What are the different types of hybrid car?

There are three main types of hybrid car and the main difference between them is how far they can travel on electric power.

Electric Assistance

Mild Hybrids

Typically, a mild hybrid does not use its electric motor to move the car and has a very small battery. The hybrid system is used for coasting, braking and to assist with pulling away, providing small efficiency improvements.

Short electric range


A hybrid (also called a full hybrid, strong hybrid or standard hybrid) primarily uses its petrol engine, with the electric motor taking over when it's more efficient such as at very low speeds. 

Extended electric range

Plug-in Hybrids

A plug-in hybrid truly bridges the gap between a petrol and electric car, with a larger capacity battery able to take the car significant distances. As the name suggests, a plug-in hybrid can be plugged in to charge the battery, allowing it to achieve far greater fuel economy than other types of hybrid.

How far can each type of hybrid travel on electric power?

EV drive range is the main difference between the three types of hybrid cars. It's a common misconception that a standard or mild hybrid offers the same efficiency as a plug-in hybrid. In reality they're very different.

Mild Hybrid

Electric range: 0 miles

Fuel engine is the main source of power. Electric motor supports the engine and is typically used for coasting, braking and to assist in pulling away. The battery is charged by the engine and the car cannot be plugged in. Mild hybrids cannot really drive on electric power alone.

Models include: Honda Accord Hybrid


Electric range: 1 - 2 miles

A standard hybrid (HEV) runs mostly on its engine (i.e. diesel/petrol), but can run on just the electric motor or a combination of both. A hybrid's battery is charged from the engine and cannot be plugged in.

Models include: Toyota Prius

Plug-in Hybrid

Electric range: 28 miles

A plug-in hybrid has a larger battery that can let it run for multiple miles, allowing whole journeys to be done just on electric power. It has the same abilities you get from mild and standard hybrids but with the added benefit of being able to run for miles on electric power alone.

Models include: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Taking the plunge

Is it worth buying a hybrid?

Hybrid cars can be cheaper to maintain, because normal motoring creates less wear and tear on the engine. A plug-in hybrid can run on electric power further and for longer – so there’s even less demand on the engine. So for both hybrids and plug-in hybrids, you can expect to see a dramatic reduction on your running costs.

Outlander Plug-in hybrid

What’s the best hybrid car to buy?

We’re biased of course, but we do believe that the Outlander PHEV is the best hybrid available in the UK… it’s certainly the best-selling.

With legendary Mitsubishi reliability, an EV range of 28 miles, and an all-terrain 4WD system to handle any weather, you might just think it’s the best too.

Learn when the engine takes over from the motor in a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid


A hybrid engine

A standard hybrid uses an electric motor to start off and up to speeds of around 25mph. At that point, the petrol engine takes over. The battery automatically charges as you drive, through a process called regenerative braking.


A plug-in hybrid engine

A plug-in hybrid has a motor and engine which work together in harmony to deliver the most fuel-efficient journey. On a short commute, or at lower speeds, the electric motor is doing all the work. When you need extra power, (on a steep hill or motorway) the petrol engine takes over.

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