What’s The Difference Between Plug-In Hybrids and Battery Electric Vehicles?

Gretchen ReeseOctober 14, 2021

There’s a ton of questions circulating in the industry that many people just like you want answers to.

I mean, that’s true anywhere – it’s not just fleet. 

The thing with the fleet industry though, is that we’re in the middle of a massive evolutionary movement for the technology that many of us use to complete our jobs on a daily/weekly basis. Yes, we’re electrifying – no surprise here.

But along with electrification, as more data becomes readily available to address questions, comments and concerns about where the industry is headed – the water may be murky as we go on ahead.

That’s where we’re aiming to clear things up a bit.

Each week, I’ll tackle a different trending question or comment that’s been revving engines across the industry – or bring in someone who can, all with the purpose of trying to make the fleet industry today (as well as where it’s headed) a bit easier to navigate. Each mini-show will be about ten minutes long – the perfect amount of time for a commute or your morning coffee.



What’s The Difference Between Plug-In Hybrids and Battery Electric Vehicles? | Fleet FYIs Podcast, Season 2 Episode 28

Gretchen Reese (00:06):

Hey there. Welcome to Fleet FYIs, the weekly podcast by Utilimarc that reveals how you can make the most of your data for smarter fleet management. My name is Gretchen and every week you’ll hear from me and some of the industry’s finest in candid conversations that will shed some light on not only two decades worth of data insights, but some of the industry’s hottest talking points and key metric analysis with the aim to help you better understand your fleet from every angle.

Gretchen Reese (00:33):

But before we begin, if this is the first time you’ve heard our show, thanks for stopping by. I’m so glad you decided to come along for the ride with us. But I’ve got a quick favor to ask you. Once you finish today’s episode, if you could take a few minutes to leave us a review on your favorite podcasting platform, we would really appreciate it. Give us a rating, five stars I hope, or tell us what you liked or leave us a comment or a question about what you’ve heard in today’s episode.

Gretchen Reese (00:58):

But if we haven’t yet covered a topic that you’re interested in hearing more about, let us know. We would be happy to go over it in detail in a later episode. If that sounds good to you, let’s get back to the show.

Gretchen Reese (01:11):

Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of the Fleet FYI’s podcast. Today’s an exciting day because we’re beginning a new little series for this show that I think you’re going to love, or at least, I should say, I hope you’ll love it. There’s been a ton of questions circulating in the industry about a ton of folks just like you that want answers to. And that’s true anywhere. It’s not just in the fleet industry. I mean, I know when I started in this industry, I mean, the questions were just endless, right? How does this work? Why does that do that? Why is the buying cycle like this? How does the alternative fuel sourcing work? So many, right?

Gretchen Reese (01:54):

But the thing with the fleet industry is, though, we’re in the middle of a massive evolutionary movement for the technology that many of us use to complete our jobs on a daily or weekly basis. Yes, we’re electrifying, there is no surprise here. And especially, you know, dabbling into alternative fuels as well. But along with the sustainability movement, because we all know that the industry is made up of more than just this, as more data becomes readily available to address questions and comments and concerns about where the industry is headed, the water can get a little bit murky as we go on ahead.

Gretchen Reese (02:27):

Which brings me back to my point, you know, the questions, comments, wisecracks and concerns, each has a place. And that place may just be our new series which is called Fleet FYIs Shorts. And I’m so excited to tell you about that today. Each week I’ll tackle a different trending question or a comment that’s been revving engines across the industry or bring in someone who can, similar to our previous episodes except for they’re a little bit more of what I call a bite size episode. All with the purpose of trying to make the fleet industry today, as well as where it’s headed, just a little bit clearer.

Gretchen Reese (03:00):

So if you’ve got any burning questions or something you’d just like to hear a little bit more about, send it my way. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Gretchen Reese (03:20):

All righty. To kick this new series off, let’s start with a topic we are all very familiar with. Let’s start with some EV basics. So what is the difference between a plug in hybrid vehicle and a battery powered electric vehicle? I kind of thought that, initially, I knew my stuff when it came to plug in hybrids versus, you know, battery powered EVs. But I find that the more I dig into this topic, it still is something where there’s a lot of smaller facets to how this technology works that I just wasn’t aware of. And perhaps you’re in that same boat too. I mean, I would think so, maybe some of you because this question’s still being asked. What’s the difference? What are the benefits? What are the challenges? So I wanted to tackle that piece of the question for our first little episode of Fleet FYIs Shorts.

