Published on January 4th, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan


Why “Electric Cars” Include “Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars”

January 4th, 2015 by  

There are different naming systems currently in use for 100% electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric cars, and conventional hybrid electric cars. The topic comes up in our comment section from time to time, particularly by people who are opposed to my inclusive use of “electric cars.” So, I’ve decided to write a short article explaining why I use the system I us (and, for the record, plenty of other people use the same system).

First of all, the most important part for me in labeling a car an “electric car” is whether or not the car can drive purely on electricity, if/when the driver wishes it to. Furthermore, the driver must be able to plug the car in and charge it up using electricity.

Naturally, this includes plug-in hybrid electric cars (as implied by the name of this subset of motor vehicle). An EV Obsession reader and Bob Wallace have both made an excellent analogy that really captures things well, imho. A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is like a bike with training wheels. A bike with training wheels is still a bike — it just has training wheels. Similarly, a PHEV is still an EV — it just has a gas tank and engine that can extend the range if the driver needs a bit of help driving further.

By no means is this to say that 100% electric vehicles are the same as PHEVs. 100% electric vehicles have plenty of benefits PHEVs don’t have, and PHEVs have a couple of benefits. I prefer 100% electrics for many reasons, but am happy many PHEVs are on the market to offer a stepping stone for the less adventurous types, or simply those who drive a ton and can’t afford a Tesla Model S.

Another point to make — one that I make in order to promote wider adoption of 100% electric vehicles — is that most people actually drive much less than they realize. The range of a pure-electric vehicle, like the Nissan LEAF or BMW i3, is plenty for most people for all but a few trips a year (when they can then rent a car or swap with a friend or family member who wants to try out their electric car). But, really, the distance we drive is short enough that many people can drive on electricity most of the time — even the vast majority of the time — even with a plug-in hybrid electric car. Bob Wallace shared this image (which another reader noted came from here) to demonstrate this point well:

car trip distance

Those are my main points, but there’s another important one: Most people don’t really know anything about electric cars, and I think that the term “plug-in hybrid electric car” is too bulky and complicated for introducing them to these cars. It’s a turnoff. It makes people think, “this is too complicated for me” or “this is not my game, I’m out of here.” It’s better, imho, to bring people into the topic with simpler terms and concepts. Once they learn, “Oh, I can drive only using electricity (no gas), I can charge my car at home by plugging it into the wall, I can forget about the gas station, I can cut air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and I can save a lot of money,” then they can be introduced to the concept of 100% electric cars and plug-in hybrids. For the most part, both types of EVs have all of those benefits above. But then you can get into the nitty gritty of how different EVs work and their comparative advantages and disadvantages.

That’s my case and I’m sticking to it. I think I’ve seen all of the arguments against this taxonomy, and they just aren’t as strong as the arguments above, in my opinion.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) one letter at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of EV Obsession, Gas2, Solar Love, Planetsave, or Bikocity; or as president of Important Media. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, energy storage, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media: Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB. After years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these companies and feels like they are good companies to invest in.

  • Xiaolong Li

    The 8.5s figure is NOT all EV mode. It is blended mode performance.
    I am glad that you like your Energi. But acceleration are acceleration, there is NO way you can get better than 10 sec in your Energi with all EV mode. Some of the people have timed it and it is more than 12 seconds…
    Sure, the Volt is NOT nearly as spacious as the Energi, that is the engineering tradeoff. I choose Volt b/c I rarely need the back seat space for long distance, but I do need the long distance capability for 2 and longer EV range for daily driving. I have different needs…

  • Kerry Carter

    Just seems to me the two should be separated when it comes to sales data. I like knowing about the BEV’s also. Have never had any interest in what still uses oil.

    • Xiaolong Li

      Hmm, BEVs still use lubricants that come from oil…

  • spec9

    I prefer the term “Plug-In cars” as this clearly includes both pure electric and plug-in electric hybrid while excluding conventional hybrid cars without plugs.

    • I’ll be 100% honest: I think this is the most accurate approach, but I think that, even in the age of smartphones, it is still too foreign to people and makes their brains shut off. Also, it’s not as catchy or cool-sounding as “electric.”

