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Buy a Hybrid or Electric Car?

Copyright AA1Car.com

Should you buy a hybrid or electric car? The answer depends on the type of driving you do. If most of your driving is short trip commuting, city driving or suburban shopping, a high mileage hybrid or electric car makes a lot of sense. So much fuel is wasted sitting in traffic and waiting for stop lights to change. A stop-start system on a hybrid car that turns the engine off saves fuel that would otherwise be wasted going nowhere. Depending on how much time you spend sitting, your overall fuel economy may improve 5 to 10 percent with a hybrid stop-start system. And if the car is a full hybrid like Toyota Prius that starts moving in electric only mode, your fuel savings can be even greater. That's why hybrids get such high city fuel economy numbers (53 miles per gallon city/highway for a 2022 Toyota Prius).

Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV
2023 Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV.

One type of vehicle that makes a LOT of sense environmentally is the extended range or plug-in electric car. Some examples include the (now discontinued) Chevy Volt and the popular Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid. Cadillac also has its own plug-in ELR extended range electric car that borrows much of the powertrain technology from the Chevy Volt. Many other vehicle manufacturers (Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai, Jeep, KIA, Lexus, Lincoln, Subaru, Toyota and Volvo) offer various hybrid models too.

What's so great about these vehicles? They offer the best of both worlds: the fuel savings of a straight electric driving mode with the ability to take longer trips using regular gasoline. If the vehicle offers a fully electric mode, it may have a range of about 25 to 30 miles on battery power alone, which roughly translates into 100 to 110 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe).

Past and Present Hybrid and Electric Vehicles To Choose From

Acura ILX hybrid
Acura MDX hybrid
Acura NSX hybrid
Acura RLX SporthHybrid
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
Audi e-tron (2019)
Audi Q5
BMW 330e
BMW 530e (2018)
BMW 740e xDrive
BMW X5 (2022)
Buick LaCrosse hybrid
Cadillac CT6 Plug-In hybrid
Cadillac ELR
Cadillac Lyriq (2023)
Chevy Bolt
Chevy Malibu hybrid
Chevy Silverado hybrid
Chevy Tahoe hybrid
Chevy VOLT
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Ford C-MAX
Ford Escape hybrid
Ford F-150 XLP hybrid
Ford F150 Lightning
Ford F-250 XLH Hybrid
Ford Fusion Energi (plug-in)
Ford Fusion Titanium hybrid
Ford Mustang Mach e
Ford Transit
GMC Hummer (2022) GMC Yukon hybrid
Honda Accord hybrid
Honda Civic hybrid
Honda Insight
Hyundai Ioniq
Hyundai Sonata hybrid
Infiniti Q50 hybrid
Infiniti Q70 hybrid
Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV (2022)
Jeep Wrangler PHEV (2022)
KIA Niro
KIA Optima hybrid
Lexus GS450H
Lexus LC 500H
Lexus RX 400H
Lexus RX 450H
Lincoln Aviator PHEV (2022)
Lincoln Corsair Plug-In (2022)
Lucid Air (2022)
Mercedes-Benz C 350e Plug-in hybrid
Mercedes-Benz E-Class AMG E 53
Mercedes-Benz S-Class S400 hybrid
Mercury Mariner hybrid
MINI Countryman plug-in hybrid
Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid
Nissan Altima hybrid
Nissan Leaf
Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
Range Rover P400e plug-in hybrid
Rivian (all models)
Subaru Crosstrek hybrid
Tesla (all models)
Toyota Avalon hybrid
Toyota Camry hybrid
Toyota Corolla hybrid (2020)
Toyota Highlander hybrid
Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius C
Toyota Prius Eco
Toyota Prius Prime (2019)
Toyota Prius V
Toyota RAV4 hybrid
Volkswagen Jetta hybrid
Volvo XC60 T8

2023 KIA EV6 GT
2023 KIA EV6 GT electric car offer performance and utility.

The only reason people are not standing in line to buy more hybrids and EVs is because the sticker prices for many of these vehicles are relatively high. At the low end of the price spectrum, you might be able to buy a new Toyota Prius for $25,000 to $33,000 MSRP (plus options, taxes and dealer markups over MSRP), or $28,000 to $35,000 for a Nisan Leaf. For a popular model like the Tesla Model 3, the price can range from $48,000 to $62,000 or more. If you want a new Cadillac Lyriq, prices will start around $65,000. For a Rivian pickup truck, plan on spending $65,000 to $85,000. The high end luxury models such as the Tesla S are now over $104,000, and a Lucid Air can range from $90,000 to $180,000!

To help offset these prices, the federal government has been offering tax credits of up to $7,500 depending on the year, model and type of vehicle (plug-in hybrids or full electric). Some states have also been offering their own tax incentives to switch to green vehicles. When the tax credits are deducted from the sales price, these cars are still expensive but no more expensive than many luxury cars that don't get anywhere near the fuel economy of a plug-in hybrid or EV.

