Plug-In Hybrid Automobiles: Better Than Fuel Based Cars?

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Electric car parked in log with leavesHybrid cars use a combination of fuel and stored electrical power (in a battery) to optimize fuel consumption and help reduce emissions. They can be seen as a stepping stone between fuel-based cars and electric automobiles. What many consumers, as well as owners of hybrid automobiles don’t realize, is that it’s possible to purchase a kit that will turn your hybrid into a plug-in hybrid automobile. In other words, into an electric vehicle. The problem with these kits is that they currently are only available on the black market, and as such they will invalidate your warranty if you install them. They are also better suited to certain hybrid automobile models than to others.

Are plug-in hybrid automobiles fully electric?

While plug-in hybrid automobiles (PHEV’s – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) do provide the convenience of being able to charge your car and use electric power for short distances, they are not fully electric cars. That is, you’ll still need to rely on gas as backup when your charge runs out. Fully electric vehicles such as the EV-1 that were introduced in the 1990’s, along with its predecessors (that were never released to market) are able to travel longer on a charge than is a plug-in hybrid.

What are the advantages of plug-in hybrid automobiles?

A plug-in hybrid automobile still carries the advantage over a hybrid automobile. Namely, if you only drive short, local distances, you may never need to tap into your backup gas tank. Furthermore, your service costs (repairing your car at the local garage) will be much lower if you rely primarily on electric power. And finally, believe it or not, your plug-in hybrid may well carry enough power to power your home for a short period in the event of an electrical outage.

How do plug-in hybrid automobiles affect our air quality?

We’ve seen how you as the consumer can save a ton of money via a plug-in hybrid automobile, but what about the environment? As Earths’ Friends, we’re always concerned how new technologies may impact our host planet. Pacific National Lab conducted studies that show that plug-in hybrid automobiles do indeed remain cleaner as they get older – another benefit considering the disposal of old fuel-based cars is a hazard to the environment. More importantly, the study shows that greenhouse gas emissions, should plug-in hybrid automobiles be widely adopted, will be reduced dramatically over the coming decades. One concern that has been raised is whether the use of so many plug-in hybrids will cause the need for additional power plants to support the increased electrical pull on our grids? The answer is yes, but only for cars that are charged during the day.

Plug-In Electric Cars are Gaining Popularity

Plug-in electric cars are growing in popularity. With the price of gas, drivers want a car that is easier to “fuel up”. According to the Huffington Post, 10,538 electric cars were sold in the U.S. in September 2014. A total of 1,246,006 vehicles were sold in the month of September, making plug-in vehicles .85% of those sales. This is the highest percentage to date.

Popular hybrid, electric, plug-in, whatever you want to call them cars include the following:

  • BMW ActiveE
  • Chevrolet Spark Ev
  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Ford C-max Energi
  • Ford Focus Electric
  • Ford Fusion Energi
  • Honda Accord Hybrid Plug-In
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Tesla Model S
  • Toyota Prius Hybrid Plug-In
  • Volvo C30 Drive Electric

Charge your plug-in hybrid at night to reduce pressure on the grid

Forecasts show that plug-in hybrid automobile sales will account for 20% of new-car sales in the U.S. by 2020. If that’s the case, between 8 and 160 new power plants will be needed to support the new electrical demand on our electrical grids. That seems like a huge discrepancy, and there’s a reason – if you charge your plug-in hybrid at night (after 10pm), you will be tapping into the grid when its capacity is greatest. If everyone does this, it’s possible that we won’t need to add nearly as many power plants as we would if people charge their hybrid cars whenever they feel like it.

Bottom line? Plug-in hybrid automobiles present a huge opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions using  presently available technology. What are you waiting for? Spread the word by discussing and asking for plug-in hybrid automobiles!

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