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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July 6, 2012 1:56 am

This was one of the more interesting articles I have seen in a while regarding the new types of vehicles that the auto industry has been producing. I think it is very interesting to see how the demand for cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles in the last decade or so has led to such incredible changes in industries that many people once thought were too old, stuffy or stuck in their ways to ever really do anything different.

The plug-in hybrid vehicles of today are certainly proof that the auto industry is indeed interested in changing with the times. While it is true that this class of vehicles are not fully electric, it is a huge stepping stone between the traditional gas powered car and the newer electric vehicles.

One of the things I found very interesting in this piece was the prediction that plug-in hybrids will account for almost 20 percent of the new car sales by the year 2020. The author also hinted at the implications that the huge need for extra power plants can be avoided (at least partially) if people charged their vehicles at night.

Kathy Faust
July 3, 2012 12:34 pm

I like the way the car can be used to power the house if need be. Since we just had a rash of storms and so many people were without electricity and some still are, this would have been the perfect solution. But I also like the ideas that people are putting in here about using solar power to charge the batteries to even further reduce your carbon footprint. I just don’t think that people realize how many ways there are to create electricity. Everyone talks about solar power, but there are many more ways to generate your own electricity.

The thing you have to know is that energy cannot be created; it is transformed. All you need to generate electricity is some form of energy, the more constant the better. That means if you have a flowing river nearby or you have strong winds in your area, you may be able to generate your own electricity. I look for the automobile industry to tap into this area as a way to boost their auto sales sometime in the near future. Until they do, take a look around you and start learning about how to transform and store energy. It could be worth your while.

June 29, 2012 12:50 am

A hybrid vehicle can be turned into a plug-in vehicle through the purchase of a special kit. Of course, most of these kits are purchased illegally since they will invalidate the warranty if they are installed. However, using something like this makes it possible to recharge your vehicle at night. It is also very possible to be able to run your vehicle for shorter distances solely on electric power. In fact, if your primary driving needs are local, short distance runs, then it is quite possible that tapping into the back up gas fuel source may not be needed. This alone would be a huge help for the environment and save a lot of energy.

Another huge benefit of using a plug-in (or any type of) hybrid vehicle is that is helps the environment. Studies have shown that such a car remains much cleaner in terms of their emissions, even as they get older. It is also quite a problem, in terms of the environmental impact, to dispose of older gas powered vehicles. As hybrid cars become more common this can only serve to help our planet.

Kathy Faust
June 28, 2012 10:17 pm

I’ve been very interested in buying a Chevy Volt as my next vehicle, but I got to thinking about the cost to charge an electric hybrid. With the cost of electricity constantly on the rise, it’s hard to believe that any money would be saved. While it would be nice to visit the gas station less often, I can only imagine what it would be like to receive the electricity bill.

I do like how this article pointed out the need to charge your vehicle at night to reduce the strain on the grid, which just made me realize that a better idea for charging an electric vehicle may be to install solar panels for the sole purpose of charging your car. This would allow you to change it whenever you needed to and would greatly reduce the cost of operating such a vehicle.

This article has led me to rethink my decision not to buy a plug-in hybrid automobile. I think it would be an awesome idea to own such a vehicle, if you were willing to purchase the solar panels. I’m going to research this method even further to see how much it would cost for the panels. Thanks for such a great article.

Kathy Faust
June 23, 2012 10:25 pm

I really want a hybrid car. I do no drive very much, so I can’t imagine that it would use very much gas, In fact, my biggest problem might end up being that my gas sits in my tank so long that it goes bad.

I noticed that you mentioned plugging in the car at night so that you are not using too much power from the grid during the more active hours of the day when the grid is kept busy with household use. That makes a lot of sense, but did you know you can take things a step further?

There are certain types of energy plans that allow you to store energy during the inactive times of the grid. The grid is always active, but night time is a less active time. You can actually store power in your house during the night so that the energy you use during the day is running off of that power rather than directly from the grid. In the long run, it actually saves you money. So if you are going to plug your car in, you may as well look into a system like that too.

June 17, 2012 12:54 am

A plug-in hybrid vehicle uses a combination of both fuel and electric power. They have both types of engines, but the electric portion must be charged. The author suggests that such a vehicle could be a good stepping stone between a fully gas powered car and a fully electric vehicle. Of course, these vehicles are not up to the point yet of being able to travel more than short distances on their electric power alone. Of course, if most of your driving is done over short distances, than this could be a nice option for you to consider.

I was also not aware that there are actual kits that can convert a hybrid vehicle into a plug in electric model. The author also states that right now these kits are only available on the black market. Using one of them would invalidate your warranty, so this may not be an option for you.

I also like the fact that this seems to be a type of technology manufacturers want to support. Forecasts show that by 2020 plug-in hybrid vehicle sales will account for as much as 20 percent of all new car sales.

