The engine and motors in electric cars

We look at the engines and motors

Learn what makes an electric vehicle accelerate. Understand the engines and motors in hybrids and plug-in hybrids – why they differ and how it impacts performance.

Electric Benefits

Are electric cars good cars?

Yes, the build quality of pure electric vehicles is outstanding these days, especially at the top end of the market. They often have the same levels of luxury and convenience in the cabin as a conventional car, plus there's the added benefit of being cheaper to run and emitting less CO2 – so you avoid congestion charges.

What’s the difference between an EV, hybrid and a PHEV?

Explore our guide to hybrids to see how electric vehicles (EV), hybrids and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) are different.


Electric motor only

An electric vehicle (EV) is powered only by an electric motor. Because it runs on electric power, it's better for the environment and your wallet. The battery must be charged from an external power supply.


Electric motor and petrol engine

A hybrid has both a petrol engine and an electric motor. The electric motor starts the vehicle off, then the petrol engine takes over. This improves fuel efficiency and reduces running costs. The battery charges when the vehicle is in motion.


More powerful electric motor and petrol engine

A plug-in hybrid electric Vehicle (PHEV) tends to have a smaller petrol engine and a more powerful electric motor. This makes it fuel-efficient and better for the environment. The battery can be charged by the car or external power supply.

Discover more about Hybrid Cars with our complete guide


Did you know a plug-in hybrid could make motoring more economical because you can run it on electric power more often – so you'll use hardly any fuel.


Can hybrid cars run on fuel only?

Yes, they have an electric motor to start the vehicle off, then at higher speeds the vehicle's engine takes over and it runs on fuel (petrol) only. A plug-in hybrid can switch freely between two forms of energy: petrol power (from the engine) or electricity power (from the motor). A pure electric vehicle doesn't use fuel at all.


Can you get manual hybrid cars?

Yes, depending on the make and model, some hybrids feature a new style of clutch which allows them to have a manual gearbox. Plug-in hybrids tend to be automatic. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, just have a single gear and can accelerate quickly – sometimes faster than conventional cars.


Can hybrid cars tow?

Some hybrids and pure electric vehicles can tow – it depends on the individual car. If you need a lot of pulling power, plug-in hybrids are a better bet; they have powerful electric motors and even more efficient engines, giving them a greater combined power.

Did you know, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV can tow up to 1600kg. Making those bank holiday weekends simple.

Further Reading

We answer your questions on other electric topics