Angled views of Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid SUVs

Hybrid vs Electric Cars

Which to Buy?

As more people consider alternative fuel-based vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are getting a second look. Since 2014, interest in these vehicles has skyrocketed, and whether your goal is to join the green revolution or reduce the amount you spend on gas, there are many factors to consider. Since HEVs and BEVs are often wrongly thought of as being more or less the same, we’ll discuss their key differences as well as some essential points you should know before you buy.

Hybrid vs. Electric Cars: How They Work

The primary difference between a BEV and an internal combustion engine vehicle is that BEVs are powered by electric motors instead of an engine and have a battery large enough to power the vehicle with enough performance and range.

An HEV uses both electric motors and an internal combustion engine. The electric motors assist in powering the vehicle, reducing overall fuel consumption. Both systems work together to increase the vehicle’s overall power.

are classified into two types: standard HEVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Both are powered by an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors, which store energy in a high-voltage battery pack separate from the vehicle’s standard 12V battery.

Standard Hybrids

A standard HEVs batteries are typically smaller than those used by PHEVs and are recharged when the vehicle brakes or through the internal combustion engine — they can’t be recharged at electric charging stations. Standard HEVs use a gas engine and electric motor, with the work often shared between both power sources.

The electric motor can also give the vehicle a boost of acceleration when needed, such as when climbing a hill, while reducing overall fuel consumption. HEVs can also go for brief periods using 100% electric power but still require the internal combustion engine for brief periods at low speeds and distances.

Plug-in Hybrids

The PHEV’s larger battery allows it to run solely on electric power for longer distances. But while the PHEV’s battery is larger than a standard HEV’s, it’s still much smaller than a BEV’s battery. You can charge some PHEVs with a large onboard charger overnight using a standard household outlet, but most PHEVs require a 240V outlet, which is larger than a standard 110V household outlet. With a fully-charged battery, most PHEVs can travel 20-35 miles on 100% electric power at city and highway speeds and ranges, while a standard HEV can only travel for a mile or two.

Hybrids of both types can simultaneously use the internal gas engine and the electric motor for added power or rely solely on one source, depending on the driving conditions. Working in tandem, they can maximize overall fuel efficiency.

Since the electric motor provides added power, you only need a small internal combustion engine. And because the battery pack is recharged by braking or through the internal engine, standard HEVs and PHEVs don’t require frequent stops to charge up as other vehicles. The other big advantage standard HEVs and PHEVs have over BEVs is that stops are shorter due to the short time it takes to fill a gas tank.

Mild Hybrid

A mild hybrid is a cross between a traditional gas-powered vehicle and a normal or full hybrid. The primary power source is still gas, but the car has a battery (though smaller than a full hybrid) and a motor generator that can help increase the gas engine’s output. The motor is also capable of generating electricity for its battery.

While a mild hybrid can’t run solely using its electric motor, the motor can help improve the vehicle’s performance while reducing gas usage. For example, if extra power is needed when climbing a hill, the motor’s generator can use stored electricity to give the engine a boost, increasing its output without consuming gas. When the vehicle is cruising or coasting, the internal combustion engine can turn the electric motor’s generator to create electricity and recharge the battery. When going downhill or stopping, a mild hybrid can turn off the gas engine to save even more fuel.

How Does an Electric Car Work?

BEVs use an electric motor and a large battery pack as their power source. There’s no internal combustion engine, and no gas is required. Instead, BEVs run on energy stored in their high-voltage battery pack. This battery usually consists of lithium-ion cells stacked and grouped together under the floor of the interior, providing additional space in the front and back. BEVs can sometimes have a front and rear trunk.

Since BEVs don’t have in internal combustion engine, everything normally associated with them is eliminated, like getting gas, changing your oil, or waiting for your engine to warm up in cold weather. And since you don’t need gas, the only times you’ll have to stop at the gas station is to pick up snacks!

Hybrid vs. Electric Cars: Advantages and Disadvantages

HEVs and BEVs both have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each vehicle.

