Blog Types of Hybrid Vehicles

May 15, 2024

Differences between a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and mild hybrid

hybrid suv charging

Did you know there are three common types of hybrid cars?

Hybrid cars are becoming increasingly popular on our roads. Whether hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or fully electric vehicles, the demand for electric cars will likely continue to rise. Consumers are looking for ways to save money on fuel and make their road trips more eco-friendly and are exploring the pros and cons of hybrids.

In 2021, Canada broke a record with 86,032 electric vehicles being registered, accounting for 5.3% of total vehicle registrations for that year. This is a significant increase compared to the 56,165 electric cars registered (2.9% of total registrations) in 2019 and 19,696 (1% of total registrations) in 2017.

Here is a look at the three types of hybrid cars every driver should know.

Three main takeaways about hybrid vehicle types:

  • There are differences between PHEVs, mild hybrids, full hybrids, and electric range extenders.
  • PHEVs have larger battery capacities than full hybrids, allowing for more zero-emissions driving, but this increases weight. Once the charge is depleted, the combustion engine can drive like a full hybrid.
  • A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) can be charged from an external power source, bringing it closer to a full-electric car.

What’s on this page

What are the three types of hybrid vehicles?
Mild hybrid vs full hybrid
What is the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid?
Putting it together: hybrid vs. plug-in hybrid vs. mild hybrid
Types of hybrid vehicles FAQs

What are the three types of hybrid vehicles?

While shopping for a hybrid car, you will likely come across terms like HEV and PHEV, which are used to describe the types of hybrids. Here’s a look at the key differences:

  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV): This is a car that can be charged using an external power source to recharge its electric battery.

An HEV hybrid car can be classified into mild hybrid and full hybrid.

  • Mild hybrid: An HEV mild hybrid car has an electric motor and a separate battery. However, the hybrid feature is only utilized to operate non-driving systems such as the audio system, air conditioning and heating. When it comes to driving, its primary function is to provide a quick boost to the gas-powered engine (or internal combustion engine) during acceleration.
  • Full hybrid: These are cars with HEV technology that function like electric vehicles at lower speeds and operate like gas-powered cars at higher speeds. Some models have independent electric motors and internal combustion engines that exchange control with each other. In contrast, other full hybrid models can combine the electric motor's power and ICE to deliver additional power.
black hybrid vehicle charging at a station

Mild hybrid vs full hybrid

A full hybrid vehicle can drive solely on battery power and operate in fuel-efficient, zero-emission mode for up to 62% of the time on average. This is due to its powerful battery, which significantly benefits the environment and fuel economy.

In contrast, a mild hybrid vehicle cannot drive on pure battery power alone and delivers considerably fewer benefits than a full hybrid.

A mild hybrid is a hybrid car with a small electric generator in place of the traditional starter motor and alternator. This technology helps to increase fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. The electric generator provides extra power for fuel-intensive activities such as rapid acceleration or restarting after a stop.

Additionally, mild hybrids can harvest energy during braking and store it in the battery for later use, providing extra electric assistance.

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

The primary difference between full hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars is their electric batteries. The electric battery is the car's primary power source in a plug-in hybrid. The internal combustion engine takes over when the battery runs out of charge. On the other hand, in a full hybrid, the battery only provides enough power to drive the car at slower speeds, such as in residential areas and cities.

There are a few differences between a plug-in hybrid and full hybrid vehicles. One of the main differences is the battery size and cost. The electric battery in a plug-in hybrid is larger and more expensive to replace than that in a full hybrid. Additionally, the charging capabilities differ between the two types of hybrids.

While a plug-in hybrid may recharge a little through regenerative braking, it relies more on an external power source to fully recharge due to its larger battery. On the other hand, a full hybrid can recharge its electric battery through regenerative braking by converting the heat created by the braking process into electricity that the battery can store.

One similarity between plug-ins and full hybrids is that if their batteries run down, both cars become gasoline-powered cars. Use this table for a quick summary of plug-in hybrids vs. full hybrids:

Key Notes Full Hybrid Plug-in Hybrid
Electric power Power the car at slower speeds Power the car in all uses
Battery size and cost Smaller, less expensive Larger and more expensive
Recharging Regenerative braking Comes from an external power source
Gasoline power (ICE) Used in most driving conditions Used simultaneously or only when electric power runs low

Putting it together: hybrid vs. plug-in hybrid vs. mild hybrid

Hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and mild hybrid vehicles differ in how they utilize their electric and combustion engines. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Hybrid: A hybrid vehicle typically combines a gasoline engine, electric motor, and battery pack. The electric motor assists the gasoline engine during acceleration and at low speeds, reducing fuel consumption and emissions. However, it cannot be plugged in to charge the battery; instead, it is charged through regenerative braking and by the gasoline engine itself. Hybrids usually have smaller batteries compared to plug-in hybrids.
  • Plug-in hybrid (PHEV): Like traditional hybrids, plug-in hybrids have both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, but they have a larger battery pack that can be charged by plugging into an external power source, such as a wall outlet or a charging station. This allows plug-in hybrids to travel longer distances on electric power alone before the gasoline engine kicks in. The range of electric power can vary widely, from around 20 to over 50 miles, depending on the model.
  • Mild hybrid: Mild hybrids have a smaller electric motor and battery than traditional hybrids. The electric motor is primarily used to assist the gasoline engine during acceleration and to power auxiliary systems, such as air conditioning and power steering. Mild hybrids cannot propel the vehicle on electric power alone; instead, they rely on the gasoline engine. The main aim of mild hybrids is to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, but they offer less electric-only driving capability than full hybrids or plug-in hybrids.

Customize your policy to suit whatever type of hyrbid you drive

Whether you drive a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or mild hybrid, we have an affordable rate waiting for you. Get started today by comparing quotes for free!

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Types of hybrid vehicles FAQs

Self-charging hybrids don't require plugging in, making them great for first-time drivers. Plug-in hybrids cut fuel costs and are perfect for testing before going fully electric. Mild hybrids have simpler components, lower costs, and drive like traditional cars. The answer to which is better is the one that suits your needs..

The most common type of hybrid to buy are mild and full hybrids. Most people don’t have easy access to charging stations but want to switch to a greener drive, so they don’t opt for plug-ins.

Hybrids offer drivers the best of both words – fuel and electric

Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric vehicles differ in battery size, plug-in ability, and electric motor power. Hybrids balance traditional and electric cars, offering more efficiency and less emissions than regular cars.

When choosing a hybrid, consider your driving habits, priorities, and feasibility. If you can't install a charger, a plug-in hybrid may not be practical, and it may require frequent stops to recharge on long drives. However, a plug-in hybrid may suit your needs. Don’t forget to get a quote for hybrid car insurance during your search!