vs Hybrids vs Electric Cars

Combustion engine cars are still the best and most convenient way to daily drive a car, and that’s a fact for the vast majority of the human population. There are some places where driving a hybrid or an EV makes more sense, but in most cases, it’s way more difficult to do so as it requires a bit more planning if you want to take long-distance trips.

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If you own a combustion engine car, all you have to do is get in and drive, and worry about filling up the car when the situation requires you to do so. On the other hand, EVs have to be recharged for longer periods of time which presents an entirely new factor that was previously out of the equation.

Granted, if you use your EV with all those factors dealt with accordingly, it makes sense to own and drive an EV on a daily basis. On the other hand, hybrids are very much the same as EVs when it comes to living with a hybrid vehicle, but they also give you the ability to be more flexible if you so desire.

FAQ Section

Are plug-in hybrids better than conventional hybrids?

Yes, they are, but only if you use them as such. This means that you should charge your plug-in hybrid whenever it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t do that, a conventional hybrid is a better option because it costs less.

For a spot of context, a brand-new conventional hybrid version of the Toyota Prius costs around $24k, but the Toyota Prime (Plug-in version) costs almost $4k more. In addition to that, the regular Toyota Prius has a cargo space of 27.4 cubic feet while the Prime version has less than 20 cubic feet.

Can you drive a conventional hybrid in electric mode only?

Some conventional hybrids do enable you to use electric mode only, but the range is limited, to say the least. Conventional hybrids always rely on the combustion engine, and the electric engine only engages to help a little bit because the battery is unable to produce enough juice to power the wheels by itself.

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So, if you are the type of person who wants to enjoy a bit more efficiency, but you can’t be bothered to plug the car in all the time, you are better of with a conventional hybrid.

Should I buy a Plug-In Hybrid or an EV?

If you are unsure about buying an EV, buying a plug-in hybrid is a great way to experience what the EV ownership is supposed to be while still having a combustion engine to look out for you if forget to charge the car up.

Plug-in hybrids are a true middle ground between a full-on EV and a combustion engine which makes them interesting for those who want the best of both worlds. However, if you think you are ready for a true electric car experience, or you own multiple cars already, buying an EV gives you the full shebang.

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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