Gretchen Reese (04:07):

And we can start with what a plug in hybrid vehicle actually is. So a plug in hybrid electric vehicle, as I’m sure you know, is a hybrid electric vehicle in which the battery can be recharged by one of two ways. So firstly, being plugged into a charging cable and an external electric power source. Or internally by its onboard internal combustion engine powered generator. Or powered motor.

Gretchen Reese (04:30):

Myself being a word nerd, I of course am going back to my roots here. The word hybrid itself means simply of mixed origin. And in my opinion, that pretty much describes the hybrid and plug in hybrid vehicles to a tee. You know, hybrid vehicles use a combination of petrol powered engines. So your typical engines, as you know, the internal combustion that you fill up from the gas tank- or that you fill up from the gas station every so often, and electric motors.

Gretchen Reese (04:55):

And these two components work together and sometimes they’ll trade off at the job of delivering power to, um, the wheels and to the motor as needed, um, in order to provide the best fuel efficiency, so that’s your miles per gallon or elec- or miles per gallon for- I think it’s MPGE for electric vehicles, in every driving condition. So that could be city roads, it could be highway roads, it could be varying speeds, rates of acceleration. You name it, it’s listed.

Gretchen Reese (05:24):

And in addition to hybrids, which would be your HEVs, if you’ve heard the acronym before, or plug in hybrids, which is your PHEVs … Many acronyms, I like to unpack them, that’s kind of my thing. Overall, electric vehicles, which, you know, in short is just vehicles that incorporate an electric motor into their power train, includes full electric vehicles as well, like, you know, and those are EVs in case, in case you wanted another acronym thrown your way, uh, that are powered solely by a large battery back. And they have no petrol powered engine whatsoever.

Gretchen Reese (05:58):

Now these vehicles are largely defined by the amount of electric assist and electric only range that they have. And that’s where you hear that range or the term range anxiety. What that stems from in terms of how far you can go without needing a charging station. Um, they made be small battery hybrids, which may be considered more on the mild side. Um, with electric motors that add some acceleration. They might recover some enery- energy whilst you’re doing, um, you know, braking in stop and start situation. Um, and they also provide a little bit of power for start- for stop/start systems. Or, um, then you also have, you know, your bigger battery, long range EVs, which is where you get the range of, you know, between 200 and 300 miles on a full charge.

Gretchen Reese (06:43):

Those are considered to be the book ends of the spectrum. HEVs and PHEVs are somewhere in that middle ground there. And they actually likely represent the majority of electrified vehicles, especially in years to come as they’re still starting to, um, take off in popularity.

Gretchen Reese (07:03):

Now if we’re talking about plug in hybrid vehicles alone, they can operate on electric power for anywhere from about 15 miles to 50 miles. But once that battery power is gone, you know, you’ve sucked it dry, plug ins transition from running on mostly electricity to operate as your standard internal combustion engine vehicle. And they swap to their petrol powered motor and you can quickly refuel them at any services or gas station that you can find.

Gretchen Reese (07:34):

A lot of plug ins tend to be a super, super attractive option for drivers that typically travel short distances. Um, like for example, you know, the Priuses that are hybrids. Because if you’re driving short distances, you don’t need to worry about always having a full charge. And they can a- uh, benefit from operating on, um, their electric motor most of the time. But if you’re taking, you know, the car on a longer journey, those owners can still get the ultimate range of a petrol powered vehicle when they need to, which is also a benefit of having that hybrid technology in your car.

Gretchen Reese (08:07):

Battery electric vehicles are very different. I mean, I’m sure we all know this, uh, by now. But most kno- most newer models have enough range to satisfy, um, the needs of a typical driver for multiple days without fully recharging. So, for example, if you have a level one charger that plugs into a wall outlet in your home, maybe that might give you an extra 10 to 20 miles overnight. That would be enough for every single day. So then if you don’t use those 10 to tw- uh, to 20 miles then you know you’re adding into your power bank there every single night as you plug it back in.

Gretchen Reese (08:39):

Um, and those are usually that 120 volt outlets. And you don’t need to purchase nor install a more expensive, like, 240 volt home charger. Those typically need, like, um, oh, what are they called? A transformer, so that you can actually utilize that much power to charge your vehicle. But, you know, most people still do want that 240 volt charger just because it’s faster and you get more charge overnight. But unless you’re doing longer, longer drives, longer trips every single day, odds are you probably won’t need them.

