Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, Electric Vehicles – What’s the difference?

Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, Electric Vehicles – What’s the difference?

Hybrid & Electric vehicles have become a very popular topic over the last few years. As these vehicles continue their march towards mainstream adoption the amount of questions that are asked increase as well. The most popular question being, “What is the difference between a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)?”

Let’s start with what is the same. Both hybrid vehicles use two propulsion methods, an internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor. The vehicles rotate between the two methods depending on the situation, and in times when extra power is needed they will draw from both sources. However, the key differences between the two systems are the primary source of energy and the overall energy efficiency. Let me elaborate below.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV):

The predominant fuel source for these vehicles is still fossil fuel, with a small battery, secondary. However, the amount of fuel required is reduced relative to a purely ICE vehicle. This is because the electric motor uses regenerative braking to capture energy and store it in the on-board battery. This stored energy is then used to provide power for the electric motor.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV):

A plug-in hybrid uses its electric motor to power all aspects of propulsion. The vehicle will continue to use the electric motor until battery levels reach a predetermined battery state of charge (SOC). At this SOC level, the vehicle enters a charge sustaining mode. The internal combustion engine, in some cases acting as a generator, then kicks in to supply power to the electric motor. A plug-in hybrid is essentially an electric vehicle that can call on fossil fuel to extend its range.

Electric Vehicles (BEV):

A fully Electric vehicle uses an Electric Motor as it’s only power source and relies solely on Battery power. Electricity is transferred from a plug-in socket or charging station. The BEV will also utilize brake regeneration to maximize range. This means that BEVs are completely independent of fossil fuel and are nonpolluting, Zero Emission Vehicles.

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