      Now you may be saying, “Now you’re getting into the realm of activism.” Yes, I’m very much in the realm of activism! 😀

  • Zan

    After communicating with media about *these* cars since 2003, I tend to use the umbrella term electric cars now to refer to both battery-only and plug-in hybrids. If there’s a need to be specific, sure, I’ll spell out the difference, and I notice media doing the same thing–lumping it all together. I also use the term plug-ins for BEVs and PHEVs, since that’s the critical difference, as others have stated–the ability to plug it in. I agree that simplicity is best.

    • Nice to hear this from one of the most prominent and respected people in the EV communications industry! Thanks for chiming in. 😀

  • John Hansen

    As long as we’re discussing the use of language, I’ll point out that “training wheels” is an incorrect analogy for EREVs. That analogy implies that the owner will eventually become self sufficient and no longer need the range extender, and that wanting a range extender is a matter of being untrained or uneducated. That just isn’t the case though, because of the insufficient range of affordable BEVs on the market today.

    For example, I just got back from a 160 mile trip (320 miles round trip) to stay with some friends in a cabin over the weekend. It was 10f when I drove back today, and I was carrying my family, which meant that I couldn’t drive with the heater off like hard-core BEVS advocates are prone to do. Had I been driving a Leaf, I would have gotten about 50 miles per charge, max. No amount of training would have made that trip possible without the range extender in my Volt.

    So “training wheels” isn’t an accurate analogy, and in the spirit of accurately communicating ideas, you should use a different analogy. I would suggest “range extender”. 🙂

    • I agree with you… for some people. But for others, the ICE is simply “training wheels,” from what I’ve seen.

      Anyhow, I like the analogy because it portrays well that the essence of the vehicle is the same as with a 100% electric.

  • From a drivetrain prespective PHEVs are electric cars. The confusion for consumers is not all electric cars can use the same infrastructure. For “destination charging” the use of normal (AC Level 2) charging infrastructure is fairly universal.

    A difference is noticed by EV drivers wanting to drive distances where two destinations are space farther than the range of the electric car. This requires “extended range” infrastructure. For PHEVs extended range is as simle as switching to their non-electric energy source (ICE). For battery electric cars (BEVs) that only use electic energy, the options are: 1) pause travel at a destination mid-trip to wait for a slower normal destination charge, or 2) make use of fast chargers (DCFC) that provide 80% charge in 30 min.

    So while PHEVs can be considered electric cars, very few PHEVs are designed to travel extended range using just the electric powertrain. The Mitsubishi Outlander and BMW i3 REx are the only PHEV I know that can fast charge. The fast charge capability has made these models very popular as they are full-featured electric vehicles.

    The diestinction between PHEV and BEVs is more critical when understanding that BEVs have additional “extended range” infrastructure requirements that most PHEV don’t depend on. It is a common mistake to lump BEVs in with PHEVs when planning electric vehicle infrastructure. Many network providers have focused on providing destination charging, but not including range extended fast charging. Looking at usage status for regions with a population of BEVs, the DCFC will have 10-20x the number of sessions per day vs. normal Level 2 EVSE.

    For PHEVs, the use of electric energy account for about 60-80% of daily miles driven on average. The 20-40% of extended range miles tend to be split between destination charging and ICE. The breakdown being a factor of dedication and time available to charge. Most PHEV can’t fast charge. While many PHEV owners would like, it’s not currently an option from many manufactures. Fast charging is a requirement to make an electric car full-featured for an extended range capability that is fully electric.

    • Useful information & perspective. I didn’t realize that regarding the i3 & Outlander PHEV.

    • Xiaolong Li

      Hmm… But extending Outlander PHEV on a long trip with DCFC is about as useful as extending your ICE trips by carrying an onboard 1 gallon gas tank…
      Yes, it can be done. I don’t think anyone would attempt that in a long trip.
      Stopping 15 mins for every 20 mins of mild hwy driving is NOT practical in any situation….
      Is this why we still don’t have Outlander PHEV in the US?

      • Don’t see doing a long trip using just electric in the Outlander. The range per charge is only 30-35 miles. Think of the Outlander as being like a Volt with fast charging.

        The advantage of the Outlandar is a 30 mile BEV range each day. The fast charging just makes it more convent (15-20 min) to recharge vs. a couple hours on Level2. On a trip longer than 60 miles, the Outlander will probably be driven as a hybrid.

