Looking to do your bit for the environment and lower your emissions? Switching from a petrol-guzzling car to an electric vehicle is a smart step towards a more sustainable future.
Many Australians are exploring other low-emission vehicles, such as hybrid cars. In 2022, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reported a +16% increase in the sale of non-plug-in hybrid vehicles, more than double the number of pure EVs sold during the same time period.
While pure EVs were once much more expensive than petrol-fuelled ICE (internal combustion engine) cars, things are changing.
But while hybrid vehicles can come with a lower initial price tag and remove the range anxiety of a fully electric car, these cars come with a number of considerations you need to know about before making the switch.
In this complete comparison guide to hybrid vs electric cars, we’ll be offering:
- A deep dive into EVs vs hybrid cars
- The pros and cons of hybrid vs EVs
- Answers to FAQs about EVs vs hybrid cars
What you need to know about Electric Cars
As the name suggests, electric cars (or EVs for short) are powered by electricity. EVs use electric motors and operate on energy stored in rechargeable batteries under the hood.
Unlike ICE vehicles, EVs don’t produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and are charged by plugging your car into at-home or public charging stations. EVs have a simpler battery-powered drivetrain and fewer moving parts, such as no mechanical engine or exhaust system.
Plus, without a traditional gearbox-style transmission, electric motors allow EVs to deliver instant torque and no gear shift lag, offering seamless acceleration and a quieter drive.
Pros of Electric Cars
Alongside their environmental benefits, EVs offer a smooth, easy drive with only one gear and a responsive driving experience. With over 91 electric vehicle models available in Australia, popularity is steadily increasing as the latest stats reveal EV sales have risen by 120% year-on-year in 2023.
The benefits of EVs include:
- Cheaper to maintain: With just 17 moving parts in the drivetrain (compared to the 200+ found in a traditional ICE car), servicing and maintaining an EV is much more cost-effective. Plus, if you harness regenerative braking, you’ll increase the lifespan of your brakes, too.
- Lower emissions: When comparing medium-sized cars driving 15,000 km per year, EVs emit 1.83 tonnes of CO2 annually, compared to a mid-size ICE car which emits 6.61 tonnes of CO2 each year. Plus, EVs produce no tailpipe CO2.
Learn more about the emissions produced by EVs in this guide from the University of Sydney.
- More reliable: Free from petrol engines, spark plugs and exhaust systems, the streamlined power system of an EV means fewer things can break down or go wrong.
- Convenient to charge: With the ability to harness overnight Level 1 Trickle Charging at home using a standard household power point, you don’t necessarily need a dedicated charging unit to recharge your EV. If charge speed is a priority, you can plug into one of the 2,400 public charging stations across Australia.
Cons of Electric Cars
While EVs offer a stack of perks, there are a few considerations are well, including:
- High initial investment: Pure EVs in Australia will currently set you back anywhere from $40k to $200k+, sometimes making them a higher initial investment than a standard ICE vehicle. However, as demand for EVs increases and the cost of manufacturing EV batteries reduces, fully electric cars are expected to reduce in price.
Take this example: a brand new ICE Mazda 3 is only $6,000 cheaper than the most affordable EV, illustrating that the price gap is rapidly closing.
- Perceived problems with range: One of the biggest concerns about EVs is how far they can drive before needing to be recharged. As an example, the Tesla Model 3 offers a range of 513km on a single charge. On average, most drivers travel around 32km per day to commute to and from work, meaning you’ll easily be covered for day-to-day use.
What you need to know about Hybrid Cars
Running on both petrol and electric power, hybrid cars offer both an engine and an electric motor. While hybrid cars don’t completely reduce your emissions to zero, the emissions you produce are significantly less than a standard petrol car.
Importantly, there are two types of hybrid vehicles on the market:
- Non-plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs): These hybrid vehicles aren’t able to be plugged in to charge. Instead, they harness regenerative braking to recharge the battery. HEVs use the ICE as the primary power source, meaning they commonly switch to electric power only when idle or driving at low speeds.
- Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs): On the flip side, PHEVs can be plugged into EV charging stations and refuelled with petrol at traditional service stations. This means PHEVs have both an internal combustion engine (ICE) and a battery-powered electric motor. These models are less common in Australia but offer bigger battery packs and longer all-electric driving range (meaning the ICE is less commonly used).
