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Hybrid Cars 101: What Types of Hybrid Cars are There?

Choosing a hybrid vehicle is a huge step towards the future. But what is the best hybrid car for your money? Find out everything you need to know about the different types of hybrid cars available on the Australian market, in our handy hybrid car guide!

If you’re looking for a vehicle that consumes less fuel and is better for the environment, a hybrid car is a great place to start! As an alternative to conventional diesel or petrol-engined cars, hybrid cars provide everyday convenience and peace of mind.

Most hybrids combine a conventional engine with an electric motor and a battery, but not all hybrid cars available on the Australian market are created equally. It’s up to the manufacturer to decide how exactly the combination of petrol or diesel and electric power is applied – often with varying outcomes.

If you’re considering leaping into an electrified motoring future, you should be aware of the three different types of hybrid cars before you make your final decision.

What makes a vehicle a hybrid car?

HEV or Hybrid Electric Vehicles are – like the name suggests, a type of car that relies on two different sources of power for motion. In the US, the two different power sources are typically petrol and electricity, whereas, across Europe, the combination of diesel and electricity is more common.

What are the main types of hybrid cars?

There are three kinds of hybrids available in Australia:

  • Full hybrids
  • Mild hybrids
  • Plug-in hybrids

What is a Full Hybrid?

Also known as FHEV, standard or full hybrids can run on diesel or petrol combustion engines and battery-powered electric engines alone or rely on a combination of the two. The Toyota Prius (pictured above) is the most well-known example.

The clue: Full hybrids do not need to be plugged into a charging station to recharge the battery. Instead, the battery is recharged whilst the combustion engine is running. These types of hybrids primarily use their petrol engines and draw on electricity as a support when it’s efficient to do so – for example, when the car is driven at low speeds. This makes FHEVs the most fuel-efficient type of hybrid vehicle.

Should you choose to do so, full hybrids can be operated in series, parallel or all-electric mode.

At low speeds, it is recommended to use all-electric mode. Series mode comes in handy during stop-and-go traffic, where combustion engines are inefficient. Parallel mode, on the other hand, uses both the combustion engine and electric motor in tandem, to increase efficiency at high speeds.

What is a Mild Hybrid?

Mild hybrids such as the Mazda CX-5 are currently less common in Australia but enjoy increasing popularity. They use a hybrid system to assist when starting the engine, pulling away, braking and coasting. Some also provide additional assistance to the engine while accelerating.

Mild hybrids recharge using regenerative power: When you hit the brake or decelerate, kinetic energy is used to charge the battery. These vehicles usually have smaller 48-volt motor generators instead of conventional alternators, which means they’re not as fuel-efficient or environmentally friendly as full hybrids.

Yet, they’re still capable of cutting down on overall fuel costs and CO2 emissions, especially in heavy stop-start traffic. On the upside, mild hybrids are lighter in weight and smoother in starting compared to full hybrid cars. Their production cost is overall cheaper, too and they require no special maintenance or servicing – which could be an incentive if you’re looking to purchase an environmentally friendly car but have a restricted budget.

Mild Hybrid Vehicles:

  • Mazda CX-5
  • Audi A4
  • BMW 3-Series
  • Kia Sportage
  • Mercedes-Benz C200

What is a Plug-in Hybrid?

Just like full electric vehicles, Plug-in hybrids or PHEV cars, as the name gives away, have to be plugged into a charging station or high-voltage wall box to recharge their battery. They use a combination of powerful combustion engines and large battery packs, but other than mild hybrids can be exclusively driven on electric power to ensure a fuel-efficient journey.

For many PHEV drivers, the petrol or diesel-powered internal combustion engine serves merely as a backup for when the battery runs out of power. Plug-in hybrids bridge the gap between combustion and electric cars,  being suited for long-distance driving as well as daily commutes at lower speeds. This makes them the perfect vehicle for inner-city, emission-free driving. Should you ever need extra power, the combustion engine is there to help out.

PHEVs are a great place to start for anyone who wants to take a step towards an all-electric future. Plug-in hybrids offer some peace of mind knowing that there is a backup motor that can act as a safety net should you ever run out of juice. But the biggest benefit of PHEVs remains their dedicated electric mode, which allows you to drive for certain distances on electric power alone.

Plug-In Hybrids:

  • Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In
  • Mini Countryman PHEV
  • Volvo XC90 T8
  • BMW 530e
  • Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid

How far can each type of hybrid travel on electric power?

Mild Hybrid

Electric range: 0 kilometres

Why? The fuel engine is the main source of power which means mild hybrids cannot drive on electric power alone. The electric motor simply supports the engine and is typically used for coasting, braking and to assist in pulling away.

Full Hybrid

Electric range: 3 kilometres

Why? Full hybrids run mostly on diesel or petrol engines and can only be driven on electric power alone at very low speeds and for limited ranges.

Plug-in Hybrid

Electric range: 80 kilometres

Why? Plug-ins generally have larger batteries, which is fantastic if you frequently undertake shorter journeys. They can be done just using the electric power of the car.

Is it worth buying a hybrid car?

Hybrid cars have a lot going for them: They can be cheaper to maintain since there’s less wear and tear on the combustion engine, they’re fun to drive, better for the environment and your wallet. True, the initial purchase price is usually a little higher, but with rebates and tax credits, you’ll likely be able to offset the initial blow to your budget.

And don’t forget that you can expect to see a dramatic reduction in your running costs if you find a car that suits your travel needs. If we’ve caught your interest, you might like to continue reading about the benefits of hybrid cars and our top 5 recommended hybrid cars to purchase.

Whether you’re driving an electric vehicle or a good old fashioned car, the specialists at Novus Autoglass offer a range of services to help you maintain your car in tip-top shape. Speak with a member of our team today on 13 22 34, or contact us online to get your vehicle into top condition.