What is the Difference Between a Hybrid and an Electric Car

When I was first shopping for electric vehicles, I had assumed that hybrid was a waste of time with respect to saving a lot on gas.  I ended up getting a hybrid that I can plug-in. There are a few variations of hybrids and also there are different types of electric cars.  I will begin by explaining the main difference between a hybrid and an electric.

What is the difference between a Hybrid and an Electric Car? A hybrid differs from an electric car because it has two engines. One engine is electric and the second engine is the conventional gas powered motor.  An electric vehicle only has an electric engine and it never depends on gasoline to run.

You are probably wondering what the typical engine looks like in an electric versus a hybrid.  Will you see a big difference just by looking under the hood?

What is the difference in construction between the electric motor in a Hybrid Versus the Electric Motor of a Totally Electric Vehicle?

The electric motor in a hybrid is relatively small since there is another motor included the vehicle construction, an internal combustion engine or ICE.

The electric motor in a hybrid is still quite powerful.  Also, the torque is getting stronger and stronger with each year.  For instance, the Peugeot released a hybrid in 2018 that can reach 180 horsepower just through its electric motor.  If you combine that with the power delivered by its ICE, is it a strong beast of a hybrid.

The power of the hybrid electric motor also depends on the type of engine used.  There three types of construction for this electric motor:

  1. three-phase induction type
  2. multi-phase induction type
  3. permanent magnet type of electric motor

The Electric Motor Construction in an Electric Car

The electric motor in an electric car is usually larger than that of the electric motor found in a hybrid type car.  There is more space for the electric motor in an electric car which means that a more complex and more powerful engine can be added.

Also, the battery tends to be larger than that of a hybrid.  In the Tesla model 3, the weight of just the battery is 1054 pounds.  In the Sonata Hybrid Plug-in, the battery pack weighs just 93 pounds.

There are similar components in an electric when compared to the electric motor in the typical hybrid car.  For instance, the ac-dc converter that converts to direct current is larger and more powerful than in a hybrid mostly due to the size of the battery pack.

Also, the battery pack takes up a lot of space in an electric vehicle.  It covers in most cases two rectangular sections.  In a hybrid, there is just one rectangular section that houses the cells for the battery pack.

There are also added efficiency in the electric motor in electric vehicles because there is no need to communicate with a second motor as is required with a hybrid.

Is there a difference in Speed Between a Hybrid and an Electric Car?

There is not a big difference between the speed that a hybrid can obtain versus the typical electric car.  Nevertheless, a hybrid has two motors.  Both motors have less torque and horsepower individually when compared to a gas powered vehicle.  In order to add in more horsepower, a hybrid will use both motors at the same time.

I have not noticed a lot of difference in the speeds that I can obtain with my hybrid when I compare it to the regular cars that I have owned, especially within a city.  When on the highway, I do notice that if need to pass another vehicle, I really need to be pressing hard on the gas pedal.  I do realize at that point that both motors are probably being activated.

When I am just cruising along on the highway, I am able to obtain a high enough speed to keep up with the traffic.  In other words, you will not have to worry that you are lagging behind because you are using the two tiny engines of your hybrid.

What about the Speed of a Totally Electric Car?

If you are talking about the quickness of the electric car, it is actually quicker than a hybrid.  It has only one motor that is larger than that of the electric motor of a hybrid.  The fact that it is larger, allows it to have higher torque and horsepower than a hybrid.

What is great about it is that is it does not have to use a transmission to obtain more speed.  Any time that you have more moving parts involved in a process, speed is compromised.  An electric car has less moving parts than a conventional car, is able to speed up faster than a normal car.  Nevertheless, a gas car can reach speeds that tend to be higher than an electric car because of the levels of horsepower and torque.

Do we really need a car that can go super fast on a public highway?  We do have speed limits for a reason.  I feel that speed difference between hybrid and electric vehicles is very minor and you would only really notice the difference if you were to travel at a high rate of speed which would most likely be at a level that is against the law.

What is the difference in Cost Between Electric and Hybrid?

While I was shopping for a vehicle, I was not even considering to buy a hybrid or electric car.  The salesman rushed me over to their hybrid that was a shiny black.  I was not impressed because I knew that it would take a long day to make up to the difference in price when I compared it to the price of the same model that had a regular engine.

