Insights / What’s better: pure EV or hybrid fleets?

What’s better for business: pure EV or hybrid fleets?

12th August 2021

Switching your fleet from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) is a big decision. One that may involve an equally big investment. It’s not surprising that every organisation wants to get it right first time.

With so much choice between ‘pure’ EVs and ‘mild’, plug-in and self-charging hybrids, it can be a very tricky decision to make.

Here, we compare the different technologies that could help electrify your fleet.

Battery electric vehicles (EVs)

These are vehicles that are powered only by electricity. With no other fuel inputs, they’re known as Battery EVs (BEVs). They’ve got large batteries which need to be plugged in to charge before driving.

As they run on electricity - which is increasingly generated by renewable sources - they’re a more sustainable alternative to ICEs. They produce no carbon emissions or harmful tailpipe pollution.

EVs are cheaper to run than ICE or hybrids, because electricity’s far cheaper per mile than petrol or diesel, and carries no fuel duty. Alongside this, there are a number of Government incentives, ranging from zero vehicle excise duty to grants.

With fewer moving parts than ICE or hybrid vehicles, EV fleets should incur lower maintenance costs, too.

These mean their whole life costs can be much cheaper than their apparent headline costs. A pure EV fleet also has the potential to become an asset rather than a cost centre as vehicle to grid (V2G) charging comes on stream at scale.

Upsides of pure EVs

  • Zero tailpipe emissions
  • Valuable incentives to switch
  • Lower whole-life costs than ICE and hybrid vehicles
  • A future-proof choice

Downsides of pure EVs

  • Investment required in charging facilities
  • May require significant new electric infrastructure – which will require a business case
  • You may require an audit of your organisation’s and your fleet drivers’ needs before making the business case for EVs

Mild hybrid vehicles

These are effectively ICE vehicles with a more powerful starter motor called a belt alternator starter (or a 40v battery). This enables them to recover energy that would normally be lost in braking.

This energy’s used to recharge the battery, which then helps to turn the wheels, offering some improvements to torque and efficiency. Mild hybrids are very rarely powered by electricity alone, often using petrol as a reserve when the electricity runs out.

While hybrids are still a step in the right direction, their reliance on a secondary fuel means that there are still tailpipe emissions associated with these vehicles.

As a result of the secondary fuel, hybrids may have a greater range than pure EVs. If greater sustainability is the goal, however, then hybrids won’t be the best solution for many businesses.

Self-charging hybrid vehicles

These vehicles combine an ICE (usually petrol driven) with an electric motor and a much bigger battery pack than their mild hybrid cousins. Their batteries are charged by regenerative braking and by the ICE.

They can be powered by the battery only – though rarely for more than a couple of miles at a time. They are typically powered by a combination of battery and ICE.

Like mild hybrids, the use of a secondary fuel means still produces tailpipe emissions.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles

These combine an ICE with an electric motor and a much larger battery pack that can be charged with mains electricity.

Electric-only range tends to be greater than with self-charging hybrids. However, many plug-in hybrid owners tend to charge their batteries infrequently. This makes them less efficient over time, and leads to more distance being covered using only the ICE, leading to greater emissions and fuel costs.

Upsides of hybrids

  • Potentially greater fuel economy than comparable ICE vehicles
  • Lower carbon emissions
  • Cheaper vehicle excise duty
  • Exempt from some ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) and congestion charging zone fees

Downsides of hybrids

  • All hybrids still produce carbon emissions and tailpipe pollution unless being driven in electric-only mode
  • Less opportunity to benefit financially from smart charging and potential V2G services
  • An interim technology that will quickly become outdated as the Government’s 2030 deadline for ICE vehicles comes closer.

From our experience, pure EVs are the more sustainable option when it comes to commercial fleet electrification. That’s equally true whether you compare them on an environmentally led or a cost-led basis.

Any progress, however, is better than no progress. If hybrid EVs are more appropriate for your organisation’s individual needs, they’re the right option - and still a step on the road to reducing emissions.

If you’re thinking of switching from ICEs to EVs, get in touch with the Drax EV team today to find out how we can help you.

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