EV vs Plug-In Hybrid: Bridging the Gap

April 06, 2023
EV Universe
EV Universe

For many people, the idea of going fully electric with their vehicles is a scary thought. They worry about running out of battery along their route; that they won’t be able to find a charging station. Many wonder if electric vehicles (EVs) are really better for the planet. Because of these and other considerations, people often assume that having a hybrid would solve the problems posed by EVs. Having a hybrid, the thought goes, would mean not using gas around town, but having the range needed for longer trips. But is this really the case? Does a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) offer the best of both worlds? Or does the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” apply? Let’s find out.


Overview of Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Lets begin with the Electric Vehicle. With each passing year, more models are available. Many of these cars can drive 300 miles on a single charge, are incredibly quick, and have very low maintenance costs. What the customer gets in an EV is a car that will be reliable, quick, and it can haul the entire family. The average American driver travels about 35 miles a day. This means that basically every EV could cover the daily needs of the average driver. Long road trips, even in the winter, are possible in an EV as well.


Tesla Model X doors open


EVs can be charged at home, eliminating an extra trip to the gas station once a week to fill up. Granted, if you live somewhere where charging isn’t readily available you also may be “filling up” once a week. But for about 80% of EV users, charging at home is the most common. There are a few other considerations when it comes to charging. However, EV charging can be anywhere from very doable to downright easy.


The cost of charging an EV from home is considerably better than gassing up an ICE vehicle too. Even if you are on a road trip, finding charging does take some planning, but it is doable. Stations are becoming more common as well. Tesla has many Superchargers all across the country, and Electrify America has many stations as well.


Today’s EVs are quite impressive considering most have only been around for about 10 years. This means that while they improve, they will likely surpass many of the things ICE cars currently do better (for now).


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Overview of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

A common reason that people claim to want a hybrid is so that they can have “the best of both worlds.” They can cruise around town on only electricity as well as have access to more range for longer trips. This, in theory, sounds like a great system. Many people claim that it could be the bridge that we cross while EVs surpass ICE vehicles.


Roadster Jeep 4xE BMW i4


One of the great benefits of an EV is the decrease in the cost of maintenance. An EVs motor has about 20 moving parts. An ICE engine has around 2,000 moving parts, most of which will need maintenance at some point. In addition to the engine, a hybrid has to fit in a battery pack, often a very small one, and an electric motor. This is often done in the same style of an ICE vehicle. That is a lot of components crammed into a package that used to hold a gas powertrain alone.


Not only is the battery of the PHEV small, but the engine has to be small too. This means that a PHEV will not have very much power because, for engines, bigger is better in that regard. What the driver is left with is an engine that may not be performing very well because it is asked to do the job that a larger engine usually does. It also means that the hybrid is not very fun to drive. Or not for very long at least.


EV vs Plug-In Hybrid: So Which is Better?

In theory, the PHEV is a good idea. In practice, it is both unnecessary and worse by many standards. As our EV Universe President Mike said in one of our recent podcasts: PHEVs end up being the worst of both worlds. They try to do two jobs at once, and instead they end up doing what EVs and ICE vehicles do, just poorly. EVs can handle both long and short trips. They are catching up on towing ability (because of fuel type, not a shortage of power) too.


EVs can do basically everything an ICE vehicle can do, but if the driver takes a seat in a PHEV, they may find that they should have went with an EV. This may be the one case too where we would tell you that if you want (or need) an ICE vehicle, you should buy one. It may be a better choice than a PHEV. But when it comes specifically to EV vs Plug-In Hybrid, the pure electric vehicle is the better choice for most drivers.

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