Not all electrical grids are built equal, and if you live in a place where your power source might not be the cleanest, then a plug-in hybrid might be an alternative for you. Many people also suffer from horrible range anxiety, and a plug-in hybrid can help alleviate some of that. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of plug-in hybrids vs. EVs.
Pros of Owning a Plug-In Hybrid
First things first: many consumers still aren’t completely comfortable relying on a purely electric vehicle as their lone car. This has obviously changed over the years, but there’s still some range anxiety going around. When you consider that even an expensive EV like the Tesla Model 3 Performance only gets 315 miles of range, it’s obvious why some people might get nervous. On the other hand, according to the US Department of Energy, a 2017 Kia Optima plug-in hybrid has a total range of over 600 miles.
The Kia also allows for 29 miles of all-electric driving, which should cover most people’s daily commute or at least a large chunk of it. If you’re shopping for an EV and you notice that there’s a cheaper vehicle that can travel much farther and also allows full electric driving, it’s a pretty enticing proposition.
If you’re on the fence about buying an EV, the range anxiety issue might be one of the top things on your mind, especially if you live in an area where you haven’t spotted an EV charging station for miles. With a plug-in hybrid, you simply use the entirety of your vehicle’s electric range and then continue on your merry way using the power generated by the gasoline engine.
This is a huge plus for people who like to go on adventures that might not have EV charging stations on the way to their destination or who simply don’t like planning their route. EVs are great, but spontaneous road trips aren’t exactly their forte.
Another gray area is exactly how clean EVs are versus plug-in hybrids. Usually, EVs are cleaner than hybrid vehicles over their lifespan. Still, if you live in an area heavily dependent on coal, the difference might not be as significant. Regardless, in terms of green choices, plug-in hybrids aren’t a superior option to EVs, especially considering how heavy the vehicle is, without the benefit of a fully renewable energy grid.
Pros of Owning an EV
The pros of owning an EV are many. The first pro is the most obvious: the vehicle is fully electric. Plug-in hybrids are akin to a jack of all trades and master of none. They aren’t that great at being electric vehicles, and they aren’t that great at being gasoline cars either. While plug-in hybrids perform well because their range is superior to electric vehicles, and can also stop at any conventional gas station to refuel, it’s not a true electric car.
Plug-in hybrids are inevitably becoming dinosaurs, not only in that they are rare, but they’re also relics of the past. On the other hand, electric vehicles are rapidly evolving into more complete packages. Electric vehicles feature much bigger batteries, allowing for much better performance and more intoxicating torque that we all love about electric cars. For example, the Kia Optima plug-in hybrid has a 9.8 kWh battery capacity.
This is miniscule compared to the massive 77.4 kWh battery available on the Kia EV6. Obviously, the difference in perceived power is huge, as well as the actual performance figures. The EV6 equipped with the 77.4 kWh battery and AWD will do the 0-60 mph run in 5.1 seconds, while the 2017 Kia Optima plug-in hybrid will complete the run in a relatively snail-like 7.7 seconds, according to testing by Car and Driver. Remember that the EV6 isn’t even close to the top tier of fast electric vehicles, but it’s still a good demonstration of how fast even your typical EV is.
Electric vehicles are better for the environment than plug-in hybrids because they have zero tailpipe emissions for the entire duration of their range. After plug-in hybrids burn through their limited electric range, they are just average gas-guzzling internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. This is where EVs handily make plug-in hybrids seem downright archaic.
You might be considering buying a plug-in hybrid because you’re trying to cut emissions, but the truth is that these vehicles will spend a lot of their operating time emitting harmful gases. Another huge plus in favor of full EVs is the maintenance upkeep. Taking care of your EV’s battery is basically all you need to do regarding maintenance for your full electric vehicle (along with basic wear and tear maintenance items like brake pads and tires).
On the other hand, plug-in hybrids have full-on internal combustion engines, which require regular oil changes, along with the replacement of many moving parts that an EV doesn’t have. Basically, the maintenance of a plug-in hybrid combines the worst of both worlds: you must maintain its EV side, and its gasoline engine and its ancillary bits.
Which Is Best?
This answer obviously depends on your needs. If you want a vehicle that is truly zero emissions all the time, then a fully electric vehicle is definitely the way to go. The fact that the charging infrastructure across the US is quickly growing is turning range anxiety into a thing of the past.
But, if you’re still on the fence about buying an EV because your commute is filled with unexpected trips to places with poor EV charging infrastructure, then a plug-in hybrid might be your best choice. Long road trips that are completely devoid of pre-planned routes are also great for plug-in hybrids, not so much for EVs that require stops at fast charging stations to be scheduled way in advance.