What Is A Hybrid Car? Should I Buy One?

Eco-friendly cars are growing in popularity, with more drivers moving towards hybrid models in a bid to cut down on running costs and CO2 emissions.

But what exactly is a hybrid car, and should you consider buying one?

Eco-friendly cars are growing in popularity, with more drivers moving towards hybrid models in a bid to cut down on running costs and CO2 emissions.

But what exactly is a hybrid car, and should you consider buying one?

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
4
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 13 JANUARY 2020

What is a hybrid car?

A hybrid car runs on a combination of traditional petrol or diesel fuel and electric power.

Fully electric cars have a limited mileage range before they have to be charged up, and combustion engines have high exhaust emissions, but hybrid technology offers some of the best parts of both worlds.

Using the combination of a conventional engine and electric power, hybrids can save you money on fuel costs and cut down on CO2 exhaust emissions.

What are the different types of hybrid car? 

If you’re thinking about buying a hybrid car, this is where it can get a bit confusing. There are three types of hybrid car, each with their own pros and cons.

Full hybrid (self-charging)

Full hybrids, also known as ‘self-charging’ hybrids, use a petrol or diesel engine combined with an electric motor.

Unlike plug-ins or all-electric cars, full hybrids don’t need to be charged. Instead, the electric power comes from energy that’s recuperated every time you brake. This ‘wasted’ energy is then used to charge the batteries and power an electric motor while you drive.

The electric motor kicks in when your car typically uses more fuel – for example, when you’re just setting off or accelerating. As well as improving your car’s performance, it helps to cut down on fuel use and CO2 emissions.

Full hybrid pros

  • no need to be plugged in to charge the batteries
  • improved performance when you need it
  • cuts down on fuel use and CO2 emissions

Full hybrid cons

  • electric-only capability is very limited in terms of range
  • still produces CO2 from the petrol or diesel combustion engine

Plug-in hybrid

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) have a large battery that can be plugged into electric outlets at public charging points or even using a three-point socket in your garage at home. This gives them a longer electric-only mileage range than self-charging hybrids – Ford’s plug-in hybrid offering, for example, is typical of the wider market at 35 miles.

The greater range means you can go electric for short daily commutes, shopping and the school run, and save a lot of money on fuel. If you need to make a longer journey, simply use the petrol or diesel engine instead.

Plug-in hybrid pros

  • best of both worlds – electric-only for urban driving, petrol or diesel for longer journeys
  • you might be eligible for the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, a government grant of up to 75% towards the cost of installing a chargepoint at your home
  • if you live in London, most plug-in hybrids are exempt from the Congestion Charge
  • electric mode could save you a lot of money in fuel costs
  • zero emissions when driven in electric-only mode

Plug-in hybrid cons

  • if you want to get the best fuel economy out of your plug-in hybrid, you’ll need to plug it in regularly – this might not be that convenient if you don’t have easy access to a charging point
  • plug-in hybrids still emit CO2 if they’re used in petrol or diesel mode
  • plug-in hybrids are typically heavier cars, which could affect the suspension and ride experience
  • unlike all-electric cars, you’ll still need to pay road tax

Mild hybrid

The main difference between a mild hybrid and plug-in or full is that it doesn’t have an electric-only mode. The battery is only there to assist the regular petrol or diesel combustion engine.

That said, it can still help to lower CO2 emissions and fuel use. The small electric motor in mild hybrids does this by adding a boost of power when you’re accelerating, or by turning the engine off when braking or coasting. It can also work on the car’s normal 12V battery to help run other systems like air conditioning.

Mild hybrid pros

  • the electric motor helps boost power and give you better acceleration in certain conditions
  • it can help to cut down CO2 emissions and fuel consumption when braking or coasting

Mild hybrid cons

  • there’s no electric-only mode
  • the electric motor only assists the engine, it doesn’t take over, so you’ll always be using fuel
  • has higher CO2 emissions than other types of hybrid

What costs should I think about when buying a hybrid?

As with any type of vehicle, there are costs to think about when deciding if a hybrid car is right for you.

New purchase price

Hybrids tend to be more expensive than their petrol or diesel only counterparts – around 20% higher in some cases. However, if you’ve got an old car to trade in, some manufacturers offer discounts on hybrid models under their car scrappage schemes.

Tax (VED)

When it comes to VED tax bands hybrids are considered ‘alternative fuel vehicles’. This means you pay slightly less road tax than petrol and newer diesels - £10 less in the first year, then an annual flat fee of £140 from the second year on. If you buy a hybrid that costs more than £40,000, you’ll need to pay an extra £325 a year.

Fuel costs

One of the biggest benefits of owning a hybrid is the potential to save a lot of money in fuel costs. This depends largely on your driving habits, though. If you drive around town and have easy access to charging points, a plug-in hybrid could be incredibly cheap to run.

If you regularly drive at high speeds on long journeys, a clean diesel or petrol car might be a cheaper, more fuel-efficient choice than a hybrid.

Repair costs

Thanks to hybrid technology, there’s less wear and tear on the engine and brakes than with conventional cars. This could mean better reliability and less need for expensive repairs further down the line.

Insurance

Just like conventional cars, the amount you’ll pay for hybrid car insurance will depend on a number of factors that include your personal circumstances, how old you are and your driving history. It could also depend on the make and model of the hybrid you buy and the insurance group it’s put in.

Are hybrids popular in the UK?

Concerns about the environment and rising fuel costs are certainly having an impact on car-buying decisions. The number of hybrids on our roads is steadily growing with more models coming on to the market each year. National figures reveal that so far in 2020, more than 40,000 plug-in hybrids have been registered for the first time – almost an 84% increase compared to 2019.

Read our top pick of the best hybrid family cars in 2020.

Where can I find cheap hybrid car insurance?

Right here. Insurance for your new hybrid doesn’t have to cost the earth. We can help you find a number of suitable quotes to compare in a matter of minutes.

Compare today and see if you can save on your hybrid car insurance.

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