The New Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 continues the effort to make electric vehicles more affordable by granting tax rebates that range from $2,500 up to $7,500. For more information on this subject, see Electric Vehicle Tax Rebates for 2022

Insurance for hybrid vehicles has also traditionally been very expensive. However, with excellent car insurance for hybrid vehicles that rewards eco-friendly drivers now available, you can protect your investment without having to pay unreasonable premiums. You can help save the environment while reaping financial benefits.

The economic payback for paying a premium to drive a hybrid or EV will depend on the number of miles driven, the initial cost of the vehicle and the ever rising cost of gasoline. For high mileage drivers, the payback can come fairly quickly. For low mileage drivers, it may take many years. Even so, every gallon of gasoline you don't have to buy is one less gallon consumed. That means less demand for oil, less carbon being dumped into the atmosphere to contribute to climate change and global warming, and less profit for Big Oil.

I have yet to meet a Toyota Prius or Tesla owner who is not enthusiastic about their car! Yes, there have been some problems with certain makes and models, but for the most part hybrid and EV owners love their cars! Many of the people who own and drive these cars are real zealots about promoting the benefits of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Hybrid owners who drive less than 40 miles a day rarely have to visit a gas station or less. And EV owners NEVER have to fill up at the pump. That's something to think about the next time you pass a filling station and wince at the latest jump in prices.

Chevy Volt
The now discontinued Chevy Volt was the first extended range plug-in hybrid (Click for Larger Image).

Chevy Volt Charging Connector
Plugging in an electric hybrid is a LOT cheaper than pumping gas.(Click for Larger Image)
A single charge costs about $1.25 and lasts 35 to 40 miles in electric mode

Advantages of Electric Vehicles

What are the main advantages of buying an electric car, truck or SUV? Never needing to fill up with gasoline is a big one, and not emitting any carbon dioxide or other pollutants into the atmosphere is another. Acceleration has also won over many skeptics of EVs. Many Tesla models are considerably faster than many gasoline-powered sports sedans. So if you like jack rabbit starts from a stop light, an high torque EV can deliver!

Disadvantages of Electric Vehicles?

High initial cost due to the expensive battery.

Limited Driving Range. Many would-be EV buyers are concerned about the range limitations presented by a fully electric vehicle. Yet many EVs today offer extended range battery packs that can travel up to 300 to 400 miles. Most base model EVs are capable of delivering a reliable range of at least 150 to 200 or more miles.

Cold weather significantly reduces the driving range of an EV. Cold weather can cut the driving range of an EV up to a third! Low temperatures can reduce battery output. Heating the passenger compartment and seats sucks even more power from the battery.

Towing can also reduce the range of an EV. Tests have shown that using an electric truck to pull a trailer can cut range by as much as 50 percent! The heavier the load, the more it drains the battery to pull the extra load. That may not be an issue for a short haul, but for a long distance trip it means more frequent stops to recharge the battery.

Limited availability of charging stations. Range is seldom an issue for around town driving and everyday commuting. But for long distance travel, the limited availability of charging stations can be a concern. More and more fast charging stations are being added all the time, but finding an available charging station is still a challenge in many rural areas that are off the beaten path.

High replacement cost of the battery. The high cost of replacing a hybrid or EV battery can be a major issue for an older, high mileage vehicle. As we said earlier, most hybrid and EV batteries are capable of lasting upwards of 200,000 miles or more. But when they eventually wear out, they can be VERY EXPENSIVE to replace.

The cost of a Toyota Prius hybrid battery can range from $2,200 up to $4,000 depending on where you buy the battery (new from a Toyota dealer or a refurbished battery from an aftermarket supplier). By comparison, a high capacity Tesla S battery may cost $12,000 to $14,000!

How long it takes to recharge the battery. The time it takes to recharge a battery depends on the capacity of the battery, the design of the battery and the charging voltage and amperage. Typically, an EV battery can take 18 to 24 hours or more to fully recharge with a household 110 volt outlet. The bigger the battery, the longer it takes to recharge. Tier II 220 volt chargers can reduce the charge time to 3 to 4 hours. By comparison, a super fast high voltage chargers can add 80% charge in about 15 minutes!

So what happens if the battery runs completely down or goes dead in an electric vehicle? On most current models, you can't jump start an EV from another EV (although it is possible on some such as the Ford F150 Lightning). Consequently, you have to tow the vehicle to someplace that has a charging station. Portable emergency roadside charging equipment is also becoming available that can provide enough of a charge so an EV can be driven to the nearest charging location.

