The Ultimate Hybrid Car FAQ

Answering every question you have about the hybrid car…

It’s normal to have questions when you’re looking into buying a hybrid car. Here you can have all of your hybrid car questions answered whether they’re about how long it takes to charge a hybrid car or whether hybrid cars are better for the environment. You’ll find that the questions are split into sections, making it quicker and easier to find the answer you’re looking for.

Hybrid Car Charging

How do hybrid cars charge?

While a standard hybrid car’s battery recharges itself, a plug-in hybrid car can be charged at home or at a public charging point. Charging a plug-in hybrid car (also known as PHEV - plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) is easy. Much like charging a laptop or a mobile phone, you can connect your car to a 3-pin plug with an EVSE cable. However, some people with off-street parking decide to have a home charging point installed. This is usually wall-mounted on an exterior wall or garage where your vehicle is parked.

If you’re charging at work or at a public charging station, it works much the same and is as simple as plugging in. However, it’s worth noting that there are various public charging networks available and while some public charging points are free and some pay-as-you-go, there are a few which are based on a monthly subscription.

Where can I charge a plug-in hybrid car?

There are an increasing number of hybrid car charging points across the UK. You can find these by using a map of charging points for plug-in hybrid and electric cars. There you will find charging stations of various speeds which serve different types of connectors. Can you charge a hybrid car at home? Yes, but only if you have off-street parking. This can be done by plugging in to your domestic power supply much like you would with a mobile phone.

Another way of charging your plug-in hybrid at home is with a hybrid charging station. This allows for faster charging of your hybrid car. Aside from at home or at a public charging station, you may find that you’re able to top up your hybrid car at work. An increasing number of companies are installing charging facilities for employees. Where you decide to charge is really down to what’s convenient for you in terms the time you have and what you’re willing to spend.

How long does it take to charge a plug-in hybrid car

The time it takes to charge a plug-in hybrid depends on the size of the battery, how much energy has been used and the power output of the hybrid car charging station in question. Generally speaking, there are 3 types of charging available:

Slow (up to 3kW)

Fast (7-22kW)

Rapid (43, 50 or 120kW)

The slowest charging units will have a plug-in hybrid fully charged in around 6 to 8 hours. These are generally the most affordable units and are ideal for those who wish to charge their hybrid overnight.

Alternatively faster and slightly more expensive hybrid vehicle charging stations can charge a hybrid in as little as 3 to 4 hours. Faster still are the rapid charging stations which can be found in select public locations. These are able to charge a hybrid in as little as 30 minutes.

How many public charging stations are there in the UK?

The UK has one of the largest networks of public charging stations in Europe with more than 100,000 available.

According to Zap Map charging point statistics for October 2018, charging points are available across almost 6,500 locations with over 10,000 devices and over 18,000 connectors.

Fast connectors of between 7kW and 22kW make up the majority of these though rapid chargers (50+kW) are now available across 1200 locations.

The UK regions with the most electric car charging connectors are Greater London (22.6%), Scotland (15%) and the South East (13.7%).

How do I get a hybrid car charging point installed at home?

Off-street parking is required if you want to get a hybrid car charging point installed at home. You’ll also need a certified professional to carry out the installation. The charging point will likely be mounted on an exterior wall or garage where you park your plug-in hybrid car. This is a relatively quick and easy process and typically takes 2 to 3 hours. You can book an installation with a supplier online or through your local car dealership.

Hybrid Car Battery

How does a hybrid car battery work?

The hybrid car has two motors, one of which is a conventional petrol or diesel engine and the other electric. The hybrid car battery is powered by the engine and kinetic energy which is recycled when the car is in motion, particularly when applying the brakes and coming to a stop. The battery of a hybrid car is therefore self-charging and is able to supply the electric motor with power when pulling away from a stop.

At low speeds, a hybrid car can use the electric motor only, making the hybrid car particularly suitable for driving in urban areas. Despite the fact that hybrid car batteries are able to charge themselves, plug-in hybrid cars also provide the option of charging at a hybrid car charging station. That’s because plug-in hybrids are able to run on electricity longer than standard hybrid cars, often with a range of 20 to 40 miles.
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What are hybrid car batteries made of?

The battery of a hybrid car may be one of three types: lead-acid, nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion. Lithium-ion batteries are becoming the more commonly used battery type in newer hybrid and electric cars for the following reasons:

  • Comparably less toxic than lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride
  • Less likely to lose their charge when not in use
  • Offer good performance even in high temperatures
  • Ability to be recharged at a rapid rate
  • Lighter in weight than nickel-metal hydride batteries

The primary components of a lithium-ion battery are the positive (metal oxide) and negative (carbon or graphite) electrodes and an electrolyte (lithium salt in an organic solvent). While lithium-ion batteries were once expensive, they are becoming more affordable as technology advances and should become more commonplace in hybrid cars of the future.