Gretchen Reese (09:14):

Battery electric vehicles actually have fewer components than a plug in hybrid or an internal combustion engine vehicle though. So, um, when we’re looking at, you know, another side of this coin, you know, you have to pay for a charger. Or actually you would have to pay for the 240 volt. I think maybe the 120 volt outlet chargers may come free with some vehicles, depending on the model and the manufacturer. But EVs overall have lower maintenance costs because they don’t require fluid changes or tune ups. And an electric vehicle analysis that we completed earlier in, um, 2020 actually shows that some of the people and some of the fleets that are owning EVs in the realm of customers that we work with, they generally cost less to own for the folks that have them. And, you know, the anticipated integration of the EVs is actually much more looked forward to than initially thought because of lesser maintenance costs, lesser fuel costs and overall just ease of driving and ease of integration.

Gretchen Reese (10:27):

But let’s get back to the good stuff, hum? So what’s the benefit of a plug in hybrid? I figured for the first episode of Fleet FYIs Shorts, we’ll do two questions to kick us off because, in a way, they’re related enough (laughing), right? Um, you know, like what is a plug in hybrid versus what are the benefits? Why do I want them? Um, so let’s dig straight into that. And I wanted to talk about the benefits but also the challenges because these vehicles are certainly not without those. And that’s a really important note to, you know, to really discuss. Because as with any technology, especially with newer technology, you are going to have, um, the challenges that come along with it, whether it’s the challenges in trying to adopt a new technology or just trying to iron out the wrinkles. They’re gonna be there.

Gretchen Reese (11:15):

But firstly if we look at benefit number one, we’re looking at less petrol use or gasoline use. And if we look at it in a statistic perspective, plug in hybrids use roughly 30 to 60% less petrol than conventional vehicle. And since electricity is promos- are produced mostly from domestic resources, plug in hybrids actually reduce our oil dependence, which, you know, for some that is a massive benefit. For others maybe not as much if you work in oil and natural gas. However, um, a lot of people do really like that fact about, you know, hybrid EV- or hybrids or plug in hybrid electric vehicles, or even battery powered EVs in general.

Gretchen Reese (11:55):

The second benefit is less greenhouse gas emissions. And we actually have an episode coming out on that, um, in not too short of a time frame. Um, it’s coming up here pretty quickly on why should people even care about them in the first place? But overall, plug in hybrids typically emit less greenhouse gas than conventional vehicles, as you’d expect. However, the amount generated definitely depends on how the electricity is produced. For example, looking at how clean is the electric grid is kind of a trendy phrase to put it towards. Um, but basically in short, are you producing your energy through nuclear and hydro-electric plants? Are you producing your energy via renewable resources like hydro, solar and wind? Or are you relying on coal to produce your energy? That’s usually the biggest indicator of how sustainable some of these EVs or types of hybrids actually will be.

Gretchen Reese (12:50):

If we look at kind of a, I’ll call it pseudo benefit, pseudo challenge, it’s higher vehicle costs. I mean, we know this. EVs are a lot more expensive than your traditional vehicle. But then they also have lower fuel co- fuel costs because you’re only paying for the electricity needed to charge your vehicle, you know, whenever you need to plug it in.

Gretchen Reese (13:10):

So when you have vehicles that are between four and eight thousand dollars more than a comparable potentially non plug-in hybrid or even just your internal combustion engine, we tend to look toward the fuel cost to try and offset this higher vehicle cost. You know, it all evens out to roughly about X, Y, Zed amount of dollars. And usually using electricity is much cheaper than using a petrol gasoline. However, sometimes the fuel savings may offset the higher vehicle cost. Sometimes it doesn’t. It truly just depends on the vehicle and the amount of miles that are operating on electricity, what the fuel actually costs, you know, at any given time frame. Is it $4 a gallon, $2 a gallon? Actually, I would love if it was $2 a gallon again. However, we’re not getting into that in this show. Um, but really then also it depends on the ownership length. How long do you have this vehicle? How often are you using it? And how much is that electricity actually going to offset the cost of your vehicle?

Gretchen Reese (14:10):

Sometimes actually looking into tax incentives, which if you haven’t already, take a look at the piece that’s on Utilimarc’s website, which is www.utilimark.com. I hope you’ve already checked it out. But if you haven’t, it’s all about federal tax incentives and how those could potentially also offset the purchase of EVs and, um, trying to see if tax incentives might be the way to get people to electrify. That’s still up in the air. But right now, the tax incentives on the federal level are up to $7500, um, for qualifying plug ins. So some people actually like to see that as a massive benefit as well.

