Compare the best hybrid cars
10 best hybrid cars in the UK of 2023
A hybrid car is one that combines a battery-powered electric motor with a petrol or diesel engine. The idea is that you get the convenient refuelling of a petrol or diesel engine, together with the zero-emission nature of a motor and batteries.
Hybrids come in two main forms: conventional hybrids, sometimes called self-charging hybrids, and plug-in hybrids (PHEV). Self-charging hybrids draw their power from the engine and the car braking and can only travel in electric mode at low speeds for short distances. PHEVs can be plugged in and charged up and can travel much further on their batteries.
This article will highlight 10 great self-charging hybrids, but we also have a dedicated rundown of the best PHEVs, if you'd like to check that out.
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Put simply, a hybrid is a car that has more than one source of power. It combines a conventional diesel or petrol engine with an electric motor to power the car.
The benefits of a hybrid include high fuel economy and low CO2 emissions compared with standard petrol and diesel engines – if used in the right way. Some can run on electric power alone for short distances, improving economy and emissions even further.
If you’d like to cut the costs of running a car then a self-charging hybrid could be a good option, particularly if you drive a fair bit around town, where the low-speed electric-only mode will make for smooth, quiet progress in stop-start traffic.
Exactly how the two power sources work together depends on the individual car manufacturer, but the basic idea remains the same – when conditions allow, electric motors will replace or work with the engine to provide drive to the car. Hybrids will typically run on electric power for short distances and at low speeds (under a mile and 20mph, say); if you want to go further of faster in zero-emission mode, you'll need an electric car or a plug-in hybrid.
Well, your first stop should be to check out the reviews from the cars featured in our rundown, or head to the carwow YouTube channel for in-depth video reviews. In general, though, choosing a hybrid car follows the same path as choosing any car, so think about price, practicality, image, interior quality and features, the lot!
A hybrid car is not a pure electric car, so you don’t get completely emissions-free driving, while unless you opt for a plug-in hybrid you can only drive in electric mode for a short amount of time, and at low speeds. Hybrids also tend to be a little more expensive to buy than conventional petrol and diesel models.
This sees the the electric motor and batteries power the car at low speeds and for short distances only. The batteries are charged only by the engine and energy recovered from braking; the car can't be plugged in.
Also called PHEVs, these have a much larger battery which can be plugged into a charger. Expect an electric range of between 30 and 70 miles, and up to a top speed of circa 70mph.
These are rare, and are electric cars that have a small petrol engine that acts as a generator, recharging the batteries when they're low. The generator can't power the car directly, though.
Conventional petrol and diesel cars with beefy stop-start systems that can shut down the engine when cruising down hills, for example.
They can be cheaper than conventional petrol and diesel cars, particularly if you do a lot of town driving, while efficiency can also be better on a longer run, too. If you have a plug-in hybrid, though, they will generally only be more economical if you keep the batteries topped up.
Hybrid technology has come a long way since the first Toyota Prius arrived in 2001, and the technology is now at a place of parity with conventional engines. Many cars with hybrid powertrains are also available as PHEVs, EVs or petrol and diesel models, too, so the discrete category of a 'hybrid car', and hybrids are available at almost every echelon of the market, so the best advice is to consult our reviews: they'll help you make the right choice.
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