What's the difference between an EV, Range Extender and a Hybrid?


An EV is an Electric Vehicle. That is a vehicle that is purely powered by electricity alone and therefore emits no emissions. First generation EVs typically had a range of around 100 miles. As batteries improve, so does the range. For example, the 2017 models of Renault Zoe and & BMW i3 have improved batteries, so the range is now improved to around 140 miles. This will keep improving over time. Tesla cars are different - their range is 200-400 miles , depending on the model.

Range Extender

A range extender is an electric car with a small petrol engine (and small fuel tank) to extend its driving range. The BMW i3 REX and Vauxhall Ampera are two typical range extender models, where the petrol engine generates additional electricity into the batteries, rather than directly driving the wheels.


A hybrid is a vehicle that uses both an traditional engine and an electric motor to help efficiency. There's general two types of hybrid - a plug-in hybrid and non-plug-in.

The non-plug-in (or just "hybrid") uses a small battery pack and the car charges the battery itself by regeneration braking. Typically this type of hybrid will only drive on the electric motor only at very low speeds and for very short distances. Toyota Prius and Lexus were the first and most common hybrids.

The plug-in hybrid (often called PHEV) is the next generation hybrid with larger battery pack which is requires plugging in to fully charge. Due to the larger battery, the electric driving range is typically 20 miles and will cut in and out as required to assist the engine. One of the most common PHEVs in the UK is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

How does an electric car work?

This video, explains it in great detail how electric cars work. It may be a little too technical for some, but its worth sticking with it!

What is 'regen' braking?

Regenerative braking converts the kinetic energy into electricity, topping up the car's battery. In an electric car, when you release your foot off the accelerator, the electric motor acts as a dynamo which generates electricity while the car slows down and its fed back into the battery. In some vehicles, the driver can adjust the severity of the regenerative braking.

In fully electric vehicles with strong regen braking, the driver will often only use the foot brake for the last few meters when slowing the car to a stop - unless emergency stopping is required, of course.

This video explains the system in further detail.

What do you do when the battery goes flat?

A common question is "what do you do when your battery goes flat?" My answer is "the same as a petrol car!". Electric cars are no different - if you drive it when empty, you'll get stuck, just like any other car. And like any other car, you call your roadside recovery provider and they take you to the nearest refuelling (charge point) station. If you have a vehicle with a battery lease, then recovery is included.

Are electric vans exempt from MoT tests?

Yes. See Electric vans for a further explanation.

What about hydrogen electric cars?

Hydrogen fuelled cars are zero emission electric cars. The energy is stored in a hydrogen tank, then made into electricity using a fuel cell, to drive the electric motor. While the vehicle is zero emission , there is still the manufacturing process of the hydrogen, the transportation to the fuel stations and the storage to consider. Due to all of this, the cost of the fuel is hugely more expensive than electricity and far more inefficient as it takes a lot of energy to make the hydrogen in the first place.

Toyota & Hyundai have developed hydrogen fuelled cars and the Toyota Mirai is available to buy in the UK. Prices start from £66,000, so its over twice the price of a similar battery electric car. I feel that fuelling personal transport from hydrogen is crazy compared to using batteries and it just replicates what the big oil companies have been doing with petrol and diesel. I think the technology does have a future in other forms of transport like HGVs, planes, ships, etc.

Can you tow with an electric vehicle?

There is no physical reason why an EV couldn't tow, but most manufacturers haven't done towing capacity as part of the homologation process for their EV models and therefore it is not legal to tow with these vehicles in the UK. However, some manufacturer's have (Tesla for example) and as more models are being released by others, more EVs have a towing capacity specified.