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Why Plug-In Hybrid Cars Are Not Gasmobiles

Originally published on EV Obsession.

Chevy-VoltThere are a number of EV enthusiasts who look down on plug-in hybrids and extended-range electric vehicles. Well, for anyone who really wants us to get off gasoline, and with the potential of existing 100%-electric cars, it’s hard not to be absolutist about it. But it’s important to remember that people who get plug-in hybrids get them because they want to drive electric. Also, given how infrequently anyone drives long distances, they’re sure to drive much more on electricity than gas (especially if the vehicle has more than the 11-mile electric range of the Toyota Prius Plug-in).

A recent thread on the Chevy Volt forum did a good job of highlighting this. The title of the thread: “I haven’t been to a gas station since early August,” which the original poster followed with this happy line: “I love this car!” That’s from someone based in Houston, Texas, one of the most sprawling and car-oriented cities on the planet.

The second commenter, also from a sprawling Texas city, wrote: “I may have you beat. I flat out don’t even remember the last time I put gas in my Volt. I suspect it was longer ago than August, though.”

The third commenter chimed in: “I go every 10.5 months or so when my tank goes stale. Last time was April 23, 2014. Time before that was June 9, 2013. I figure my next visit will be around February 2015.”

Another wrote: “My best tank so far 0- 10,835 miles and going. Last time I went to the gas station was Feb 4, 2014. This car never ceases to amaze me.”

I think you get the picture.

If these people can drive almost entirely on electric with only 38 miles (or less) of all-electric range, you may be wondering why they didn’t simply get an all-electric car. There are various answers for that. Some might like GM, some might like the Volt in particular, some might go on long trips occasionally and prefer to take their own car than rent one. One commenter, for example, wrote:  “I went in May when I got back from a 1600 mile road trip.”

My hunch, however, is that most of them decided against an all-electric because of range anxiety anxiety. In other words, despite not yet owning an electric car, they had seen so much hype about supposed “range anxiety” that they were scared to go 100% electric.

The fact is, if you don’t go on a lot of long-distance trips throughout the year, and you don’t have a very long commute, a 100% electric car with ~80 miles of range is probably far more than you need. On the few occasions where you want to drive a long ways, you can simply rent or borrow another car… and prevent premature wear and tear on your car in the meantime.

But back to the point I started with: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and extended-range electric vehicles are electric vehicles (that simply have a gas tank and engine as backup). Of course, the technicalities of the heart and lungs within each vehicle vary a bit, and not all prioritize electric driving as much as the Chevy Volt, but most of the time, a PHEV/EREV driver is going to be driving on electricity.

This is one reason I’m persistent about including PHEVs and EREVs under the umbrella of “EVs.” PHEVs, EREVs, and 100%-electric vehicles are all subsets of “EVs.” That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Reprinted with permission.

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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