What is a hybrid car?

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What Is A Hybrid Car

Hybrid cars have gained popularity as eco-friendly options that offer reduced running costs and lower CO2 emissions.

If you’re curious about what a hybrid car is and whether it’s a good choice for you, we provide an insightful guide to help you make an informed decision.

What is a hybrid car? Should I buy one?

Hybrid cars are vehicles that utilise both a traditional combustion engine and an electric motor to power the vehicle.

The electric motor is usually used for lower speeds and short distances, while the combustion engine kicks in for higher speeds and longer journeys.

The benefit of a hybrid car is that it can offer improved fuel efficiency compared to conventional petrol or diesel vehicles. The electric motor helps to reduce fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions, making hybrids a more environmentally friendly choice.

Additionally, hybrid cars often have regenerative braking systems that capture and store energy that would otherwise be lost during braking, further improving efficiency.

Should you buy a hybrid car?

The decision to buy a hybrid car depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Here are some factors to consider:

Fuel Efficiency

If you do a lot of city driving or have a short commute, a hybrid car can offer significant fuel savings and reduced emissions. However, if you primarily drive long distances on highways, the benefits of a hybrid may be less pronounced.

Environmental Impact

Hybrid cars contribute to reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, making them a greener choice compared to traditional combustion engine vehicles.

Cost Considerations

While hybrid cars may have higher upfront costs than their non-hybrid counterparts, potential savings on fuel expenses and tax incentives or rebates in some regions can help offset the initial investment.

Driving Experience

Hybrid cars generally offer a smooth and quiet driving experience, thanks to the electric motor’s instant torque. However, some hybrid models may sacrifice performance for fuel efficiency.

Infrastructure and Charging

Unlike fully electric cars, hybrids do not require charging infrastructure as they are self-charging. This eliminates concerns about range anxiety and the need for frequent charging stops.

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What are the different types of hybrid car?

Hybrid cars are available in three main types: full hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and mild hybrid. Each type has its own characteristics and benefits that you should consider before making a purchase decision.

Full Hybrid

Full hybrid cars, also known as self-charging hybrids, have both a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor. The electric motor assists the engine during acceleration and at low speeds, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

Full Hybrid Car

It also allows the car to operate in electric mode for short distances, conserving fuel in stop-and-go traffic. Full hybrids do not need to be plugged in to charge the battery, as it is recharged through regenerative braking and the engine.

Plug-in Hybrid

Plug-in hybrid cars, also known as PHEVs, have a larger battery capacity than full hybrids and can be charged from an external power source. This allows for an extended electric-only driving range, typically ranging from 20 to 50 miles, depending on the model.

Plug-In Hybrid Car

Plug-in hybrids offer the flexibility of using both electric power and the internal combustion engine for longer journeys. They can be charged at home, at work, or at public charging stations, providing the option to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and lower emissions.

Mild Hybrid

Mild hybrid cars have a smaller electric motor that assists the engine during acceleration and improves fuel efficiency. Unlike full hybrids and plug-in hybrids, mild hybrids cannot operate solely on electric power.

Mild Hybrid Car

The electric motor primarily supports the engine by providing an extra boost during acceleration and enabling engine start-stop technology, which shuts off the engine when the car is stationary to save fuel. The electric motor is typically powered by a small battery that is recharged through regenerative braking.

Each type of hybrid car has its own advantages and considerations. Full hybrids balance fuel efficiency and convenience, as they do not require external charging.

Plug-in hybrids provide a longer electric-only range, making them suitable for those with regular access to charging infrastructure. Mild hybrids offer improved fuel efficiency without the need for external charging but do not provide extended electric-only driving.

Consider your driving patterns, daily commute, access to charging infrastructure, and environmental priorities when deciding which type of hybrid car is best suited to your needs. Additionally, compare different models’ costs, fuel efficiency, and emissions to make an informed decision.

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Full hybrid (self-charging)

Full hybrids, also known as “self-charging” hybrids, combine a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor. Unlike plug-in hybrids or all-electric cars, full hybrids do not need to be externally charged. Instead, they utilise regenerative braking to recapture energy and charge the batteries while driving.

