Electric and hybrid cars HEADER

Electric and hybrid cars

What exactly is an EV? An EV, or electric vehicle, is a car that’s powered by electricity. So, instead of filling up a tank with petrol or diesel, an electric vehicle just gets plugged into power, which charges the battery. Yep, charging your electric car is as easy as charging your phone.

We’ve broken down the differences between electric cars, plug-in hybrids (which are still considered a type of electric car), and hybrids.

EVs versus hybrids – what’s the difference?

Electric vehicles

Also known as battery electric vehicles, or BEVs. They do what they say on the tin – run on electricity only. That means you charge up your electric car instead of filling the tank - and you can do it from the comfort of your own home. EVs have zero exhaust pipe emissions, reduce CO2 emissions by 80% and have better efficiency. In other words, you’ll be close to driving pollution free – especially since New Zealand boasts around 85% renewable energy generation.

On top of being a cleaner way to get around, once you’ve got yourself an EV, it’s way easier on the wallet. The cost of charging one is the same as paying 30c per litre for petrol. We can’t argue with those savings.

While it’s hard to fault electric vehicles, there are two things worth mentioning. You might’ve heard of range anxiety: the feeling one gets when the battery is running low and charging stations aren’t nearby. At this stage, you’re more likely to spot a petrol station than a public charger. The good news is, there are more and more public charging stations popping up all around New Zealand. (And, we’ve got some great tips for battling range anxiety).

A second drawback is EV charging time. While these are getting quicker, you’re still looking at anywhere between 30 minutes to 12 hours.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the popular EVs available in New Zealand from the lower priced Nissan Leaf, to the more high-end Teslas.


Pros Cons
  • Cleanest car on the road
  • Cheap to run
  • Ditch the petrol pump
  • Limited charging stations 
  • Charging time
  • Upfront cost 

The best bits of EVs

Like the sound of electric cars, or need more info? Check out the top six advantages to driving electric below.

Why drive electric

Plug-in hybrids

Plug-in hybrids (or PHEVs) have two types of motors - an electric motor and battery (charged by electricity - hence ‘plug-in’!), and an internal combustion engine (or ICE - fuelled by petrol).

With the ability to go ‘full-electric’, most plug-ins will cover roughly 30-50km on electric power before switching to hybrid mode. So, if you’re one of the lucky ones with a short daily commute but you still want the freedom to drive long distances without range anxiety, a plug-in hybrid could be for you.

Driving in electric mode means savings are on the cards, too. Since PHEVs can run on electricity alone, you’ll benefit from the low cost of charging stations, some of which are free.

We do need to mention maintenance, though. While plug-ins have similar benefits to EVs in cost and carbon savings, their petrol engines (with many moving parts) do need to be taken care of. That’s where fully electric vehicles come up trumps.

There are a decent amount of options for buying a plug-in hybrid in New Zealand, both new and secondhand. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular PHEVs, and what they’ll cost you.


Pros  Cons 
  • Can go fully electric
  • Fuel efficient
  • Limited electric range
  • More expensive upfront
  • Still need petrol 
  • More maintenance than EVs


These are a lot more efficient than a fully petrol car, but they’re just not in the same league as plug-in hybrids and EVs because they can only fill up on petrol. The petrol engine and regenerative braking recharges a small battery that gives a short electric range. At the end of the day, you’re not ditching petrol at all - the car can just clock up more kilometres to the tank.

Which one ticks my boxes?

There you have it – a super quick rundown of the differences between electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and hybrids. We’re the biggest fans of EVs and PHEVs - there’s no denying the environmental and cost-saving benefits. Here’s an easy way to compare your options.


  Electric (EV) Plug-in hybrid (PHEV)
Zero tail pipe emissions
Ditch the petrol pump
Fully electric range 
Plug in to charge
Great for short trips
Great for regular long distance travel
Low maintenance requirements

Enjoy 6 months' worth of free charging on our EV Plan*

Including 50% off our standard day rates from 9pm to 7am, and price certainty for two years.^


Find out more

*Ts&Cs, break fees and eligibility criteria apply. Credit valued at $35/month and only available on our EV Plan.

^Cheaper charging is calculated comparing the night vs day rates on Meridian’s EV plan. Savings vary by network.