I would have felt the same way if I had been confronted with the pricing of a fully electric vehicle.  A hybrid or an electric car is hard to justify financially if you tend to a lot of highway driving.  Nevertheless, I do mostly city driving so I was willing to think about it.

If you were to drive primarily in a city, you should look into how long it will take you to recoup the premium that is added to the price of an electric car or even a hybrid.  In the following comparison chart, I compare pricing on a plug-in hybrid and an electric car.

Why a plug-in? A plug-in hybrid will act exactly like an electric car if you do not drive past its range for a full charge.  For instance, if you were to drive only 25 miles per day within a city, you will have time to fully charge your car at home for the next day at home.

It will be as if you have an electric car.  In other words, you will be able to recoup the premium that you had paid for a hybrid plugin years faster than with a normal hybrid that cannot be plugged in.

Pricing for Models of Hybrids that are Plug-in

Model Price 2019
Hyundai Ioniq21,727
Kia Niro 24,952
Hyundai Sonata29,401
Chevrolet Volt26,595
Toyota Prius23,778

Pricing for Various Electric Cars

Electric Car ModelPricing 2019
Smart Cabrio21,350
Fiat 500e26,790
Kia Soul 27,445
Hyundai Ioniq23,735
Volkswagen e-Golf25,290

What are the different types of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles?

You may not realize that there are different types of hybrid and electric cars.  I was aware, before shopping for a car this year, that there were various types of hybrid cars.  However, I had no idea that is also different types of fully electric cars.

Here are the different types of Hybrid that you can purchase:

parallel Hybrid

The parallel type of hybrid has an interesting design.  The wheels are controlled by both the electric motor and the combustion engine.  I did not realize that this is the type of hybrid that I had purchased.  Remember, at first, I thought that there were only two types of hybrids on the market.

With a parallel system, the two motors can provide torque and horsepower to the axles at the same time giving it a lot more power in certain situations.  I had assumed that only one motor would be able to operate at once.  I was able to sense a slight difference in car vibration when the gas motor kicked in, so I had assumed that the electric motor had been turned off on the highway.

Something else that I am now realizing is that the electric motor is being charged slightly when on the highway.  The gas engine is generating a current that is being sent back to the battery pack.  Nevertheless, regenerative braking is the component that provides the most current for charging the electric battery pack.

Regenerative braking and this parallel feature is also found in models that are not plugin models.  My car is a plugin, but it also has is a parallel hybrid.  You can purchase parallel systems that are not pluggable.  I have noticed that a lot of taxis companies where I live use this type of model.  I guess that is because they are reasonably priced and the gas mileage is better than it would be with a  normal car.


A plugin hybrid electric vehicle or a PHEV is the type of vehicle that I own. I have a Sonata model.  I love it because I treat it as if it were a fully electric vehicle.  I live within a city, so I just plug it in while at home.  During the summertime, I do not have to purchase much gas at all.  I suspect that I will need to buy just $50 in gas this summer as long as I do not take long trips outside of the city.

You can drive a plugin hybrid long distances because it will switch over to the gas motor once the battery pack for the electric motor is below a certain level.  I have noticed, that my car switches to gas when the battery level is at 15 percent.

Nevertheless, the battery can be recharged while you are driving through regenerative braking.

The number of regular hybrids currently outnumbers the plugin hybrids, but their popularity is increasing since the number of charging stations are increasing.  For instance, if you are traveling over 20 miles, you can stop at a charging that charges an hourly fee to charge up your battery.

Many people state that they do not wish to have a plugin hybrid because of the lack of charging stations.  There are actually many stations around and if you have an app in your car that maps their locations, you will be able to find them rather easily via a GPS device.

Range-extender Hybrid

Car manufacturers like to call a range extender a fully electric car, whereas it still has two motors.  The big difference between a plugin hybrid and a range extender is that the combustion engine is never used to power the car, it is used just to charge further the electric battery pack.  For instance, if the range of a car is 125 miles, the combustion engine can charge the battery so that another 93 miles is added to the range.

This type of vehicle is great because you do not need to charge up the battery pack while en route, you can just add more gas so that you can charge up the battery pack for the electric motor.

You do, of course, have the ability to plug in the car to charge the electric motor.

This type of plug-in vehicle is not widespread.  BWW has designed the i3 range extender. Mazda is planning on releasing a model soon.

