Plugin-in Hybrid vs Electric Car: Which Is Best To Buy?

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: July 6, 2023

In recent years, the automotive industry has witnessed a significant shift towards greener and more sustainable transportation options. As concerns about climate change and air pollution continue to grow, many car buyers in the United Kingdom are considering electric vehicles (EVs) as a viable alternative to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.  However, with the introduction of plug-in hybrid cars (PHVs), consumers now have another option to consider.

In this article, we will compare plugin-in hybrid cars and electric cars to determine which is the best choice for UK consumers.

What are Plugin-in Hybrid Cars?

plug in hybrid car

Plugin-in hybrid cars, also known as PHVs, are vehicles that combine the benefits of both electric and conventional engines. These vehicles utilise batteries to power an electric motor, while a petrol or diesel engine powers the vehicle when the battery charge is depleted.

One of the significant advantages of PHVs is their flexibility in terms of charging. The battery can be charged at home or via a public charging network, providing convenience and accessibility to car owners.

In recent years, plug-in hybrid cars have grown in popularity, thanks to their ability to offer both electric and conventional driving experiences. While a fully charged plug-in hybrid car typically provides a range of 20-30 miles solely on electric power, some models can achieve up to 50 miles on electric power alone.

What are Electric Cars?

tesla fully electric car

Electric cars, popularised by innovative manufacturers like Tesla, have emerged as the frontrunners in the electric vehicle revolution. These vehicles rely solely on an electric motor powered by a battery pack.

Electric cars can be charged at home using a domestic charging point or at public charging stations, of which there are approximately 25,000 in 15,500 locations across the UK. The primary advantage of electric cars lies in their zero tailpipe emissions, making them environmentally friendly and contributing to improved air quality in urban areas.

Comparing Plugin-in Hybrid and Electric Cars

Let’s delve into a detailed comparison of plugin-in hybrid and electric cars to understand which option best suits the needs of UK car buyers.


electric car efficiency

When it comes to efficiency, electric cars have the upper hand. Unlike plugin-in hybrids, electric vehicles operate solely on electric power, eliminating the need for fuel consumption during everyday commuting. This translates to lower energy costs and a reduced carbon footprint.


In the UK, tax incentives for electric vehicles are more favourable compared to plug-in hybrids. Electric cars are exempt from paying vehicle excise duty (VED) and enjoy lower company car tax rates, making them a financially attractive option for individuals and businesses.


For those who require towing capabilities, plug-in hybrid cars offer an advantage. Electric cars typically have limited towing capacities due to their reliance on battery power, whereas plug-in hybrids can utilise their conventional engines for towing purposes.

Fuel Consumption:

petrol or diesel in hybrid car

Plugin-in hybrid cars have the advantage of using both electric power and conventional fuel. This flexibility ensures that drivers have an extended range, even when the battery charge is depleted. Electric cars, on the other hand, solely rely on battery power and need to be recharged frequently, making them less suitable for long journeys.

Running Costs:

In terms of running costs, electric cars have the edge. While plugin-in hybrids still require occasional fuel refills, electric vehicles benefit from lower electricity prices and reduced maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts.

Purchase Cost:

Electric cars typically have higher upfront purchase costs compared to plug-in hybrids. However, ongoing developments in battery technology and increased demand for electric vehicles are steadily driving down prices, making them more affordable in the long run.


smooth driving hybrid or electric

Both plugin-in hybrids and electric cars offer a smooth and quiet driving experience. However, electric cars have the advantage of instant torque, providing quick acceleration and a responsive driving experience.

Backup Engine:

Plugin-in hybrid cars provide the reassurance of a backup conventional engine, ensuring drivers have an alternative power source if the battery charge is depleted. This backup engine offers peace of mind, especially for long-distance driving, where access to charging infrastructure may be limited.


Plugin-in hybrid cars generally have a longer range compared to electric cars. The backup conventional engine in plug-in hybrids allows for extended driving distances without needing to recharge. Electric cars, although improving in range with each generation, still have limitations that make them more suitable for daily commuting and shorter trips.


emissions from fuel car

As part of the UK government’s plan to reduce emissions and improve air quality, there are proposals to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Electric cars, being completely emissions-free, will be unaffected by this ban. Plugin-in hybrid cars may face restrictions in the future due to their reliance on fossil fuels.


For drivers accustomed to the conventional driving experience, plugin-in hybrids offer a familiar transition to greener options. The ability to switch between electric and conventional modes provides a sense of familiarity and reduces range anxiety, which is often associated with fully electric cars.


The UK government provides various incentives to promote the adoption of electric vehicles. These incentives include grants for purchasing electric cars, reduced rates for charging infrastructure installation, and exemptions from congestion charges in some cities. Plugin-in hybrid cars also qualify for certain incentives but are generally less advantageous in this regard.

Air Quality:

Electric cars, with zero tailpipe emissions, contribute significantly to improved air quality in urban areas. Plugin-in hybrids, while emitting less pollution compared to conventional cars, still rely on fossil fuels and have a smaller positive impact on air quality.

What is the Best Car for You?

woman charging hybrid or electric car

Ultimately, the decision between a plugin-in hybrid car and an electric car depends on individual preferences, driving habits, and specific requirements. Electric cars offer a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option, particularly for urban dwellers with access to charging infrastructure. On the other hand, plugin-in hybrids provide a greater sense of range and versatility, making them suitable for those who frequently undertake longer journeys or require towing capabilities.

Before making a decision, it is crucial to consider factors such as efficiency, tax benefits, fuel consumption, running costs, purchase costs, and the availability of charging infrastructure. Consulting with experts, test-driving different models, and analysing personal driving patterns will help in making an informed decision about the best car to buy.

In conclusion, both plugin-in hybrid cars and electric cars have their advantages and disadvantages. As the automotive industry continues to innovate, the gap between the two options is narrowing. With ongoing advancements in battery technology and the expansion of charging infrastructure, electric cars are becoming an increasingly viable and attractive option for UK car buyers. However, plugin-in hybrids still offer benefits in terms of range and familiarity. Ultimately, the best choice depends on the individual’s priorities and requirements in terms of efficiency, range, environmental impact, and financial considerations.