Pros of full hybrids:

  • No need for external charging: Full hybrids recharge their batteries through regenerative braking, eliminating the need to plug in and providing convenience.
  • Improved performance: The electric motor assists the engine during acceleration, enhancing the car’s performance and providing instant torque.
  • Fuel efficiency and emissions reduction: The electric motor helps reduce fuel consumption by supporting the engine during low-speed or stop-start driving, leading to lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel efficiency.
  • Lower running costs: With improved fuel efficiency, full hybrids can save you money on fuel expenses over time.
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Cons of full hybrids:

  • Limited electric-only range: Full hybrids rely primarily on the combustion engine, and their electric-only driving range is usually limited. Electric mode is typically reserved for low-speed or low-demand situations.
  • Dependence on fossil fuels: Full hybrids still use petrol or diesel as their primary fuel source, contributing to emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

It’s important to consider your driving habits and needs when deciding on a hybrid type. If you primarily drive shorter distances or in congested urban areas, a full hybrid may be a suitable choice due to its self-charging capability and fuel efficiency benefits.

However, if you require a longer electric-only range or have access to charging infrastructure, a plug-in hybrid or all-electric car might be more suitable.

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Plug-in hybrid

Plug-in hybrids, or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), feature a larger battery that can be charged by plugging into electric outlets. This allows for an extended electric-only driving range compared to full hybrids. Some plug-in hybrids, such as Ford models, can cover between 28 and 39 miles in electric-only mode.

Pros of plug-in hybrids:

  • Best of both worlds: Plug-in hybrids offer the flexibility of electric-only driving for shorter trips and the ability to switch to a petrol or diesel engine for longer journeys, providing versatility.
  • Potential for cost savings: Utilising electric-only mode for daily commutes and shorter trips can significantly reduce fuel costs, as electricity is generally cheaper than petrol or diesel.
  • Government grants: Depending on your location, you may be eligible for the EV charge point grant, which provides financial assistance towards the installation of a home charging point.
  • Reduced emissions in electric-only mode: Driving in electric-only mode produces zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to improved air quality and reduced environmental impact.

Cons of plug-in hybrids:

  • Regular charging requirement: To fully benefit from the fuel economy advantages, plug-in hybrids need to be regularly charged. This may be inconvenient if you don’t have access to a charging point at home or work.
  • CO2 emissions in petrol or diesel mode: When operating on the combustion engine, plug-in hybrids still produce emissions, contributing to carbon footprint and air pollution.
  • Potential weight and ride experience: Plug-in hybrids tend to be heavier due to the additional battery, which can affect the suspension and overall ride experience of the vehicle.

Considering your driving habits, access to charging infrastructure, and the availability of incentives or grants can help you determine if a plug-in hybrid is the right choice for you.

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Mild hybrid

A mild hybrid differs from full hybrids and plug-in hybrids in that it lacks an electric-only mode. The battery in a mild hybrid is primarily used to assist the conventional petrol or diesel engine.

Pros of mild hybrids:

  • Power boost and improved acceleration: The small electric motor in a mild hybrid can provide an extra boost of power during acceleration, resulting in better performance in certain driving conditions.
  • Fuel and CO2 reduction during braking or coasting: The electric motor in a mild hybrid can assist the engine by shutting it off when braking or coasting, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions during these instances.
  • Auxiliary power for other systems: The mild hybrid system can use the electric motor and the car’s standard 12V battery to power auxiliary systems like air conditioning, reducing the load on the engine.

Cons of mild hybrids:

  • No electric-only mode: Unlike full hybrids or plug-in hybrids, mild hybrids cannot operate on electric power alone. The engine is always in use, resulting in fuel consumption and emissions even during idle or low power demand situations.
  • Reliance on fuel: The electric motor in a mild hybrid only assists the engine and does not replace it. As a result, fuel consumption remains a constant factor.
  • Higher CO2 emissions: Mild hybrids typically have higher CO2 emissions compared to full hybrids and plug-in hybrids due to their limited electric capabilities.

While mild hybrids offer some benefits in terms of power enhancement and fuel efficiency, they do not provide the same level of emission reductions or electric-only driving capabilities as other types of hybrids. Consider your driving needs and priorities to determine if a mild hybrid suits your requirements.

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What costs should I think about when buying a hybrid?

Like any vehicle, there are several costs to consider when determining whether a hybrid car is suitable for your needs.

New purchase price

Hybrid cars typically have a higher purchase price compared to their petrol or diesel counterparts, with an increase of approximately 20% in some cases.

