What Is A Mild Hybrid (MHEV), And Is It Worth Buying?
Hybrid EVs serve as the ideal middle-ground between all-electric types and standard ICE vehicles — but what, exactly, is a mild hybrid (MHEV)?
Mild hybrid cars aren’t the same as any other hybrid (hence the word ‘mild’ used in its name).
These vehicles provide assistance to standard petrol/diesel-engined cars, providing general quality of life improvements, such as reduced emissions and better fuel consumption.
More and more cars identify as a ‘mild hybrid’ these days. It’s to the point where you can’t ignore them any longer — especially in countries like the UK and the US.
Major automakers like Nissan, Kia and Fiat all offer mild hybrids at the moment.
And these are but a handful of names; there are more out there.
If you’ve ever wondered how MHEVs work or just have a general interest in EVs, then this will be the post for you.
Now, let’s get into it.
What Is A Mild Hybrid Car?
Combining the old with the new is the literal definition of hybrid vehicles.
In other words, these vehicles have petrol/diesel components alongside electric parts.
Mild hybrid cars are no exception to the rule; only these vehicles differ compared to other hybrid vehicles out there.
A mild hybrid system consists of a small electric generator in place of a traditional starter motor/alternator. Not to mention a small lithium-ion battery.
Mild hybrid vehicles are very similar to self-charging hybrids, only fitted with a much smaller battery.
Most mild hybrids you come across will run on a 48-volt electrical system. This system distributes power that would typically run off the engine directly.
The result is a more efficient drive that doesn’t leech too much power out of the engine, resulting in fewer CO2 emissions.
That’s mild hybrid 101 for you.
How Does A MHEV Work?
The goal of the mild hybrid is to cut emissions of petrol/diesel types, not make them completely eco-friendly.
BEVs will be your calling if you’re looking for a ride that emits zero emissions full stop.
Or range-extended electric vehicles (EREVs) if you want additional range.
Anyway, back to the topic.
So, how does a mild hybrid work exactly?
MHEV vehicles provide electric assistance to the engine — not enough for the vehicle to run on sustainable energy completely, but enough to make a noticeable difference.
The majority of systems work in the exact same way. Still, some EVs are exceptions to the rule and might do things a little differently.
Most pull power from a generator to assist the engine whenever it accelerates. Power also benefits restarting the vehicle, leading to a much smoother start.
Not to mention seamless, which encourages drivers to turn off their engines a lot more.
Furthermore, mild hybrid cars harvest energy whenever you pump the brakes, thus adding even more assistance when needed.
A mild hybrid type is said to be around 15% more efficient than your bog-standard combustion-engined type.
Driving around in this type of EV will also save you a fair amount of money, as you aren’t burning as much fuel.
It’s good for your wallet and the planet (debatable).
Are Mild Hybrids Better For The Environment?
Are mild hybrids better than other hybrid vehicles when it comes to generating the least amount of carbon emissions?
The unfortunate answer is no.
Mild hybrids only add to the experience of driving around in a petrol/diesel vehicle.
It’s not the same as owning a battery-electric type or range extender, as your emissions output is still pretty high.
Sure, you’re turning off the engine a lot more, which does lower your footprint slightly. But you’re still driving around in a vehicle that is powered by fuel.
The Suzuki Vitara mild electric SUV, for example, has a CO2 output of 121g/km despite being one of the best options in the market right now.
The difference between emissions is night and day compared to Toyota’s Plug-In Prius (28 to 34g/km) and other hybrid options.
Cost-wise, plug-in hybrids tend to be on the expensive side.
On the other hand, mild hybrid cars are a lot cheaper (this will depend on the vehicles/brands you’re viewing).
Again, we’ll be using the Suzuki Vitara as our reference point as this MHEV has a base price of £19,245.
Price vs the environment; which is more important to you?
Benefits Of Owning A Mild Hybrid Vehicle
Owning a mild hybrid vehicle is beneficial for numerous reasons, as you can imagine.
For example, accelerating from a starting position is improved tenfold thanks to the inclusion of electric parts.
A quick start means you can turn the engine off at a red light and not have to worry about taking too long to get moving again.
Or, you know, stalling…
Quick acceleration will impact the overall performance of the vehicle — stationary or otherwise.
Ask any owner of a mild hybrid, and they’ll tell you straight up; there’s a significant difference between this type of hybrid and a standard gas-guzzler.
It’s not as clean (emissions-wise) as other EVs, but it is cheaper than a vast majority of them. You could save thousands, all the while reaping the performance benefits that come from owning an electrified ride.
Most importantly, MHEVs serve as the perfect entry point for those who don’t know a lot about hybrids or electric cars generally.
