close up of an open charging port with someone about to plug a charging cable in

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

A PHEV, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, is one of the most commonly seen style of hybrid vehicle, and the type that most people now immediately think of when hearing the words ‘hybrid car’. Read on to find out more about PHEVs.

What is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle?

Plug-in hybrids are similar to mild-hybrid vehicles in that they switch between using the diesel/petrol engine and electric motor to improve efficiency. The difference is, unlike regular hybrids, plug-ins come with a higher-capacity battery and can be plugged-in to drive short distances on all-electric power. So, if you regularly make short trips and very rarely go on long adventures, this is a great way to keep your on-road activity free from fuel consumption.

Plug-in hybrids are the ultimate form of hybrid models, because, as you might have gathered, you can plug them into an external source of electricity to charge the batteries. This is great, because you can top the batteries up overnight and have a full charge when you head to work the next morning (or even at public fast chargers). This means you can maximise the electric-only range, and if your daily commute is quite short, you might find yourself rarely calling on petrol power, saving you lots of money in the long run.

If you don’t want to plug-in the hybrid you don’t have to. It will simply function as a regular hybrid. However, the downsides are that the charging technology tends to make PHEVs pricier than other hybrids. Meanwhile, if you have no means to charge the battery yourself, you might as well save that initial cash and go for a normal hybrid.

The benefits of plug-in hybrid vehicles

While plug-in hybrid vehicles have been on the market for several years, fully electric vehicles (EVs) and mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEVs) have become increasingly accessible in recent times. Nonetheless, plug-in hybrid vehicles remain the most common and popular solution for UK drivers.

Thanks to the fact that the plug-in hybrid vehicles market is a little older, there are a far greater number of new and used hybrids compared to MHEVs and BEVs. 

Today’s plug-in hybrid vehicle driver can enjoy;

  • Greater emissions reductions than mild hybrid electric vehicles.

  • Maintain a more ‘natural’ driving feel than all-electric cars offer.

  • Increased fuel economy for reduced running costs.

  • Smoother driving as the electric generator and combustion engine work together.

  • Less panic to find a plug-in point as the engine can take over.

  • The electric motor lasts longer than MHEVs while the engine outlasts EVs.

  • Road tax savings as well as avoidance of congestion charges.

What to consider before buying a PHEV

The road to driving greener vehicles has already been set out, so what does that mean for the everyday driver? Before purchasing a plug-in hybrid vehicle, it is important to consider any potential drawbacks. According to the scheme, even hybrids are likely to be outlawed in 2035 as a part of the switch to electric vehicles. Although, like standard engine vehicles, they stand to lose value at this time. In reality, though, most drivers will upgrade their motor at least once or twice between now and that date.

Nonetheless, the PHEV still won’t match the environmental-friendliness of an all-electric counterpart. The fuel engine will still be used during journeys, with most plug-ins offering somewhere between 25 and 50 miles on their respective all-electric modes. Likewise, the ongoing running costs will be slightly higher, although the vehicle costs are significantly cheaper too.

The plug-in hybrid vehicles may not need to be charged as frequently as an EV, not least because engine mode will take care of everything when needed. However, it will be necessary to charge regularly if you want to unlock the best results. Given that charging stations are still less accessible than most drivers would like, a home charge may be needed.

What to look for when buying a plug-in hybrid vehicle

If your research has determined that a plug-in hybrid vehicle is the right option at this stage, the next step is to ensure that the best vehicle is selected. Used PHEVs are readily available, but it’s important not to go back too far in time as the tech has improved greatly in a short space of time. Further issues to consider are;

  • What is the all-electric mode’s mileage limit?

  • Which manufacturers and models will leave you feeling confident behind the wheel?

  • Is the size and weight of the car aligned to your needs or will it waste more energy than is saved?

  • What is the price of the vehicle and expected running costs?

  • Does the model of car provide comfort for the family as well as strong performance levels?

By focusing on the above points, narrowing the search to find the best PHEVs currently on the UK market. Nonetheless, the only way to be 100% confident in your purchase is to try a vehicle out.

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