Hybrid vs Electric Vehicles

Red Toyota Prius parked in the driveway of a modern home with a couple walking away from the vehicle

AutoNation Toyota Hayward carries new and used Toyota vehicles. While many of those cars, trucks, and SUVs are powered by conventional gas or diesel internal combustion engines (ICE), a lot of them use other ways to get you where you need to go. In this quick guide, we break down some of the major differences between hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs).

The Basics

Similar to how the adorable Havapoo is a cross between a Havenese and a Poodle, a hybrid is a cross between a traditional ICE vehicle and an EV. There are a few different types of hybrids on the market.

Full hybrids have a gas ICE, electric motor, and high-voltage battery pack, but function in different ways. Some draw on electric power for moving at low speeds and under low load conditions; when more thrust is required, they can switch to the ICE. Others are capable of running on gas and electric power at the same.

Toyota offers plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), including the RAV4 Prime. PHEVs can run on gas just like a vehicle with an ICE, but can provide the increased efficiency of hybrids and be driven for a commute-friendly distance without using a drop of gasoline. When the RAV4 Prime is fully charged, it can travel 42 miles on pure electricity. EVs are just what they sound like. They're electric vehicles. There's no ICE, just an electric motor (or two or three) and a large battery pack. That means there's no need to change oil or spark plugs or certain other consumables that ICEs require.

Economy Ratings

Since PHEVs have a gas engine and an electric motor, their fuel economy is measured in terms of mpg and something called miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent, better known as MPGe. According to FuelEconomy.gov, MPGe is "similar to MPG, but instead of presenting miles per gallon of the vehicle's fuel type, it represents the number of miles the vehicle can go using a quantity of fuel with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline."

EVs are rated for both MPGe and how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity they use to travel 100 miles. Since they can't be filled up at gas stations, their travel range is especially important.

For instance, The 2023 Toyota bZ4X can travel up to 252 miles on a single charge.

Filling Options

Filling up a hybrid is the same as putting gas in a conventional ICE vehicle. It takes a little longer to top off a plug-in hybrid because it needs fuel from a gas pump and electricity from a power outlet. Charge times for PHEVs and EVs vary based on the kind of charger used. Level 1 units plug into 120-volt outlets. Level 2 chargers are compatible with 240-volt outlets. Level 3, aka DC fast chargers, are the most potent, and run on 400 to 1000 volts, according to advocacy group Plug In America. Just keep in mind that not every PHEV or EV is compatible with Level 3 hardware.