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Hybrid vs. Plug-In Hybrid vs. Electric Vehicles: Understanding the Differences
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Choosing an eco-friendly car in today’s market can be downright confusing. Picking the right vehicle is not just about paint color or engine size, but also about how it fits into your lifestyle. If you want to go green, here are the differences between hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EVs), and how to determine which type will suit you the best.
Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles: The basics
Your research into alternative powertrains should begin before you leave the house. Here are a few key terms to understand before heading to the dealership:
- Internal combustion engine: An internal combustion engine, or ICE, uses fuel to propel the vehicle. Conventional cars and trucks use gasoline or diesel to power the engine.
- Electric motor: An electric motor uses the energy stored within one or more batteries to propel the vehicle.
All “green” cars have an electric motor and battery system instead of – or in addition to – a regular internal combustion engine. The crucial difference between them is how they are powered. A regular hybrid’s battery is charged while you drive whereas a plug-in hybrid gets its power from being plugged in. An EV has only a motor-battery system that gets energy from an outlet.
|Hybrid vehicles||Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)||Electric vehicles (EVs)|
|Generally the lowest prices among “green” vehicles||Typically lower prices than EVs||Usually the highest prices among “green” car options|
|Improved gas mileage; no stressing over EV mileage range||Fully-electric driving for a small range (20 to 35 miles) before the engine kicks in||Absolutely no money spent at the gas pump; but you need to plan for longer road trips|
|Regular maintenance and repairs are required||Regular maintenance and repairs are required||Significant savings – little maintenance is required|
Hybrid vehicles combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor that takes its power from the battery. These types of cars have a regenerative braking system, which captures the energy saved when braking and redirects it to the battery. A hybrid vehicle’s battery gets charged in two ways: from the engine and from the regenerative braking system, which saves up the power you’d otherwise lose every time you tap the brakes.
How strong your benefits are depends on whether you have a mild or a full hybrid. In a mild hybrid, your fuel economy is improved, but you cannot travel on battery power alone.
A full hybrid, on the other hand, can operate on electricity alone for short distances when driving at low speeds, and returns better fuel economy overall thanks to a larger battery and more powerful motor.
Hybrid vehicles are a good match for drivers who want better fuel efficiency without the hassle of plugging in at a charging station. New vehicle prices are on the rise, but hybrids are the cheapest alternative fuel vehicles available.
Priced lower than other eco-friendly cars
Better fuel economy and lower emissions than regular vehicles
No need to stress over EV range
Priced higher than a conventional vehicle
Still produces fossil fuel emissions
No federal hybrid-car tax deductions
Plug-in hybrid vehicles
Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) differ from hybrids because you can charge the battery by plugging it into an outside power source. Since PHEVs are equipped with larger battery packs, they can drive on electricity alone, usually a commuter-friendly 20 to 35 miles.
Drivers who rely solely on the ICE or regenerative braking system to charge the battery achieve fuel efficiency comparable to a hybrid vehicle. However, drivers who consistently charge the battery with an external power source can make short trips using electricity alone.
If you forget to plug your car in for the night or need to go on a longer road trip, there’s no risk of being stranded due to lack of charge because you still have an engine as your primary power source.
Offers lower fuel costs
A 20 to 35 mile daily commute may be fully electric
May be eligible for a tax break
Costs more than conventional and hybrid vehicles
An at-home fast charger may be pricey
Most electric vehicles (EVs) on the market today can travel over 200 miles when fully charged, which is still about 100 miles less than what you’ll get on a tank of gas. Car makers continue to improve range, however, and EVs boast several advantages over hybrids and PHEVs.
Mainly, your long-term car ownership costs are drastically reduced. Electricity is much cheaper than gas and, without an engine, EVs have far fewer parts to maintain or repair. In addition, EVs can take your breath away with instant acceleration, are quieter than their gasoline-powered counterparts, have more storage under the hood and, with no tailpipe emissions, they’re the most eco-friendly of the bunch.
Keep in mind that some states are better than others at embracing EVs. You’ll find great tax credits and plenty of charging stations in some states, but few financial incentives or charging stations in others. If you’re in the market for an electric vehicle, read more about how much a Tesla costs.
Lower cost to charge and maintain
Quick and quiet acceleration
No tailpipe emissions
May save money with tax incentives
Higher price tag
Fewer EV charging stations than gas stations
Takes time to charge
Extreme temperatures can reduce driving range
Electric vehicle vs. hybrid vs. plug-in hybrid: Which is right for you?
When shopping for an eco-friendly vehicle, choosing the right one often depends on your driving habits and comfort level.
Shoppers looking for a more affordable vehicle with above-average fuel efficiency may find that a regular hybrid fits the bill. You don’t have to charge them up to drive them and the partial use of the electric motors make them environmentally friendlier than a conventional car.
For an increased price, plug-in hybrids offer the most flexibility. You can go gas-free on shorter drives and still fuel up for longer ones.
With zero tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles are certainly the most eco-friendly option. They have higher price tags than conventional and hybrid cars but you’ll most likely save money in the long term. There are also huge projects underway to increase the number of charging stations across the nation.