        • Xiaolong Li

          I don’t believe the range figure based on the battery size. 30 miles would be the most optimal range for the Outlander based on weight and battery size. NO different than Volt’s 50-60 miles range in the same condition…

  • Benjamin Nead

    Even though I tend to be “militant” in not wanting to name anything with an internal combustion engine an “electric car,” I know that PHEVs are bought by many people with the best of intentions to use as little gasoline as possible. I personally know owners of the Plug-in Prius, Volt, CMAX Energi and i3 REX who will all tell you that their vehicles are driven almost exclusively electric for their particular and unique range requirements.

    It is true, though, that most PHEVs, following the introduction of the Volt, have been made with batteries that are getting smaller and smaller. It’s frustrating to witness this trend. The OEMs do want to keep the petroleum umbilical cord attached as long as they possibly can.

    Each year, I organize the local National Drive Electric Week (formerly National Plug In Day) event in Tucson and have to act as an arbiter as to what gets included. Per guidelines presented by national coordinators of this event, I draw the line at cars that can be plugged in and chosen by the driver to operate purely as electric for at least some distance. That currently means that I tell legacy Prius owners who want to display their cars “Thanks for you’re interest, but I need you to park outside the EV display area.” If and when we start to see hydrogen fuel cell vehicles appear on the scene, those that don’t have a port to allow AC current to come in to charge the batteries will be on the outside. A plug-in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (let’s invent the acronym PIHFCV)? I’m all ears.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      A FCV is an EV and has a battery.

      • Benjamin Nead

        Yes. All FCVs have batteries. But, as far as I know, all current examples of these vehicles are configured like conventional Prius-like gasoline/electric hybrids of old: they don’t have AC charging receptacles to charge those onboard batteries independent of the fuel cell.

        Hence, my newly minted (if somewhat clumsy) “PIHFCV” acronym, to differentiate a hydrogen fuel cell that doesn’t have any sort of AC charging receptacle from one that does.

        • Joseph Dubeau

          No they don’t have ICE. They have an electric drive train.

          • Benjamin Nead

            But hydrogen isn’t liquid or gaseous electricity. In small batches, it can be obtained by electrolysis of water with PV solar panels, involving very little (if any) involvement with petroleum. That’s good, but it may not be good enough for large scale commercial viability. I sincerely hope that real progress will be made on those fronts.

            But if hydrogen for cars is ever going to be a commercial reality in the near term on a large scale, it’s going to involve steam reformation of natural gas, making it a petroleum byproduct and (some would argue) not any cleaner than today’s gasoline, perhaps even dirtier.

            I don’t mean to reignite the HFCV debate here, but I fear it’s inevitable now. All I will say – in reference to the topic of this article – is that any vehicle that wishes to be referred to as “electric” will have some sort of way to recharge the batteries independent of any other sort of onboard assistance (gasoline internal combustion, hydrogen fuel cell, etc) AND the ability for the driver to choose to control the vehicle for at least some reasonable period of time/distance exclusively from that battery pack.

            By that definition, a conventional Prius and a hydrogen vehicle without an AC receptacle for charging are not “electric” vehicles. They are hybrids of some sort.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            FCV are not hybrids.
            You may not like them but FCV are EVs.

            “A hybrid vehicle is a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources to move the vehicle. The term most commonly refers to hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), which combine an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors.”

          • Benjamin Nead

            Whether I, personally, like FCVs – or not – is irrelevant. Pure hydrogen is NOT liquid and/or gaseous electricity! You cannot submerse a lamp chord with a plug attached into a sealed vessel containing nothing but hydrogen and then illuminate a lightbulb screwed into the lamp! This is essentially what you are saying is within the realm of possibilities and I’m hoping you don’t actually think to be true.

            You need a rather sophisticated device – the fuel cell – to extract electrons from the hydrogen. A fuel cell can’t be throttled, as it produces electricity in a more or less linear fashion. I don’t know of any FCV that can be successfully driven off just the fuel cell. The electricity produced by the fuel cell needs to be stored in batteries and it is here (with the assistance of controllers and other circuity very similar to what is found in a BEV) that the car’s electric motors get powered.

            Obviously, there are important distinctions between an ICE and a fuel cell. The end product of a fuel cell is electricity and this allows a more direct coupling with batteries and electric motors than an ICE, where the end product is mechanical energy in the form of a spinning flywheel. I’m sure this is why you declare a FCV is not a hybrid.