Advantages of Hybrid Cars

  • Less Need for Charging: HEVs and PHEVs require less charging than BEVs because of their gas-powered engine.
  • No Range Anxiety: Since fewer electric charging stations are available (compared to gas stations), you won’t feel as much anxiety when traveling long distances. This means more peace of mind on road trips because you can fill up at the next gas pump.
  • The “All-in-One” Car: Because PHEVs have both an electric motor and a gas engine, you can use 100% electric for short-range commutes and use gas power (or a combination of both) strictly for long-distance drives, making PHEVs the perfect vehicle for your needs.
  • Tax Credit(s): Some levels of government offer a tax credit for specific PHEVs, which can lower the cost of the vehicle.
  • Other Incentives: With a PHEV you can avoid frequent trips to the gas station and save on overall fuel costs thanks to the engine’s efficiency — especially when using the electric motor.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Cars

  • They Still Emit C02: While HEVs still produce greenhouse gases, it’s still less than a standard gas-powered car. Some HEVs allow for more than 50 MPG, which means you don’t need as much gas to travel the same distance as a gas-powered car — and you’ll produce less pollution.
  • Needs Maintenance: Like a gas-powered car, HEVs require traditional maintenance like oil changes and engine check-ups, while BEVs require neither.
  • They Can Still Be Noisy: BEVs run silently, but HEVs can still be as loud as their gas-powered counterparts.

Advantages of Electric Cars

  • Tax Credit(s): Some levels of government offer a tax credit for specific BEVs, which can lower the cost of the vehicle.
  • No Tailpipe Emissions: One of the top reasons people purchase a BEV is to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Since BEVs don’t have an engine or require gas, there’s no tailpipe emission.
  • Quiet and Smooth: BEVs are silent and have smooth acceleration.
  • No More Gas Costs: Another big advantage to owning a BEV is no more trips to the gas station. All you need is an electric charging station at your home base that can top up your car’s battery.

Disadvantages of Electric Cars

  • Range Anxiety: The biggest drawback to owning a BEV is range anxiety — the fear that you won’t have enough battery power to get where you need to go. And while more electric charging stations are being built, they’re still hard to find in small towns and rural areas. You can always find a gas station, but electric charging stations aren’t as commonly seen on the road — for now.
  • Need a Powerful Home Charging Station: To charge a BEV, you need to plug it into an electrical power source, and your home base might need a 240-volt charging station for this purpose. This is also something to consider if you’re visiting family or friends who don’t have a charging station.
  • Higher Upfront Cost: BEVs generally have a higher upfront cost. The price difference partly exists because BEVs are seen as luxury vehicles. However, BEV prices have seen a steady drop recently. When factoring in federal and state tax credits, BEVs can sometimes be cheaper than comparable gas vehicles.

Which is Best: Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, or Electric?

If you’re looking for a new, environmentally-friendly vehicle, choosing an HEV, PHEV, or BEV depends on your lifestyle and environment. Let’s look at each type of car and determine which is best suited for your situation and comfort level.

If you’re a person who doesn’t like change, you might consider an HEV. You won’t need to adjust your driving habits, and it’s a great way to maximize fuel efficiency and spend less on gas. HEVs typically don’t cost much more than a standard gas-powered vehicle, and they emit less greenhouse gases, making it a good reason to switch.

If you’re a person who is constantly on the go or loves weekend road trips, then a BEV might be the best fit. They eliminate the need for stops at the gas pump, and you’ll feel more environmentally friendly driving your electric car as it emits zero greenhouse gases. You might also consider purchasing a BEV if you prefer a quiet drive and smoother acceleration. However, you may want to reassess your options if you can’t outfit your home base with a Level 2 charging station and there are no nearby electric charging stations.

If you’re looking for the best of both energy worlds, have a look at the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid. You can continue your regular driving habits as you enjoy going electric at any time for an emissions-free drive. Another big advantage is you don’t have to install a Level 2 charging station at your home base — plug into any regular outlet to charge your vehicle in 16 hours. And price-wise, the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid averages somewhere between the HEV and the BEV models.

Whichever vehicle you go with, the important thing is to strike the best balance between environmental responsibility and economic benefits for yourself — while aiming for a comfortable and enjoyable driving experience. You just have to find the car that’s right for you.


Keep Me Informed

Enter your email below for the latest news on all things Mitsubishi, including special offers, sales events, and new vehicle launches.

Stay Informed

Subscribe to our newsletter and keep up to date.


Find Local Dealerships

With more than 300 Mitsubishi dealerships across the U.S., there’s bound to be a Mitsubishi near you. Stop in for a visit anytime.