It’s worth noting that the government’s car grant scheme, which previously provided assistance for purchasing plug-in hybrids, ceased accepting new orders in June 2022.

However, certain manufacturers may offer discounts on hybrid models under their car scrappage schemes if you have an old car to trade in.

Tax (VED)

Hybrid cars are classified as “alternative fuel vehicles” when it comes to VED tax bands. This classification entitles hybrid car owners to a slightly lower road tax compared to petrol and newer diesel vehicles.

In the first year, the road tax for hybrids is £10 less than that of petrol and diesel cars. From the second year onwards, hybrid car owners pay a flat annual fee of £155 (or £162.75 split into 12 monthly payments).

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However, it’s important to note that if you purchase a hybrid car with a price exceeding £40,000, you will be required to pay an additional £355 per year on top of the standard road tax.

Fuel costs

Owning a hybrid car can offer significant savings on fuel costs, but the extent of these savings depends on your driving habits. If you primarily drive in urban areas and have convenient access to charging points, a plug-in hybrid can be exceptionally cost-effective to run. The ability to rely on electric power for shorter journeys can greatly reduce your fuel consumption.

However, if your driving consists mainly of high-speed, long-distance journeys, a clean diesel or petrol car may prove to be a more fuel-efficient and cost-effective option compared to a hybrid. It’s important to consider your driving patterns and requirements to determine which type of vehicle would be most suitable for your needs.

Charging costs

When purchasing a plug-in hybrid, it’s crucial to take into account the expenses associated with charging, particularly considering the increasing cost of energy bills. Charging a plug-in hybrid requires electricity, and the cost of charging can vary depending on your location, electricity rates, and charging infrastructure availability.

To assess the charging costs accurately, you should consider factors such as the battery size of the vehicle, the frequency of charging, and the electricity rates in your area. It may be beneficial to explore different charging options, including public charging stations and home charging solutions, to determine the most cost-effective approach for your specific circumstances.

Chargepoint installation

If you own a plug-in hybrid car, installing a home chargepoint can significantly reduce the cost of running your vehicle. However, it’s important to note that the equipment for home charging comes with a price tag of approximately £1,000.

Plugin Hybrid Car At Home Charging

For individuals residing in flats or rented accommodation, there may be some financial assistance available. The EV chargepoint grant can provide up to £350 to help with the installation costs. It’s worth exploring this option to take advantage of potential savings.

Unfortunately, the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which previously offered financial contributions to other types of home occupiers, is no longer accepting new applications as of April 2022.

Repair costs

One advantage of hybrid technology is that it generally leads to reduced wear and tear on the engine and brakes compared to conventional cars. This can result in better reliability and potentially lower repair costs in the long run.

With fewer mechanical components and less strain on certain parts of the vehicle, hybrid cars may require fewer expensive repairs, providing potential savings for owners.


The cost of hybrid car insurance is determined by various factors, including your personal circumstances, age, driving history, as well as the make and model of the hybrid vehicle.

Insurance providers will also consider the insurance group that the hybrid car falls into, which is based on factors such as the vehicle’s performance, safety features, and repair costs.

As with conventional cars, getting insurance for a hybrid car requires shopping around and comparing car insurance quotes from different insurance providers to find the best cover and price that suits your needs.

Are hybrids popular in the UK?

While concerns about the environment and fuel costs have influenced car-buying decisions, the popularity of hybrids in the UK has been overshadowed by the rising demand for all-electric cars.

Recent data from July 2022 indicates a 34% decline in plug-in hybrid registrations compared to the previous year, while sales of battery electric vehicles have seen a nearly 10% increase during the same period.

However, the declining popularity of hybrids should not discourage potential buyers as the suitability of a car depends on individual circumstances. For instance, drivers who lack off-street parking for home charging may still find value in investing in a plug-in hybrid to contribute to environmental conservation and enjoy fuel cost savings.

Ultimately, the choice between a hybrid and an all-electric vehicle should be based on personal preferences and specific needs.

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Where can I find cheap hybrid car insurance?

At Comparoo, we specialise in helping you find affordable insurance options for your hybrid car. Our platform allows you to compare quotes from multiple insurance providers quickly and easily.

By entering your details and specific requirements, you can receive a list of suitable quotes to choose from in just minutes.

Take advantage of our services today and see if you can save on your hybrid car insurance. Start comparing now to find the best cover at a competitive price.

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