            But an idling fuel cell, with it’s almost completely linear flow of electricity, is essentially taking the place of a non-traction ICE in today’s PHEVs (as you would find in a Volt in most of its operating parameters.) The FCV needs batteries for the entire system to properly function and the fuel cell alone cannot act to power the vehicle autonomously.

            So, this leads me to wonder why no manufacturer – as far as I know – provides a J1772 plug on their FCVs, enabling the end user to conveniently access electricity from another source beyond the fuel cell. Once this design oversight is addressed by manufacturers (or will it take an aftermarket concern, such what was eventual done with Prius’ back in the mid 2000s?,) I will be happy to include any FCV so equipped into the display area of our next EV plug in event. Until then, I will have to ask owners of these non-plug-in FCVs to park their cars with all the other ones lacking this modern day EV flexibility in the non-display lot.

            I suppose this means that any battery vehicle without a charging port (ie: requiring all discharged batteries to be physically removed and replaced with freshly charged ones in order to operate again) would also be disqualified. But I have yet to come across a pure BEV of any sort without plug-in capability. It’s an essential feature on any vehicle that can be legitimately called “electric.”

          • Carl Borrowman

            “Once this design oversight is addressed by manufacturers (or will it take an aftermarket concern, such what was eventual done with Prius’ back in the mid 2000s?,)”

            My guess is their “justification” for not making HFCV’s plug-in capable will initially be something along the lines of safety, which is total BS.
            I honestly think the whole HFCV drive is more about selling fuel and all the extra income/profit/jobs that entails than anything else, and is financially backed by Big Oil/Government.

    • “It is true, though, that most PHEVs, following the introduction of the Volt, have been made with batteries that are getting smaller and smaller. It’s frustrating to witness this trend.”
      – Yes, and this is something we are going to try to do a much better job highlighting this year, so more people can see that a PiP doesn’t compare to a Volt.

      As far as the PIHFCVs section, I’m 100% with you there too.

      • I would look at it another way. Instead of thinking the batteries have been getting smaller compared to other cars, I would look at what the previous model of that vehicle had as far as plug in capability. In most cases they went from ZERO plug in capability to a number larger than zero. From that perspective, battery capacity has been growing tremendously.

  • JamesWimberley

    The Fiat 500e ev, built as a compliance car by a distinctly uncommitted company, is marketed in California with a neat wheeze: $500 of free car rentals per year. Tam Hunt at GTM likes it (link).

  • JamesWimberley

    I agree with Zach. The dividing line is the plug. Suppose a city introduced a zero-pollution policy. PHEVs would qualify, as long as they stayed within their all-electric range (and in some cases driving style). He is also right that PHEVs are transitional, for cars at any rate – they may have a longer future in trucks. The transition will go faster than most of us expect. A cheap Tesla or a 200-mile Leaf or Golf will wipe out most ICEs before 2020.

    • sault

      While an affordable 200-mile range EV would be successful (if all the marketing, sales, and other factors go smoothly), it would not wipe out most ICEs in 5 short years. First of all, we already have bunches of affordable hybrid cars that have been on the market for a while now and they only represent 5% of new vehicle sales. Even when gas was around $4 per gallon, people were still buying guzzlers. Currently, gas prices are down and people have a profound case of amnesia on how much they’ll hurt when they shoot back up. It could be next year or 5 years from now, but either way, alternative powertrain vehicles of all stripes will not miraculously take over the market y 2020.

      • I don’t think it’s efficiency that makes EVs disruptive. It’s the convenience of charging at home and the awesome torque.

        • …and the smooth refined powertrain, the silent propulsion, the connectivity (e.g. App control of HVAC)…jumping into an ICE vehicle feels like driving a tractor. Buying an ICE vehicle as my main daily driver after owning the Volt would be like swapping my Iphone for an old flip phone….not gonna happen! I used to be the biggest Honda and Subaru fan, but they have become completely irrelevant companies to me until they jump on board with an EV. I can’t wait to see an electric dual motor version of the WRX for example.

        • Carl Borrowman

          I don’t think “disruptive” is quite the word. Yet.
          Over 125 years since first production and it still hasn’t even broken 1% of sales?
          That’s hardly a disruption. More like an annual tickle. So far.

