A traditional hybrid has a fuel-driven motor and an electric motor. The electric motor kicks in to increase fuel efficiency when idling, backing up, stopping and going, etc., but the battery that powers the electric motor is charged by the power produced in the fuel-driven motor. Plug-in hybrids have the capability to use direct electricity to charge their batteries, thus being able to save fuel for long distances and emergencies.
Another advantage of a plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEV) is that you can run it as a zero emission vehicle, if the electric charge is from solar powered energy. Various companies are starting to integrate solar panels to parking lots that allows people to charge their cars while parked. They are also cleaner cars, a Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) report states “Widespread adoption of PHEVs can reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions from vehicles by more than 450 million metric tons annually in 2050 — equivalent to removing 82.5 million passenger cars from the road.”
Plug in hybrids use the electric motor as a primary engine, and a diesel/petrol engine is the backup. In traditional hybrids the primary engine is the fossil fuel burning one, while the electric is the back up.
This means that plug in hybrids can theoretically travel without emissions, while the traditional hybrid will burn fuel in every case.
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