A motor and an engine – what's the difference?

Sounds like a trick question, right? Some answers you might hear include- 'they're the same thing,' or 'its whatever makes a car go.' Not so fast! Put simply, a motor runs on electricity, while an engine runs on combustion.

As we undoubtedly move into a new era of battery electric vehicles (BEVs or EVs), it's important to know these differences in driving and what options are available for your fleet. New registrations of electric cars hit a record high in 2017 with over 28,541 new vehicles sold worldwide. And the range on full BEVs continues to improve with every new model.

Want to drive electric but still have some anxiety range? No problem! Consider plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), giving you both worlds. Let's explore these two options and get to know the difference between the two.


BEVs have a battery instead of a gasoline tank, and an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. It's almost as simple as that – the battery is the main source of power for the car. Range for BEVs is currently less than a similar gas engine equivalent, with the largest ranges available on the Tesla Model S (330 miles) and Chevrolet Bolt (238 miles) on a full charge. BEVs need to be charged back up, typically through a Level 1 or Level 2 port that also plugs into a 110v or 240v wall outlet. But there are quite a few more differences that add up to a major difference in driving. Some include:

  • Costs are less to operate an electric vehicle based on the price of kilowatts per hour versus gas
  • Instant torque, or the force at which the car starts to move is faster. Most BEVs can reach 60 miles per hour (MPH) in under 10 seconds!
  • Zero emissions from the tailpipe cuts your carbon footprint and helps you meet sustainability goals
  • Regenerative (one pedal driving) braking. Talk about a new way of driving! Any time you lift your foot off the accelerator the car will start the braking process without ever having to tap the brake pedal. This also helps to regenerate battery power, adding mileage range during driving.
  • Less moving parts to the vehicle equals less to maintain. The average BEV has 150 moving parts while the average gas powered vehicle has 10,000!


PHEVs have both a battery and an electric motor as well as a gasoline tank and an internal combustion engine. Most PHEVs operate exclusively on electricity until the battery is nearly empty. Then gasoline is burned in the engine to provide additional power. PHEVs also have a charging port for recharging battery power, just like a BEV, but the general mileage range of electric power is much lower, typically going 20 miles like the Ford Fusion Energi or up to 53 miles for the Chevrolet Volt, before needing a recharge.

PHEVs provide longer ranges for distance driving, but also offer the option for electric driving around town or on short commutes, lessening the need for trips to the gas pump.

But how much will it cost?

The cost of transportation for electric vehicles is calculated in a slightly different way than your traditional gas powered vehicle. MPGe (miles per gallon electric) is the equivalent of how many miles a car would get on one gallon of gas. A gallon of gasoline is roughly equal to 33.7 kilowatt-hours of battery power.

This mpg-equivalent figure is how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) converts the power used by an electric vehicle into a term that’s familiar to most Americans: MPG. Instead of gallons of gas, EVs are based on the average kilowatt hour usage and the MPG for PHEVs is a calculation of the battery range and gas tank range per 100 miles.

Overall, the cost to charge up the battery depends on your local power company but the nationwide average is $0.13 a kilowatt per hour, lowering your overall 'fuel' savings.

What's Next?

Worldwide there are now almost 1.2 million full or partial electric vehicles on the roads. At LeasePlan we understand the challenges of operating a fleet and the hesitation to making the switch to alternative fuels. Our consultancy team can help you evaluate your fleet and present options to lower your overall emissions and operating costs. Call us today to find out about the electric options available to you.


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