Gretchen Reese (14:48):

Now, if we look to the elephant in the room, it’s that recharging takes time. I mean, you and I both know, especially, you know, you’ve probably, at least every single one of you, driven an internal combustion engine at least at one point in your life. And usually recharging during the hundred- using a 120 volt household outlet can take several hours. Recharging using a 240 volt public charger or home out- or home charger can take about one to four. Now if we look at how much time it takes to fuel up a vehicle at a gas station, we’re looking at three to five minutes. And the fastest charge that- right now that you can find for an EV to 80% capacity might take 30 minutes. So when we’re looking at you know, charging time versus fueling time, you know, you actually will have to plan out some time in your day either to go and find a charger or to sit at a services station and recharge your vehicle.

Gretchen Reese (15:45):

Um, sometimes these vehicles, especially if you’re driving a plug in hybrid, don’t need to be plugged in. They can be fueled solely with petrol. But won’t achieve maximum range or fuel economy without charging. I mean, if you’ve driven a Prius before, or any other common hybrid models, you probably know this by now. But that is one thing to take note of if you are considering investing in any type of a hybrid vehicle or a plug in hybrid.

Gretchen Reese (16:08):

Lastly, and this I think is gonna be really interesting for folks that do experience some sort of range anxiety, especially if they’ve never owned an EV before, or a plug in hybrid before, is estimating the fuel economy. And because a plug in can operate on electricity alone, or petrol alone, or even a mixture of the two, if we look at, um, the provided fuel economy estimate for gasoline only operation or an estimate for electric only, or even a combination, you don’t exactly get an accurate response because a lot of them are factory decided.

Gretchen Reese (16:45):

Now, to unpack that a little bit, having it be factory decided really just means they are testing in optimal conditions. So you have one person in the cab or the weight of one person in the cab. You don’t have, you know, like a full, uh, trunk of things, like if you’re going on a road trip or if you need to carry things around with you for your job. And they typically don’t have the accessories going. So that’s your heat, that’s your seat heaters, that’s your air conditioning, that’s your radio. Because all of them are battery powered.

Gretchen Reese (17:12):

Um, so that being said, you have a very efficient fuel economy estimate from an anecdotal data source. However, it’s- a lot of times, need to be tested out in the real world and in real driving situations by yourself and the load that you typically carry, as well as your typical accessory use to really find that true, um, fuel economy for your individual vehicle. Which can be a turn off for some, but for others, it just comes with the territory.

Gretchen Reese (17:46):

I’d love to hear what you think. Are you a fan of hybrid EVs, plug in hybrids? What are your thoughts? Personally, I think these will be quite a commonplace technology as we move forward in a mission to become more sustainable in the future. And I’m actually really interested to see where they go. Because, if you ask me, I think that when you look at how long our energy reserves will go in terms of our oil reserves or, you know, lithium reserves in terms of access of natural resource there, it’s interesting to look at the timeline for how much access we will have and until we basically drain them dry. And I think that in order to answer, um, the question of which will run out first, I think it’s gonna be lithium. However, if we do something like a plug in hybrid technology or just a hybrid technology in general, that may be a way to allow both of them to last a little bit longer and also help us in the movement to be more sustainable. But that’s just me and my very humble opinion.

Gretchen Reese (18:55):

But anyways, like I said at the beginning of this show, if you’ve got any burning questions or a topic that you’d like to hear unpacked in one of these shorter episodes, send me an email or use the hashtag AskUtilimarc. I know you’ve heard me use the hashtag UtilimarcFleetFYIs in most episodes but I figure new series, new hashtag, different form of organization, kind of fun in my opinion. T- I may have been listening to a little bit too much of Marie Kondo in my free time (laughing). Actually, I probably am listening or watching a lot of that in my free time, which perhaps is a bit too much.

Gretchen Reese (19:29):

Anyways, before I get too off topic, that’s all for me. I’ll be back in your headphones again next week. So until next time, ciao.

Gretchen Reese (19:42):

Hey there. I think this is the time that I should cue the virtual high five because you’ve just finished listening to another episode of the Fleet FYIs Podcast. If you’re already wanting more content, head over to Utilimark.com, which is Utilimarc with a C, U-T-I-L-I-M-A-R-C dot com for the show notes and extra insights coming straight from our analysts to you. That’s all for me this week. So until next time, I’ll catch you later.

If you or someone you know is interested in appearing on the Fleet FYIs podcast, please email our content manager for more information.


Gretchen Reese

Content Manager

Gretchen Reese is the content manager at Utilimarc. She has experience in global and strategic marketing, previously working as a copywriter and content specialist for a London marketing agency and freelancing in multiple niches. See more from Gretchen


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