What’s the lifespan of a hybrid car battery?

Charging and discharging a hybrid car battery is referred to as a cycle and this can degrade over time as the cycle increases. It can cost between £1,000 to £2,000 to replace a hybrid car battery. For this reason, many would-be hybrid car owners are keen to know the lifespan of a hybrid car battery. The good news is that most hybrid car manufacturers offer warranties of 8 years and 100,000 miles on their hybrid car batteries.

You may find that your hybrid car battery lasts 10 years and 150,000 miles or more. However, there’s also a number of things worth considering in order to extend the lifespan of your hybrid car battery:

  • Limit your driving time
  • Find a good warranty
  • Don’t let it get too hot
  • Avoid overcharging
  • Avoid deep discharging
  • Plan ahead for extended storage

What happens if my hybrid car runs out of battery?

It’s unlikely that the battery of a standard hybrid will run out since it’s recharged by the movement of the vehicle. The driver doesn’t need to charge the battery in order for it to work. 

The plug-in hybrid is different in that it is charged at home, work or at a public charging station. However, if a plug-in hybrid car runs out of battery, it works much the same as a standard hybrid in that it will run on petrol or diesel.

In contrast, running out of fuel will see a standard hybrid come to a stop since they’re not designed to operate without fuel. However, a plug-in hybrid can run on electricity only with a typical range of 20 to 40 miles if fully charged.

Hybrid Car Performance and Maintenance

What’s the difference between a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and an electric car?

The main difference is that an electric car is fully electric while both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid are essentially petrol/diesel-electric.

Hybrid cars use a combination of both petrol and electricity in order to power the car. 

However, when it comes to the hybrid and plug-in hybrid, the difference is that the plug-in hybrid can be plugged in and charged. This allows it to drive solely on electric power for what is typically a range of 20 to 40 miles.

In contrast, a standard hybrid charges its own battery when moving, allowing it to provide assistance in low speeds and in acceleration.

Are hybrid cars automatic?

Yes! While a hybrid car could theoretically have a manual transmission, the efficiency of the automatic transmission means that the vast majority of hybrids on the market are automatic. Automatic cars have several advantages such as being arguably easier to drive, less work in busy traffic, more reliable and less distracting for the driver.

How far can I drive with a hybrid car?

Due to the fact that the hybrid car has a conventional motor as well as an electric one, you can expect a similar range, or more, to that of a standard petrol or diesel car.

With a full tank, the petrol CR-V will travel for around 400 miles, whilst the hybrid CR-V has a range of almost 700 miles.

However, a plug-in hybrid has the ability to travel a distance on electricity only. Most plug-in hybrid cars currently on the market offer an all-electric range of 20 to 40 miles.

In terms of the lifetime of the car, the majority of hybrid car warranties cover the vehicle for 100,000 miles. Of course, the longevity of a hybrid car over the years comes down to a number of different factors including the following:

  • Make and model of the car
  • Driving style
  • Frequency and standard of maintenance
  • Overall cleanliness
  • Load weight

How fast can a hybrid car go?

Due to the fact that the conventional engine in the hybrid car tends to be smaller than that in a comparable conventional car, hybrid cars tends to have less horsepower and torque. However, while electric cars can sometimes have significantly lower top speeds, hybrid cars can usually still reach 100 miles per hour. Over time, we should see car manufacturers producing faster hybrid cars with larger engines and more powerful electric motors. However, the main priority is of course on achieving superior fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

Do hybrid cars drive differently to conventional vehicles?

Driving a hybrid car feels much the same as driving other vehicles. However, there are some more subtle differences, particularly from those who switch over from a manual transmission. That’s because hybrid cars are automatics and, as a result, tend to offer a smoother and quieter ride with less engine noise and vibrations, particularly when accelerating using electricity. When it comes to acceleration, the hybrid provides a more moderate, constant speed since it doesn’t need to go through manual gear changes.

It's also worth noting that driving a hybrid is a different experience in that the driver learns how best to recharge the battery using the brakes and the resistence from engine braking. By using engine resistance to slow down earlier for traffic lights or a roundabout, for example, the car charges its battery more quickly and frequently, making for a more fuel-efficient drive.

What does a regular service for a hybrid car involve?

