Electric vehicles are all the rage right now, and many people are worried about their carbon footprint. However, with so many different types of vehicles available, it can be hard to keep the differences straight. Two common vehicle types include EVs and plug-in hybrids. These two share a number of features but are also dramatically different.
It is also important to understand how manufacturers may also have their own terminology to indicate various aspects of electric vehicles. Similarly, some companies, most notably Tesla, offer a wide range of premium features like a self-driving mode. However, EVs and plug-in hybrids are becoming increasingly affordable and much more practical. In this article, we will look at the real-world pros and cons of EVs vs. Plug-in hybrids.
EVs vs. Plug-In Hybrids: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Charge Time (Level 1 Charger)
|Gas, Electricity, Braking
EVs vs. Plug-In Hybrids: What’s the Difference?
There are a number of differences between EVs and hybrid cars, but let’s start with the obvious. An electric car relies entirely on battery packs built into the vehicle. They need charging, either at home or at a charging station, in order to work. On the other hand, plug-hybrids have both batteries and an internal combustion engine and can run on both.
Internal Combustion Engine Cars
Gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles make up the majority of cars sold around the world. Manufacturers typically refer to them as internal combustion engines or ICE, but it is important to know that these are your regular old vehicles with no electric capabilities. The engine is paired with a fuel tank that must be refilled. Some cars, like hybrids, still come with an internal combustion engine in addition to electric.
Before we go into further detail, it is important to distinguish what a traditional hybrid car is. They use both gas and electric-powered motors to run the vehicle. This allows for optimum efficiency without needing large battery packs. Instead, smaller batteries store energy generated from regenerative braking to power the electric motor.
Therefore regular hybrids do not get regularly charged like an electric car. The downside here is that you still need to buy a fair bit of gas, but hybrids like the Toyota Prius commonly get over 55MPG. The good thing is that you don’t have to worry about range and instead just keep the gas tank full. Several of the major auto manufacturers have made hybrids for a long time now and are putting out really good cars.
Electric vehicles or EVs are the complete opposite of a traditional car with an internal combustion engine. Instead of filling it up with gas, you charge it. They are better for the environment and much more convenient since you don’t have to stop and fill up on your commute. Unfortunately, the downside is that you have to contend with a fixed range.
While even gas-powered vehicles have limitations, electric cars take significantly longer to charge than a gas vehicle would take to fill up. If you just plan to use your car for daily commutes, then it won’t be too bad. However, traveling across the cross country can be a challenge, with many rural areas having few to no charging stations.
Although range may be a turn-off for you, don’t overlook the upsides to an EV. First off, most EVs are incredibly fun to drive since they put instant power to the wheels. Another nice feature is that most EVs use the hood space for storage since they don’t need that area for an engine. Another great thing is that most EVs come in all-wheel drive models with multiple motors to really improve handling.
Finally, we’ve made it to the last and most confusing vehicle type, the plug-in hybrid. While this isn’t really anything new or groundbreaking, it does combine most of the above options together. This combination of vehicle power sources makes it arguably the best option for most consumers, but it appears to go overlooked by many.
Part of the confusion likely comes from the word “hybrid” being in the name. There are a lot of preconceived notions about hybrid cars, and many are based on vehicles from more than a decade ago. But plug-in hybrids fall squarely between traditional hybrids like the Prius and electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt.
Plug-in hybrids have a gas-powered engine with a fuel tank. But along with the electric motors of a hybrid, they also have larger battery packs. This allows you to charge the batteries for short commutes but still have a gas-powered engine for longer trips. But the best part is that the gas engine still functions like a hybrid even if the batteries aren’t charged, so you still get excellent fuel economy.
Price-wise, plug-in hybrids do cost a little more than a regular hybrid, but in many cases, they are still within reach of average drivers. Meaning you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars extra to get a plug-in model. The biggest drawback is that the cars tend to have limited space since they need to pack in both gas and electric engines along with fuel tanks and larger battery packs.
EVs vs. Plug-In Hybrids: 5 Must-Know Facts
- Plug-in hybrids have both gas and electric motors.
- EVs require charging over a long period of time.
- Outside temperature may affect a battery’s range.
- Charging stations can be hard to find in rural areas and when traveling.
- Conventional hybrids cannot be charged like an EV or plug-in hybrid.
EVs vs. Plug-In Hybrids: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?
If you’re still not quite sure which vehicle is the best fit, don’t worry, the answer may be clearer than you think. Each vehicle type has its pros and cons that you should carefully consider alongside your lifestyle. In addition, you should also look at a number of manufacturers to see the exact numbers regarding range and MPG.
Type of Driving
If you mainly drive on a daily commute into and out of a city, then an EV will definitely work for you. Most vehicles now have a range that will easily get you a couple of hours of drive time without a problem. This means you can charge your car overnight and unplug it in the morning before you leave.
The problem comes in if your travels are a little more unpredictable or you do a lot of traveling. If this sounds like you, then an EV may not be the best choice since it will need charging. However, most large cities do have a decent number of charging stations, with more being added every day.
One last thing we didn’t discuss is the need for towing or hauling heavy items. There aren’t many options in the truck market, with the Ford Lightning being one of the first electric trucks. If you do need a truck, it is probably better to skip the EVs until the technology improves. However, if you just need to move people, there are a number of different options like hybrids, EVs, and plug-in hybrids.
A major concern for many people is how they will charge their electric cars. If you choose an EV or plug-in hybrid, you will need somewhere close to your home with an electrical outlet. Nearly all EVs on the market support charging through a standard 120V home outlet. However, many choose to upgrade to a 240V rapid charger.
You can also charge EVs and plug-in hybrids at charging stations. These are located in various places, with many located at gas stations, while you can find others at places like hotels and attractions. Having to charge EVs is a major drawback, which is why it may be better to go with a plug-in hybrid that can still run on gas if necessary.
The Bottom Line
Overall, plug-in hybrids tend to be the better option. However, there are significantly fewer options compared to EVs. Therefore you should also consider the vehicles available and whether or not you even like them. For instance, if you want a luxury SUV, you may find that there are no plug-in hybrids that meet your expectations.
It is important to be well informed when purchasing a vehicle, but you should also have an open mind. That way, if you come across an EV or even a regular hybrid that you really like, you don’t feel committed to a plug-in hybrid. Similarly, if you want an EV, consider all of the features and aspects to make sure it is really a good fit and that you aren’t just jumping on the latest fad.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock.com.