          • Philip W

            You know that in the beginning almost all cars were electric and everyone looked strange at you if you hat an ICE car?

          • Carl Borrowman

            Considering how widespread motor vehicles were in general in the late 1800’s, it seems “everyone” would have “looked strange at you” regardless of what energy source your car was using.

      • JamesWimberley

        A hybrid car is inherently more complex than an ICE, and consequently more expensive. Only pure evs can secure the full economies of scale coming our way from cheaper and better batteries. They are basically much simpler than ICEs and potentially cheaper. Add to that the economies of networking from the rollout of charging stations and utility and policy support for home chargers. I don’t see why anyone would want to buy an ICE car over a 200-mile EV in 2020, assuming the same size and price.

        • Carl Borrowman

          The last assumptions of size and price, I think, are key.
          No trucks or SUV’s, ICEV’s still have their market.
          Still a higher up front MSRP? ICEV’s still have their market.
          What it will come down to is the car manufacturers themselves.
          The Honda Fit EV was doing great, but it seems they axed it. Why? Either meeting minimum standards or ending it in order to have less of a road block for their HFCV’s in the future. Or both.

    • Carl Borrowman

      “wipe out most ICEs before 2020”

      1.2 billion ICEV’s worldwide now to the currently existing 600,000 EV’s.
      Realistically speaking, it seems it would take a lot longer than 2020 before ICEV’s are “wiped out”, even with a so-called “cheap” Tesla or 200 mile Leaf/Golf.
      Besides, people still seem to love their trucks and SUV’s too much for that to happen.

      I suppose manufacturers could make an ICEV with a 1 mile plug in battery to make it happen though.
      That would technically make it an “EV” here, right? smh

      • Philip W

        I think James meant with ‘wipe out most of ICE cars’ that most ICEs will not be produced anymore. Ofcourse old ICE cars already on the road will take longer to disappear almost completely.

        • Carl Borrowman

          Even in the case of production alone, that is pretty far-fetched.
          Consider today’s best case scenario, the Nissan Leaf:

          “total Leaf sales in the U.S. for 2014 totaled 30,200 last year–a new yearly record for any plug-in electric vehicle in the country…

          Nissan sold almost 1.4 million cars in the U.S. in total last year, up 11.1 percent from its 2013 total. Its single best-selling vehicle line is the Altima mid-sized sedan, which sold more than 300,000 units.”

          Just to outsell 1 ICEV model, let alone “most” for the most popular EV manufacturer today, it’s going to have to sell 10 times more than it has been. Counting all the other ICEV’s they would have to sell about 23 times more EV’s than they have been just to reach 50% of total vehicle production numbers. I don’t see that happening in just five years, even with exponential growth.

          I’m all for EV’s and the advantages they bring, but let’s keep it real here folks. Ev’s are going to have a hard enough time just breaking 1% of worldwide sales by 2020, let alone “most” sales by then.

  • Zobeid

    The problem here is history. If we followed simple logic, then the Nissan Leaf would be an “electric car”, and the Chevy Volt would be a “hybrid”, and the Prius would be. . . a gasoline car with some internal electronic bits. A half-baked hybrid, a semi-hybrid, perhaps. But unfortunately, cars like the Prius have already latched onto the “hybrid” title, leaving everything else in confusion.

    However, history cuts both ways. The term “electric car” has long been claimed by BEVs. You can’t rewrite the dictionary now and start using the words to mean something they’ve never meant before and that people don’t understand.

    Frankly, if we had the power to rewrite the dictionary and change the meanings of these terms, it would make more logical sense to take the word “hybrid” away from all non-plug-in vehicles (like the Prius) than it would to confer “electric car” upon cars that contain gasoline engines. That’s actually what I would prefer to do, if I had my way in things, but again… Trying to rewrite the dictionary only ticks people off.

    So, failing that, we just need to come up with a new word for PHEVs — a less technical, yet still descriptive, moniker for them. I might suggest “dual-power cars”, since they give you both the gas and plug-in options.

    • 1st paragraph: agreed

      2nd paragraph: plenty of people use “electric cars” as i do, as i noted in the article. there is no standard “norm.” and, yes, i can and intend to shape terminology.

      3rd: people are constantly rewriting the dictionary. language is constantly evolving.

