Hybrid cars vs. electric cars: how to choose the right one for you

Battery-powered electric cars, like the Model Y, are only an option.

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The day of electrification relegated to a few cars is over. Hybrid, battery electric and fuel cell vehicles are here to stay and move fast to become real candidates for your next car. Still, these many shapes can be confusing for buyers, even if they have similar goals. That is to say to increase efficiency and move towards driving with reduced emissions.

Read more: Best electric cars for 2021

Read below as we break down each type of electrified vehicle, along with their pros and cons so you can make the best buying decision for your electrified vehicle. There are a lot of good things, but there are some negatives that should be considered when making your decision.

Yeah, even the trucks are in the mild hybrid game.

Jon Wong / Roadshow

Mild hybrid

A mild hybrid system is the easiest and most economical way to add electric transmission components to a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE). In a mild hybrid system, the ICE will often shut down entirely under vacuum conditions, such as going down a hill or stopping. The hybrid system allows the ICE to be restarted almost instantly and can power auxiliary systems on the vehicle such as the stereo or air conditioning. Some mild hybrid systems will feature regenerative braking or offer electric assist or torque fill to the ICE, but not all have the ability to run on electric power alone.


  • Can power many electrical systems in a car.
  • The Stop-Start system saves fuel when idling.
  • Can reduce turbo lag by replenishing torque until engine starts.
  • Lighter weight compared to other electrified vehicles.
  • Less complexity.
  • Lower cost.


The OG hybrid.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Series hybrid

The production hybrid – also known as a power distribution hybrid or parallel hybrid – is what most people think of when they think of a hybrid vehicle. These use a reduced ICE to deliver power at higher speeds and under higher load conditions, and a battery-powered electrical system to move the vehicle at low speeds and under low load conditions. This allows the ICE to operate in its ideal efficiency range, thus providing excellent fuel economy, especially in city driving conditions.


  • Excellent efficiency at city speeds.
  • Gasoline ICE for longer range (and longer trips).
  • Offers a good compromise between efficiency, user-friendliness and overall cost.


  • Usually higher cost than a pure ICE vehicle of the same size.
  • Maximizing efficiency means reducing power output.

The RAV4 Prime has a great electric range.

Emme Hall / Roadshow

Plug-in hybrid

The plug-in hybrid is the next logical step in the production hybrid system. These cars are moving closer to the fully electric vehicle side of the continuum, with the ability to travel longer distances on electric power alone. The plug-in part of their name comes from their ability to be plugged into an electric car charging station, rather than simply relying on ICE and regenerative braking for battery power, effectively eliminating the reach anxiety. Another area where plug-in hybrids differ from mild hybrids or production hybrids is their battery size. This is what gives them their extended autonomy only for electric vehicles.


  • Increased range compared to battery electric vehicles (BEV) due to extended range gasoline engine.
  • Lower purchase cost compared to BEVs.
  • Lower running cost compared to stock hybrids.


  • More expensive to buy than production hybrids or mild hybrids.
  • Bigger batteries mean more weight.
  • More complex than mild hybrids.

Everyone knows model 3.

Nick Miotke / Roadshow

Electric heater

Battery electric vehicles are basically what they look like: a large battery with at least one electric drive motor wired into it. Oh, and tons of complex software to manage the thousands of individual cells that make up that big battery. Mechanically speaking, BEVs are the least complex of all the vehicles we cover when you consider that even the simplest multi-cylinder internal combustion engine has several hundred moving parts, while an electric motor only has its own. rotor. Pure electric vehicles are becoming more mainstream, thanks to the innovation of relatively new companies like Tesla and industry stalwarts like General Motors and Nissan.


  • Mechanical simplicity means less maintenance than ICE.
  • Tons of instant torque.
  • Almost silent operation.
  • Electricity is cheap, for now.
  • No tailpipe, so no emissions and no emissions testing.
  • The low center of gravity is ideal for the handling of the vehicle.


  • More expensive than similar sized hybrids or ICE vehicles.
  • Limited range.
  • Long charging times.
  • Charging station infrastructure still in place and to come.
  • Not very practical for most people, unless you have a 240 volt level 2 charge at your home or parking lot.
  • Heavier weight than vehicles of similar size.
  • Uncertain environmental impact for the disposal of end-of-life batteries.

The Hyundai Nexo is only available in certain regions.

Daniel Golson / Roadshow

Hydrogen fuel cell

A fuel cell takes hydrogen and oxide to create an electrical charge, which is then fed into a battery and used by electric motors. This technology has been in the automotive industry for a few decades, but due to cost, size of components, and a relative lack of infrastructure, few companies are still using it. The miniaturization of technology in recent years has made hydrogen FCVs more commercially viable, and we are starting to see more interest from manufacturers like Honda and Hyundai.


  • No need to charge; simply fill your car with hydrogen and go.
  • Quiet operation, much like a BEV.
  • The only emission is water.


  • Hydrogen prices fluctuate wildly, often more expensive than fossil fuels.
  • Limited supply network outside certain cities such as Los Angeles or San Francisco.
  • Hydrogen tanks can eat away at the passenger compartment or cargo hold if the vehicle was not designed from the outset for fuel cells.

About Robert Pierson

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