On paper, plug-in hybrids make more sense than electric vehicles; a gas engine acts as a generator, giving the vehicle greater range. A recent survey of consumer attitudes as well as plug-in hybrid sales and the fact that more manufacturers are making the things.
Consumers warming to plug-in hybrids
The problem with electric cars, also called electric vehicles or EV’s, is what’s called “range anxiety.” In other words, consumers are apprehensive about buying one because they can’t manage 100 miles on a charge, so road trips are out. One can get a Tesla S with a 300 mile range, but that’s for the top-of-the-range model; far more people can afford a sub-$30,000 Nissan Leaf than a $90,000 Tesla.
More still can afford a sub-$15,000 car with only a gas engine.
Plug-in hybrids, which have electric drivetrains but have on-board gas engines that act as “generators” that kick in once the batteries go dead have been gaining traction. A recent survey by the Indiana University School of Public Environmental Affairs, according to AutoGuide, found respondents were more likely to buy a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, than a battery-only EV.
No kidding, Sherlock
The first of the modern plug-in hybrids is the Chevrolet Volt. Republicans have pilloried the car and oddly enough, President Obama for the car’s failing to sell in huge numbers, despite the car being developed under grants signed into law by former president George W. Bush.
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Then again, few credit Congress, regardless of party affiliation, with an over-abundance of brains.
Consumers, though, have been voting with their wallets. According to the San Antonio Express, electric cars outsold plug-in hybrids by 9,754 EV units to 7,671 PHEV units. Through the end of Nov. 2012, PHEVs closed the gap and then some, as 31,042 PHEV cars found homes compared to 10,407 EV sales. Not all were Volts, but almost 21,000 of the 31,042 PHEV sales were Chevy Volts, tripling sales in a single year.
More on the way
More makers are selling or preparing plug-in hybrids. Ford is releasing a PHEV C-Max, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will be at dealerships soon, and Toyota fans can buy a Plug-in Prius at any dealership of Toyota in Atlanta, Ga., or wherever.
Volkswagen, according to Green Car Reports, is planning a spate of PHEV models across a number of its brands, including VW, Audi and Porsche, the progenitor brand of all hybrids. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, according to HowStuffWorks, invented gas-electric hybrid technology around 1900 for the Lohner Porsche Mixte Hybrid. He got the patent in 1909.
Heck, one doesn’t necessarily need to a buy a new car; according to Inside Line, Dr. Charles Perry, an engineering technology professor at Middle Tennessee University, has created a plug-in hybrid conversion kit, which he asserts works with any vehicle, boosting fuel economy 50 to 100 percent at urban speeds. He was able to modify his 1994 Honda Civic. The kit isn’t on sale yet, but it’s projected to cost around $3,000.
For those with short commutes, a PHEV can save on gas, since many have an electric range of around 30 to 40 miles, meaning a person could ostensibly never use a drop of gasoline until its time to head home for the holidays.