INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE (ICE)
Most automobiles use gasoline to power an internal combustion engine (ICE). While all-gas vehicles are generally the least expensive to buy, they can be more expensive to maintain and to fuel. ICE powertrains create more tailpipe emissions than hybrid or electric vehicles. They’re what set the world searching for fuel alternatives in the first place.
HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLE (HEV)
Hybrids or HEVs still use gas, but more efficiently, in concert with a battery-powered electric motor. That’s what makes them hybrid. The battery stays charged while you drive with help from a gasoline engine and regenerative braking, which recaptures energy normally lost by decelerating. Hybrids get better fuel economy than non-hybrid gas-only vehicles, but they can’t be plugged in or drive on electricity alone. HEVs need gas to move.
ELECTRIC VEHICLE (EV)
EVs drive without any gas or tailpipe emissions, thanks to a much larger battery than those found in HEVs. They’re expensive to buy up front, but battery-powered vehicles usually cost less to fuel and maintain, due to relatively higher petroleum prices and fewer components under the hood than an ICE or HEV powertrain. One stark difference with gas is that it can take several hours to charge up an EV. And it’s necessary to plan routes ahead of travel to know where to charge along the way.
PLUG-IN HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLE (PHEV)
Plug-in hybrids offer the best of both worlds. PHEVs operate just like HEVs, but they also enable you to plug in and run purely on electric. This gives you the flexibility to drive short distances on emission-free battery power and take longer trips with a fuel-efficient standard hybrid engine. A fully-charged PHEV can typically get 20 to 50 miles of range before switching to a gas-powered hybrid powertrain, and still achieve longer range and better fuel economy than a regular gas vehicle.