Think about it.
Mild hybrid vehicles feel a lot like any standard combustion-engined vehicle. They’re manual vehicles, too, unlike many EVs, which can prove a little jarring for some drivers.
To recap, the benefits of choosing a MHEV includes:
- Better acceleration from a starting position
- Fuel economy is managed a lot more efficiently
- MHEVs tend to be a lot cheaper than other EVs
- They feel like any standard vehicle
Negatives Of Owning A Mild Hybrid Vehicle
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to driving around in a MHEV.
The most notable being: it’s still releasing carbon emissions, hence the tailpipe. It emits fewer emissions than standard vehicles; this is true.
But for some, the fact that it continues to produce CO2 is enough to throw them off, even though mild hybrid cars are generally cheaper.
You should also be asking yourself: “Will I be happy with a mild hybrid for the foreseeable future?”
We say that because hybrids have a shelf life and will one day be made illegal. Only BEVs will be allowed on the road in certain countries.
This applies a certain level of strain to automakers, encouraging them to slowly wind down the production of ICE vehicles.
The hybrid popularity bubble will pop eventually due to that.
When it does, it’s going to make selling your mild hybrid very difficult. At this point, the market will have already transitioned to full-electric vehicles only — or hydrogen-powered cars.
It will be a while yet before this happens (depending on the country you live in), but still, it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
Buying a MHEV now to use for the next, say three to four years, is a great idea as it allows the tech behind all-electric vehicles to grow and their price to drop.
But yes, don’t get too attached to MHEVs.
The Best Mild Hybrid Cars
Mild hybrid technology applies to all sorts of vehicles, from hatchbacks to compact cars, thus giving you, a potential buyer, a lot to think about/consider.
Below we’ve picked out a couple of mild hybrid cars to share with you.
Clear standouts in the ever-expanding world of hybrid vehicles.
This list is in no particular order (we’ll let you decide which is the best mild hybrid).
Introducing the Kia Sportage 2, one the best mild hybrid cars on the market © Credit to Kia
Kia Sportage 2
CO2 Emissions: 177g/km
Price: From £24,435
The entire Kia Sportage range consists of mild hybrid vehicles, which is beneficial for you as it means you have options fitting your own personal tastes.
We’ve chosen the Sportage 2 as it stands as the cheapest option in the lineup, and a bonafide all-rounder if you don’t mind us saying.
It’s also a fantastic people-carrier, perfect for the families.
It should come as no surprise then that the on-board infotainment system is on-point, complete with full Kia Live Services and online voice recognition/navigation.
There’s a wireless mobile phone charger located under the dash, too; a great touch that we really wish more cars would incorporate.
The Sportage 2 sports 17” alloy wheels and can travel 113mph (max speed).
Acceleration-wise, this Kia MHEV can go from 0-60mph in around 11.1 seconds. The GT-Line version of the Sportage can launch from 0 to 60mph in 8.9 seconds if that’s more your speed.
Let’s talk mild hybrid tech.
On-board you’ll find a 48v lithium-ion battery.
As is the case with most mild hybrid cars, the Sportage 2 will ensure a “prompt and smooth start.”
One of the great things about the Sportage 2 is that the combustion engine will turn off automatically when decelerating to a complete stop.
E4TP Says: Kia are one of the major names in the MHEV space, and with good reason. Its Sportage range is worth shouting about. The Sportage 2 is a fantastic SUV in its own right, but then you add electric parts, and it gets a hell of a lot better.
The N Line is one of the sportier options you have © Credit to Hyundai
Hyundai Tucson N Line
CO2 Emissions: 148g/km
Price: From £26,742
It’s “revolutionising the evolution of design,” and it’s worth mentioning on a list of quality MHEVs because it’s earned it.
We’re, of course, talking about the Hyundai Tucson N Line, a mid-size SUV that oozes charisma.
The N Line is the sportier version of the Tucson. It features an upgraded interior with comfortable leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, and sports metal pedals that simulate life on the track.
It looks just as good from the outside as it does from the inside too.
The exclusive N Line grille is one of the prime highlights — as are the refined headlights sitting on either side of it.
We should also pinpoint the enhanced safety on-board. The Tucson N Line cones with seven airbags in total, including a first-row centre side airbag, which you don’t often find in this segment.
Like the Sportage 2, the MHEV version of the N Line comes with a 48v mild hybrid system installed.
A hybrid version of the N Line is also available. Just expect to pay a little more for this one.
E4TP Says: This vehicle received positives reviews across the board when released. There’s just something about the N Line that really brings out the best in Hyundai. What do you think? Is this a mild hybrid you could see yourself in?
