So what’s the difference between a PHEV, EV, and HEV anyways?

February 19th, 2019 by

PHEV, REx, BEV, Full hybrid, mild hybrid, FCEV – there’s so many different approaches to electrifying a vehicle that it can be hard to keep up with what they all mean!

And it’s important to understand the difference, because not every electric vehicle will fit every driver’s situation.

Toyota Prius

Image Credit: Toyota

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

Conventional hybrid vehicles are where modern electrification started. These feature both a full-size internal combustion engine, along with an electric motor and battery pack. Either the engine or the electric motor can be used to drive the car individually, or they can work at the same time for greater acceleration.

Typically, the electric motor is used for low-speed acceleration and the engine takes over at higher speeds, allowing both to operate at maximum efficiency.

Hybrids do provide increased fuel economy and acceleration over their non-hybrid counterparts, but don’t have a large enough battery to travel a meaningful distance on electric power alone and cannot be plugged in to charge.

This makes them well-suited for people who can’t charge up at home and don’t have access to charging infrastructure, as the drivers never have to worry about finding a plug to use their car’s electric power.

Toyota Prius Prime

Image Credit: Toyota

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

As you might be able to guess from the name, you can plug these cars in to charge their batteries, which are normally large enough to allow for anywhere from 10-50 miles of electric-only driving.

But the point isn’t to just get by on the electric charge – these are still hybrids. But by plugging them in every night you can see drastic increases in fuel economy and can go for weeks before having to fill up.

If you were to charge up a Toyota Prius Prime once and drive until you ran out of gas, the EPA says you could go about 640 miles. But by charging their cars every night, owners are commonly getting over 1000 miles on one tank.

And since there is the gasoline engine, these cars come with no range-anxiety attached. Taking a trip? You can stop and fill up.

Now the downside of plug-in hybrids is if you can’t plug-in every night you won’t see that primary benefit. They’re still more fuel efficient than gas-burning counterparts, but you’re paying a premium for the plug-in tech you won’t be able to take advantage of.

Image Credit: Chevy

Range Extended Electric Vehicles

Range Extended Electric Vehicles also feature both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, but unlike plug-ins and conventional hybrids, the electric motor does all the driving. The internal combustion is only there to charge the battery if you start to get low on charge.

The idea is still to go as long as possible in electric-only mode, and the range extender will ideally help you get to a fast-charging station, or home. If you’re traveling somewhere where there is no fast-charging infrastructure, no worries, you can keep filling up your gas tank and continue on your journey.

There are significantly less range-extended electric cars than other types of hybrid. 2019 is the last model year for the Chevy Volt, and BMW dropped the range-extender option in the 2019 BMW i3. The only new option going forward will be the Honda Clarity.

While there aren’t many new range-extenders on the market, they’ll all make great pre-owned buys for years to come.

Image Credit: BMW

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs or EVs)

This is the real-deal. All electric, all the time.

All of Tesla’s models are these. Other popular models include the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt, and Jaguar I-Pace. These pure electric cars usually feature motors that are much more powerful than motors found in hybrids, since they’re not sharing duties with an internal combustion engine.

And since there’s no engine onboard, the full features of an electric motor are on-display. Electric motors are incredibly quiet and smoother than any engine in operation. Plus, the large amounts of torque they offer allow for exciting acceleration from low speeds.

You’re going to want to charge these cars up every night. If you’re taking a road-trip, you need to plan your stops at fast-charging stations ahead of time. At least until charging infrastructure becomes more widespread.

Sure, these are changes to what we’re used to doing with gas-powered cars. But electricity provides a superior driving experience that’s worth it.

Tesla Model 3

Image Credit: Tesla