Robert BodnarT/

The market for low and zero emission vehicles has grown exponentially in recent years. If you’re shopping for one, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between a hybrid vehicle and a hybrid vehicle. fully electric (EV) and which one should you choose. We will examine both here.

How does a hybrid vehicle work?

With inconsistent marketing around low and zero emission vehicles, it can be hard to pin down exactly what each model does or how it works. Some use a combination of gasoline and electric power, while others fully battery operated .

Hybrid vehicles get their name from the fact that they use both electric and internal combustion engines. The models most of us are familiar with, like the Prius, use a battery-powered electric motor to move the vehicle in low-demand conditions, like street driving. But they also have a smaller-than-normal gasoline engine for use in high-demand, long-distance situations. Another name for this type of hybrid vehicle is “series hybrid.”

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Splitting power demand between electricity and gasoline allows hybrids to run very efficiently, often getting very high miles per gallon (MPG) range. Because you don’t use gasoline all the time, hybrids produce reduced carbon emissions but still emit some exhaust.

In addition to the battery that all gasoline engines have, hybrids have another battery pack to power the electric motor. It’s not as big as an EV, because the car doesn’t run on battery power alone. A hybrid’s battery pack can store between 1 and 9 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity for use. The two batteries in a hybrid divide the electrical needs of the car: the battery pack powers the electric motor, while the more typical 12V car battery powers auxiliary features such as the radio and lights. Series hybrids normally recharge their battery through the regenerative braking instead of plugging in the battery pack.

While series hybrids are probably the most common, there are other types of hybrid vehicles that work differently. Depending on the model and manufacturer, some hybrids use electric and gasoline power at the same time instead of alternating between the two. These are known as “parallel hybrids.”

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Still other hybrids allow you to plug them in to recharge their battery packs, giving them greater range than series hybrids. These hybrids still use some gasoline, but have larger battery packs that allow them to travel longer distances using only electric power.

How are fully electric vehicles (EVs) different from hybrids?

Close up of hybrid car dashboard display with light
Gleb Predko/

As the name implies, electric vehicles do not use gasoline to run at all. Instead, they store electricity in massive battery packs, which are used to turn the vehicle’s electric motor.

This design means far fewer moving parts than a conventional gasoline engine. It also means that a greater degree of rotational force or torque can be sent to the wheels when accelerating than with an internal combustion engine.

Electric cars do not produce exhaust fumes and can be recharged by plugging in at home or using public charging stations . While nearly all electric vehicles on the market use regenerative braking, they still need to be plugged into a power source to fully charge their batteries.

While early EVs were sedan-sized, there are now EV versions of everything from cars to trucks to SUVs available to buy. Advances in technology mean they have greater range and power than before, although it may still be easier find a station of service that a place to charge your EV depending on what the charging network is like in your area.

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Hybrids currently have the advantage over electric vehicles when it comes to range, with the exception of high-end models like the Model 3 of Tesla’s long range. That said, an EV will be more than enough for the average person’s daily drive and can often be completed at home overnight.

Should you buy an electric car or a hybrid?

Which Low or Zero Emission Vehicle is Right for You? If range is important to you but you still want to reduce your carbon footprint, a plug-in hybrid would be a good option. If you’re not worried about range, have a place to plug in at night, and rely on the charging network near you, an EV might be the way to go. At the end of the day, it depends on your needs.

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