10.19.2016 - by Plug In America
The Debate Rages On: Pure Electric or Plug-In Hybrid?


Are plug-in hybrids merely a stepping stone to an all-battery electric national fleet?  Or are they destined to be a long-term fixture of the American automotive industry?  Two new articles take opposing views on the matter.  Neil Winton of Forbes observes that most major auto manufacturers believe that plug-in hybrids will make up a significantly higher market share than battery electrics by 2030.  His article posits that fast-charging networks are infeasible, and the 40+ mile electric range of future plug-in hybrids is more than enough to enable all-electric commuter transit while still retaining the long-distance capability of an ICE.

Having a (plug-in hybrid) with a small battery giving you 50 to 60 kilometers (maximum close to 40 miles), that’s what people want. – Nicolas Meilhan

Graeme Roberts at Just-Auto reports that battery electric technology is advancing rapidly and soon will close the gap on plug-in hybrids with regards to cost and range.  With new long-range affordable battery electrics reaching consumers such as the 238-mile (EPA-rated*) Chevrolet Bolt and the 190-mile (NEDC-rated**) BMW i3, and future 350+ mile electrics such as the VW IQ slated to hit the market within the next five years, Roberts wonders whether plug-in hybrids will still retain a competitive advantage over battery electrics.

The fact is that vehicles such as this effectively remove the rationale for hybrids. Within a few years, hybrids could be seen as little more than a curiosity and this will undoubtedly affect their values. – Rupert Pontin

As Long-Range EVs Loom, Are Hybrids Just a ‘Passing Phase?’ – by Graeme Roberts

Auto Industry Cranks Up For More Electric Cars As Hybrids Edge Batteries – by Neil Winton

What do you think?  Are battery electrics the future or will plug-in hybrids dominate?  Let us know in the comments below!


* EPA-rated = electric range as rated by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  American standard.

**NEDC-rated = electric range as rated according to the New European Driving Cycle.  European standard.

7 comments on “The Debate Rages On: Pure Electric or Plug-In Hybrid?”
  1. Bernie G says:

    Plug-In Hybrids make the most sense for most of us right now, but hats-off to the pure electric early adopters. America’s transportation infrastructure (roads and fuel centers) is best suited for plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and for economic purposes it’s best to phase changes in and out over time to conserve jobs and preserve our nation’s economic growth overall – we’re all in this together. I’d love to be able to afford a BMW i8 – you get speed and super economy with the three (3) cylinder engine and a 7.1 kWh battery pack. I see the technology advancing on ICE, battery and drivetrain such that you have this hybrid efficiency we don’t see today – where motors drive two wheels and regenerate/recuperate energy more effectively and engines drive two wheels, but future engines that are nearly maintenance free and resemble motorcycle characteristics more than ‘muscle car’ characteristics. This said, I am fortunate to have grown up in the muscle car era but its fun to see these new technologies reinvent old modes of transportation too. We should all adopt alternative fuel technology to the extend we feel comfortable with and embrace it, while we can, as before we know it these choices won’t be ours – you’ll just summon an autonomous car and be done with it – whether it’ll be pure electric or hybrid is still too early to tell.

  2. Robert says:

    I’d love a pure electric (like a Bolt) but every two weeks I have to drive to AZ 250 miles away, and then be ready to drive around town when I get there. I love my Volt, in which I don’t use gas during the week at all until my AZ trip. I’m sure it will happen soon enough, but until the car can drive as long as the driver can drive it (say 8-9 hours at a time), The pure EV will remain a “2nd” car.

  3. Jeff U'Ren says:

    I’ve driven Chevy Volts for going on 6 years now. I look forward to making the Chevy Bolt work for me as my everyday car.
    239 miles is a lot of range for me and my commute. I also look forward to going on trips with this all-electric car using both over-night and fast charging. I don’t have any fear of being strained any more than I would with a gas car.
    keep it plugin and keep it charged. I look forward to saying goodbye to the dirty and unstable gasoline market.

  4. Michael Wilber says:

    Plugin hybrids are terribly underappreciated. I have a 2016 Chevrolet Volt and it is great. I can go (and have gone) 6 weeks at a time without using a drop of gas. This year, my best “gas-free” streak was when I went 14 weeks in a row with only needing to run the gas engine for maintenance purposes, using only 0.06 gallons of gas over that 14 week period. I expect to use 75-90% less gasoline per year vs. when I had a regular gas powered compact car. This is very significant and should not be dismissed.

    A pure EV doesn’t work for me, but I still want to be as green as possible, which is why I bought the Volt. As an example, for an entire week, I wasn’t able to charge my car because I can’t plugin at work and I couldn’t plugin at home because my street was being re-paved. If I had a pure EV, it would have been a problem, but I had a Volt, so I just drove on gasoline for a week and got about 47 MPG. Similarly, once a year, I typically take a 3 hour drive to a rural part of my state. A Tesla is the only EV with enough range to make the trip and I can’t even come close to being able to afford one of those. I wouldn’t want to take a Nissan Leaf. i’d have to charge it twice along the way, I’m not sure that there is any fast charging along the route and I wouldn’t want to do that anyway because the trip already takes over 3 hours as it is.

    The Volt allows me to drive on electricity the vast majority of the time and is, relatively speaking, an affordable car. I dont have to give any thought to the availability of public charging, which is fantastic. I never have to wait for the car to charge if I don’t want to. I never have to wait in a line for a charger to become available during a busy travel period, which is fantastic.

    It is terribly unfortunate that some people dismiss the car because it is not a pure EV. In my view, the Volt is the most practical and is an affordable way to go electric. If purchased in large numbers, the car is capable of saving America a huge amount of gasoline.

  5. Patrick says:

    It is a false choice to say that it is Pure Electric or Plug-In Hybrid. There are people that one will work better for and people that will prefer the other.

    Meilhan’s statement of “[PHEV]’s what people want” is demonstrably false based on the growing BEV sales.

    Similarly, Pontin’s comment of “Within a few years, hybrids could be seen as little more than a curiosity” is equally hyperbole. As long as there are more gas stations than charging stations and gas cars refuel faster, there will be some people that need (or at least prefer) a PHEV to a BEV.

    The real answer is there is plenty of room for both. Plug-in cars are still less than 1% of new vehicle sales in the US. When plug-in cars are 80% of new sales, then we can start the discussion of BEV or PHEV, until then any car that plugs in is a good thing.

  6. Andrew Nelson says:

    If hybrids were built like diesel-electric trains, they would be a good idea. Meaning if they were an electric car with a small generator to top off the batteries, then great. But the way that they are built now with two engines pushing a vehicle is just plain stupid. It was like the executives asked engineers, “how can we build a hybrid vehicle that is the worst, most complicated system? Something that will make people say, I don’t want one of those Rube Goldberg machines,” and this is what they came up with. This is why I converted my Jeep CJ7 to electric. It’s simple, cost effective, efficient and doesn’t have costly repairs. I am buying a Tesla when they release the model 3 and I’m never going to look back.

    1. Brent says:

      The chevy Volt which is over 6 years old is an electric car with a small generator to top off the battery

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