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Types of electric cars & how to choose

The BMW iX

Want to make the switch from petrol and diesel to electric?

If you are planning to swap your existing petrol or diesel car it may feel like a big step, but a growing number of governments around the world are putting a time limit on the combustion engine.

Across the European Union, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2035, while France has announced plans to try to ban petrol and diesel cars on the country’s roads altogether by 2040. In the UK, by 2030 all new cars sold will be electric.

So, the future is electric, but what electric cars are available and how do you know which one to go for?

What types of electric cars are there?

There are three options when moving to an electric vehicle:

  • Hybrid
  • Plug-in Hybrid
  • Electric

So what’s the difference between a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all electric vehicles?

Electric vehicles operate with a variety of different technologies with varying degrees of electrification. The different variants range from mild electric hybridizations of combustion engines, where the electric motor cannot drive the car by itself, hybrids or plug-in hybrids to full electrification in all-electric cars where there is only an electric motor and a battery.

The Citroen C4e


What are hybrid cars?
Hybrid vehicles have both a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor. The system is very similar to that of plug-in hybrids, with the difference that the battery in this type of car has a reduced capacity to power the electric motor. There are two different types of hybrid vehicles.

Parallel hybrid car wheels are powered by the combustion engine, the electric motor or a combination of both. Decelerating or using the brakes recharges the battery.

Range extender hybrid cars use the combustion engine to recharge the battery for the electric motor. In some vehicles, there are three modes: electric, in which the petrol engine charges the battery of the electric motor to drive the car; hybrid, in which the car switches between the petrol engine and electric motor according to the conditions, and finally, engine mode in which the petrol engine alone is used.

Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs)

What are plug-in hybrid cars?
These electrified cars have both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, which can be used to move the car or recharge the battery. The battery, which is larger than in hybrid vehicles, can also be charged by plugging in to the power network. The electric range of this type of electric vehicle varies from one model to another, ranging from 10 km to 80 km.


Electric cars

What are electric cars?
This is the pure electric car since the engine work exclusively thanks to electric energy. In other words, they do not have any internal combustion engine. The motors of this type of electric vehicle obtain their energy from the batteries, which are recharged by plugging into the power grid.

How to choose an electric car
Firstly, this will depend on where you live and the kind of driving you do. If you do most of your mileage in an urban environment but still drive long distances, you may gain the most benefit from running on electric-only power and a hybrid car could suit you best. For frequent short trips then you may be better off with an electric car, which will give you urban travel with no emissions and no need to visit a filling station.

For fuel efficiency over longer miles without the need to stop to charge the vehicle, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) can be a good option. The PHEV battery can be recharged using a home charge point or via the public charging network. Plug-in hybrids are the halfway point between hybrid and fully electric vehicles. Some driving can be done on electric power but with the combustion engine as a buffer.

‘Range anxiety’ has been a feature of life for early owners of electric cars, however the public charging networks are expanding daily, and the distance cars are able to go on a single charge is increasing. If you have access to driveway parking, a home charge unit will enable you to charge the car more quickly using cheaper overnight tariffs.