You might have heard of hybrids from the various Holywood celebs who started driving/hyping Prius (made by Toyota) 5+ years ago. Or maybe you were comparing MPG figures for a new car and seen particular cars with higher-than-average MPG.

Hybrids - as the name would suggest - are a mix of gasoline combustion engines and green energy sources, such as electric motors. They can switch between fuel sources as appropriate - for example, electric battery/motor get more bang for the buck in cities where driving speeds tend to be lower (aka where combustion engines are not as efficient). Whereas combustion engines become more efficient in uninterrupted driving such as on highways.

Hence hybrids were created to bridge the gap in the market between inefficient combustion engine vehicles, and efficient (but expensive) electric vehicles.

What’s The Point?

You might be thinking that you can buy a fairly cost effective fossil-fuel car for $X, or an electric car for $Y, so what’s the point in buying a fairly expensive hybrid which still produces emissions and is harmful for the environment?

This is a common question, and the answer is that hybrids typically strike a good balance between the cost to buy, and how efficient they are. In other words, you will get better MPG with a hybrid than you would a traditional car - but ‘only’ for a few thousand more.

However with an electric car, whilst the (equivalent) of the MPG would be substantially higher, the cost would be as well: potentially $5,000-$10,000 more for a similar model.

Plus the most common form of hybrids (the non plug-in form) self charge the electric battery when in use, compared to plug-in electrics which are still inconvenient due to range anxiety and planning where and when to stop to charge your car.

So if you can afford a hybrid, you’ll get higher MPG than you normally would, but with all the convenience of a traditional car. That’s the main point of hybrids.

What’s a “Plug-In Hybrid?”

Traditional hybrid cars charge the electric battery portion when driving it in hybrid mode: i.e., the fossil fuel ‘part’ of the car will charge the electric part of it during its natural use. This is convenient, but is not as good for the environment since there are still tailpipe emissions.

Hence there’s also plug-in hybrids available, which - as the name would suggest - allow you to plug-in and charge the electric battery at home or a charging point. You can then run the plug-in hybrid in ‘pure electric’ mode, without tailpipe emissions.

In other words, a plug-in hybrid gives you the potential to use your car entirely like an electric car. And then when the battery gets too low, it will revert back to hybrid mode again.