How hybrid cars work

How hybrid cars work

Hybrid cars are often associated with EVs, but although there are a few similarities, these vehicle types have some key differences. If you need help understanding any of the terminology in this post, check out our EV glossary


Types of hybrid cars

Did you know that the term ‘hybrid car’ is often used as an umbrella term to cover the four different types of hybrid vehicles?

All hybrid vehicles have both an electrical motor and a petrol engine, which immediately differs from a battery electric vehicle (BEV), as these run solely on electrical power. The main differences between the four types of hybrids are the power that its electrical motor has, and how much the vehicle relies on its petrol engine.


Mild hybrid – The electrical system in a mild hybrid is used to boost the power of the petrol engine, but is not powerful enough to run the vehicle itself. Mild hybrids cannot be plugged in to recharge – all of the energy it requires is generated through the power of the petrol engine, as well as regenerative braking.


Full hybrid – The electrical system in a full hybrid is capable of solely powering the vehicle, but often only for a short distance. There are two types of full hybrids. The first is a parallel hybrid, where the engine can either be powered by itself, the electrical motor, or a combination of both. The second is a series hybrid, where the wheels are powered solely by the electric motor. All full hybrid batteries are recharged internally, the same way as a mild hybrid.


Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) – Think of PHEVs as the halfway point between a full hybrid and a BEV. They are capable of running purely off of electric power for a limited distance. The battery in a PHEV can be charged internally, as with mild and full hybrids, but it can also be charged externally through a chargepoint. Externally charging a PHEV can extend the battery range to cover longer distances.


Are hybrid cars automatic?

Mild hybrid cars, due to the low power of the electrical system, often have a manual transmission but are also available in automatic. Full hybrids and PHEVs are automatic since they can run solely on electrical energy for certain distances. This is because there is little benefit to using a manual transmission alongside electrical power, which is why all BEVs also use an automatic transmission.


Do hybrid cars pay congestion charge?

Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are designated in a few major areas across the UK. Any motor vehicle driving within these zones at certain times is required to pay a set congestion charge per day unless the vehicle is exempt.

Previously, hybrid cars have been exempt from paying the congestion charge, however, as of 2021 this changed. Now, only BEVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are exempt, as these are the only vehicles on the road that produce zero emissions. As all hybrid cars still rely on a petrol engine for a significant amount of energy, they do produce some emissions and are therefore required to pay the fee.


When are hybrid cars being phased out?

The UK government’s pledge to reach net zero by 2050 led to the announcement of a ban on the production and sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. In this original plan, hybrid vehicles were given an extra five years grace, considering they are ‘greener’ than vehicles that solely rely on gas.

As of 2023, the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles has been pushed back to 2035. The ban on hybrid vehicles has not been pushed back any further, so at the time of writing, the production and sale of new hybrids will be banned in 2035 alongside petrol and diesel vehicles.

If you want to make the move to a more electric form of transport but aren’t sure you’re ready for a fully electric vehicle, then a hybrid could be the right choice for you.

Buying a PHEV? Why not have a home chargepoint installed to keep your new vehicle charged up and ready to go?