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Hybrid vs. Electric Cars: Weighing Your Options

Hybrid Vs. Electric Cars: Weighing Your Options

The introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) has expanded consumers’ options on the automotive market. But along with those extra choices has come added confusion, with many consumers wondering what the difference is between the two – and which option, if either, is best for them.

“This early in the market, many consumers have interest in one or the other and are heavily influenced by other buyers,” says Dr. Thomas Turrentine, director of the California Energy Commission’s Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center at the Institute of Transportation Services, University of California, Davis.

“The best thing to do is go and drive one and see which one you like,” he says.

Before taking it out for a spin, however, you’ll want to decide if an EV or PHEV fits your lifestyle and your needs. To make that call, it’s important to understand what each one offers.



Because they run on both electricity and gas, PHEVs use two powertrains, so you’ll still have many of the maintenance costs of a conventional gas-powered engine.


Fewer fluids that need changing and fewer moving parts translate to minimal maintenance.



PHEVs use gasoline, as they have a gas-powered motor that takes over when the electric motor has used up its range. The larger the battery, the less gas you’ll use – but they’ll also cost you more to begin with.


Since it’s completely powered by electricity, you won’t need to hit the Gas Pump again. Your cost will be in the form of electricity, which is estimated at about $540 per year for an EV that drives about 15,000 miles.

Many consumers have been drawn to the rebates and tax incentives that accompany the cars. Some rebates did end at the end of 2015, so it’s important to double-check which federal and state rebates are still being offered.



PHEVs can go, on average, 200 to 300 miles once the gas motor has kicked in. Having a garage with a Properly Installed Charging station is required


The EV’s range is much more limited, although new models are coming out with greater ranges, which can go up to 240 miles on a single charge. Look for models coming to market in 2017 with a higher range of 150 to 200 miles, Turrentine says. Similar to PHEVs, EVs requires a garage with a properly Installed Charging station.

Currently, technology is being developed to provide wireless charging, which would allow drivers to charge their EVs and PHEVs simply by parking over a large mat that transfers energy electromagnetically.

Ultimately, Turrentine says, it comes down to how the car will be used and what you hope to accomplish by buying it. If you’re doing it to rid yourself of dependence on a gas pump and want to switch to a new fuel, Turrentine recommends the EV.

“But if you’re thinking about long-distance travel,” he says, “PHEVs are a safer bet.”

Take a deeper dive into the pros and cons of different vehicle types with by reviewing these comparison charts.

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Hybrid vs. Electric Cars: Weighing Your Options


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