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Best plug-in hybrids 2021

The world is moving ever-closer to a total electric car revolution, and at the heart of that has been an uptake in plug-in hybrids. For those not quite ready to make the switch to a fully-electric car or simply want the economy benefits a little bit of battery power can be, plug-in hybrids serve as a great middle-ground between internal combustion and an EV. Here is the definitive list of the very best plug-in hybrids you can buy.

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More advice on plug-in hybrids

Frequently asked questions about plug-in hybrids

Just like an EV, a PHEV – or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle – has an on-board battery that supplies power to an electric motor to drive the wheels, which is topped-up by plugging the car in. That battery is usually smaller and has a lower capacity than ones found in electric cars, which means plug-in vehicles can’t drive anywhere near as far on electricity alone – around 30 miles in most cases, including the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. But they do have an extra trick up their sleeve.

Plug-in vehicles also have a combustion engine that kicks in once the battery runs out of charge. It’s used to generate more electricity to recharge the battery, or drive the wheels, or a combination of both.

How much it costs you to run will depend entirely on how you use your car: if the combustion engine rarely cuts in, it’ll be super-cheap, but if you regularly need call upon petrol power, your fuel costs will climb very steeply. Plug-in hybrids don’t cost as much like-for-like as electric cars, but they’re a good bit more expensive than regular petrol or diesel cars or other types of hybrid.

You can find out more in the Electric cars vs PHEVs vs Hybrid cars advice guide.?

As you can see on our list the best plug-in hybrid is the BMW 330e. But if that’s not quite to your taste here is the list in full:

  1. BMW 330e
  2. Range Rover Evoque P300e
  3. Skoda Superb iV
  4. Volvo XC90 T8
  5. Mercedes C300de
  6. BMW X5
  7. Range Rover P400e
  8. Volkswagen Passat GTE
  9. Toyota Prius Plug-in

Whether or not plug-in hybrid or a standard hybrid is best is subjective. A plug-in hybrid has the advantage of being able to be driven on electric-power alone for longer distances but does require regular access to a charger to get best out of them.

Regular hybrids are often known as ‘self-charging’, relying on the engine and energy recover to recharge. This does mean you don’t have to worry about charging it yourself but often doesn’t allow for as much electric-only driving.

The time it takes to charge a plug-in hybrid car varies between cars. But as an example, the BMW 330e at the top of this list will take around four hours to charge from empty to full.

This will give you around 30 miles of electric-only driving.

So if you want to make the most of the high fuel economy a plug-in hybrid can bring you need to be able to charge the car up regularly – even more so than a pure electric car. If you don’t charge the plug-in hybrid car up regularly your fuel economy could be worse than a standard petrol car (because of the extra weight the hybrid set up brings).

If you cover a mix of longer journeys and around-town driving, you might find the ability to drive on electricity alone while also having the range reassurance a conventional engine brings to a plug-in hybrid.

If all you cover is short journeys around town, switching to an EV may suit more.

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