Hybrid vs Electric vs Petrol/Diesel vs Gas vs Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles: Comparison

In this guide, we’ve put together a basic comparison of Hybrid vs Electric vs Petrol/Diesel vs Gas vs Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

You can get a quick idea of the differences and features of each type of vehicle.


Summary – Hybrid vs Electric vs Petrol/Diesel vs Gas vs Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

Some of the newer alternative vehicles on the market include all electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles, as well as hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Conventional petroleum based fuel (such as gasoline and diesel) vehicles with internal combustion engines, and gas fuelled cars, are still the predominant passenger vehicles type being used.

But, the coming decades could see newer cars increase in number as investment, demand, technology and infrastructure develops, improves, and changes.


A brief summary of the different types of vehicles:

– Hybrid

Hybrid vehicles are essentially vehicles that have the ability to utilize two energy sources:

1. An internal combustion motor/engine with petroleum based fuels

2. And, an electric motor with electricity 

The energy source and system a hybrid car uses depends on the technology used in the car.

The two main types of hybrid vehicles are HEVs, and PHEVs.

HEVs supplement a primarily petroleum fuel based system with some electricity captured from regenerative braking

PHEVs on the other hand have the ability to plug into an external power source to charge an electric battery.

Read more about these different types of hybrid vehicles in this guide.


– Electric

Electric vehicles generally include HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs/AEVs & FCEVs

These types of electric vehicles are characterized by a propulsion system that is fully electric.

These cars generally work with an electric battery that feeds an electric motor.

The battery can be plugged into a power source to charge.

All electric vehicles do not have a fuel tank or a tailpipe, and also don’t have an internal combustion engine.

They also don’t use petroleum based fuel.

Read more about the different types of electric vehicles in this guide.


– Petrol/Diesel

Fuelled by regular gasoline or diesel, which are petroleum based products.

Has an internal combustion engine, a fuel tank, and a tail pipe.


– Gas

Fuelled by natural gas … CNG or LNG.

Has an internal combustion engine, gas tank, and tailpipe.


– Fuel Cell

One example of a fuel cell vehicle is a Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

Pressurized hydrogen gas is produced mainly with steam reforming of methane (about 95% is produced this way at the moment).

The pressurized hydrogen gas is stored in a car’s gas tank.

Via the fuel cell, hydrogen gas then combines with oxygen and undergoes an electrochemical reaction, and produce electricity for an electric motor.

Read more about the differences between a fuel cell vehicle and electric and hybrid vehicles in this guide.

It’s worth noting that some vehicles use hydrogen gas directly for an internal combustion engine, but these vehicles obviously work different to a vehicle using hydrogen gas with a fuel cell.


Gasoline/Petrol/Diesel Vehicle

Works with an internal combustion engine, fuel tank and tailpipe

Fueled by either regular gasoline or diesel

No electricity for an energy source

No electric battery, plugging in, or electric motor

Re-fill stations are widely available, and re-filling is quick

Cheaper upfront cost than hybrid, electric and fuel cell vehicles

Many models and brands available


Gas Vehicle

Has an internal combustion engine, gas tank, and tail pipe

A natural gas vehicle (NGV) uses compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Natural gas vehicles do not use LPG (mainly propane) – this is a fuel with a fundamentally different composition

Re-fill stations are widely available, and re-filling is quick

Cheaper upfront cost than hybrid, electric and fuel cell vehicles

Natural gas tanks can be retrofitted to some regular petrol vehicles

In some places, natural gas is more cheaper than petroleum based fuels

Many models and brands available


Hybrid Vehicles

Read more about the different types of hybrid vehicles in this guide

Read more about some of the pros and cons of hybrid vehicles in this guide.


All Electric Vehicles

Read more about the different types of hybrid vehicles in this guide

Read more about some of the pros and cons of electric vehicles in this guide


Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle (Fuel Cell Vehicles)

In general, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle makes use of hydrogen energy as it’s main fuel source

This is in comparison to say conventional cars that directly use petroleum based fuels and products 

For hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen is separated from another energy source – usually from methane or natural gas.

