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Why Plug-in Hybrids Are Better Than All-Electric Cars

When I purchased a Ford Fusion Energi PHEV that only gets 21 electric miles, my neighbor said “Tell me when Ford makes one that goes 300 miles, then I'll consider it”. Like most conventional gas car owners accustomed to 13 gallon gas tanks, they think only Teslas and Chevy Bolts with their big batteries and long electric ranges are able to compete with conventional gas powered cars.


However, for those of us who actually own electric cars, we quickly realize that long electric ranges are not necessary because your home is the "gas station" where you plug it in each night to charge the battery. In fact, all you really need is a battery just big enough to cover your daily commute and no more! For most people, that means an electric range of 20~50 miles will do just fine.

The best way to describe a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) is "Electricity for your daily commute and gasoline for your long weekend getaways". (Here are some of the hidden benefits of plug-in vehicle ownership).

This combination makes sense for two reasons.

1) Lithium-Ion batteries are very heavy. A Tesla battery weighs 1,200 lbs in which you are only using 10~15% of it on a daily commute basis. That means you are lugging around 1,000 lbs of unused batteries which is the equivalent of hauling three full size refrigerators in your everyday commute!

2) And when you are making those infrequent weekend getaways, filling up at a gas station is still far more convenient than waiting 1~4 hours at a charging station assuming it's even available. When those Tesla Model 3s become popular, lineups at freeway charging stations will invariably become common. With a PHEV, you can switch back to gasoline mode for those infrequent weekend getaways and don't have to worry about long lineups or non-existent charging stations.

Most PHEVs available today such as the Toyota Prius Prime, Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi, Chrysler Pacific Hybrid, Honda Clarity, and Hyundai Sonata PHEV can achieve 20~50 electric miles before switching back to gas. For these PHEV owners, they will experience a sharp drop in the number of trips to the gas station as most of their drive will be in all electric mode to and from work.

For example, it cost me approximately $0.65/day to fill up my Ford Fusion Energi at home to go 20 miles to and from work. With today's gas prices at $2.80/gallon, that same trip would have cost me $2.25 in a regular gas car. I use so little gas that I now fill up just once every two months and average 98 miles per gallon!

But when I do need to go the extra mile, gas is still my friend. My Ford Fusion Energi can go 600 miles on a tank of gas and a fully charged battery which is twice as far as my neighbor's conventional gas car and completely unattainable in an all-electric car.


Michael (not verified)    May 5, 2018 - 10:45AM

Pure electric is only useful as a second car for commuting only. A plug-in hybrid functions as a fuel-free commuter AND an unlimited mile highway machine. I live in Texas. Houston to Dallas is 250 miles. How many electric cars could even make the one-way trip?

Marcia (not verified)    May 5, 2018 - 10:46AM

Of course the fuel economy is a given. Besides that: 1. The seat contour which supports my upper back and the small of my back. 2. The multi - display. 3. Curvy interior + sharply angled exterior = great looking.

VFanRJ (not verified)    May 5, 2018 - 11:22PM

While Doug's article is logical, people simply don't think that way. People who don't want to burn petrol don't what a car with petrol in it. While I love my Volt I do try to avoid its generator turning on. So far I've averaged 300 mpg, but the next long road trip would be sure to drop it.