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Hybrids & Plug-in Hybrids

Once the reserve of the eco-conscious or those looking to avoid the London congestion charge, hybrids and plug-in hybrids are now everywhere.

Most manufacturers now offer a hybrid of some sort, whether it's a mild hybid set-up to assist the engine or a full plug-in arrangement that allows for pure electric mileage.

What is a Hybrid Car?

The basic idea of a hybrid-powered car is that it is propelled by both a typical combustion engine with the aid of a battery (or batteries).

A regular hybrid car will have its electronic aids charged by the engine as the vehicle moves, while a plug-in hybrid can be charged manually when stationary.


It doesn't stay that simple, however, as we delve deeper into the sub-types of hybrid cars:

Series hybrids use a conventional engine and a battery to provide energy to an electric motor which drives the wheels. Electrical monitoring systems determine how much of the power comes from the battery or the engine. Series hybrids cannot utilise the conventional engine or battery to directly drive the wheels. As a result, series hybrids have small conventional engines and a fairly large powerful battery and perform best in start/stop conditions.

Parallel hybrids use the combustion engine and electric motor in tandem to generate the power that drives the wheels. Most parallel hybrids have a smaller battery than series hybrids. As the engine in parallel hybrids is connected directly to the wheels, they are more efficient than series parallels at constant speeds. Parallel hybrids can also utilise the motor as a generator to recharge when the power demands are low (like an alternator in conventional cars).

The most common hybrid cars currently on the market are series/parallel hybrids, which combine the benefits of both series and parallel systems. The wheels can be directly powered by the conventional engine, via the battery-powered electric drivetrain or both together. The power input of series/parallels hybrids will alter depending on conditions:


 Travelling at low speeds – the charged high voltage battery powers the electric motor


 Accelerating – conventional engine & electric motor work together to improve acceleration & minimise fuel consumption


 Constant Speed – power is provided by the most efficient means possible (conventional engine, electric motor or both together)


 Decelerating – regenerative braking systems store energy produced during braking in the battery

  • Series Hybrids

    Series hybrids use a conventional engine and a battery to provide energy to an electric motor which drives the wheels. Electrical monitoring systems determine how much of the power comes from the battery or the engine. Series hybrids cannot utilise the conventional engine or battery to directly drive the wheels. As a result, series hybrids have small conventional engines and a fairly large powerful battery and perform best in start/stop conditions.

  • Parallel Hybrids

    Parallel hybrids use the combustion engine and electric motor in tandem to generate the power that drives the wheels. Most parallel hybrids have a smaller battery than series hybrids. As the engine in parallel hybrids is connected directly to the wheels, they are more efficient than series parallels at constant speeds. Parallel hybrids can also utilise the motor as a generator to recharge when the power demands are low (like an alternator in conventional cars).

  • Series/Parallel Hybrids

    The most common hybrid cars currently on the market are series/parallel hybrids, which combine the benefits of both series and parallel systems. The wheels can be directly powered by the conventional engine, via the battery-powered electric drivetrain or both together. The power input of series/parallels hybrids will alter depending on conditions:


     Travelling at low speeds – the charged high voltage battery powers the electric motor


     Accelerating – conventional engine & electric motor work together to improve acceleration & minimise fuel consumption


     Constant Speed – power is provided by the most efficient means possible (conventional engine, electric motor or both together)


     Decelerating – regenerative braking systems store energy produced during braking in the battery

What about Regenerative Braking?


Regenerative braking is the conversion of the vehicle’s kinetic energy from braking into chemical energy which can be stored in the car’s battery. For some hybrids, this is the main way of charging the battery; however, for many plug-in-hybrids (with a longer battery-only range) this is a supplementary charging system. Regenerative braking can reduce overall fuel consumption by around 20%.

Running Costs of a Hybrid?

Hybrids improve fuel economy by around 20-25% and often vastly reduce tailpipe emissions, which means you get lower car tax as well as noticably lower fuel costs.

Hybrid cars registered from April 2017 are eligible for a £10 alternative fuel discount to the first year of VED (tax), and then the standard rate afterwards. Meanwhile, cars that were registered March 2001-2017 benefit even more, as tax is based on emissions.

For London dwellers, there’s further good news as Plug-in Hybrids with CO2 less than 75g/km and able of at least 20 miles of electric-only range are exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

Hybrids and Plug-in Hybrids themselves can cost up to 20% more than a conventional model. The extra cost of most hybrids reflects the complexity of the additional components, though the government grant available helps you save up to £3,000 on a new hybrid. Also consider that Hybrids currently offer reduced depreciation compared to conventional vehicles.

Driving a Hybrid Car

Driving a hybrid car is similar to driving a conventional car. The road handling and acceleration is broadly comparable; the only detail you may feel is an additional amount of torque from the electronic aids. Most Hybrid cars are often similar in appearance to their ‘conventional engine’ counterpart, too. The interior is where you will notice most of the difference, as the dashboard will likely offer additional information as to how the car is performing.

Will a Hybrid Suit Your Lifestyle?

The answer to this question is likely yes, as the security of a conventional combustion engine will enable you to get through the miles with peace of mind.

Which type ofg hybrid you get will depend on just how many miles you do and the nature of your driving (take a look back above for our information on the different hybrid types in this instance).

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