EV Buying Guide

Electric Car Basics

What’s the difference between a hybrid and an electric car?

A hybrid car derives some of its power from a conventional gasoline engine and some from an electric motor and battery, and all of its energy from gasoline. A hybrid’s battery is typically only recharged from regenerative braking energy when the car slows being put back into the battery, which results in better average mpg.

On the other hand, an electric car gets driving power from an electric motor, and that energy is from a battery that has been recharged from the grid or another external source. Electric cars also all use regenerative braking to increase efficiency.

There are two types of electric cars, or plug in electrified vehicles (PEVs), Battery electrics (BEVs) which run on electricity only, and plug in hybrid electrics (PHEVs) which can first run on electricity from the battery for a shorter range (often the distance of a daily commute, or more), then seamlessly switch to a full tank of gasoline if the battery gets low.

Barrier Removal: Technology



  • Does not have an external plug
  • Gains some of its driving power from a gasoline engine, and some from an electric motor and small battery pack.
  • Generates its energy through gasoline combustion. However, unlike non-hybrid vehicles, an HEV also recovers and extends some of this energy. How? By recharging the batteries through “regenerative braking”.



  • Gets its driving power exclusively from an electric motor. That energy is generated from a larger battery pack, that has been recharged from the grid or another external source.
  • Also uses “regenerative braking” to improve overall driving efficiency.



“Regenerative braking” is when, as the car slows, energy flows back into the battery. This energy is reused, (or “regenerated”) instead of escaping as tires grind against the road. This extends the life of your brakes and tires, and results in better average MPG.

Images courtesy of Gary Kendall, PhD.

To BEV or To PHEV? That is the question.

PHEVs therefore will always have the range you need, and can be driven and fueled just like the car you drive now. Today’s BEVs have more range than 90% of commuters and others drive daily. Some models are available in either BEV or PHEV.

Most BEVs have a range of between 114 and 315 miles depending upon model. They must be recharged when the battery gets low, and can be done slowly (typically overnight at home while you sleep) or more quickly using a public fast charging station. But mostly, they are charged conveniently at home, overnight while you sleep.

Today’s PHEVs a have a battery range between 14 and 114 miles, and then typically a full tank of gasoline range, 300-500+ miles. When operating in hybrid mode, they also get better gas mileage than comparable gasoline only vehicles.

Compare Electric Vehicles

Which electric car you’ll want depends on how many miles you typically drive per day, what types of long trips you plan to take in your vehicle, and how much passenger and cargo space you need. Answering these three personal questions before car shopping will also lead you to the electric models that best fit your lifestyle and needs. For an interactive online guide of models, visit our partner Plug in America’s PlugStar “Browse Electric Cars” tool.

Plugstar will help you explore your needs and find the best options for you, matching you to the right kind of electric car. Then you can select and compare cars. Once you have found the car(s) you are interested in, review our rebates and incentives section and attend an upcoming event.

Electric Vehicle Rebates & Incentives

GET UP TO $3,500 BACK!

Get up to $3,500 back through the Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (MOR-EV) Program!

  • This program helps residents save money on the purchase or lease of a qualifying plug-in Electric Vehicle (EV).

  • You can apply for the MOR-EV rebate as soon as you get your car. Visit the MOR-EV website to learn more

Reduce your net cost to buy or lease an electric vehicle by as much as an additional $7,500 with the federal EV tax credit.

  • A federal EV tax credit may reduce your net cost to buy or lease an electric vehicle by as much as an additional $7,500.
  • Note that the federal EV tax credit is calculated as part of your tax return filing for the year of purchase and therefore is received by you typically between Feb – April of the following year as part of any tax refund you would receive.
  • For leased vehicles, the credit is taken by the leasing company and a portion of it passed on to the consumer as a lease cost reduction.
  • As a non-refundable type of tax credit, like a home mortgage interest deduction, eligibility is based on your annual tax liability, and you can’t roll over the credit to subsequent years.
  • Check on the status of the federal EV tax credit by manufacturer.

​​For more information, refer to the official IRS website EV tax credit page. For definitive information on your federal electric car tax credit eligibility, consult with a qualified tax adviser.