Everything You Need to Know About Hybrid Cars

Discover the World of Hybrid

hybrid car

The number of hybrid and electric cars on the road continues to rise as more of us try to be more environmentally friendly. This is only a good thing, particularly as the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) found that transport alone accounts for around 40% of Ireland’s total energy-related CO2 emissions*.

In order for Ireland to reduce its non-ETS emissions (emissions produced by homes, cars, agriculture and small businesses) by 2030, more needs to be done. And this is where you could come in. By switching from a fossil-fuel vehicle to an electric or hybrid, you could be helping to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions being produced by transport in Ireland.

What is a Hybrid Car?

A hybrid car is one that runs on multiple types of fuel, usually electricity and petrol/diesel. They can often switch between the type of fuel they use to create a more efficient driving experience. However, there are multiple types of hybrid car:

  • Full hybrid
  • Mild hybrid
  • Plug-in hybrid

We run through each of these types in more detail below.

What are Full Hybrid Cars?

A full hybrid car is one that has a combustion engine, the same as any petrol or diesel vehicle, as well as an electric motor.

When the car is moving, the power that’s produced by the combustion engine can be used to partially charge the battery pack that can then power the electric motor. These are sometimes also known as self-charging hybrids. In comparison to fully electric vehicles (EVs), the battery pack is very small, but it’s big enough to allow some parts of the car to be powered by electricity.

Usually, full hybrid cars will use the battery power at low speeds, such as when you’re crawling through traffic, making it (temporarily) a fully electric vehicle. But when you require more power or acceleration, the combustion engine will kick in instead.

The system does also have the ability to run both systems together if required, and in doing so, it can save petrol or diesel. For instance, the Volvo XC90 Recharge model uses the combustion engine to power the front wheels and the electric motor to power the back wheels at the same time. The car does this for you so you can just drive as you usually would.

A full hybrid doesn’t need to be plugged in to charge, as the battery gets all the charge it needs from the combustion engine.

Examples of a full hybrid car include the Volvo XC90, Lexus UX, Kia Niro Hybrid, Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and Toyota Corolla.

What are Self-Charging Hybrid Cars?

A self-charging hybrid is the same as a full hybrid, and they have both a combustion engine and an electric motor to power the vehicle.

What are Mild Hybrid Cars?

Mild hybrid cars are similar to full hybrid, but they usually have a smaller battery pack that cannot power the car independently, even at slow speeds - the two engines always work in parallel instead of just one or the other.

While they rely mostly on diesel or petrol to run their engine, they are more energy efficient as the electricity that is generated while they drive can partially power the car. They can be a good compromise if you’re struggling to decide between an EV and a fossil-fuel powered vehicle, as you don’t even notice that the car is generating small amounts of electricity.

Examples include the Audi S5, Suzuki Swift, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Fiesta.

What are Plug-In Hybrid Cars?

A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is a little more self explanatory - these cars have much bigger batteries and they need to be plugged in to charge. However, the bonus is that their range is much longer and they are more environmentally friendly than mild or full-hybrid varieties, particularly if you charge them with electricity that was generated through renewable sources.

Depending on the type of plug-in hybrid you purchase, they usually run completely on electricity until the battery has no more power left. At this point, the combustion engine starts up and acts much like a generator. Instead of using the fuel to power an engine, it instead provides the battery with charge to keep the electric motor running. The battery can also be charged whenever you brake or coast, too. If you drive very short distances, then you could be using only electricity to power your vehicle.

As well as charging the vehicle with electricity, you need to ensure that it stays topped up with fuel, too. Most plug-in hybrids run on petrol rather than diesel.

Examples of plug-in hybrids include the Mini Countryman PHEV, BMW 330e, Audi Q7 e-tron and VW Golf GTE.

What Are The Benefits Of Owning A Hybrid Car?

Now you understand what a hybrid car is, and the types that are available, what exactly are their benefits?

Cheaper Motor Tax

Motor tax is generally based on emissions - the older your vehicle is and the less environmentally friendly it is, the more you will have to pay. As the government is trying to encourage the switch to hybrid and electric vehicles, road tax can be much cheaper on these types of cars.

Better For The Environment

It’s thought that hybrid cars produce approximately 90% fewer emissions than their fossil-fuel counterparts. Although they still use some petrol or diesel, their additional electric motor or battery means they consume less fuel. Reduced fuel usage means better economy, and the environment will be happier as a result, particularly if lots of people use a hybrid as a daily driver.

