It is more important than ever for car brands to present themselves as a green manufacturer.

If they do not have a fully electric car or plug-in hybrid for a while, they still like to use the label 'hybrid'.

Consumers can no longer see the wood for the trees.

Manufacturers use all kinds of terms and names interchangeably and sometimes a 'hybrid' turns out not to be the hybrid you had in mind.

When you think of hybrid, you probably first think of Toyota.

That brand introduced the Prius in 2000 and millions have been sold worldwide since then.

The car was equipped with a fuel engine, electric motor and battery pack.

But he had no plug.

Simply put, the electric motor in the Prius can assist the fuel engine.

The energy released when slowing down can be stored.

The small battery pack is further charged while driving.

You can also drive short electrically at low speed, for example in a residential area.

Such a vehicle is internationally known as a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and it is not inconceivable that the general public will associate the operation of a hybrid powertrain with that of Toyota or other brands with HEVs on offer.

Many hybrid cars are actually slightly different

But if you don't pay attention for a moment, you can come home from a rude awakening as an unsuspecting consumer, because some brands use the term very loosely.

At Ford, there are numerous hybrids in the configurator, but in many cases these are models with a mild hybrid system.

Suzuki, Fiat and Maserati also use the hybrid label for something that is really nothing more than an integrated starter / generator, which takes over the tasks of the starter motor and alternator.

The mild hybrid system is known as MHEV and consists of a 48 volt lithium-ion battery connected to a belt starter generator.

This allows the engine to be started faster and easier, even at higher speeds.

While accelerating, the mild hybrid system provides a helping hand, but it does not provide propulsion.

There are also plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs), also known as plug-in hybrids or plug-in hybrids.

With this powertrain you can travel much longer distances electrically compared to a regular hybrid (2 kilometers versus about 50 kilometers), also on the highway.

The PHEVs therefore have a much larger battery pack, which you therefore have to charge via a charging station, and a more powerful electric motor.

Finally, the fully electric car is known as a battery electric vehicle (BEV).

Abbreviations, Meanings and Examples

  • MHEV (mild hybrid electric vehicle): Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI

  • HEV (hybrid electric vehicle): Toyota Corolla Hybrid

  • PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle): Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

  • BEV (battery electric vehicle): Tesla Model 3

Car brands make a mess of it

The distinction between HEV, MHEV, PHEV and BEV is still manageable.

That is why it is all the more regrettable that the manufacturers make such a mess of it.

Take the Volkswagen concern.

At Volkswagen you can recognize the presence of mild-hybrid technology by the addition of the letter 'e', ‚Äč‚Äčlike the Golf 1.5 eTSI.

At sister brand Audi, however, the 'e' in the type designation stands for PHEV technology, as with the A6 TFSI e.

At SKODA, the 'e' is also separate, but it indicates an MHEV.

Elsewhere it is made just as colorful.

Among fellow group members Opel, Peugeot and Citroen, the 'e' stands for a fully electric car, while the type designation 'Hybrid' stands for plug-in hybrid drive.

At BMW, the designation 'e' is again used for PHEV, while fully electric cars have an 'i' in the type designation.

Mercedes went one step further by calling MHEV technology EQ Boost and PHEV technology EQ Power.

However, we don't hear much about that anymore, so it seems that the Germans have learned their lesson.

Volvo uses the designation 'Recharge' for both its PHEVs and BEVs.

If you are going to assemble the car, the PHEV will be a car with the letter 'T' in front of the engine designation.

This is a 'B' for cars with mild hybrid technology.

That it can also be done differently, Kia proves.

There is just neatly described what you get, whether that is mild-hybrid technology, fully electric drive or something in between.

  • How much does a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) consume in practice?

    Autoweek went out with a Peugeot 3008 to find out.

    Click here for the video and the article.

This Volkswagen Golf is an MHEV, as evidenced by the 'e' in the type designation.

This Volkswagen Golf is an MHEV, as evidenced by the 'e' in the type designation.

Photo: Aybas