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Decisions, Decisions: Fully Electric Vehicles Vs. Plug-in Hybrids For A One Car Household

The other day my neighbor tells me he is thinking about replacing his 2 gas powered vehicles with one electric vehicle (EV). But there’s a catch: he works from home, rarely drives long distances, and isn’t that sure about what the future holds, per se.

So I asked my neighbor: which EVs are you considering, and why?

The short answer to that question was simply: the Ford Mach-E (but seems a little small to him), Rivian (both current models though he was a little concerned about reliability), and the BMW iX (has a BMW now, not a fan of the maintenance costs but otherwise a happy owner) and it’s because plug-in vehicles have lower maintenance and fueling costs.

I also asked, because he said he doesn’t drive long distances very often, if he had considered plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), what size or body style(s) were of interest, and whether or not other brands might be options. He wasn’t opposed to PHEVs, needs a vehicle big enough for him and at least 3 passengers and their stuff, wasn’t set on any particular body style otherwise, and was mostly open to other brands too so I told him I’d do a little research and follow up with a story.

If you're open to spending up to $90,000 or so with the aim of having only one car that plugs in and meets the other requirements I mentioned, you actually have a lot of options.

I won’t try to mention them all but basically, that criteria includes all such models save a handful of 6 figure luxury plug-ins and a couple of tiny urban runabouts, or around 80-90% of the cars with plugs. Before I go further, it may be wise to consider needs versus wants, and what choice might align best with the principle of aiming for the former (but allowing for some of the latter too). That is precisely why when my neighbor said he doesn’t drive much and would rarely take a long road trip, I asked about PHEVs.

If you look at any EV that otherwise meets my neighbor’s requirements they are all going to have batteries sized at 70 - 100+ kWh, which is enough capacity to take 4 people and their stuff hundreds of miles on a full charge. That translates into a lot of battery capacity my neighbor would rarely use, if ever, so why not buy a PHEV that could cover 30-60 miles of driving on electricity (the most he tends to drive the vast majority of the time we’ll say) on a battery a fraction of the size?

Plus it gives him the gas engine (that he would also admittedly rarely use) for that occasional random trip into the wilderness he hadn’t anticipated. That gas engine should fare better with limited use than a big battery would simply because time has a more adverse effect on a battery than on an engine. I’ll note that there may be stretches of time when my neighbor doesn’t drive any significant distance. It would also use fewer raw materials and cost less.

For someone who can cover around 90% of their annual miles on a battery that goes 30-60 miles, they may use less than a single tank of gasoline per year (as was sometimes the case for me when I drove a Chevy Volt), and that is the point at which there is perhaps no appreciable difference, in fueling costs (not to mention emissions), between a PHEV and an EV.

Of course, you still have to deal with the very occasional oil change, eventual emissions inspections, and other gas engine maintenance with PHEVs, but as long as you are doing the vast majority of your driving on battery, those will likely be few and far between.

Hold on to your hats because what follows is simply a list of 10 (or more) additional EVs and PHEVs not yet mentioned but worthy of consideration with the briefest possible comment on each, meant to provoke the thoughts of anyone who might be facing similar choices as my neighbor. They are not ranked in any particular order nor am I making any specific recommendations, just compiling lists.

Also, note I left off Teslas simply because I know that isn’t what my neighbor wants, but of course, Teslas are the dominant EV brand in the US for good reasons and pretty much everyone knows about or considers them already.


  1. The Honda Prologue/Acura ZDX - hot off the presses this month and right sized.
  2. The Volvo EX90 - very safe with Swedish design aesthetics, what’s not to love?
  3. The Porsche Macan 4 EV - just a touch of practicality, in a Porsche!
  4. The Chevy Blazer EV - won MotorTrend SUV of the Year Award for 2024.
  5. The Kia EV9 - may look like a spaceship but has been winning tons of awards.
  6. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 and its sibling Kia EV6 - 2 of the most popular EVs around.
  7. The Cadillac Lyriq - talk about a comfy, pampered ride…
  8. The Audi eTron - it's good at not looking like an EV (but don’t drive it to Quebec ;).
  9. The Lucid Air - the Pure model starts under $70k after tax rebate.
  10. The Nissan Ariya - Nissan has been making EVs longer than all the rest on the list.



  1. A pair of Lexus SUVs (Lexii?), the RX PHEV and TX PHEV - in 2, or 3 rows.
  2. The Kia Sorento/Hyundai Santa Fe PHEVs - value packed and very efficient choices.
  3. The Hyundai Tuscon/Kia Sportage PHEVs - just like their big brothers, only smaller.
  4. The Toyota Rav 4 Prime - 42 miles on a charge and almost 40 MPG after that.
  5. The Prius Prime - just won “greenest car” by the ACEEE, beating all EVs…
  6. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - has an excellent warranty, and great camping features too!
  7. The Porsche Cayenne PHEV - technically just exceeds that $90k mark, but…
  8. The Mazda CX-90 PHEV - Car and Driver really likes it.
  9. The Volvo XC-90 Recharge - again with that safety and Swedish aesthetics!
  10. The BMW xDrive50e (X5)  PHEV - 39 miles on a charge and all that BMW style too.

Are you in the market for an EV or PHEV as your only vehicle and have some similar criteria as my neighbor? Which models might be of most interest to you? Would you prefer an EV over a PHEV, and if so, why? Please leave your questions and comments below.

Images courtesy of Honda, Kia, Lexus, and Chevrolet.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first-generation Nissan LEAF, second-generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Torque News Kia or X for regular electric and hybrid news coverage.