Whether it’s conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids or all-electric models, there are lots of ways of switching out of a conventional petrol or diesel car and into something electrified.
But choosing between the right one for you can be complex, and if you’re not ready to make the full jump to electric, hybrids can be a great way of testing the water.
But how do you go about choosing? Let us help explain.
What’s the difference?
We will start with hybrids, with the two main options being a traditional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid model.
‘Traditional’ hybrid powertrains are particularly popular with Japanese firms, most notably Toyota and Lexus. These manufacturers describe them as ‘self-charging hybrids’, because they can use the engine like a generator to recharge the battery or recoup lost energy under braking.
Essentially, traditional hybrids can charge ‘on the go’, with a petrol engine and electric motor working together to power the car most of the time. They only usually run on electricity at a very slow speeds and over short distances.
Kia, Hyundai and Honda also have numerous traditional hybrid models on sale.
This varies to plug-in hybrids, which can be plugged in to the grid to recharge the battery. These can also run solely on electric power – with ranges varying anywhere between 10-35 miles, depending on model, with plug-in hybrids often being particularly popular with SUVs and saloons, where they have lots of appeal to company car users.
And then there’s all-electric models, which don’t need too much explaining – they are the best models if you want to help cut your running costs and want the appeal of zero-emission motoring at all times.
Which is best?
While the electric cars revolution is coming, the infrastructure and availability of models mean they aren’t suited to everyone just yet. If this is the case for you, hybrids can make a lot of sense.
The benefit of a traditional hybrid is that they can often be cheaper to buy than plug-in hybrids and EVs, although you don’t have the bonus of running solely on electric power often. However, they can also be best for motorists who have no access to charging at home or work, or with a lifestyle where stopping to charge doesn’t suit.
As for plug-in hybrid models, these can be great for motorists who have a commute of less than 40 miles each day, and have access to charging at home or work – ideally both. The scenario we’ve just summed up could also suit EVs, so the reason you should choose a plug-in hybrid is really if you cover a lot of long
And if you’re scared of running out of charge (called ‘range anxiety’) plug-in hybrids can be a great way of easing drivers into electric cars because when the battery runs out it can just run on the traditional engine.
But in a lot of cases, it’s surprising how many drivers are suited to all-electric models. With more mainstream electric cars – such as the Nissan Leaf E+ and Hyundai Kona Electric – now having a real-world range of over 200 miles, most drivers will find an electric vehicle could suit their daily driving. And even when you do travel further, you will likely stop for a break in that period (you should do for safety reasons) and there will likely be a charging point not so far away at a service station, which can be very convenient.
Top hybrid choices
Hyundai IONIQ – Hyundai’s freshly-updated IONIQ can be bought with each of the three electrified powertrains here, but the standard hybrid has proven to be particularly popular with its low emissions.
Honda CR-V Hybrid – With Honda no longer offering a diesel option in its CR-V SUV, this Hybrid model can be a great alternative with its mix of low running costs and performance.
Top plug-in hybrid choices
Mini Countryman S E All4 – Mini’s Countryman is the brand’s first model to have a plug-in hybrid powertrain, and while not offering as much electric range as rivals, its low running costs make it ideal for using as a small urban family car.
Range Rover Sport P400e – You might think plug-in hybrid powertrains only work in small cars, but Land Rover’s P400e powertrain proves just how applicable electrification is to vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
Top EV choices
Hyundai KONA Electric – The Hyundai Kona Electric was the first affordable car to break past the 250-mile barrier with its impressive 279-mile electric range achieved from its 64kWh battery. It’s a game-changing model for electric cars.
Nissan Leaf – The Leaf is Europe’s best-selling electric car, and the Sunderland-built hatchback is laden with tech for its attractive £27,995 starting price. A model with an extended 239-mile electric range has just gone on sale and made the Leaf even more appealing.