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EXPERT ADVICE

Envirotech can give you expert advice on what is the best Hybrid / EV that fits within your budget we also offer lease service and we will handle the maintenance at the best price.

 

Hybrid vs plug-in hybrid: What's the difference?

 

The main difference when looking at a hybrid vs a plug in hybrid is that the former is powered by both a petrol-fueled internal combustion engine and a battery-powered electric motor that can work either independently or simultaneously, whereas the latter is powered chiefly by an electric motor and will only use its internal-combustion engine as a back-up should your electric motor’s battery run out of juice.

SUV, BMW, AWD - if there’s one thing the automotive industry loves, it’s an acronym. 

A new addition to the ranks is ‘PHEV’. If you’re scratching your head in dismay wondering “What is a PHEV?”, we can reveal the PHEV meaning, which is, quite simply, ‘Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.’ 

But what is a plug-in hybrid vs regular hybrid, and how do the two types of vehicle compare? 

A regular hybrid (which most commonly refers to a parallel or "self-charging" hybrid in Toyota vernacular) is much the same as a PHEV, except that the electric motor and internal-combustion engine work either independently or concurrently to power the car, although a hybrid cannot be plugged into a recharging station to power up the car’s battery. 

Instead, the electricity in a hybrid car can be created via either acceleration while driving, engine idling, or a process called 'regenerative braking.' This is when kinetic energy that’s created when a vehicle slows down is converted into electricity by the electric motor which then gets stored in a small battery, thus essentially recharging your hybrid while you drive. Clever. 

The upside of this technology is lower fuel consumption, less wear on the engine and brakes, and also that the technology is much lighter and comparatively inexpensive when lined up against a plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicle.

The downside is that the range that this kind of a hybrid can travel in all-electric mode is usually quite limited - often as little as a few kilometers - and it can only go all-electric at limited speeds of up to about 30km/h. Plus, regular hybrids will always carry some kind of emissions burden as the engine will turn on every trip.

However, a hybrid does reduce fuel-consumption costs and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that contribute to air pollution by switching between using the electric motor and the combustion engine depending on the driving conditions, your speed and whether or not the car is stationary. 

Drivers won’t notice much difference as the hybrid toggles between the electric motor and internal-combustion engine - something that can be monitored on the vehicle’s multimedia screen or digital dash elements - save for the car occasionally running silently when in electric mode

Hybrids also have the advantage of being on the market for 20 years now, the original Toyota Prius having launched in NZ in 2001. This means the technology that hybrids use has been refined over time, leading to smaller and more efficient batteries, impressive reliability records, and greater power output. 

Another clear benefit drivers will find from owning a hybrid is the lack of need to charge the vehicle externally, which can take hours in the case of a plug-in or a fully electric vehicle.

What is a plug-in hybrid?

 

Plug-in hybrids, which have been available in NZ since 2011, are a good option for those who travel relatively short distances to work, due to the fact they can travel between 40 and 100km on electricity alone depending on the model, without having to use the petrol engine. 

The PHEV can then be charged via a wall socket or charging station during the work day, giving drivers the environmentally and wallet friendly ability to make their daily work commute a petrol- and emissions-free experience.

Functionally, PHEVs work in the same way as regular hybrid models, usually with more powerful electric motors to facilitate fully electric driving above 30km/h and larger batteries, which in turn increase the weight and cost of the vehicle.

Charging points can also be installed in people’s homes by a specialist technician, cutting down on the time taken to charge compared to a standard wall socket and eliminating the need to hunt down a public charging station.

The battery size of the PHEV determines its range and how long it takes to charge, as does the model of the vehicle and the actual charging outlet, making charging times vary greatly. A good rule of thumb is to expect a full charge to take somewhere in the vicinity of two to six hours in total. Some PHEVs have the additional benefit of vehicle-to-load systems (V2L) which allow you to dispense power to external devices from the car's battery via the charging port.

Some drivers will also like the fact they can drive all-electric in a PHEV, but they should be aware a full charge is unlikely to get them through a work week and the vehicle will require regular charging. 

All-electric driving will of course also cut down on fuel costs, so long as you keep the car’s battery charged. If leaning on the internal-combustion engine as the main source of power becomes the norm, expect greater petrol costs compared to a standard hybrid, as you'll be carrying around the significant heft of large batteries in a PHEV.

Which is more popular, and which should I buy?

Put simply - you need to buy the vehicle which best suits your needs. You need to understand the reality of needing to charge a PHEV constantly to get any benefit out of it - otherwise you're dragging around a lot of extra hardware with a combustion engine, which will result in higher, not lower, fuel consumption figures.

A PHEV will be most likely to work for you if you have access to a power outlet in your garage, and the available range on offer in the car you choose is more than your daily commute. Otherwise, a regular self-charging hybrid is a great way to cut your fuel bill in half at a lower up-front cost and without the hassle of charging.

Hybrids are becoming increasingly popular in Australia due to their combination of power, price and positive environmental impact. Hybrid sales in Australia overall saw a huge leap in 2022, recording a sizeable 21.0 per cent increase from 70,466 vehicles in 2021 to 81,786 vehicles sold by the end of 2022.

Several car manufacturers, like Toyota, Kia, Hyundai and Subaru, offer hybrid versions of their petrol-powered models, and the price difference between the two is usually comparatively small.

