In the last decade or so, hybrids have become somewhat of a norm for many manufacturers who want to lower their general CO2 emissions across the board, but are they actually a good buy, and is a conventional hybrid (HEV) better than a plug-in hybrid (PHEV)?
A conventional hybrid uses a smaller battery in conjunction with a predominantly gas engine in order to achieve better MPG results. These types of hybrids rarely do offer any electric-only range, and if they do, that range is almost always negligible.
On the other hand, a plug-in hybrid uses a much larger battery which can also be charged via either a regular home outlet or a more powerful outlet for a faster charge. As such, these types of hybrids do offer an electric-only range, but they are more expensive to buy than a conventional hybrid.
That being said, if you are able and willing to use a plug-in hybrid for what it is, which means constantly plugging it in to charge, a plug-in is a better option. However, if you can’t be bothered to plug in a plug-in hybrid regularly, a conventional hybrid is likely to be a better option.
Conventional Hybrids (HEV)
A conventional hybrid was first introduced with the odd-looking Honda Insight, but it was later popularized by the Toyota Prius. These two Japanese manufacturers were the first to adopt a more hybrid car-friendly approach and were later followed by the rest of the consumer can industry.
For the purposes of illustration, we will use the Toyota Prius as the benchmark for modern-day HEV technology. With a starting price of around $24k, the Toyota Prius offers 58 MPG in the city and 53MPG on the highway which is a decent result, to say the least.
This conventional hybrid car can not be plugged in because the battery is being charged while driving. The regular Prius offers a 0.75 rather small kWh battery, and thus it does not offer the ability to plug it in. That being said, the car predominantly relies on the combustion engine, and the electric engine is only there for assistance purposes.
Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV)
Back in 1899, a famous German engineer called Ferdinand Porsche designed a concept of a plug-in hybrid called the System Lohner-Porsche Mixte. However, the first commercial plug-in hybrid was introduced in 2010 by GM, and it was called the Chevy Volt.
For illustration purposes, we will use the Toyota Prius Prime as the benchmark for modern-day plug-in hybrid technology as its only right to compare it to the regular Toyota Prius. That being said, the Prius Prime costs as much as $4k more than the regular Prius.
Furthermore, the Prius Prime offers an 8.8 kWh battery which enables the Prius Prime to go as far as 25 miles without using a drop of fuel. The MPG results are similar between the two, but with the electric mode in mind, the MPGe results of the Prius Prime model are said to be around 133 MPGe.
Conventional Hybrid vs Plug-In Hybrid
In order to come to a fair conclusion about which one of these is better than the other, we need to focus on how you plan on using an HEV/PHEV. For those who can plug a PHEV in, and are willing to do so, the extra costs associated with a PHEV can be easily recuperated after a year or two.
As such, plug-in hybrids are better than conventional hybrids from an efficiency point of view, and that means that they are better all-around because efficiency is the main factor when it comes to hybrid cars. Even though they do sometimes compromise when it comes to cargo space or repair costs, they are more expensive for a reason.
Conventional hybrids are mostly designed for those who don’t really want to bother with plugging the car in, but they also want to benefit from some form of fuel-saving technology. They cost less and they are not as complex, but many believe that they make no sense at all and that they should not even exist.
Is a plug-in hybrid better than an EV?
The answer to this question also depends on how you tend to use your car. If you are maximizing the potential of the electric engine in your plug-in hybrid, you should opt for an EV because an EV is an all-around better option when it comes to efficiency and emissions.
However, if you still enjoy being guarded by the combustion engine, you should stick with a hybrid for a while. It’s always better to own a hybrid before you consider jumping for an EV because it shows you what you need to do on a daily basis to enjoy an anxiety-free commute.
What’s the best plug-in hybrid on the market right now?
The best plug-in hybrid in the world right now has to be the Hyundai Ioniq because it offers lots of everything for an approachable price. The Ioniq is good enough for 50+ MPG both on the highway and in town, has 7 different trim levels, and is also offered either as a PHEV, HEV, or a full-on EV.
The Toyota Prius Prime is also a great PHEV, and so is the Volvo XC60 Recharge. If you want a more luxurious feeling, yet sporty sedan, be sure to check out the BMW 330e.
Who makes the best electric vehicles on the market?
The best electric cars on the market are being made by Tesla because Tesla specializes in the EV market, and no other car manufacturer has the access to Tesla’s advanced supercharger network. Brands such as Porsche, Audi, Mercedes design and build higher quality and more advanced EVs, but they are not as convenient to use as Tesla’s are.
If you pair that with the most advanced autonomous driving, voice recognition, and infotainment system technology, it’s safe to say that all Tesla’s shine in those instances. However, if the charging ability improves for non-Tesla vehicles, brands such as Porsche or Audi can easily beat most Tesla models when it comes to quality and sophistication.