Should I Buy A Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)?

couple in electric car

What is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle?


If you are confused by the acronyms in the electric vehicle sector, you are not alone.  Do read our article on the top 20 jargons. However, for now let me focus on BEV and PHEV:

  • BEV, battery electric vehicle, also known as an all-electric car or a pure electric car, is any car or vehicle that is powered by 100% electricity (via onboard batteries).  These electric vehicles do not have a conventional diesel or petrol engine (ICE).  Hence ‘zero emissions’!  The Nissan Leaf is a good example of a BEV.
  • PHEV, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, uses both, a traditional internal combustion engine (i.e. petrol or diesel engine) and an electric motor (powered by onboard batteries). The batteries are charged using a dedicated external charge point. PHEVs are also sometime referred to as plug-in electric cars.
  • Conventional hybrids, sometimes referred to as hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), like the ubiquitous Toyota Prius, are not charged via an external charging source.  These low emission vehicles use technologies like ‘regenerative braking’ to convert kinetic energy to electric energy. 
Nissan Leaf Hatch Electric BEV
Nissan Leaf Electric Car (BEV)

Should I Buy A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Car?


Yes, of course! If you currently driving a conventional petrol or diesel car or a traditional hybrid, then certainly buying a PHEV is a step in the right direction for the following reasons:

  • A stepping stone into the world of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) i.e. any vehicle that emits less than 75g/km of carbon dioxide (CO2) and is capable of travelling 10 miles emission free
  • Lower emissions.  Yes the environment matters and we all have a responsibility to reduce air pollution, to include you and I
  • Better fuel economy.  Money saved can be used for wonderful and well deserved family outings 
  • Lower taxes 
  • Range anxiety not an issue

So that I am absolutely clear in my position, buying another polluting conventional diesel or petrol car should be avoided.  There are now a number of very suitable electric vehicles (EVs) that can meet your motoring needs. 

However, in the process of assessing PHEVs, please also evaluate all-electric BEVs. By doing this, you will gain more familiarity with BEVs and also assess, if a pure electric car could be more appropriate for your needs compared to a PHEV.  

It is NOT mandatory to own a PHEV before buying a BEV.  You can make the transition to emission free driving directly from conventional ICE vehicles to BEVs. 


What Are The Top 2 Factors To Consider In Buying A PHEV Or BEV?


BMW i3 Hatch range extender PHEV
BMWi3 Range Extender (PHEV)

Though there are a number of parameters to consider when assessing what type of ULEV to buy, two key issues to consider are:

  • Range 
  • Charging infrastructure 

Let me deal with range and its related topic ‘range anxiety’.  To a very large extent, the issue of range anxiety has been exaggerated. Let me put this in perspective. The average distance covered a year by a driver in the UK is 8,000 miles.  Simple math’s, this translates to just over 20 miles a day.  

What is even more interesting is the average trip in the UK is a mere 12 miles.  Now the reality is that the latest electric cars from a Nissan Leaf to a Tesla Model 3, can achieve anywhere between 100 to 250 ‘real world’ miles on a single charge.  So bottom-line, don’t taint your assessment by scaremongering on range anxiety. For most occasions your EV will be perfect!   

electric car charging
EV Charging

Another issue raised is the concern over public charging infrastructure i.e. left stranded on a motorway without any battery juice! A fair concern, but again, it needs to be placed in the correct context.  

The majority of EVs are charged at home overnight, while we are snuggled in bed.  But for those EV owners that do travel long distance trips, using public charging infrastructure is inevitable.  No doubt, that public charging electric vehicle infrastructure has to develop further, but it is not quite as obscure as some industry commentators suggest.  In fact, as recently as a few weeks ago, the total number of charging points exceeded the number of traditional filling stations in the UK.  

So, bottom-line, if you are travelling more than 250 miles a trip on a regular basis and have limited access to public charging stations, then a PHEV will be more appropriate than a BEV.  This way you will not be concerned about range!   

With a PHEV, you are coming closer to a lower emission ‘lifestyle’, but I would encourage you to buy a 100% pure electric car (BEV) if you do not intend to travel hundreds of miles per trip on a regular basis.


Some Disadvantages of PHEVs Versus BEVs

  • Higher pollution levels as PHEVs only drive a very limited mileage emission free, while BEVs only drive emission free 
  • Higher maintenance costs for PHEVs in comparison to BEVs.  Not surprising as PHEVs have dual drivetrain technologies 
  • No UK government incentive for acquiring a PHEV. While BEVs qualify for the £3,500 plug-in car (PiCG) grant 

Top Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles To consider?


  • Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid 
  • BMW i3 Range Extender (REx)
  • Mini Countryman Plug-In Hybrid 
  • Toyota Prius Plug-In 

The shift to lower emission vehicles is not a fad, rather the commencement of a very significant and long term shift to electrified road transportation.  There is no getting away from this.  You can delay entering the world of low emission vehicles, but you cannot avoid it!  


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

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Author

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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