What makes hybrid cars appealing to buyers is their price point. While hybrids cost more than a standard petrol car, they are cheaper than a fully electric car (with hybrids starting at $25,500).
Pros of Hybrid Cars
If you want to go electric without going all-in on an EV, hybrid cars can offer a range of benefits, including:
- Lower emissions: Although hybrid cars still produce emissions, they are significantly lower than conventional ICE cars. Plus, the additional battery power means they’re more fuel efficient (especially if you predominately drive on the ‘all-electric’ mode).
Take this example: PHEVs produce 51g/km of CO2, while light SUVs generate 149.5g/km.
- Improved performance: An ICE improves performance, while an electric motor allows you to reach maximum torque instantly. In some cases, you can even gain power from both sources at the same time.
- No range anxiety: As you’re already familiar with running an ICE vehicle, you won’t face the typical range anxiety that comes with a fully electric car.
Cons of Hybrid Cars
While hybrid cars do offer a bunch of benefits, they need to be used and maintained in a specific way to unlock the full potential of a hybrid drive. In fact, it’s likely you’ll encounter these common drawbacks, including:
- Higher cost to maintain: With both an ICE and battery pack under the hood, you’ll need to cover the costs of maintaining both motor systems. From battery degradation to oil leaks and even clogged fuel systems, there’s more that can go wrong in a hybrid car (which can increase the maintenance costs significantly for you).
- Reduce boot space: With a large battery pack to store (especially in PHEVs), you may have to compromise storage space when opting for a hybrid car.
"The biggest challenge we see with PHEVs is this: drivers don’t plug them in enough. This can cause the battery to degrade faster and reduce the fuel efficiency of your car (as you’re carrying around the extra weight of a battery pack).
We only see a small number of situations where a PHEV makes sense for buyers. If you’re plugging them in at home daily, driving more than 300km per day and living in an area without access to Level 3 Rapid Charging infrastructure, PHEVs can be useful. Otherwise, you’ll encounter the worst of both worlds".
EV vs Hybrid Cars: Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the main difference between electric cars and hybrid cars?
EVs offer a zero-emissions car making them a truly ‘green’ option for environmentally conscious drivers. While the initial cost of a fully electric car is higher than a hybrid car, EVs tend to be cheaper to maintain over the long term (thanks to the simplified drivetrain of an EV).
In contrast, hybrid cars harness both a petrol-powered engine and an electric motor. While this does reduce fuel consumption and alleviate range anxiety, hybrids come with higher maintenance costs (as you need to upkeep both an ICE and an electric motor, making them the more expensive option in the long run).
Are hybrid cars more reliable than EVs?
Not necessarily. While hybrid cars can run on both petrol and electric power, having two power sources means there is a higher chance of issues or problems with a hybrid car’s mechanics. Not only does this make hybrids more expensive to maintain, but it reduces their reliability, too.
What is the range of EVs vs hybrid cars?
All hybrid cars in Australia offer at least 50km of range on battery power alone before the ICE takes over. In contrast, fully electric cars offer an average range of 357km.
Are EVs or hybrid cars a better choice?
Here at Vyro, we’re big advocates for fully electric cars. Offering zero emissions, a simplified drivetrain and lower maintenance costs, EVs tend to be a better choice for a broad range of buyers interested in switching to a green vehicle.
As Charlie Richardson (our Head of Strategy) explains, “We know for a fact, from OEM research, that drivers do not plug-in their hybrid vehicles enough to achieve the full benefit of the batteries. A fundamental problem with hybrids is they require near daily charging due to their small battery/range. If an owner doesn't do that, then much of the benefit of a hybrid is out the window. EV owners, on the other hand, typically charge once or twice a week. It's much more like owning an ICE vehicle."
Final Word on EVs vs Hybrid Cars in Australia
When it comes to comparing EVs and hybrid cars, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and how you plan to use your car.
If you’re driving long distances daily and don’t have access to rapid charging stations or a home charging station, a hybrid car might make sense. However, if you’re driving shorter distances each day, can recharge at home each night and care about securing a zero-emission vehicle, EVs are the top choice.
At Vyro, we aim to educate ourselves so we can better educate you, so we can help you make an informed decision. If you’re thinking about making the switch, get in contact today: email@example.com or 02 8311 4239