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Electric and hybrid cars: everything you need to know

If you’ve decided to swap your petrol-powered car for something a little kinder to the planet, you’re in good company. The number of electric and hybrid cars on the road is expected to hit five million around the world by the end of 2018. At the yearly International Motor Show in Geneva, one of the world’s most prestigious events of the car industry, electric cars and hybrids always seem to be the talk of the town. But are these types of cars actually as beneficial as they're made out to be and are they right for you?

What’s the difference?

With a hybrid, you get an electric motor plus a traditional petrol engine. Basic hybrids only charge from regenerative braking and momentum on the road, while plug-in hybrids can also be—you guessed it—plugged in to charge from the grid, allowing for bigger batteries and even lower petrol consumption.

 

With an electric car, it's batteries all the way. No petrol needed!


Money matters

Electric cars are more expensive to buy than hybrids, so in the short term, they're not as accessible as other cars. In the long term, however, you really see the financial benefits because they don’t need petrol—and when it comes to mileage, electricity gives you far greater returns for charging than hybrids and traditional cars give you for filling up the tank.

 

With as few as 12 moving parts, an electric motor is much more simple and reliable than the hybrid’s petrol engine, meaning cheaper maintenance. Electric cars are sometimes exempt from the traffic-tax and in some places they receive a tax rebate of more than 50 per cent over several years. Inform yourself at your canton's Road Traffic Office about the respective tax calculation. A simple overview can be found here.


Going the distance

Electric cars have one big plus: although they need servicing as often as hybrids, their simplicity makes maintenance much more straightforward.

 

The reason electric loses on practicality is driving range. They’re definitely improving, but charging still takes a while—and that’s if you can find a charging point! Meanwhile, petrol stations are everywhere, so hybrid drivers will never have to worry about simply not being able to get enough fuel. So, if you regularly drive very long distances in remote or rural areas, an electric car might not be the most practical option. 


Being green

When it comes to direct emissions, electric wins hands-down—you can’t beat zero! But indirect emissions are just as important. A hybrid produced nearby in an environmentally-friendly factory could well be greener overall than an electric car sent thousands of miles on a gasoline-fuelled ship from a not-so-green plant. So be sure to do your research if the environment is your main concern! 

 

In short, which is best depends on you and your circumstances. So, now you know what to look for—what will you go for?