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The ultimate guide to hybrid cars

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WhoCanFixMyCar answers all your questions relating to hybrid cars.

The future seems pretty bleak for the cars we know and love. Fuel prices are at an all time high, with diesel hitting an astonishing 147.94 pence per litre in October 2021, not to mention the fact that traditional petrol and diesel cars will be banned by the Government from 2030 onwards. But does it all have to be doom and gloom? What about hybrid and electric cars - could we grow to love them, too?

We’ve all heard complaints from avid petrol-heads along the lines of “there aren’t enough charging points” and “the batteries don’t last long enough”. With so many contradictory opinions flying around, it can be difficult to work out what’s true and what’s simply the result of a stubborn resistance to change. 

However, this change doesn’t have to be as radical as many EV critics make it seem, namely because they overlook one crucial detail - that hybrid cars offer a compromise which is greener and more sustainable than traditional combustion engines without losing the reliable familiarity of fuel-based transport. 

At WhoCanFixMyCar, we’ve gathered a list of the most common questions drivers have about hybrid vehicles so we can help to settle the debate once and for all.

Contents:

What is a hybrid car?

Hybrid vs electric - which is better?

How long do hybrid batteries last?

Are hybrid batteries expensive?

How much electricity does a hybrid car use?

Can hybrid cars run on electricity only?

Are all hybrid cars automatic?

What type of batteries are used in hybrid cars?

Are hybrid car batteries recyclable?


What is a hybrid car?

Hybrid cars run on a mixture of traditional fuel (petrol or diesel) and electricity. They have a battery, an electric motor, a fuel tank and an internal combustion motor. You could say they offer the best of both worlds. 

You can get plug-in hybrids, which, as you’d imagine, can be plugged in to charge, or you can get hybrids which can’t be plugged in. Instead, they have a small battery pack that is charged by regenerative braking and from the engine itself.


Hybrid vs electric - which is better?

Electric pros

  • Zero direct emissions

  • Can be charged at home - convenient

  • Charging is much cheaper than filling up with fuel

  • Less maintenance costs - no combustion engine

  • Instant power

Electric cons

  • Charging stations - having one fitted at home costs around £1000

  • According to Ovo Energy, the average range of an electric car is 193 miles. Even traditional cars with tiny tanks like the Hyundai i10 can get around 330 miles

  • High replacement battery costs

Hybrid pros

  • Plug in hybrids can run on just electric or just fuel, giving you more options

  • More affordable than electric cars

  • Fewer maintenance costs than traditional cars

  • Bigger driving range than electric cars (and many traditional ones, too!)

  • More model & style choices than electric cars

Hybrid cons

  • Emissions - less than traditional cars, more than electric

  • Power - less than traditional cars, more than electric

  • Maintenance costs - there are less bills generally but when they happen they are often more expensive

So, to summarise…

Electric cars are better for the environment, offer instant power and have less maintenance costs.

Hybrid cars are less expensive to buy, offer the best of both worlds and give you better range.


How long do hybrid batteries last?

Fortunately, the batteries in hybrid cars are designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle, so they should certainly surpass 100,000 miles, and many manufacturers offer excellent warranties. For example, Toyota provides a 10 year warranty and, providing the car undergoes an annual service, a further one year/10,000 miles of Hybrid Battery Extended Cover for up to 15 years.

The longevity of each battery will be influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • Driving style

  • Make and model

  • Maintenance

  • Load weight

  • Cleanliness


Are hybrid batteries expensive?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is yes. Hybrid batteries generally cost between £1000 to £3000, but it’s not all bad news. Since they are designed to last the lifetime of the car, it’s unlikely you’ll actually need to foot this bill at any point. Not to mention the fact that they are coming down in price all the time as more hybrids are manufactured and demand steadily grows.


How much electricity does a hybrid car use?

When you pay for hybrid or electric car charging, you do so by kilowatt-hour (kWh). Bear in mind, this is only necessary if your hybrid car is chargeable and doesn’t rely on regenerative braking as some cars do. 

If you’ve got a specific hybrid car in mind, find out how much you pay for your electricity at home (this might be quite a lot at the moment, given the ongoing energy crisis!) and multiply it by the battery size of your plug in hybrid. 

So, let’s say you pay 10p per kilowatt-hour and the battery size is 50kW. It would cost £5 for a full charge. 


Can hybrid cars run on electricity only?

It depends on the type of hybrid car you have. There are three main types:

  • Mild hybrid - relies on the combustion engine with the electric components simply giving it a boost.

  • Full hybrid - can operate for a short distance on electric alone, but only at slower speeds.

  • Plug-in hybrid - charge batteries through external (such as the Bentley Flying Spur below), as well as internal, chargers. 

If you want a vehicle than can run solely on electricity, you’ll need to purchase either a fully-electric car or a plug-in hybrid which offers the best of both worlds.


Are all hybrid cars automatic?

Fully hybrid cars and plug-in hybrid cars will always be automatic simply because there is no benefit to having a manual transmission when operating solely on electric power. Some plug-in hybrids allow you to change gears using paddles; this is called a semi-automatic gearbox.

If you’re averse to the idea of driving an automatic (we don’t blame you!) then you’ll be pleased to know that mild hybrids can still come with a manual gearbox.


What type of batteries are used in hybrid cars?

Lithium Ion

Lithium Ion batteries offer energy efficiency while still providing plenty of power. They are lighter than many other types of battery, though they’re fairly expensive to buy.

Nickel Metal Hydride Battery (NiMH)

This is the type of battery that most hybrid vehicles on the market today will use. They have been on the market for a long time so are usually more affordable, but they store less energy than lithium ion battery packs.

Lead Acid Battery

Lead acid batteries are the most affordable of the three options since they have been around for the longest. They are used in both hybrids and traditional cars, so their safety has long been tested. Usually, lead acid batteries can be found in mild hybrids.


Are hybrid car batteries recyclable?

Recycling electrical car batteries is a technical and complex process which is not widely done in the UK. However, it is certainly possible, and with more and more EVs and hybrids being bought every day, recycling batteries is only going to get easier with time.


Other guides

If we've sparked your interest in the world of EVs and hybrids, why not check out the other guides we have on this topic?

Are electric cars easy to maintain?

Is the future of cars electric or hydrogen?

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