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August 2019

The age-old battle between plug-in hybrid cars and fully electric vehicles is long and storied – the public has yet to come to a consensus on which one is better overall. The fact is, the answer will differ from person to person. However, we have some opinions on which one is best overall. Spoiler alert: we love the fully-electric car, any day of the week!

Take the time to read on to find out how these two electric giants compare, and which one belongs in your garage.

What’s the Difference? 


First of all, we have to establish what we mean by plug-in hybrid and fully-electric.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are vehicles that contain both an electric and an internal combustion engine. They are able to operate in full-electric mode, however when their battery runs out the ICE takes over to do the grunt work until the battery is externally recharged (hence “plug-in”). There’s a lot of controversy in the EV community about whether this constitutes a true addition to the world of eco-friendly driving, as the drivetrain includes the utilisation of traditional fossil fuel pollutants.

Then we have the full-electric, pure-electric, or battery electric vehicles (BEVs). These operate with a purely-electric engine, so no internal combustion is anywhere to be seen on these models, resulting in zero-emissions. These cars are also recharged externally via a plug-in cable. More and more models are emerging with pure-electric power, so this is a rapidly expanding part of the auto-market.

Those are the surface-level differences. Let’s dive in a bit deeper.

Time to Compare 


To many eco-enthusiasts, the choice between the pure-electric vehicle and a hybrid might seem straightforward. However, when comparing your potential vehicle’s capabilities to the necessities inherent in your lifestyle, you may find that you have a different decision to make. Plug-in hybrids are undeniably a transition from the present to the electric future, but in order to fully adopt them into society, some of us may have to wait for technology (and prices) to catch up with us.

If we’re thinking in terms of which one fits your lifestyle, then there are three blanket factors to consider: price (both initially and in the long-run), eco-friendliness, and performance.


Let’s begin with the thing on most people’s minds: price. Purchasing any car is a big financial decision, but when that’s compounded with the possible ecological impact, it can all start to feel overwhelming. Let’s break it down.

For economy models of PHEV, the immediate price upon purchase will put you at around $55,000 on average, brand-new. This would be for models such as a Toyota Prius PHEV or a Mitsubishi Outlander, which are some of the highest-selling economy vehicles in the PHEV market today. In addition, the estimated cost per month to run one of these vehicles would be about $750.

Economy BEVs have a similar purchase price to PHEVs in mint condition – about $54,000 (think Nissan LEAF or a Hyundai IONIQ). These cost about $670 to run per month, on average, which is a chunk off of the PHEV cost.

The real benefit of a BEV comes in the long run, as the maintenance and servicing costs are largely reduced due to the distinct lack of a combustion engine, making them a cheaper buy long-term. Although electric engines do still need servicing, they don’t need all of the peripheral costs such as oil changes that ICE drivers must account for.

This one is a little bit ambiguous, and it really does depend on your lifestyle or what you’re looking for in a vehicle. Research your options thoroughly.


If you’re looking into your options in eco-friendly cars, then it’s safe to say that you’re concerned about your emissions footprint as a modern-day driver. We agree that it’s a vital concern, so what’s the reality when it comes to the comparison between these types of EVs?

In terms of the environment, there is no better option than the BEV. Zero-emissions driving is hard to argue with, and while we understand that they are not an option for everyone, it’s difficult to look past a car that produces no carbon footprint while driving. PHEVs do have a fully-electric mode, however their batteries are typically not as large. As such, their electric modes won’t last nearly as long, prompting the use of the ICE. This reduces emissions, which is always a good thing, but it’s a far cry from eliminating them altogether.

For this category, we have to go with the BEV.


Finally, we come to the motorhead category: performance.

Contrary to popular belief, BEVs might actually have PHEVs beat in the engine department – although this depends on the specific models you are comparing. In pure-electric mode, the BEV has a lot more kilowatts of output to play with, magnifying the torque and thus providing better acceleration. However, if the ICE of the PHEV comes into play, then (depending on the specifications of the engine) it could put the cars on an even keel.

Despite this, the PHEV typically beats the BEV when it comes to distance and range. Apart from the most high-end models in the BEV realm, which have 500km+ per full charge, most BEVs will fall short of the capabilities of a combined ICE and electric engine. This is, however, only important if you find yourself in need of a car with a large range.

So, overall, it’s difficult to say which car is the absolute best for every person in the world. The PHEV is an excellent transitional technology that works for the lifestyle of many, and the BEV is the future incarnate. In terms of environmental impact, we have to say that the winner is the pure-electric car every time, but for other factors it’s really up to you.

So, who wins? You can be the judge of that.

Support the charge for a better NZ. 

Looking to buy electric cars in New Zealand? Come into anyone of our dealerships to view both PHEV and BEV options, and start on your journey to a leaner, greener driving experience!

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