A regular service of a hybrid car is much the same as a normal petrol or diesel car. Are hybrid car maintenance costs higher? No, it’s important to know that service and minor repairs on a hybrid car are no higher than that of a regular car. Hybrids have been around long enough that mechanics are used to working on them. The conventional engine in a hybrid car requires the same work as that of any other car. Generally speaking, there’s less wear and tear on a hybrid’s engine since it lets the electric motor take over in low speeds. 

There’s no special regular maintenance required on the hybrid system itself. However, if part of the hybrid system fails after the warranty has ended (most warranties are around 8 years), there may be a fair price to pay. For example, the cost of replacing a battery can be as much as £2,000. However, it is worth bearing in mind that this cost will only reduce as hybrid and electric cars become more commonplace, plus most owners will not own their car for more than eight years.

HYBRID CAR COST

What does it cost to charge a plug-in hybrid car?

Charging a standard hybrid car is as simple as driving since the battery is recharged by the movement (particularly the slowing down) of the vehicle. However, the plug-in hybrid can be charged at home, work or at a public charging station. For this reason, the cost can vary depending on where you’re charging your hybrid car.

In some cases, you may be able to charge your hybrid car for free if you can find a free hybrid public charging point or if your workplace offers free charging facilities.

Another cost-effective solution (in comparison to paying to use a paid-for public charging station) is to charge your hybrid car at home if you have off-street parking. You can always use a home charging calculator in order to get a better idea of the cost based on the make and model of the hybrid car and charger power output.

Generally speaking, the cost of charging a hybrid car at home is little more than £1 to £2. This is in contrast with paid public charging stations which can cost several pounds, depending on the network and charging speed offered. You can use a public charging calculator to help work this out.

Are hybrid cars expensive?

Generally speaking, hybrid cars are more expensive to buy than comparable petrol or diesel cars. This is because of the cost of technology implemented in hybrids that allows them to switch between fuel and electricity. In particular, the battery of the hybrid car tends to be expensive to produce though the good news is that this cost is reducing with time. Of course, the higher initial price is offset by the savings that can be made long-term when using less fuel with a hybrid. It’s also worth mentioning that there are several UK government grants that can make buying a hybrid car cheaper.

Are hybrid cars expensive to insure?

Hybrid cars are typically more expensive to insure than their petrol counterparts for a number of reasons. In particular, hybrid cars are more expensive to insure because they cost more in the first place. What’s more, hybrid cars have some special parts that regular cars don’t have. A good example of this is the battery which can be expensive to replace.

The good news is that there are specialist insurers who can offer more competitive hybrid car insurance quotes. It’s likely that the price of hybrid car insurance will fall in time as hybrid technology becomes more prevalent. There’s also a few things you can do in order to get cheaper hybrid car insurance:

  1. Speak to insurance providers who specialise in hybrid and electric cars
  2. Always shop around in order to get the very best quote possible
  3. Be aware that adding young drivers can increase the price of your policy
  4. Paying your insurance upfront is likely be less costly
  5. Some insurance companies may offer discounts for green vehicles

Are hybrid cars eligible for government grants?

The UK government offers the OLEV Grant which offers £500 off the cost of purchasing and installing a home charging point for the plug-in hybrid car. Add this to the savings that can be made on fuel over time and the hybrid car can prove to be cost-effective.

Hybrid Car Safety and the Environment

Are hybrid cars better for the environment?

Yes, hybrid cars are better for the environment. After all, hybrid cars are more efficient than conventional cars, producing less pollutants over their lifetime, proving particularly effective when it comes to short journeys at low speeds where the electric motor and battery are used more.

What’s more, hybrid cars are even better for the environment when the electricity used to power them is 100% renewable. According to the SMMT New Car CO2 Report 2018, hybrid cars emit around 40% less CO2 than a small petrol car.

Read the SMMT report
HYBRID CAR EMISSIONS

Are hybrid cars dangerous?

No, a hybrid car is no more dangerous than a conventional car. However, there have been cases where hybrid and electric cars are so quiet when running on electricity that pedestrians have had difficulties hearing them. For this reason, the EU has stated that from July 2019, all new electric and hybrid models seeking approval in Europe will have to emit an engine-like noise when travelling at low speeds.
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Can a hybrid car battery explode?

There’s always the possibility that a lithium-ion battery can be damaged in an accident but it’s highly unlikely to explode as a result. Indeed, as hybrid and electric cars advance, more and more security measures are being added to protect the battery from damage. An example of this is the air-cooling systems which prevent the battery from overheating. Also, collision detectors can send signals to fuses and circuit breakers, allowing them to disconnect from the battery.