Kathy Faust
June 10, 2012 6:56 pm

I was laughing so hard when I read the part about the hybrid car powering the house in the case of an electrical outage. That’s just too funny. “Hey hun…a storm is on the way. Forget the flashlights and go plug the car in”. Yes, I do crack myself up. But seriously, how cool is that?

There are a couple of areas that concern me here though. For one, I had heard that the cost of the battery for these things is unreal, yet you are saying that electric repairs are going to be cheaper than traditional ones? I don’t know about you, but any kind of electrical repair in my car right now if going to cost me a bunch.

On the other hand, maybe you were referring to fuse or fuse lines or something along those lines? If so, then yes, replacing a blown fuse line is going to be much cheaper than some repairs you would have on a traditional gas powered vehicle.

The other thing is the fact that these kits are only sold on the black market. Does that strike anyone else as odd? I mean, our entire world economy has gone to crap basically because of petroleum. And yet we have to buy products like these on the black market?

November 22, 2011 12:50 pm

Now if you put Solar Energy Panels (PV) on your Home roof and car port you can drive 50 to 80 miles each day FREE. Energy From the Sun. Many are doing so all over the Earth. Electric Cars and Hybrids Cars that run on Electric and some other fuel will soon out sell all others. With the Help of Solar Energy and People around the Planet getting more knowledge every day of it on the news and seeing it on more roofs everywhere. Those that have the intelligence to see the good in Solar Energy are growing every day.

Solar Energy in the next year will out pass most all other forms of energy. Right today November 22, 2011 under Solar Energy there is 19,000,000 websites and under Images 1,520,000 for Solar Power plants. For Coal power plants 1,290,000 under images. For Hydro Power Plants 3,690,000 websites and 1,5000,000 under images. Most in the World are re tooling to make Electric Hybrid Cars. Iran is a Little slow do to its export of crude oil, oil is number one in that country right behind that is their gas guzzler cars.

Now Israeli is making an Electric Hybrid that you will be able to drive anywhere in Europe and in one tenth the time it would take to put gas in your car you can drive up and away with a recharged Battery Pack. Like a cordless drill or Cordless Tool it would take out the old and put in a recharged one back in in less then a minute in seconds just like the Cordless Tool. You would pay for only the electric used the battery packs are owned by the car manufacturer. No more oil change stations or gas it will be a Battery exchange station. For those that are driving cross country the rest will be able to recharge at home or at work. Free from the Sun Energy Solar Energy (PV). This kind of car is going to but and end for the need of OIL for most world wide very soon.

The Lord’s Little Helper

Paul Felix Schott

September 15, 2011 9:42 am

I’d like to point out that it’s not just about the newest automotive technologies and the fattest wallets that can afford to pay for the latest and greatest clean energy fad. It’s quite easy to reduce your carbon footprint to near zero by riding your bike, or, for longer commutes – taking public transportation.

I don’t know a city where there isn’t a bus (if not a train or subway) that can take you where you want to go. The key with public transit is that it takes many people at once – so the average carbon emissions per person are very, very low. And with more efficient buses coming on line all the time, the number gets even better. For those that say you don’t have access to a bus, get some coworkers/ friends together and carpool. Just one more person will cut your CO2 emissions in half!

June 21, 2011 3:56 am

I like the concept of plug-in hybrid cars. My only question is why is it taking so long for these products to hit the market? I know that working concepts have been around for quite a while now. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to completely replace petrol and diesel automobiles.

May 7, 2011 8:39 am

Plug-In hybrid automobiles are now becoming more and more popular worldwide and people must be aware that this innovation can help in saving the Earth by its friendly ways and efforts. I just hope that these kits will be available in the local markets too.

April 7, 2011 3:46 am

Wow, hybrid cars are genius? Are they available worldwide? I live in East Asia, and I haven’t seen them here…

an environmentally conscious drifter
July 15, 2012 4:57 am
Reply to  Anonymous

Electric energy is very expensive, it’s just the pollution matter solved with this type.

February 28, 2009 11:53 am

I am interested in finding answers to the following questions. Please add these topics to this article.

1. What is the source fuel for the average American’s electric power? I have heard somewhere that most electric plants in the U.S. are powered by coal. Does that mean plug-in hybrids actually replace gas power with coal power?

2. How long do hybrid car batteries last (service life of the battery)? Are these “green” bio-degradable batteries, or are they full of exotic chemicals? What is the environmental impact of recycling batteries of millions of hybrid cars? Greenhouse gas emissions may be lower, but will the environmental impact of millions of pounds of hybrid batteries be worse overall?

I am not against hybrid cars, but I have these questions that I never see addressed when hybrids are discussed and I am looking for the facts.

Thanks for your time and best regards.