PHEV, BEV, MHEV or HEV – We explain the differences

Jaguar i-Pace - BEV - Electric Vehicle


Since reading the latest report the other day from the SMMT for the April 2020 registrations, we realised how confusing all of the new abbreviations were for alternative fuelled vehicles.

So we thought we’d put together this guide to explain what a PHEV, BEV, MHEV and a HEV is, along with the pro’s and con’s.

PHEV – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Car

The Plug-in Hybrid car is a great start for those who want to dip their toes in the water when trying to understand how an electric vehicle would work around their commute and lifestyle.

Its effectively a bridge between a regular hybrid vehicle and an electric car but the on-board battery pack requires a charge via a standard 3-pin plug or home charging solution. It also has an engine, usually petrol to take over when the battery runs out.

VW Golf GTE - PHEV - Plug-in Hybrid

Depending on the vehicle, the vehicle will come with a large battery pack which will be good for a set amount of miles, usually between 22 and 48. The electric motor is then generally used for slower journeys although the engine could kick in where required, even if the battery is not low.

Some of the Plug-in Hybrid cars such as the Audi A3 E-Tron and VW Golf GTE can actually hit motorway speeds without any intervention from the engine at all.

The beauty of the PHEV is that a daily commute to the workplace of 15 to 20 miles is easily achieved, especially if you can have a quick charge at work as well.

Pro’s of a PHEV Car

  • Range Anxiety is non-existent due to the on-board engine
  • Generally cheaper than a fully electric vehicle
  • Zero emission commuting (15/25 miles)

Con’s of a PHEV Car

  • The car is a little weighty, so engine use only can have a negative effect
  • VRM is no longer cheaper on PHEV’s.
  • Need a home charging solution to make them viable

Example of a PHEV Vehicle:

  • Audi Q5 TFSI e SUV
  • VW Golf GTE
  • BMW 330e Saloon
  • Hyundai Ioniq PHEV
  • Mercedes GLE 350de SUV
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

BEV – Battery Electric Vehicle

Since the UK government announced the demise of internal combustion engines, battery electric vehicles (BEV) is really becoming very popular.

All aspects of the traditional diesel or petrol engines have been replaced by electric motors and the vehicle carries very large lithium battery packs to power the car.

Tesla Model 3 – BEV

The electric motors use the electricity from the grid to store in the batteries, the power is then delivered to the motors. Also, most electric cars have brake regen (regenerative braking). So when you ease off on the throttle, the car brakes slightly and the energy created gets turned into electricity, just like the old dynamo lights on a bike.

The biggest advantage at the moment on fully electric cars is when it comes to company cars, with huge benefit-in-kind advantages from the 6th April 2021 the rate is 1%, 6th April 2022 the rate is 2%. There are also incentives for businesses when purchasing zero-emission vehicles.

On top of the above are the environmental benefits you get with an electric car, no tailpipe emissions so, in turn, will improve air quality if more and more people switch to BEV’s.

BEV’s are also legally allowed to display the new Green Flash Number Plates as introduced by the UK Government. The idea is for local authorities and councils to introduce incentives to those in Zero Emission vehicles.

Pro’s of a BEV Car

  • Company Car Tax (BIK) Benefits
  • Zero Tailpipe Emissions = Cleaner Air
  • Low Running Costs
  • Congestion Charge Exempt (Requires Registration)
  • You can display Green Number Plates

Con’s of a BEV Car

  • Range Anxiety for many
  • Needs to be plugged in
  • UK Charging Infrastructure
  • Charging Time

Examples of a BEV Vehicle:

  • BMW i4 Saloon
  • GWM Ora Funky Cat
  • Renault Zoe
  • Tesla Model 3 or Tesla Model Y
  • Polestar 2
  • Volkswagen iD.3
  • Volkswagen ID.4

MHEV – Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Recently introduced by many of the car manufacturers to promote that they are heading the greener way, a MHEV works by having a traditional combustion engine alongside a small battery pack and electric motor.

Essentially the electric motor assists the traditional engine, generally at low speeds to keep the emissions down as well as providing additional power for systems such as the Air Con and engine cooling systems.

The electric motors can also provide an extra boost to the engine, enabling the vehicle to accelerate a little quicker thank those without the mild hybrid system as well as allowing the engine to cut out for coasting duties, so those essential systems like power steering still function.

Pro’s of a MHEV Car

  • Lower Emissions
  • Cheaper to purchase than normal hybrids/PHEV’s
  • Cheaper to purchase/lease

Con’s of a MHEV Car

  • No real benefit to fuel economy
  • No road tax benefits
  • No real electric only range

Examples of a MHEV Vehicle:

  • BMW X5 MHT
  • VW Golf E-TSI
  • BMW 3 Series MHT Saloon & Tourer

HEV – Hybrid Electric Engines

Most of the vehicle manufacturers now offer a Hybrid of some sort with Toyota really producing one of the first mainstream Hybrid cars with the Prius.

In simple terms the Hybrid is a traditional combustion engine that works alongside an electric motor. The battery pack on-board is charged by the engine as well as things like brake regen (regenerative braking).

Unfortunately, there are several types of Hybrids (HEV’s) so lets break these down:

  • Parallel Hybrid (eg. Toyota Prius) – This has an internal combustion engine alongside and electric motor and battery pack. A parallel hybrid can be powered fully by the elctric motor or the engine as well as a combination of the two.
  • Plugin Hybrid (eg. VW Golf GTE) – See PHEV
  • Range-Extender hybrid (eg. BMW i3 Range Extender) – The is vehicle is always driven by the electric motors from the battery packs. But an internal engine is onboard to charge the battery in the same way as a petrol generator would do to provide the power.

A parallel hybrid does not need to be plugged in like the PHEV so it doesn’t require you to have home charging facilities or complicated access to the UK charging network.

Pro’s of a HEV Car

  • Great at low speeds where it generally runs from electric power
  • Some of the HEV’s are congestion charge exempt
  • Better fuel ecomony than traditional engine cars.

Con’s of a HEV Car

  • No longer exempt from road fund licence
  • Not as economical at motorway speeds
  • Some of the cars are awful to drive

Examples of a HEV Vehicle:

  • Toyota Prius (Original)
  • Lexus CT200h
  • Kia Niro Hybrid
  • Kia Sorrento Hybrid
  • Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

So what is an ICE?

An ICE is an internal combustion engine, such as a traditional diesel or petrol car. In the new world of motoring abbreviations, you will hear ICE mentioned a lot more.

The term ICED – means that a traditional engined car has parked in an electric charging point space, therefore blocking the use of the facilities. Its getting quite common with many users photographing, naming and shaming on social media such as Twitter and Instagram.

Can we help you choose between PHEV, MHEV, ICE, HEV or BEV?

We’re here to help you choose your next car (or van) here at Cocoon Vehicles. We offer a range of solutions including outright purchase (with great discounts), hire purchase, leases, contract hire, PCP’s and more.

Contact the team on 01332 290173 or us the contact form at the bottom of this page.

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Rebecca joined the Cocoon Vehicles team in 2018 after running and selling a successful financial services business offering pension, investments and mortgages. Today, Rebeccas goal is to provide the best possible customer service along with news that you will want to read.

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