Electric cars vs petrol cars: What are the pros and cons of going electric?

A car that uses petrol is powered by an internal combustion engine that produces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that cause pollution, whereas an electric vehicle (EV) has an electric motor powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that produces no CO2 emissions, and indeed doesn't even have an exhaust pipe. 

Although cars with internal-combustion engines have been the norm for well over a century now, they are slowly but surely on their way out due to the development of vehicles like electric cars that are far better for the environment.

Some 10 million EVs were produced over the course of 2022, 95 per cent of which were sold in Europe, the US, and China. It's an emerging trend which is tilting squarely in favour of EVs in the electric cars vs petrol cars debate, as the number was just 3.1 million in 2020. 

Sales of EVs grew to 14 per cent of the global total in 2022 from 9 per cent in 2021 and 5 per cent in 2020, although that figure is forecast to balloon to a massive 28 per cent of new global car sales by the time 2030 rolls around, and 58 per cent by 2040. Meanwhile sales in Australia are hovering at roughly 7.5 per cent over the course of 2023, up from just 3.8 per cent in 2022.

Electric cars vs petrol cars: pollution

In the battle of electric cars vs petrol cars, emissions are obviously a huge factor to take into consideration, since 20 per cent of all CO2 emissions globally originate from road traffic. Fossil-fuel-devouring combustion engines create 1.2 to 1.6 times more CO2 than battery-powered electric cars, with EVs leaving a far less harmful carbon footprint. 

There are both advantages and disadvantages of electric cars, though. 

When weighing up electric cars vs petrol cars, environment pollution caused by CO2 seems to be solely attributed to internal-combustion engines, but that’s not the whole picture. 

The production of the lithium-ion batteries that electric vehicles use emits 1.43 times more CO2 than the production of internal-combustion engines, and the power plants that create the electricity needed for EVs can also be big producers of CO2 emissions, via the burning of fossil fuels. 

That being said, even if an electric car is powered from a coal-based grid, its emissions by the time the power gets to the wheels are still significantly lower than that of a combustion car, and electric vehicles are also able to claw back some of the emissions from manufacturing when they are charged with power from truly green sources, like solar or wind. They also offer those with solar arrays at their home a way to store power that they might not otherwise be able to use.

Electric cars vs petrol cars: cost

One of the major issues around EVs and their uptake in NZ is price. Due to the government’s refusal to offer any meaningful subsidies to consumers - as other authorities have done in Europe and the US, resulting in a sales boost - the cost of electric cars vs petrol cars is noticeably higher. 

In some cases an EV version of a particular model can be close to double the price of the petrol-powered variant, making EVs less attractive to anyone hoping to save a few bucks when purchasing a new car.

As for ongoing costs, EVs come out on top as they are cheaper than petrol cars to maintain since they have far less moving parts, thus requiring far less in the way of servicing. 

Electric cars vs petrol cars: range 

For those not in the know, ‘range’ refers to how far a car travel on a single tank of petrol (or a fully charged battery, in the case of an EV). 

The petrol car with the highest range is the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, which has a 1,875km range on a full tank - almost triple that of the highest performing locally-delivered EV, the Polestar 2 Long Range which has a top range of 654km. 

There’s also convenience to take into account: petrol stations are pretty much everywhere, meaning you’re only likely to run out of fuel if you head off into the middle of nowhere without considering where and when you’ll need to fill up again. However, electric vehicles can be charged up at home or in an office, and charge can often be topped up a little at a time at your local shops, meaning you may seldom have to even think about a longer hour-plus charging session which many potential EV owners dread.

However, while there’s been an improvement in the number of public electric charging stations over the last few years, there is still estimated to be a little over 3000 public charging stations Australia-wide, catering to the now over 10,000 EVs currently on NZ roads.

Electric cars vs petrol cars: performance

EVs are able to generate instant torque thanks to their simple electric motors, meaning they have much more rapid off-the-line performance when compared to their combustion alternatives, which often have to deal with mechanical complexities like gearboxes and turbo-lag.

Even a base Tesla Model 3 is capable of sprinting from 0-100km/h in just 6.1 seconds, a speed which you would usually have to buy an expensive performance-oriented variant or model of a combustion car to achieve.

While the additional weight of their batteries also make electric cars more easily cling to the ground, many manufacturers are yet to make their electric vehicles handle or ride as well as some of their much lighter combustion cars.

With their ability to instantaneously adjust torque, and in some cases be able to independently control each wheel, electric vehicles are theoretically also very capable off-road, although weight and range are an issue for getting to off-road locations and back, particularly if you want to take much with you.

 

Are electric cars better than petrol cars?

Having examined both the advantages and disadvantages of petrol cars and electric cars, the answer to this question will ultimately come down to what you value the most as a driver. 

Happy to pay a bigger upfront cost for longer-term savings? Electric cars are for you. 

Want to get a substantially longer driving range from your vehicle and enjoy the convenience of having petrol stations peppered around everywhere? A car with an internal-combustion engine might be the ticket.

The argument ender, however, may still come down to looking to the future and considering the environmental impact that your choice will have. 

Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics forecasts that EVs will have a whopping 60 per cent market share here by 2046, which calculates to a possible overall reduction of 18 million tones of CO2 being released into the atmosphere - an amount you can’t ignore if you’re concerned about the planet’s future.

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