What Is The Difference Between Conventional Hybrids and Plug-In Hybrids?

PHEV, BEV And Plug-In: Confused?

We at e-zoomed hear your frustration loud and clear.  In fact, we could not agree with you more.  The automotive industry should stop ‘engineers’ from setting the naming convention for vehicles.  The electric vehicle sector has been blighted by acronyms, better suited for an astronaut, than a mother keen to take her kids to school, in a zero emission and economical electric car.  But all is not lost.  We have made the impossible, possible i.e. simplified the jargon. 

toyota prius hybrid
The Toyota Prius Hybrid (credit: Toyota)

In simplest terms, ‘hybrid’ means ‘combining two very different things’.  In the world of car production, hybrid is mostly used to describe two different and separate power sources, that propel the vehicle.  The conventional or traditional hybrid, sometimes simply referred to as a ‘hybrid’ or ‘self charging’, has been around for more than two decades.

For example, the ubiquitous, Toyota Prius,  has a conventional petrol or diesel engine as the main source of power.  However, at lower speeds, the hybrid vehicle leverages power provided by an electric motor and small battery, to increase fuel economy and reduce pollution.  But for all practical purposes, the vehicle is mostly reliant on the petrol or diesel engine for motion.     

Plug-in hybrid Vehicles, also referred to as PHEVs, at one level are similar to a conventional hybrid i.e. the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is also powered by two sources, a conventional petrol engine and an electric motor with a battery.  However, a PHEV has the ability to travel on ‘pure electric mode’ using the power from the battery for distances usually up to 30 zero-emission miles. Conventional hybrids do not run such distances on pure electric mode. 

Range Rover PHEV
Range Rover PHEV (credit: LandRover)

But at the most basic level, the primary difference between a conventional hybrid and a PHEV, is that, in a PHEV, the electric car battery needs to be charged by an external power source and this is not the case for a conventional hybrid.  Hence the expression ‘plug-in’.  In a conventional hybrid, the small on board battery is charged by capturing kinetic energy from slowing down and braking. So bottom-line, if you don’t see a charging cable, then rest assured it is a convention hybrid!

EV charging cable
EV Charging Cable

Also a PHEV has a much larger and more powerful battery size (kWh) compared to a conventional hybrid. The short trips to the local restaurant, gymnasium, grocery store, train station etc. can easily be made in a PHEV on electric mode, with zero emissions.  

As an example, the IONIQ Plug-In Hybrid driven on the electric mode has a range up to 32 miles. No need to panic, if the battery runs low, the plug-in will simply revert to the hybrid/ petrol mode automatically.  The IONIQ PHEV has a range of more than 660 miles on a full petrol tank and fully charged battery.  The hybrid has a 1.6L engine and a 8.9 kWh lithium-ion battery.  Yes, the battery size of a plug-in is much smaller compared to pure electric cars, like the Nissan Leaf.  In the 2019 BEV model lineup, most pure EVs have a battery size larger than 60 kWh, hence the longer electric range compared to PHEVs.         

A plug-in hybrid is perfect for a family that does not have the budget for a more expensive pure electric car, like the Nissan Leaf, but still want the advantages of electric driving, to include better running costs and lower emissions.  The IONIQ has CO2 emissions of 26 g/km and an incredible fuel economy of up to 248 MPG! 

e-zoomed view

The introduction of the conventional hybrid was precipitated by the need for automotive manufacturers to develop and introduce more economical and environmentally friendly vehicles.  The transition from conventional hybrids to plug-in hybrids was a natural progression in that journey, to developing more efficient and environmentally friendly solutions.  The PHEV has been a successful step in this regards.  However, overtime, conventional hybrids and PHEVs will be phased out, as the transition to 100% pure electric vehicles (BEVs) gathers pace.  The scrapping of the government incentives for plug-in hybrids will further catalyze buyers (individual consumers and fleets) to skip PHEVs, as they migrate from conventional petrol/ diesel/ hybrids to pure EVs.

We at e-zoomed are more than happy to assist you with all your EV needs to include:

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Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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