In today’s world of instant gratification, it should be surprising that hundreds of thousands of people have elected to wait over a year for the Tesla Model 3. However, the car’s devoted audience is proving the proverb that some things are indeed worth that wait. The scenario also proves there is a solid – and even devoted – market for fuel-efficient cars, whether the motivation is green (money savings), green (environmental impact), or a combination of both.
The auto industry continues to respond to this demand by developing new technologies and further improving the performance and comfort of the existing ones. There are now three distinct powertrains for fuel-efficient vehicles: hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEVs) and electric (EV). Also, there is an increasing number of models for all of them.
Each type has distinct pros and a few cons, but how impactful those are on a driver’s decision to buy depends on individual preferences and needs. Each driver should carefully examine all options before deciding which is best for his or her goals. If you are curious about local car inventory near you, familiarize yourself with a car finder. You may also want to check out if your dream car is available on car subscription services.
First, let’s examine the three types:
The Toyota Prius is largely credited as being the first “mass-produced, hybrid vehicle,” when it was launched in Japan in 1997 and in the United States in 2000. “Hybrid” means it uses more than one type of energy to achieve propulsion. What was significant about the Prius is that the experience was, and is, like owning or driving any other gasoline-powered car. The powertrain automatically switches between battery and gas, so the driver never has to worry about what fuel is being used and when. The earliest models weren’t known for quick acceleration or power, but their performance has continued to improve. Now, most hybrids are comparable to that of other vehicles in same class.
- They run cleaner than gas-powered cars. Some automakers claim up to 80 percent cleaner
- Warranties for the hybrid systems are often for eight years
- Fuel efficiency, particularly in stop/start driving, is much higher than with gasoline-only cars
- There is no “range anxiety,” or worry that you will lose your charge if you have to go too far without an opportunity to recharge
- In some states, you get HOV-lane privileges for single drivers
- Some states may waive annual or biennial emissions testing requirements
- Recouping the higher sticker price through fuel costs may take two or more years or more
- Mileage improvement is not as significant for open-highway driving at high speeds
2. Plug-in hybrid
New plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models such as the Cadillac ELR, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and the Prius Plug-In are helping move this “hybrid hybrid” into a growing segment. They differ from standard hybrids in that they use two different powertrains. Under a full electric charge, the engines can often go between 30 to 40 miles; once that range is exceeded, the gasoline engine takes over until the battery can be recharged.
- Greater gas efficiency than a standard hybrid
- Less “range anxiety” than an electric vehicle
- Federal rebates can be as much as $7,500
- Limited model choices. When developing technology, manufacturers have gravitated to either hybrid or electric
Electric vehicle (EV) technology has come and gone throughout the history of the automobile. In the most recent past, the primary deterrent for EVs has been the lack of range and the subsequent recharge time that could leave the driver stranded. As referenced above, this is referred to as “range anxiety”; how impactful that is on a driver depends on personality, access to charging options and driving needs. For instance, if you have a short commute, don’t plan to use the car for long road trips and can spare the time to let it charge, it can be an excellent option. And the cost-savings can be significant.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an average all-electric car requires $3.84 worth of electricity to travel 100 miles assuming 12 cents per kWh. A comparable conventional car requires $9.65 worth of gasoline assuming $2.35 per gallon, a modest estimation in many states.
The latest models of electric vehicles (EVs) are boasting greater range, luxury and performance more than ever, according to this overall comparison by Motor Trend done in December 2017.
There is no doubt alternative-fuel vehicles are becoming more viable and accessible, but choosing the best option is a personal decision. With careful consideration of your logistics, priorities, and transportation needs, a money- and environment-saving option is out there.
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