There’s a new type of vehicle that’s bridging the gap between traditional and electric cars: the plug-in hybrid. By combining battery power with an internal combustion engine, these hybrids offer most of the environmental benefits of an electric vehicle with the range of a conventional car.
What makes a plug-in hybrid different from a traditional hybrid?
A regular hybrid has a small battery that’s used to recover energy when braking or while the gasoline engine is under light load. That electricity is then used to power an electric motor during low speed travel and for extra power when passing. This cuts fuel usage considerably, especially in stop and go city traffic.
A plug-in hybrid has a larger battery that can be charged like a traditional hybrid or by drawing power from the electric grid. While a regular hybrid may only be able to travel a mile or less on battery power, plug-in hybrids can travel anywhere from 10 to 40 miles using only electricity. That’s enough for most drivers to use only electricity for commuting and shopping trips, with gas only needed for long trips.
How do I charge a plug-in hybrid?
When buying or leasing the vehicle, the installation of a quick charge station can be rolled into the contract. Set up in the garage or next to a driveway, the charger sends a 240v current into the battery via a car-specific plug. Depending on the battery size, recharging can take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours.
How much do they cost to charge?
Accounting for charging inefficiencies, current plug-in hybrids can travel somewhere between three to four miles per kWh. For most drivers, that means spending about a third as much to fuel the vehicle versus a gas burning traditional hybrid.
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What are they like to drive?
Electric motors deliver maximum torque as soon as they start turning, and maintain that output through the rev range. This makes these cars faster off the line than a traditional car while providing ample passing power at any speed. They’re also nearly silent, making the cabin much quieter than when the motor is running.
What happens when I run out of battery power?
The internal combustion engine will start, and the car will behave like a traditional hybrid.