      • Zobeid

        There are always people trying to rewrite the language, but few of them manage to pull it off. There’s a level of hubris required.

        But here’s another problem… If you do manage somehow to convince ordinary people to regard all plug-in cars as “electric cars”, then what are we going to call BEVs specifically? It seems like you’ve traded one problem for another. This was most apparent when you referred to “100% electric vehicles”. If we follow your lead, then a “100% electric car” and an “electric car” would mean two different things. Where’s the sense in that?

        And what’s wrong with “plug-in cars” anyhow? There’s a term that’s already in fairly wide usage and does actually mean both BEVs and PHEVs. Is it just too unappealing? It lacks the panache of “electric car”?

        • John Hansen

          “If you do manage somehow to convince ordinary people to regard all plug-in cars as “electric cars”, then what are we going to call BEVs specifically?”

          I would suggest calling them BEVs.

          • I’ve considered and even sometimes used BEVs for that, but I prefer “100% electric” (or “100%-electric”) vehicles. Either way works for me, but I think 100% electric is more accurate at distinguishing between them.

          • Kyle Field

            I agree with the points above but I’ll say that “we” as the collective community have the ability or more than that – the duty – to translate these murky terms into language that normal people can understand (that’s right, none of us are normal 😉 ).

            In drilling into the various Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles, it doesn’t clear up the water, it makes it even murkier. For instance the Chevy Volt (and it’s upscale twin the Cadillac ELR) is an EV – has batteries which power an electric motor to go ~36 miles on battery. If you want to extend that, you can…when it switches over automagically to the onboard generator. So…basically an EV with a smaller battery pack that uses gas to extend that range (an Electric Hybrid).

            Flipping that coin over, we have the Toyota Prius Plugin. It gets 11 miles range from batteries…but is primarily a gas drivetrain with an electric motor supplement. Yes, you can plug it in. Yes, that makes it more efficient and thereby uses less gas. …but it wasnt really designed to be an EV. It’s a gas car, with an electric motor to play where it can to improve efficieny.

            Finally, it gets even uglier. The BMW i8 goes any way you want – it can do all electric, it can do all gas…or both. So there are no clear lines. It’s just ugly. Maybe we should have Gasmobiles, Electric cars, Hybrids (not plugin) and Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles…and just call it a day?

          • Carl Borrowman

            “If you want to extend that, you can…when it switches over automagically to the onboard generator.”

            *pictures a Leaf with a gas generator mounted onboard the back plugged in to automagically extend range for long trips*

          • Xiaolong Li

            What do you call the Tesla Pattern about using a “hybrid” battery of Lithium air and Lithium ion?
            Lithium air would technically be a “fuel cell”. With portion of it removable, it is technically a “hybrid” car between a BEV and a battery swappable (series hybrid) car….
            And why do we call “electric bicycle” electric but NOT hybrid when technically it is hybrid b/c it can be powered by both electricty and human power?

    • Xiaolong Li

      Calling it cars such as Volt a “hybrid” is NOT precise enough.
      There are hybrids that are powered by hydraulic, compresed air or even inertia.
      They are also “hybrids” such as Fuel Cell or “battery” EV such as Lithium air/Aluminium air type which would be considered as “series-hybrid”.
      The problem is that people cross the lines back and forth to be confused about “hybrid powertrain” vs. “hybrid energy source”….

  • David in Bushwick

    The political and military baggage associated with the oil industry is my biggest argument for buying a plug-in vehicle. The US would never have to hand dollars over to dictators and corporations again if most people bought a PIV.
    Less air pollution is another obvious benefit but Dirty Coal is our catastrophe that must be stopped.

    • Joe Viocoe

      Lots of absolutes in that statement. Especially for a hybrid that still uses gas

      • David in Bushwick

        The US produces over 50% of the oil it needs so if most people cut their gas consumption in half, we would never need to import oil again.
        Once people are used to hybrids, it’s a natural step to pure electric vehicles.
        It’s a process, not absolutes.

        • Joe Viocoe

          It really doesn’t work like that.

          • Philip W

            But it could.

          • Joe Viocoe

            No, economic system don’t ever distribute amicably according to wishes.

        • sambar

          “The US produces over 50% of the oil it needs” … for a short while.

