Many people who drive all-electric cars (EVs) take a dim view on plug-in hybrids. They think hybrids are just “pretenders” that are draped in false eco-friendly veneer. In their defense, plug-in hybrid owners respond by saying that, most of the time, their cars are running on electrons instead of molecules, and that they can actually drive to another city and come back on the same day, without having to stay overnight to recharge their car (ouch).
So, is one better than the other? Well, the answer, like most things in life, is, “it depends”. Actually, asking which one is the better of the two is the wrong question to ask. The right question is: “Which one is better for you?”
If you’ve decided to play your part in saving the planet by reducing your carbon footprint, this blog post will help you determine whether a plug-in hybrid or a fully electric car is best for you.
Clearing Up the Confusion
Before we get down into the nitty gritty of things, let’s get a few things out of the way first. Recently, some automakers have been advertising their hybrid offerings as “self-charging electric cars”. Well, believe us when we say there’s no such thing. All-electric cars, or EVs, do not have an internal combustion engine. They just have electric motors and a battery pack.
Plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, are cars that have both, a gasoline engine and an electric propulsion system. Plug-in hybrids can move at highway speeds using just the electric motors as the source of propulsion – but only until the batteries run out. Then, and only then, the gasoline engine steps in and recharges the batteries. The distance a plug-in hybrid moves on electrical power alone depends upon the size of its battery pack. The Chevy Volt, for instance, can travel up to an impressive 52 miles before its batteries run out.
The battery-only range of a typical plug-in hybrid can be anywhere between 10 and 60 miles. Of course, the longer the range, the more of your daily driving is done with zero emissions. However, a longer electric range also translates into larger, more expensive battery pack. However, once again, the most important question to ask here is how you drive the car and how much you drive, For instance, if your plug-in hybrid has a 25 mile battery-only range and you use it primarily for an 8-mile daily commute, you can essentially drive it for almost 3 days without having to plug it in or burning a single drop of fossil fuel.
An EV is even better when it comes to short-distance driving. Since there’s no internal combustion engine, there aren’t even any tailpipes to speak of; let alone tailpipe emissions. You can just drive your EV during the day and charge it during the night – like you do with your cell phone. However, the big challenge with EVs is long distance driving.
You see, there aren’t many EVs that offer a range greater than 300 miles, and even the ones that do cost an upwards of $75k. Even in a car like the Tesla Model X ‘Long Range’, which costs around a hundred grand, you’ll have to stop 3 times to charge the battery if you drove from St. Louis to New York City.
There are two different types of costs – the cost of buying the car and the cost of ownership, which includes fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, etc. When it comes to buying costs, plug-in hybrids generally cost less than their all-electric counterparts. This is mainly because they have a smaller, less expensive battery pack. However, they do have an onboard gasoline engine which requires routine maintenance and fuel.
Government incentives and rebates also play a critical role in determining the total cost of any car. Currently, the US government grants you up to $7,500 in federal tax credits for buying a fully-electric car. Incentives for plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, range between $3,000 and $4,500. There are only a handful of PHEVs that are eligible for the full federal tax credit. They include the Honda Clarity PHEV, the Chevrolet Volt, and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.
Another crucial factor to consider while determining the cost of vehicle is depreciation. What will it be worth in the market after it’s put on a few thousand miles? In the current market climate, plug-in hybrids are better at retaining their value than EVs. This is mainly because EVs are hampered by concerns about the need to replace the battery.
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