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Hybrid vs. electric cars
Learn how to make the right environmentally friendly choice between buying a hybrid vs. electric for your next vehicle.
A green car means spending more money up front and less over the long run. But if you’re not sure whether an electric car or hybrid is the better option, knowing the basics will help you make the best decision for your lifestyle and budget.
Hybrid vs. electric: Purchase price
On average, electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) cost more than their gas counterparts, including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). This is because the engine, battery and charging system are newer in EVs — and slightly more complex — than cars with combustion engines. But the real difference between the two will depend on the model you want to drive.
Fully electric cars don’t come cheap: Most fall somewhere in the $35,000 to $45,000 range. As of September 2021, the least expensive electric car in Canada is the 2022 Nissan Leaf with an MSRP of $37,498. Electric models designed by luxury brands like Porsche can easily surpass the $100,000 mark.
Hybrids cost slightly less than electric cars, — whether you’re considering a PHEV that requires some charging or a HEV that recharges while you drive. To help give you an idea of how much these cars can cost in Canada: A PHEV typically ranges from around $30,000 to $45,000, while HEVs tend to be cheaper with MSRPS ranging from $25,000 to $40,000. One of the cheapest hybrids out there is the 2022 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid with its $24,799 price tag. And as with electric cars, keep in mind that luxury brands will cost more.
Hybrid vs. electric: Fuel costs
Electric and hybrid vehicles are extremely fuel efficient, but it can take multiple years for that fuel efficiency to recoup the upfront cost of buying green. To get a better understanding of the cost for the specific car you have in mind, use CAA’ s Driving Costs Calculator to compare models based on the annual fuel and electricity use, operating cost and cost per kilometre.
The cost to charge an electric car in Canada can run around $1.45 per day, or $530 per year, when charging at night, which makes them one of the cheapest options out there. However, the exact cost of charging one will depend on the cost of electricity where you live and the size of your car’s battery.
The cost to fuel a hybrid varies much more than an electric car. If you opt for a PHEV, you will have to take both the cost of gas and the cost of electricity into account. This means your total fuel cost will be determined by the cost of gas and electricity in your area. But since hybrids in general are more fuel efficient than vehicles that only use gas, you’re still likely to see some savings at the pump.
Hybrid vs. electric: Tax incentives
Both electric cars and some hybrids will qualify for the federal government’s Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles Program (iZEV) — but the amount you receive back will depend on the exact vehicle you purchase.
Electric cars will qualify for up to $5,000 in point-of-sale incentives from the federal government as part of the iZEV Program. The provincial governments of both British Columbia and Quebec offer additional purchase and charging station installation incentives.
Not all hybrid vehicles will be eligible for the iZEV Program. The program only offers incentives for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), while hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are not eligible for the iZEV Program. Long-range PHEVs, with a battery capacity of 15 kWh or more, are eligible to receive up to $5,000 in point-of-sale incentives. Short-range PHEVs, having a battery capacity of less than 15 kWh, can receive up to $2,500 in incentives.
Hybrid vs. electric: Driving range
Keep in mind that, like traditional vehicles, the exact range you can get out of an electric or hybrid car depends on road and traffic conditions.
Most electric cars will get anywhere from 183 to around 400 kilometres per charge — but if you’re willing to invest in the Tesla Model S, you could get up to 637 kilometres per charge. For the most part, electric cars are best suited for driving shorter distances or longer trips with multiple charging pit stops along the way. If you have a long commute to work or are fond of cross-country road trips, an electric car likely won’t be the right choice.
Plug-in hybrids have an inherently longer range than electric cars because of their secondary gas-based engine. When it takes over, you should have the same driving range as any other traditional car. This means when comparing PHEV models, you should consider the range its electric engine has by itself: It may be anywhere from 30 to 75 kilometres per charge.
If you’re considering HEVs, where the battery works to extend your car’s fuel range, you can expect to get fuel efficiency ratings of around 4.4 – 6 L/100 km.
Hybrid vs. electric: Maintenance, repairs and battery life
As with any car, you’ll need to set aside a portion of your budget for maintenance and repairs.
There isn’t much information on the difference in maintenance costs between EVs, PHEVs and gas-powered cars. However, the batteries and brake pads for electric cars need to be replaced less often, which saves some money in the long run. EVs also don’t need need oil changes or cooling system flushes, which will save you more. And if your battery does need replacing, most manufacturers offer a long warranty — typically 8 years or 160,000 km, whichever comes first, up to 10 years or 240,000 km.
Hybrids do require slightly more maintenance than electric cars. PHEV batteries are typically protected by an 8-year, 160,000-km warranty, although some extend coverage to 10 years/240,000 km. HEV batteries can be covered for anywhere between 24 months or 40,000 km, all the way up to the more typical 8-10 years (160,000-240,000 km) coverage plan.
Maintenance for the gas engine in a hybrid is about the same as any gas-fueled car. This means when it comes to maintenance and repairs, you’ll likely be spending around the same amount as you would with a non-hybrid vehicle.
Compare car loans for electric and hybrid cars
An electric car or hybrid will be more expensive starting out — but you’ll save money in the long run while working to save the environment. When you’re ready to make the switch, read our guide to buying a green car to better understand the process and your financing options.
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