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Hybrid vs. Petrol: which is better?

Get to know the differences between hybrid and petrol motoring, and which option is best for you

a yellow hybrid volkswagen being charged

Hybrid and petrol cars are similar because all hybrid cars use a petrol engine.

However, you might be more suited to one than the other depending on your lifestyle and driving needs.

What is a hybrid car? 

A hybrid car is an umbrella term for different battery-assisted combustion cars.

Simply put, hybrid cars are petrol and diesel-engine cars that also have an electric motor.

This helps to reduce emissions and improve the fuel economy of your car.

You’ll get a taste of the benefits of driving an electric car without losing those of petrol and diesel cars.

The three types of hybrid cars are:

Mild Hybrid

These are the more simple hybrid cars and have the lowest amount of battery assistance, hence the ‘mild’.

Mild hybrid technology doesn’t require any charging – it just works to improve the car’s stop-start system.

That’s the tech that cuts the car engine when you’re sat in traffic or at the lights and reduces engine emissions.

This tech is a mainstay in most newer cars including household models like the Nissan Qashqai, Toyota Prius, Kia Sportage and Fiat 500.

Manufacturers including Volvo, Audi and Ford are increasingly using mild hybrid technology across all their new cars.

Full hybrid

These cars are dual power and use diverted energy to power the car battery, which then powers the electric motor.

At very low speeds, the car will automatically use electric-only power for zero-emissions driving.

Unlike plug-in hybrid or fully electric cars, you don’t have to charge the battery – the car does it automatically as you drive.

The Toyota Yaris Hybrid, Renault Clio and Lexus NX are examples of very popular fully hybrid cars.

Plug-in Hybrid

This is the most advanced hybrid technology and the closest to fully electric driving you’ll get.

PHEVs have the largest battery capacity and the longest electric range and power.

Plug-in hybrids are charged using a home or public charging point, but you always have the petrol engine to fall back on.

Almost all manufacturers now have plug-in hybrid models, especially of the most popular models.

The BMW 3 Series, BMW X5 and Volvo XC40 all have plug-in hybrid variants.

What to consider when buying a hybrid car 

Hybrid cars have lots of benefits, which is why they’re increasing so rapidly in popularity.

Pros of owning a hybrid car:

  • Plus points of both electric and petrol cars: hybrid cars combine the benefits of electric with petrol. The electric power gives you quieter driving, reduced emissions or zero-emissions driving (perfect for city life) and you can refuel whenever needed. Your running costs will also likely be lower!

  • Less maintenance: hybrid cars use electric power either at lower speeds or part-time, which means less engine wear and tear. Like EVs, hybrid cars also use regenerative braking, so the brakes wear more slowly too. Expect reduced service costs and less overall maintenance, as you would from an EV.

Things to consider before buying a hybrid car:

  • More expensive to buy: hybrid cars improve fuel economy, but they can initially be more expensive to buy – even used – because they retain their value. They have electric infrastructure including powertrains and EV technology, which makes them more expensive to make than straight-up petrol cars.

  • Less power: this isn’t a steadfast rule, but because hybrids have better fuel economy and emissions, the electric technology can mean that there’s less overall horsepower than petrol cars. The power is shared between the EV battery and a smaller engine so acceleration and power might be less.

a white volvo xc40 parked on a beach with a surfboard on the roof

What is a petrol car? 

A petrol car uses an internal combustion engine. The fuel is injected into the combustion chamber of the car and combined with air, where a spark plug ignites the air and fuel mix. Petrol cars have manual and automatic gearboxes.

What to consider when buying a petrol car:

Pros of owning a petrol car:

  • Cheaper to buy: petrol cars and combustion tech have been around for a long time, so they’re cheaper to buy than hybrid cars.

  • Convenience: wherever you go there’s a petrol station, so you can top up your tank very easily. Petrol is also cheaper than diesel. Petrol cars will cover more miles on a tank than an electric car can cover on a single charge too.

  • Familiarity: petrol cars have been around for years, so the technology, engines, gearboxes and driving styles will be very familiar. So too will many models, which means you’ll be right at home when you buy a petrol car.

Things to consider before buying a petrol car:

  • Higher running costs: in today’s financial climate, filling up a petrol car is expensive. Monthly costs of ownership will rise considering the increase in fuel prices, and you’ll have to watch your driving habits to try and eke out the fuel.

  • High emissions: petrol cars are bad for the environment because they give off CO2 gas when driven. This gas stops heat escaping, warming the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. Petrol cars release several pollutants that contribute to air pollution, which is bad for health reasons.

  • Petrol cars decrease in value: petrol cars lose 24% value in the first year, which is 12% more than EVs. Therefore, you’ll lose more money when you want to sell a petrol car than a hybrid car, in some cases.

What is the difference between a hybrid car and a petrol car? 

Petrol cars and hybrid cars both share an internal combustion petrol engine.

However, hybrid cars also have battery power to assist in keeping CO2 emissions lower and maximise fuel economy.

Hybrid cars are more fuel efficient and, if they are plug-in hybrid cars, they can drive for a set number of miles on electric-only power. You’ll gain from zero-emissions driving.

Verdict: hybrid vs. petrol: which should you buy?

Before choosing between a hybrid and petrol car, weigh up the pros and things to consider we’ve outlined and see which will fit your needs and lifestyle best.

The main deciding factor is price range because hybrid cars are basically just more efficient petrol cars that are better for the environment.

You won’t lose out on anything, especially because over time you’ll likely save on fuel and maintenance – it’s really just the upfront cost to consider.

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