What are the different types of electric cars?

Battery Electric Vehicles

Extending the range for a plugin is fine, but it is limited.  Having a completely electric vehicle will allow you to travel farther.  Even far enough in most cases to reach a charger that is high speed allowing you to fully charge up in one sitting.

There are a few kinds of electric, but I will explain the battery electric type first.  A battery electric vehicle (BEV), uses energy that is chemical, which is stored in the battery pack.  This type of electric does not require a combustion engine to function.  An electric car can be a battery electric car, but also this construction is found in buses and even in watercraft.

The first battery-electric cars did not have a long range, and the number of charging stations was very limited. These limitations prevented people from traveling long distances.  Some owners were content because they are were driving mostly within city limits and they were ok with plugging in the car overnight to fully charge it for the next day.

Many present-day battery electric cars can travel as far as 300 miles on one charge.  This distance is about the maximum that most people would travel in a day even if they were to take a long trip.  Plus, it is possible to plan out your trip so that you can use a fast charger that gives you an 80 percent charge in less than an hour.  These fast chargers charge at 400 volts.

If I were to own one, I would have a residential charging station installed so that I could charge faster than just using a regular outlet.  These units cost around $1000, including the installation.  You need this station to charge at 240 volts instead of charging with a normal outlet at 110 volts.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

I had no idea that there existed a second type of electric vehicle called the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV).  Most people can conceptualize an electric vehicle that uses power from a big network of battery cells.

A fuel cell electric car is one that is powered by a fuel cell only.  Also, some have a fuel cell along with supercapacitors that are used to store current.  To understand, a supercapacitor, think of the capacitors in a computer that can store electricity even after you have powered down your computer in order to save small amounts of data.

Supercapacitors are used to store the current created by the fuel cells.  A fuel cell needs two components to create the current:

  1. It requires oxygen, which it can get from air that is flowing through the vehicle.
  2. It also needs compressed hydrogen.  This is where things become tricky since it is not as even you can buy hydrogen at your local gas station.  There still are very few hydrogen stations in the US.  Nevertheless, California is planning on increasing its number of stations.
Hydrogen Production for Fuel Cell Electric Cars

To isolate hydrogen, refineries need to use natural gas.  When refining the natural gas, pollutants are produced.  This is where people are not so excited about hydrogen-powered cars, the environment is being compromised by the processes at the refineries.  Also, the hydrogen is transported by gas trucks which also harms the environment to some degree.

The main reason why this tech was developed was so that vehicles that were being used inside of buildings where the emission of exhaust would not be appreciated by the employees. For instance, forklifts.

Even though they use hydrogen that creates pollutants during its production, cars that use fuel cells and are electric, are still classified as zero-emission vehicles.  These cars only emit heat and water.

How Doe a Fuel Cell Work in a Fuel Cell Electric Car?

All of the fuel cells in vehicles have three components:

  1. Cathode
  2. Anode
  3. Electrolyte

The fuel cell acts like a battery. It produces and stores electricity that is used by the electric motor.

You do not need to recharge a fuel cell because it is not a battery, but you do need to fill with compressed hydrogen.

The First Cars that used this Technology that Emits Zero Pollutants

When researching the fuel cell car, I was wondering why in the world would someone produce a vehicle that used hydrogen when finding a hydrogen station is next to impossible.

Nevertheless, Honda decided to introduce its concept car called the Honda FCX Clarity in 2008.  They leased out models in an area in California that was close to hydrogen stations so that customers would have zero range anxiety.  I did some research and I found out that it was costing people around $14 per kilogram of hydrogen at that time.  The range per kilogram was around 60 miles.

The concept was a good one with respect to customers that wanted a fast option for filling up their vehicles without polluting the environment. It was taking just minutes to fill the fuel cells with compressed hydrogen.

The FCX Clarity still exists, even though it was discontinued for a short time.

The company that offered the first retail fuel cell electric vehicle was Hyundai.  They produced the ix35 or Tucson FCEV in 2001.  It was limited because its top speed was only around 78 mph and its range was 100 miles.

Hyundai produced more generations, and in 2013 released its fourth generation that was powerful enough for most buyers at 134 horsepower. Not only was it strong enough on the highway, but it also had a range of 369 miles.

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