Hydrogen can also be extracted from water via electrolysis, although this process isn’t used anywhere near as much at scale

Pressurized hydrogen is then fed into a tank in the vehicle

The vehicle’s hydrogen gas tank feeds a fuel cell, where hydrogen and oxygen undergo an electrochemical reaction to produce electricity to power an electric motor (for this reason, they are often referred to as one of the types of electric vehicles)

This electrochemical reaction is in comparison to the combustion/burning of petroleum based fuel in a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle

The by-products of this chemical reaction apart from electricity are water vapor and heat

So, hydrogen fuel cells combine elements of conventional petroleum fuel cars (with a tank), and electric cars (with the electricity and electric motor)

Examples of HFCEV’s (hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles) on the road right now might be the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity and Hyundai ix35

Read more about how a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle electrochemical reaction powers an electric motor in the popularmechanics.com resource in the sources list

A further description of how hydrogen fuel cell technology and cars currently work can be found at eesi.org 


Read more about some of the pros and cons of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in this guide.


Other Differences & Considerations For Different Vehicle Types

You essentially have to weigh up cost, with eco friendliness/sustainability, with how well it does what the driver needs it to do (practicality and performance), with consumer demand (also consider convenience of things like recharging and filling up), and so on.

What is most important to consumers and society now, but also going forward?


– Cost to buy

i.e. the initial purchase price


– Re-sale price

How well does it retain selling value over X amount of years?


– Cost to fill car tank or charge car battery

Battery charge cost refers to the cost of electricity to fully charge a battery.

Currently, hydrogen might be the most expensive fuel 


– Cost to maintain

Servicing, replacements, repairs, modifications, and so on


– What does maintenance, servicing and repairing of the car actually require?


– Where is technology at?

Advanced or not?

What will technology be like in 10 years?


– Is technology universal?

Can it be used by everybody, or do you need to know the technology and have the specific equipment for one brand of car? E.g. charging plugs


– How efficiently energy is converted in the fuel production and energy conversion process

How much of the original energy is maintained when energy is eventually used to power the motor? 


– Fuel efficiency

How efficiently does the vehicle convert energy into driving miles?


– What is the driving range of the vehicle like?

How many miles or kilometres does the car get out of a fuel tank or a full battery charge?


– Is infrastructure already set up?

Such as charging stations?

Are upgrades and new infrastructure required?


– Availability of recharging or re-fueling stations

There’s very few hydrogen re-fueling stations, whilst electric charging can be done at home next to a power source, and conventional gasoline stations are plentiful)


– Is the energy grid clean enough to make the car fuel clean to a certain level?


– What is charging like? Is quick charging available?


– Carbon emissions rate, and level air pollutants at the fuel production level, and also during operation of the vehicle?


– How does it actually perform on the road

Speed, control, etc


– What range of features does the car have?


– What is the user experience like?


– Can anyone drive the car or do you need special knowledge and experience?


– Subsidies, tax benefits, incentives and concessions available


– What’s safety like for humans in the car and other cars + pedestrians?


– Number and range of models available


– Size of the car

For singles, couples, and families


– Passenger capacity

Electric and hydrogen may be smaller than conventional cars


– How can the car be processed when turned in for scraps and waste, and with recycling batteries and metals?


– How does it look appearance wise?


– Consumer demand – is it there?


– Can it be used in all or only specific environments and climates?


– What is the current level of consumer awareness and knowledge about the vehicles?


– Where is the supply chain sourced?


– Impact of the entire vehicle lifecycle, from sourcing of materials and manufacturing, all the way through to scrap and waste management or recycling


– Challenges & barriers to implementation

[Both battery electric and hydrogen] technologies face different challenges in terms of infrastructure, consumer acceptance, grid impacts, technology maturity and reliability, and driving range [and so on] (theconversation.com)


We outline other factors to consider such as powertrains, motors, and energy/fuel systems in this guide


Overall, the primary fuel source the car uses, and the technology and systems it uses (type of motor, how the fuel source powers the motor, whether it has a battery etc.) vary between the different types of vehicles, the brand, the vehicle model, and so on.

This has an impact on how it runs, how much it costs, options available, etc.

The above guide is a generalisation – individual vehicles should be analysed independently.




1. https://www.ergon.com.au/network/smarter-energy/electric-vehicles/types-of-electric-vehicles

2. https://www.energy.gov/eere/electricvehicles/electric-vehicle-basics

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_vehicle

4. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/how-do-hydrogen-fuel-cells-work#.W-7QmJMzbR0

5. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/what-are-electric-cars#.W-7QzZMzbR0

6. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles#.W-7QupMzbR0

7. https://www.explainthatstuff.com/fuelcells.html

8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas_vehicle

9. https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/hybrid-electric/a22688627/hydrogen-fuel-cell-cars/

10. https://www.eesi.org/topics/hydrogen-fuel-cells/description

11. http://theconversation.com/why-battery-powered-vehicles-stack-up-better-than-hydrogen-106844


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