Environmental Debate Over Electric Cars

There is no question that electric vehicles themselves are environmentally green and clean. Zero emission electric vehicles have no tailpipe to spew hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen or sulfur compounds into the atmosphere. They use no oil or gasoline. But that does not mean they are totally emission free.

The problem is that most of the electricity that is used to charge the batteries in electric vehicles is still produced by fossil fuel power plants. So although an electric vehicle produces no pollutants itself, the power plant that generates the electricity to charge the battery may be a polluter.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 60 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. (2021) was from fossil fuels (coal & natural gas). Coal is about 10 times dirtier than natural gas in terms of carbon emissions. Nuclear, wind, solar and hydropower, by comparison, produce zero carbon emissions while generating electrical power (excluding carbon emissions that occur during mining, manufacturing and installation of such clean energy resources).

The point here is if the electricity in your area is totally or mostly provided by a clean energy resource, an electric vehicle is truly zero emissions. On the other hand, if the electricity is generated primarily by a power plant that burns natural gas, coal, wood or biomass, the electricity that is being used to recharge your EV is still putting carbon into the atmosphere.

The amount of power it takes to recharge an electric vehicle is about the equivalent of running an electric clothes drier, so it really doesn't put much of a load on the power grid. The relatively small number of electric vehicles that have been produced to date have had a negligible impact on the power grid. But when millions and millions of electric vehicles eventually replace gasoline-powered vehicles, the power grid will have to be expanded to provide additional power. The hope is most of that expansion will come from adding more nuclear, wind or solar generating capacity.

Where Electrical Power Comes From to Recharge EV batteries

Here is a summary of how electricity is generated in the U.S. in 2021:
source: www.eia.gov

Natural gas 38.3%
Coal 21.8%
Nuclear 18.9%
Hydropower 6.3%
Wind 9.2%
Solar 2.8%
Biomass 1.3%
Wood 0.9%
Geothermal 0.4%

Advantages of Hybrid Vehicles

So far, most hybrid and battery electric vehicles have had a pretty good reputation for reliability. There have been some exceptions such as Chevrolet's issues with batteries in their Volt and Bolt models shorting out and catching fire. GM issued a recall in November 2021 and replaced EVERY battery in about 58,000 vehicles! To date, there have been no reported issues with the new batteries in these vehicles.

Most hybrid and EV powertrain components (including the battery) are covered by an extended warranty (up to 10 years, 100,000 miles on many of these vehicles). Consequently, if you are the original owner or a second owner of a low mileage vehicle, you should have little repair expense to worry about. The most expensive item to replace is the battery pack. In Toyota's case the battery pack in the Prius has proven to be very long-lived and reliable. There are Toyota Prius cabs prowling the streets in many large cities that have over 300,000 miles on the original battery!

The only hybrid vehicles that have proved to be really troublesome to date were the now discontinued Saturn VUE hybrid (LOTS of electrical issues!), and the Honda Civic hybrid (premature battery failures). Click Here for more info about Honda's hybrid battery problems. Other than these exceptions, most hybrid owners are very satisfied with their cars and would buy a hybrid again.

Hybrid Repair Issues

If a hybrid or electric vehicle needs repairs that involve the hybrid powertrain, transmission, hybrid battery or control system, it should be taken to a new car dealership for service (or the nearest dealer that has the proper training and equipment to service their vehicles as some dealers may not be certified to work on these vehicles). The other option is to find a qualified aftermarket repair facility that has had hybrid training and experience. Most of these vehicles are beyond the average technician's ability to accurately (and safely) diagnose and repair hybrid-related problems. Advanced diagnostics requires a factory level scan tool or an aftermarket professional grade scan tool with OEM-equivalent software capabilities. An inexpensive DIY scan tool can read basic codes and other system data, but cannot access many of the built-in self-tests in the vehicle.

Ordinary maintenance such as oil changes and non-hybrid repairs such as brakes, tires, engine, etc. can usually be performed by any competent service facility.

If you are buying a fully electric vehicle (no internal combustion engine), your vehicle will require very little if any maintenance: no oil changes, no oil or air filter changes, no spark plugs to replace, no engine coolant to change, no drive belts to replace, no emission, exhaust, fuel system or ignition components to fail or replace! The only real maintenance that is required on a typical EV is to rotate the tires every 7500 miles and inspect the brake linings after 50,000 or so miles. Tires and brake pads are about the only components that should ever need to be replaced.

hybrid sales chart
Strong hybrid and electric vehicle sales growth are predicted to continue in the years ahead.
But when gas prices plunged in 2015 and 2016, sales failed to achieve the projections shown in this chart.
Even so, sales took off again in 2018 and 2019 thanks to auto makers offering more hybrid and electric models. In 2022, EV sales soared to over 6% of all new vehicle sales due to gasoline exceeding $4 to $5 a gallon in many parts of the U.S.

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