Electric and hybrid cars
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Electric cars combine a battery with electric motors to power the car, while hybrids and plug-in hybrids also have a conventional engine. Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are charged via a cable that is attached to a power source and the car. Non plug-in hybrids power the battery from the car's engine and energy recovered under braking. Hydrogen-powered cars are rare, but turn hydrogen into electricity which then powers the car. Read more about the different types of electrified car here.
The electric car market is booming in response to growing demand from consumers, driven in part by financial incentives, and pressure from legislators to force car makers to lower emissions. Click here to read about all the new electric cars about to be launched.
Electric car technology is changing rapidly, with driving range going up and charging times coming down. This can make picking the best electric car for your needs tricky. However, our list of the best electric cars is here, while the best hybrids can be found here.
Electric car makers declare official ranges for their electric vehicles but, as with all cars, real-world performance is subject to variables such as driving style and climatic conditions. To help guide buyers further What Car? does its own independent Real Range tests on electric vehicles, which you can read here.
The electric car charging infrastructure is changing rapidly, with more charging points and more high-powered, and therefore faster, charging points being installed. In addition most (but not all) electric car owners have an electric charging point attached to their home so they can charge overnight. Read more here.
The cost of charging an electric car varies accoridng to where and when you charge it, with off-peak slow rate nightime charging typically being cheapest and high-speed charging at a public charging point typically being most expensive. You can read our guide here.
Not all electric cars use the same plug connectors to draw electricity, so it is important to check that you have the right cable and that you plan to use a compatible chargepoint. Our full guide to different connectors can be found here.
As with all cars, servicing costs vary by manufacturer. While technicians have to be trained specifically to work on electric cars because of the risk of shock, though, the work is actually easier because there are substantially fewer moving parts than in an a car with an engine. Our electric car reliability data can be found here.
Buyers of fully electric cars receive a £3500 government grant (although this is under review). However, hybrids only qualify if they emit less than 50g/km of CO2 and can travel for 70 miles on electric power – criteria that no current model meets. You can read about the most recent changes here.
Whether a fully electric car or a hybrid will suit you better, depends on the sort of driving you do and how big your budget is. Cheaper electric cars tend to have quite a small range, so work for a smaller niche of people. By contrast, more expensive models can offer more than 250 miles of driving per charge. Plug-in hybrid cars typically have a small electric-only range, but can use a petrol engine to complete any journey. Find everything you need to know here.