Comparing the Pros and Cons of Hybrid vs. Electric Cars

Couple in an electric sports car, fun
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One method of going green and saving money on gas stations is switching to a fuel-efficient car. If you are considering buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle, you may have heard the terms “hybrid vehicle” and “electric vehicle” thrown around.

But what do those terms mean? And which one is a better fit for you? 

What Is a Hybrid Vehicle?

Hybrid vehicles are the most common “green” vehicle available. As the name implies, a hybrid car is powered by two or more types of power. A typical hybrid vehicle might be powered by a standard internal combustion engine that powers an electric motor. This results in a more efficient motor, reducing the amount of gasoline you need to drive.

A standard hybrid doesn’t get plugged into the wall like other green vehicles are. Instead, its fuel cell or battery is powered by the engine, mainly through the extra energy produced when you begin to brake. Because of this, hybrids often work best with the city rather than highway driving.

A plug-in hybrid is generally more substantial and more powerful than their standard counterparts. It is also more fuel-efficient than a conventional hybrid because its larger batteries can store enough energy to fully power the vehicle at times. 

What Is an Electric Vehicle?

Electric vehicles have an electric engine powered by rechargeable batteries or a fuel cell. It is “fueled” by whatever the power source you plug it into uses. But how do you refuel a hybrid or an electric vehicle? How far can you drive before recharging?

Unlike an electric vehicle, you refuel a hybrid car the same way you do a standard vehicle—by going to the gas station and putting gas in your tank. The only real difference you experience is how much gasoline it requires and how far you can go on that one refuel. Hybrid vehicles have long ranges and refuel quickly wherever you are, assuming you can find a gas station nearby.

Electric vehicles, in contrast, do have to be “recharged” regularly, which is an hours-long process. In most cases, you can recharge your car at home in a standard wall outlet, and it will generally cost you less than $10 to refuel 100 miles of driving range. The distance you can drive before needing to recharge is known as the vehicle’s “range.”

Usually, most electric vehicles will need to be plugged in every 100-300 miles, making them unsuitable for a long road trip and a hassle for those who have incredibly long commutes.

Are Hybrids or EVs More Fuel Efficient?

It’s hard to answer this question because doing so is like comparing apples to oranges. 

First, hybrid vehicles are more fuel-efficient than standard cars, often getting at least 50 miles to a gallon. But because electric cars don’t use “fuel” in the traditional sense, it’s hard to add them into the mix.

From an environmental perspective, the electric vehicle could be more or less energy efficient than a hybrid one depending on the local power grid. For example, if you’re recharging your electric car at an entirely solar-powered home, your electric vehicle is much more fuel-efficient and better for the environment than one that takes any amount of gasoline. However, most individuals recharge their cars in cities that use a mix of renewable (solar, wind, nuclear) and non-renewable (coal, oil) energy sources, making the environmental calculus a bit trickier.

From a cost perspective, electric vehicles are generally more fuel-efficient than hybrid vehicles are—if you are doing city driving and can “afford” 10 hours of charging time to refuel fully. Typically, you’ll be able to refuel your electric vehicle cheaper than a hybrid one. Refueling an electric vehicle vs a gas vehicle is cheaper in all 50 states.

What Is the Average Lifespan of a Hybrid or Electric Vehicle?

For a typical driver taking good care of their vehicle, you can expect a hybrid car to last as long as a regular vehicle. The hybrid car battery itself can last approximately up to 10 years.

An electric vehicle’s lifespan will likewise depend on how well you take care of it. Many states, like California, require 10-year coverage for the battery itself.

Many manufacturers offer warranties on their batteries just as they would for a vehicle itself. As technology continues to improve at a rapid clip, both electric and hybrid cars will start lasting even longer.

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