If you're interested in buying a new car with a focus on the latest fuel-efficient technology, then you're probably trying to choose between a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle. They all have their pros and cons and suit people differently, so which one is for you? 


Full hybrids are vehicles that can travel a considerable distance using both electric and petrol motors. A hybrid vehicle will almost always be able to charge its own batteries using the petrol engine. In some cases, this is all the petrol engine is there for – to recharge the batteries, which power the electric motors. In other types of hybrid vehicles, the petrol motor drives the wheels directly, but an additional battery/motor combination adds some electric drive. 

In reality, many of us driving around the cities find ourselves in stop start scenarios. If you’re driving a hybrid, it’s during these times where you’re able to utilise this energy by storing it in the hybrid battery. Hybrid vehicles gain battery charge during the initial stage of braking or through deceleration which is then stored for use in its battery for use during cruising and low load driving. When the engine is not needed, it simply shuts down. 

The Toyota Prius is by far the most common hybrid in New Zealand and it’s easy to see why. It’s cheap to run with fuel consumption under 5-litres per 100km, spacious interior, solid reliability and low maintenance costs.

Plug in Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

Plug-in hybrid cars are exactly what their name suggests – they're hybrid cars that can be plugged in. Essentially, these models use two different powertrains, both of which can drive the wheels. There's an electric motor that enables drivers to travel a certain distance based on the capacity of the batteries and there's a normal petrol engine that kicks in once the electric battery is depleted. The range of a PHEV is generally 30-50km – perfect if you don’t want to consume fuel on short journeys, even better if your daily commute to work and back falls within range. 

Plug-in drivers get the best of both worlds, electric-vehicle efficiency around town and traditional car range for longer trips. Some of the more common PHEV vehicles on New Zealand roads include the Mitsubishi Outlander, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Niro and Toyota Prius. 

Electric Vehicle (EV)

Electric vehicles offer several advantages over plug-in hybrids. The main attraction is that EVs benefit the environment more than PHEVs, since they don't use any fuel at all. That's a big deal for consumers looking to minimise their carbon footprint as much as possible.

Additionally, EVs help drivers save more money on running costs, since they don't use any fuel. They also offer a longer electric-only range than PHEV’s. That means drivers who want to cruise for as long as possible without using a drop of fuel will be better served with an EV than a plug-in.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to EVs, the largest being range. As these vehicles rely solely on their energy that is stored in their batteries, drivers must be mindful to monitor their range at all times. Generally, vehicles being released today offer ranges around 200-300km while some of the older EVs are around the 100km mark. 

Drivers with a long commute, or those who routinely travel more than 150-200km without overnight stops, would be wise to consider a plug-in hybrid instead of an EV.

Some of the more common EV vehicles on New Zealand roads include the popular Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq and Tesla Model S.

With so many vehicle manufacturers committing to an electric future, it’s important to keep up to date with the changing technologies. Keep an eye on the AA Car of the Year awards with the inclusion of the Best in Class – EV/Plug-in Hybrid category for the first time where we’ll announce the PHEV/EV which is deemed the best in the new car market.

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