You can even improve the efficiency of your hybrid car through the way you drive. For instance, accelerating very quickly causes the combustion engine to kick in, so if you try to drive more smoothly, your vehicle could be even more efficient.

Cheaper To Run

As you’re using less fuel to power your vehicle, their running costs can be cheaper, too. As the hybrid vehicle runs, it uses some power from the combustion engine (or from braking and coasting) to power the battery for you. This additional energy can be used instead of fuel, meaning your tank of petrol could actually go further, costing you less to fill up each month.

You Can Charge Them With Renewable Energy

If your home has solar panels, you can charge your plug-in hybrid using renewable energy, making it even cheaper to run and even better for the environment.

What Are The Negatives Of Owning A Hybrid Car?

While there are some clear positives to owning a hybrid car, there are some drawbacks too.

Not Ideal For People With Long Commutes

Hybrid cars generally use most of their electricity at low speeds, and so if you regularly have a long commute or do lots of motorway driving, you might not see the benefits. The combustion engine usually kicks in when the battery doesn’t have enough power to reach the speed you want, and driving at fast speeds requires more power. Therefore, your full hybrid may actually use very little electricity, and instead run like a normal car. This can significantly increase the running costs and the car’s emissions.

Limited Driving Range

One of things that puts most people off hybrid vehicles is their limited range. A tank of petrol or diesel can typically last around 600-800 kilometres before you have to refill, whereas an electric motor on a hybrid car will last for around 40 to 65km. Once the battery is dead, the combustion engine can kick in and power your car instead, so you don’t have to recharge after just 65km. However, it can reduce the efficiency of the vehicle, particularly if you have a plug-in hybrid that needs recharging.

To give you an idea of how far you can travel, a Range Rover Sport PHEV has a range of around 48km and the Renault Captur E-Tech offers up to 65km.

Slow Charging Time

While their range can be limited, these cars can also take some time to charge. There are two main ways to power your hybrid car: by installing a charge point at home or using public points when you’re out and about. EVs take a long time to charge on a home charger, such as up to 12 hours, however hybrid cars will charge faster than this, as their batteries are a lot smaller. It could still take up to three hours to power a plug-in hybrid though. This is why they’re better suited to small drives in your local area, as you can charge the car when you get home. But when you’re on a long drive, you likely won’t want to stop for three hours to charge the vehicle, and therefore could rely more heavily on petrol or diesel.

Initial Cost

Because of their additional electric motor and battery, hybrid cars in Ireland can be significantly more expensive than their fossil-fuel alternatives. While there used to be grants available to reduce their cost, these have since been eradicated and are only available on fully electric cars. It’s worth considering, however, that the cheaper running costs and reduced motor tax could make this initial expense more worthwhile.

SEAI is still offering grants for home charge points, and this allows you to claim up to €600 towards the purchase and installation of an electric charge point.

Does A Hybrid Car Affect Your Car Insurance?

Car insurance is another element to factor in, so how does a hybrid car affect your premiums? Generally, as these cars are more expensive to purchase and have more specialist parts, your insurance will go up too. In the case of an accident, a provider would likely pay out more for your claim than for a petrol or diesel car. While it’s unusual that the battery would ever need to be replaced during your car’s lifetime, this is also still a possibility that a provider must consider when giving you a quote.

Should You Consider A Hybrid Car?

So with all of this in mind, is a hybrid car the right choice for you?

A hybrid car will suit someone that does a lot of local or city driving, taking short journeys here and there to the shops or to work, for example. When this is the case, you’ll likely put less fuel into the car and will make the most of the battery power that usually kicks in at low speeds. This is the most efficient way to drive a hybrid vehicle, so your running costs will be lower, too.

If you don’t want to charge your hybrid and you do these kinds of short journeys, then a full or mild hybrid is probably the right choice for you. However, if you are happy to charge your vehicle yourself and want a slightly improved electric range, then a plug-in hybrid is likely the way forward.

However, if you regularly undertake long drives, particularly on fast roads, or accelerate quite quickly, a hybrid could be more expensive to run, produce more emissions and will use more fuel. Therefore, you should consider whether a hybrid is right for you, or if you should stick with a standard fossil-fuel powered car. Alternatively, a fully electric vehicle could be the way forward, if you’re happy to stop and charge it as and when needed.

Looking to insure your hybrid vehicle? Chill offers insurance for vehicles of all fuel types, so get in touch with us today for a quote.

*Data correct as of 2019