The Fiat 500 (MHEV) edition offers better acceleration
Fiat 500 (MHEV Edition)
CO2 Emissions: 88g/km
Price: From £16,795
Hows about we look at a smaller MHEV?
Specifically, the Fiat 500 (mild hybrid edition).
That’s right, the little car that could received a powertrain upgrade, giving drivers better acceleration and all that good stuff.
This electrically-assisted 500 is different from the other two mentioned above. It uses a 11Ah lithium-ion battery to run its auxiliary systems, which is slightly smaller than those found in the SUVs.
Still, it does the trick.
The pack is mounted to the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, allowing for 69bhp and 92Nm of torque.
Moreover, the engine can switch off when hitting that 18mph mark as you’re slowing down to preserve fuel.
Top speed of the 500 is set at 104mph. The same as other versions of the popular hatchback.
The word ‘retro’ comes to mind when thinking about this mild hybrid version of the Fiat 500.
It’s not the most comfortable EV out there — especially if you’re of the tall variety — but it certainly has its charm.
E4TP Says: It isn’t as speedy as some would like, but you can’t deny the appeal of a cost-effective MHEV like this. Fiat are the champion of affordable cars, in our opinion. This mild hybrid version of the Fiat 500 has no right to be this good.
Compact, but hella powerful in the MHEV/SUV lane © Credit to Suzuki
CO2 Emissions: 121g/km
Price: From £19,249
What can we say about the Suzuki Vitara that isn’t already known?
We could say it’s “designed for all conditions, but pretty handy on the school run,” as it states on Suzuki’s site, but there’s more to it than that.
The SZ4 Hybrid runs on petrol, yet it feels like an all-electric type at times from a performance point of view.
Its 1.4-litre petrol engine is boosted courtesy of mild-hybrid technology.
This tech allows it to push beyond most vehicles in the space, travelling 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds; lightning-fast for an MHEV SUV.
Top speed of the Vitara sits at 118mph, which isn’t too shabby compared to similar EVs in the market, like the Ford Puma or Volkswagen T-Cross.
Being a compact SUV certainly has its benefits — lowering the overall price of the MHEV is one of them.
Still, just because it’s compact doesn’t mean that the Vitara is lacking in space.
We’d even go as far as to say that the interior is a bit of an optical illusion given how much room you have to play with.
How much space is there in the boot? Around 375 litres; more than enough room.
Look up ‘great value for money’ in the dictionary. We can almost guarantee there will be a picture of the Suzuki Vitara there.
E4TP Says: We can’t say enough good things about the Suzuki Vitara. It’s a compact SUV that drives like a dream (mainly due to the mild hybrid tech found within). This should be a no-brainer for a lot of potential buyers out there.
What Is A Mild Hybrid (MHEV), And Is It Worth Buying?
If you don’t know, now you know.
The stop/start benefits of mild hybrid cars are a fantastic selling point. They might not run on electric power, but they are categorised as an EV at the end of the day.
So, is it worth buying a mild hybrid car?
For the time being, sure.
Sceptical buyers — aka those against electric vehicles — might like that MHEVs are basically petrol-powered with electric properties.
They also burn fewer emissions and have the range to get you where you need to go without worrying about charging.
Word to the wise:ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles have a shelf life in certain countries. The UK will ban hybrids in 2035, so enjoy these MHEVs while they last.
If given the choice, we’d go with a plug-in hybrid over a mild hybrid, as PHEVs tend to perform better, but that’s just our opinion.
But what do you think? Are mild hybrid cars appealing to you, or would you rather go for something with a bit more oomph in the electric department?
Leave a comment below.
Mild Hybrid Cars FAQs
What is a mild hybrid car exactly?
MHEV types are unlike any other hybrid vehicle. These vehicles come with a generator and small lithium-ion battery in place of a traditional starter motor/alternator. This allows the vehicle to accelerate a lot easier and preserve fuel.
Do mild hybrid vehicles need charging?
Mild hybrid cars require no charging at all as power is pulled from regenerative braking directly. As mentioned above, these vehicles share similarities with self-charging vehicles. MHEVs are as close as you can get to a standard ICE vehicle in the EV space.
What is the best mild hybrid vehicle?
If we had to choose, we’d need to pick the Suzuki Vitara. Not only is it a cost-effective vehicle, but it has the attributes/spec to back it up. It’s a MHEV SUV with a max speed of 118mph and can go from 0 to 62mph in 9.5 seconds.
Will hybrid cars be banned in the future?
In the UK, hybrid vehicles will be banned eventually — in 2035, to be specific. We have quite a while to wait yet, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re someone who rarely switches between vehicles; all-electric types are the future.