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Buying Guide

Electric Car Basics

What is the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in electric vehicle? 

A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) does not have an external plug. It derives some of its driving power from a conventional gasoline engine and some from an electric motor and small battery pack. All of its energy is generated from gasoline combustion. However, unlike a non-hybrid vehicle, some of this energy is recovered by recharging the batteries through regenerative braking.  This occurs when the vehicle slows and energy is put back into the battery, which results in better average mpg. 

On the other hand, a plug-in electric vehicle gets its driving power exclusively from an electric motor, and that energy is generated from a larger battery pack that has been recharged from the grid or another external source.  Plug-in electric vehicles also use regenerative braking to improve their overall driving efficiency.

There are two types of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs): Battery electrics (BEVs) which run on electricity only, and plug-in hybrid electrics (PHEVs) which can first run entirely on electricity from the battery for a shorter range (often the distance of a daily commute, or more), then seamlessly switch to a full tank of gasoline to recharge the battery when it gets low.

PHEVs therefore will always have the range you need, and can be driven and fueled just like the vehicle you drive now. Today’s BEVs have more range than 90% of commuters and others drive daily. Some models are available in either BEV or PHEV.

Most BEVs have a range of between 114 and 315 miles depending upon model. They must be recharged when the battery gets low, and can be done slowly (typically overnight at home while you sleep) or more quickly using a public fast charging station. But mostly, they are charged conveniently at home, overnight while you sleep.

Today’s PHEVs a have a battery range between 14 and 114 miles, and then typically a full tank of gasoline range, 300-500+ miles. When operating in hybrid mode, they also get better gas mileage than comparable gasoline only vehicles.

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