What is the Difference Between Hybrid and Electric Cars?

The difference between hybrid & electric cars comes down to power source & incentives. Hybrids use ICE & electric motor while EVs use only battery & motor. Learn more about federal & state incentives for EVs.

What is the Difference Between Hybrid and Electric Cars?

The main difference between a hybrid and an electric vehicle is the way each one is powered; a hybrid seamlessly switches between electrical energy and a combination of gasoline and electric energy, while an electric vehicle operates solely on battery power. The difference between hybrid and electric cars comes down to the power source. A hybrid car utilizes an internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor, with separate batteries for each. An electric vehicle, on the other hand, only uses a battery and an electric motor to operate.

Both types of vehicles have a lower environmental impact than cars that run solely on ICE (gasoline only), but they differ in initial cost, driving range, maintenance costs, and ease of refueling or charging. Technology's PHEVs have a larger battery than that of normal hybrids, so they can drive farther and more frequently with electrical energy. As with normal hybrids, regenerative braking can extend battery life, and the electric motor and ICE operate back and forth as needed. Owners can get by with Level 1 charging (120 volts) because the battery packs are small compared to those in pure electric vehicles.

Hybrids usually combine a relatively small gasoline engine, at least one electric motor, and a small battery pack. Many hybrids only get energy automatically from the electric motor below certain speeds, so they tend to be much more efficient under city driving conditions. Electric vehicles (EVs) have a battery instead of a gas tank and an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. Incentives are constantly changing and vary from state to state, so it's always important to confirm the current options available for use with the purchase of an electric or hybrid vehicle.

However, if the warranty has passed, replacing the complex electric battery could end up costing a significant amount of money. Because hybrids can rely on their electric motor to relieve pressure on their combustion engine, their maintenance may not cost as much as traditional ICEs, but it will still end up costing more than an electric vehicle. You can learn more about federal and state incentives for electric vehicles in EnergySage's guide to electric car tax credits. One reason to opt for an electric or hybrid vehicle is the federal and state incentives that come with it.

Electricity comes from many generating sources, from the burning of fossil fuels to renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric energy. The Department of Energy has created a practical tool called eGallon, which can directly compare the cost of driving with electricity with that of electric cars that rely solely on electricity, whether on a power grid, a solar system, or the kinetic energy of breakage for energy. Owners don't have to worry about plugging in their hybrid vehicle, and these models are driven in a similar way to regular cars. The only exception is the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), a hybrid that uses hydrogen instead of gasoline and emits no tailpipe emissions.