Is PHEV All-Electric? (Simple Explanation)

PHEV stands for Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle. Technically, it’s a plug-in electric vehicle but that’s not all there is to a PHEV.

For those who have never owned an electric car or a hybrid, seeing a PHEV plugged in and charging may lead them to believe that it’s an all-electric vehicle. 

PHEVs are not all-electric vehicles, however. They’re hybrid vehicles and they happen to be the one type of hybrid vehicle that’s as close to all-electric as hybrids get. It has the largest battery of the hybrid lineups currently on the market today.

PHEVs are probably the most advantageous of the hybrids because they have a large battery with the most range (in terms of how far they can go on battery alone).

They also have a small, ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) that’s comparable to full hybrids and mild hybrids. 

PHEV Plug-in

What are the Major Differences Between EVs and PHEVs?

Some people assume that electric vehicles don’t have motors because they often conflate the term “motor” with “engine.”

EVs do have motors in them. In fact, they have a lot of motors in them. Every wheel has a motor connected to its brake system. That’s how EVs take advantage of regenerative braking. 

PHEVs have the same number of motors, one for each wheel, because they also utilize regenerative braking.

The biggest difference between EVs and PHEVs is the lack of an engine in the former and the smaller battery in the latter. 

The battery in a PHEV is much smaller than the battery in a conventional electric vehicle.

In EVs, the battery is expected to have a comparable and competitive range, as it relates to the range in vehicles with combustion engines only. 

Electric Vehicles

EVs are taking the world by storm, growing in both market value and popularity.

Tesla is probably the most well-known name in electric vehicle manufacturing but there are some more traditional brands pushing all-electric vehicles now, such as the Hyundai Ionic 5, Kia EV6, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Chevy Bolt EV, and the Kia Niro EV.

These vehicles are all electric and will never need or take a single drop of gasoline or diesel fuel.

EVs run completely off of a large battery which takes up most of the vehicle’s undercarriage.

These batteries are large enough to provide drivers with 200 to 400 miles of range before they require a recharge. 

Depending on the amount of time you spend behind the wheel each day, they might or not need to be charged on a nightly basis.

For instance, the Tesla Model 3 has a 272-mile range. If you only drive 20 miles per day, you won’t need to recharge it every night. 

The biggest downside to EVs is that you can’t just hop in the car and drive on an 8-hour trip without worrying about places to stop and recharge.

It never ceases to amaze people how much land there is in this country. 

If you get on a plane and look down, it’s staggering how much open space there is, compared to roads, towns, and cities.

Unfortunately, supercharger stations (though there are a lot of them now) are nowhere near as prevalent as gas stations. 

Each long trip has to be carefully and meticulously plotted out and sometimes you will be required to go way out of your way to recharge your EV.

Like PHEVs, EVs use regenerative braking to help juice the battery while driving, though it’s not enough to sustain long travel times. 

replace tesla battery

Plug-In Hybrids

PHEVs are the most economical version of gasoline cars you can get. Imagine taking a standard, small v6 or c4 internal combustion engine and coupling it with a huge battery.

A standard, 12-volt battery accompanies all gas and diesel engines in home and recreational vehicles. 

But the battery in a PHEV is much larger. If your alternator fails in a gas-powered car, you have about a minute and a half to two minutes before the 12-volt is exhausted and you’re parked on the side of the road. 

With a PHEV, you can switch from gas to the battery and get anywhere between 20 and 40 miles on nothing but the battery.

Like electric vehicles, PHEVs also use regenerative braking thanks to four motors—one paired with each wheel.

Although regenerative braking does a good job of providing some trickle of juice to the battery in an EV, it functions even better in a PHEV because the battery is smaller. PHEVs generally have a better range than EVs as well. 

In a PHEV, the battery can completely take over or it can assist the engine as you drive on gas-only.

With a PHEV, you have a lot more leeway in plotting out your route on long drives. You don’t have to worry about being out in the middle of nowhere without a single sign of a supercharger station nearby. 

Since you can run it on gas or battery, it’s easier to take those long trips and if you’re in a pickle and low on gas, you can expect an additional 20 to 40 miles. 

Should You Buy a PHEV or an EV?

It depends on what you need and what’s going to work out best for you.

Both vehicles are expensive but the PHEVs are a little more cost-effective in terms of lower price and better range. 

Electric vehicles are all the rage right now but if you’re new to the world of EVs and hybrids, you may just want to dip your toes in the water to test things out at first—meaning you should go with a PHEV. 

You get the best of both worlds and by the time its lifecycle is done, you will know if an EV is right for you.

Bottom Line

PHEVs are not all-electric, however, you can switch to battery only for short distances.

It’s especially useful for city driving when you’re caught in a lot of traffic. Those circumstances force your car to gobble gasoline but not when you switch over the battery only.