Electric and Hybrid Cars Explained

by Rachel Hanratty | 4 min read   January 20th, 2021

It’s no secret that climate change is happening right now and Ireland will likely miss its EU targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Sustainable Energy Authority Of Ireland (SEAI) reported that transport accounted for 40% of the country’s energy-related CO2 emissions in 2018. And it’s predicted that transport and agriculture will account for 80% of all emissions by the year 2030 if something doesn't change. Which is where electric and hybrid cars come in.

What is an Electric Car?

An electric vehicle (EV) is one that operates on an electric motor, instead of an internal-combustion engine which generates power by burning petrol or diesel.

What is a Hybrid Car?

As the name suggests, hybrid cars are a combination of two types of vehicles – an electric vehicle and a traditional fuel-powered vehicle. There are 3 types of hybrids:

  1. A Full Hybrid (FHEV) can run on the electric engine, the fuel engine or a combination of both. The Toyota Prius is the most well-known example of this. A full hybrid is never plugged in to charge as the battery is recharged by running the fuel engine. 
  2. A Mild Hybrid (BAHV) has an electric motor and a fuel engine which always work together. The Honda Accord Hybrid is the most well-known example of this. Most mild hybrids cannot run in just electric or just fuel engine mode – the engine and motor always work in parallel. 
  3. A Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) can run on the electric engine, the fuel engine or a combination of both. As the name suggests, a plug-in hybrid has to be plugged in to recharge its battery fully.

Driving Range

One of the big deciders for anyone thinking of buying an electric or hybrid car is their average daily or weekly mileage. If you drive from Dublin to Cork and back twice a week, an electric vehicle is probably not the best idea – unless you are guaranteed the time and somewhere to charge it while you’re down there.

When EV’s were first introduced, most had a low driving range (less than 120km per full charge), and the ones that didn't were considered too expensive. But that's a thing of the past. Electric vehicles now have a similar driving range to that of a ‘normal’ combustion engine car. The Telsa Model S has a driving range of 610km, the Hyundai Kona Electric has an official driving range of 449km, and the Nissan Leaf 40KWH has a driving range up to 270km.

Range anxiety is a real thing though with first time EV drivers – the fear of suddenly running out of battery halfway through a journey and being stranded in the middle of the road is a genuine fear. But just like you wouldn’t let your fuel gauge go into the red (we hope!), it’s the same for an electric car. You’ll quickly decide on a range that you won’t let your car drop below before recharging.

There’s less range anxiety with a Hybrid vehicle as you’re used to the concept of being able to refuel at any time. With Full Hybrids and Plug-In Hybrids, there is the option of driving on 100% electric mode. The Range Rover Sport PHEV offers up to 48km in full-electric mode, before switching to the fuel engine while the Renault Captur E-Tech Plug-in offers up to 65km of range in electric mode. Many people purchase a Plug-in Hybrid as they require low mileage during the week and can run on the electric engine, while still having the option of a combustion engine for longer journeys.


There are 2 options when it comes to charging you EV or PHEV.

1. Installing a charge point at home

A home charger would be connected to the fuse board in the house and is ideal if you have private, off-street parking. SEAI offer an Electric Vehicle Home Charger Grant which allows you to claim up to €600 towards the purchase and installation of an electric vehicle home charger unit.

2. Using a public charge point

ESB owns, operates and maintains approximately 1,100 public charge points across Ireland and offer membership prices at a reduced rate for those who need to use these chargers regularly. ESB has a free app, ecar connect, that shows the locations and availability of charger points around Ireland.

Charging Time

To give an idea of charging time for an EV, A Hyundai Kona takes 9.5 hours to fully charge on a standard 7.2kW home charger, while the Nissan Leaf 40KWH would take 7.5 hours. However Quick Chargers can be found around the country which will give you up to 80% in less than an hour. PHEV’s take roughly 3 hours to charge on a standard 7.2kW home charger.

Running Costs

As with any car, after the purchasing cost comes the running cost of your vehicle. Based on driving 250km in a Nissan Leaf would cost €2.92 on average per week to charge. In comparison for the same amount of kilometres in a Nissan Leaf equivalent car, diesel would cost €19.68 per week and petrol would cost €27.00 per week, which is a significant difference.

The running costs of a hybrid car will be lower than those of a traditional combustion engine. On average hybrid vehicles use up to 30% less fuel per kilometre than combustion engine cars. Using the previous example, this would lead to a saving of €5.90 a week for a diesel car and €8.10 savings per week for a petrol car.

Another running cost to consider is road tax, which is based on engine capacity or CO2 emissions for private cars. The SEAI has created this handy comparison tool which estimates the price of running your car (energy/fuel) and road tax.

At a Glance

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  Electric Vehicles Hybrid
Power Source Fueled by electricity only Fueled using both
electricity and petrol or
Driving Range
(before needing to recharge)

200km – 610km

Nissan Leaf – Telsa Model S

Most PHEV’s will
typically drive between
35 – 65km on electric
power alone before
having to rely on a fuel
Running Cost €2.92 a week Diesel would cost €13.77
per week
Petrol would cost €18.90
per week
Charge Time

Roughly 7 hours on
standard 7.2kW home

Rapid chargers can
charge up to 80% in less
than an 1 hour.

Roughly 3 hours on
standard 7.2kW home
Road Tax €120 per annum,
regardless of car type &
From €120 per annum,
depending on car model
& six
(e.g. Range Rover Sport
PHEV is €170 per
Rachel Hanratty
Market Management