  • Dan Hue

    IMO, to be considered a serious alternative to pure BEV, a PHEV needs to be able to run on electricity only, without assistance from the engine, over a reasonable commuting range. The Volt and i3 REX qualify, but not the Prius Plug-In, Ford Energy, or Golf GTE, because (again just my opinion) they rely too much on the gas engine for performance.

    Others will disagree, but one thing is sure: even my latter examples are giant steps towards a FF-free transportation system.

    • Joe Viocoe

      Yes, the “training wheels” analogy falls apart with half of the PHEVs out there because the car can’t run without the gasoline assistance.

      • Hazel

        Nonsense. Your thinking HEV, not PHEV.

        I agree that the Prius plug-in is WAY underpowered, with pathetic battery. But the Fords have quite good power and their 20-25 mile range easily covers over 50% of commuters, with no gasoline at all. (Latest census survey shows the median is about 25 minutes, i.e. 15-18 miles or so). I’d encourage you to test drive them if you haven’t before.

        One C-Max Energi I know of gets around 600 mpg, and drove 8300 miles over 53 weeks on a single tank. Most others (i3, Volt etc.) are better than the Fords. So “can’t run without the gasoline assistance” is just not true.

        • Joe Viocoe

          Ford may make a decent PHEV, but I was really referring to the BMW.

          Like I said, “half”

          • Hazel

            The BMW i3? I think that’s a bit better than the Fords, 10-20% more range or so, in part because of the lighter body.

            Fair enough, good enough for half of US commutes is a start, but the other half need at least a Volt. 🙂

        • Xiaolong Li

          What is the C-Max Energi’s all Electric performance in 0-60mph time? About as fast as a school bus?

          • Hazel

            I haven’t timed it, but with 118 hp/88 kW all electric, around 10 seconds. It’s hard to time because of the automatic switch to gasoline if you exceed the electric power max, which is very annoying.

            (It’s about 180 max total gas/electric hp, so quite a bit quicker than most other plug-ins, though I haven’t tried the i3.)

            So no, it is not at all like a school bus.

            Have you ever test-driven one? Or a Volt? If no, you should take this free step — at least before making more snarky comments — and test-drive a Prius plug-in while you’re at it to feel the difference. If the Prius can maintain all-electric mode, *that* is more like a school bus!

          • Xiaolong Li

            I seriously doubt that it is 10 seconds. From what I read it is more in the 13-16 seconds range. 118HP powering 3800lbs isn’t exactly a good ratio.
            I have driven it and its EV mode is slow. Blended mode is decent but NOT fast, NOT nearly as fast as the i3 or the Spark EV. I own a Volt so I know how fast most plugin cars are….
            Prius Plugin is a piece of “junk” in my opinion which has been expressed here by me many time. I would take an energi over a Prius Plugin anyday… But Energi is NOT nearly as good as the Volt. And Volt is NOT nearly as fast as the i3 which is NOT nearly as fast as the Tesla….

    • it’s a murky topic. i draw the line at being able to run on electricity and charge. but, yes, we’re working on a table to go in all articles about EVs that shows key information on these topics for each EV model.

      • Shiggity

        ANY electrified car is a vast improvement to plain ICE. Going forward I don’t think you’re going to see any car company design a 100% ICE anymore. Every ICE car that’s made will have to be thinking about the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions (the big car companies already doing this). Once this design rational picks up steam, the ICE side of the car is going to keep shrinking in favor of the electrified side.

        Solid state components always beat mechanical components. No moving parts.

    • Jim Seko

      According to GM, the average Volt driver uses the ICE for 33% of miles driven. The Volt is essentially two-thirds electric. It would be interesting to see this kind of statistic on all PHEVs.

      • I would love to see that! I’m afraid Toyota won’t share its stats 😉

        • Kyle Field

          Tesla is no transparency superstar either. I’m all about data as well…data data data, nom nom nom!

    • Dragon

      I think “PHEV” (or maybe something more descriptive like “EV with gas backup” – EVGB?) should be used for cars that can run some distance purely on electricity while “Hybrid” should be used for cars that have batteries but can’t drive at all speeds using them. The classic Prius is a “Hybrid” that can run on pure electricity, but only at speeds below about 40mph. No amount of adding batteries will ever allow a Hybrid to drive at highway speeds on only electricity.

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