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Advice | Plug-in hybrid or all-electric? How to choose your next car

We are entering the electric era. But millions of drivers want their gas engines too.

While electric vehicle sales are booming — 14 percent of all new cars sold globally were electric in 2022, up from less than 5 percent in 2020 — sales of plug-in hybrids are rising even faster. They accounted for almost 30 percent of all electric cars sold in 2022.

This presents drivers looking at a new car with something of a conundrum: Should I switch to all-electric? Or drive away in one of the slew of new — and old — hybrid models now on the market?

I looked at a dozen models powered by gasoline, electrons or both to help you make that decision. What I found is that it will all depend on how you plan to use your new car and what’s most important for you. To gauge that, you should ask yourself three main questions: how will you charge, how will you drive and what’s your budget?

Here’s what to consider.

1. Can you easily plug in?

Plugging in is easier than you think. You can just use a standard 120-volt wall outlet, known as a Level 1 charger, which adds about 4 to 6 miles of range per hour, equivalent to about 50 miles overnight, more than enough to cover most Americans’ daily routine. If you don’t have a garage, there are some effective options if you live in an apartment, rely on street parking or can access public chargers.

If these don’t work, go with a standard hybrid, or the most efficient vehicle that fits your needs. You can even consider an e-bike.

Gil Tal, director of the Plug-In Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California at Davis, says when it comes to efficiency, “it doesn’t matter if it’s hybrid or not, just look at the MPG.” Some new gasoline vehicles such as the Mitsubishi Mirage (39 mpg) can edge out hybrid models. “From a cost perspective, hybrid is just one technology that makes it more or less efficient,” he adds.

Standard hybrid vehicles, which use a small battery to assist the gasoline engine, comprised 6.7 percent of U.S. sales in the second quarter of 2023, compared with 1.7 percent for plug-in hybrids. Most offer between 29 to 60 miles per gallon. The Toyota Prius, which debuted in 1997, boasts a 57-mpg rating from the Environmental Protection Agency.

You’ll get much better mileage with a plug-in hybrid, with many new models achieving more than 120 miles per gallon, according to ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency.

But don’t buy a plug-in hybrid if you won’t be able to recharge it. That’s not only less efficient, it’s pricey, usually adding several thousand dollars to the sticker price, as well as requiring higher maintenance. “Some people buy a plug-in [hybrid] and never plug them in,” says Tal. “I see that behavior all the time.”

If you can plug in easily, either at home or work — where more than 80 percent of EV owners charge — or on the road, then you’ve got options.

2. Do you drive long distances?

If you’re generally driving less than about 200 miles a day and can access charging, switching to all-electric makes the most sense. You’ll be able to top up your battery, saving money and emissions.

Plug-in hybrids will give you longer range, but are less efficient, since they carry around both an electric and gasoline drivetrain. “Where the plug-in hybrid fails is that you pay for two drivetrains. It’s a suboptimal solution,” says Tal, comparing the technology to a spork, neither a superior spoon nor fork. “If you don’t need the [gasoline] engine, don’t take the engine with you.”

But plug-in hybrids can maximize flexibility: They’re a pragmatic choice if you need a car that handles daily and long-distance driving with limited charging access, or special applications such as towing and heavy-duty cargo. EVs such as the Ford F-150 Lightning have significantly diminished range when towing heavy loads such as a trailer. And while public charging networks are improving fast, some regions, especially in areas of the Midwest and Deep South — still lag behind, making it inconvenient to recharge during long road trips.

For drivers looking to take advantage of the plug-in hybrid’s range flexibility, the technology shines when two conditions are met: You can finish your daily routine day without starting the gasoline engine and you have easy access to charging most of the time.

The average American drives just under 40 miles a day. Today’s plug-in hybrid batteries typically have enough juice to travel between 25 and 50 miles of all-electric driving. That puts most trips well within the all-electric range. Once the battery is nearly drained, the cars operate like a standard hybrid recharging during braking and normal engine operation.

For some families, including Tal’s, plug-in hybrids allow them to own just one car, rather than one for driving around town and another for road trips. “It can save you a lot of money if you need this Swiss army knife,” he says. “For me, the plug-in hybrid is the way to stay a one-car household. Most of our routine is electric.”

3. How much do you want to spend?

If plug-in hybrids have a rosy future, they must beat all-electric vehicles on the road. That means competing on cost and performance over the lifetime of the car. Fuel, maintenance and incentives make this a complicated calculation.

For help crunching the numbers for some of the top-selling vehicles, I turned to Energy Innovation, a policy think tank aimed at decarbonizing the energy sector.

How did plug-in hybrids fare against their all-electric peers? Not well, at least financially. I found that while gas cars remain the cheapest on the lot, it’s now very tough, if not impossible, to beat battery electric vehicles on a total cost of ownership basis. The plug-in hybrid was the most expensive in this sample of popular SUVs and crossovers.

Driving a Toyota RAV4 plug-in hybrid for ten years costs about $15,000 more than a Tesla Model Y or Volkswagen ID4, two similar SUVs. It costs about $8,000 more over the same period than the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which currently doesn’t qualify for the federal $7,500 EV rebate. Even the gasoline RAV4 was about $5,500 cheaper over a decade compared with its plug-in counterpart, which is nearly 40 percent more expensive than the gasoline model.

EVs were cheaper to maintain at a cost of 6 cents per mile, compared with 9 cents for plug-in-hybrids and more than 10 cents for conventional gasoline vehicles, according to the latest Department of Energy data.

Depending on where you live, your mileage may vary: Electricity prices in markets such as California and New York have spiked in recent years, especially during peak hours, while gasoline prices have also become more volatile. Other costs, such as higher insurance premiums or repair costs for EVs, may eat into those savings, although Consumer Reports says these are now trending down.

What’s the takeaway based on price? If you want the lowest sticker price, gasoline cars are still the winner — but they will cost you over time in fuel and maintenance, not to mention much higher carbon emissions. If you’re looking for the biggest savings over five years or more, and charging is accessible, go with electric.

EV models on the market at virtually every price point deliver respectable range, plenty of performance and big savings. If the flexibility of a gasoline engine is essential, a standard hybrid or paying a little more for plug-in models delivers the functionality you need, especially if you want one car that does it all.

In the long run, EVs are poised to become the hands-down financial winner for the vast majority of Americans, as battery technology and charging networks improve. But plug-in hybrids aren’t going away anytime soon. Even California, which plans to phase out the sale of internal combustion cars by 2035, will permit 20 percent of “zero-emission” vehicles sold in the state to be plug-in hybrids beyond that deadline.

“While EVs will be the wave of the future, gas hybrids make more sense now and, for many of us, always will,” writes George Shaeffer, a reader from Clearwater Beach, Fla., who drives a Camry Hybrid. “I don’t see any reason it can’t last until it’s 20 or 30 years old.”



This article was originally published by a www.washingtonpost.com . Read the Original article here. .

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