What is a self-charging hybrid car?

The term self-charging hybrid is becoming more popular. But what does it mean?

BuyaCar team
Mar 18, 2019

What is a self-charging hybrid?

You may have seen the latest stream of adverts from Toyota and Lexus, promising a self-charging hybrid and wondered what they’re all about.

Self-charging is a term used by Toyota, Lexus, and most recently Kia, to describe a hybrid car that mixes a petrol or diesel engine with electric power. They’re billed as self-charging because you can’t charge them up via an external source. This makes them different from plug-in hybrids. These cars can charge their batteries via a plug.

A self-charging hybrid then, is a term used to describe a non-plug in hybrid.

The electric motors in these cars recover energy normally lost while braking, as well as from the petrol engine when it’s efficient to do so.

This electric power can be used to drive the car at slow speeds, for very short distances. Its main purpose is to assist the petrol engine during acceleration.

By reducing the effort the petrol engine needs to make while accelerating, this electric power can dramatically reduce fuel consumption.

Self-charging is also a clever dig from the marketing people at Toyota and Lexus at pure electric cars, as their electrical power has to be restored by the driver.

Self-charging hybrid cars 

As mentioned above, self-charging hybrid cars are essentially non-plug-in hybrids. Toyota and Lexus coined the phrase, so cars like the Lexus LC and RX are self-charging, while the Toyota C-HR and Toyota Prius also fall into this category.

Kia has also started using the phrase in its advertising, specifically on its latest Niro hybrid.

Below, is a full list of self-charging hybrid cars for sale in the UK. However, do remember that this is essentially a list of all non-plug-in hybrids.

Self-charging hybrid car pros

✔  Can save money on fuel costs
✔  Congestion charge exempt
✔  Lower carbon dioxide levels than petrol cars

Self-charging hybrid cars cons

More expensive to buy than non-hybrids
Less efficient than non-hybrids on motorway
Batteries can eat into boot space in some models 

Self-charging hybrid controversy

Since self-charging advertising appeared 2018, there have been several complaints made about the phrase. A great deal, unsurprisingly, from Twitter users.

Some people argue that the terminology is misleading.

One user wrote: “With tens of thousands of premature deaths p/a in the UK link to combustion engine vehicles, I'm heartily sick of 1 manufacturer deliberately confusing consumers.”

While another quipped: “What on Earth is this nonsense of self charging electric cars - they are not electric cars, it’s misleading advertising.”

Toyota’s response reads: “We use the phrase Self-Charging Hybrid to help consumers understand how this technology works when faced with a choice of different powertrains in today’s automotive market. We also sell a Plug-in hybrid model so clear distinction between these models is important for the customer. Prior to using this terminology in our advertising materials, we undertook rigorous consumer research and found this was the most simple and effective way to communicate hybrid vehicle operation."


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