Are “Plug-In Hybrids” the Next Logical Step?


Introduced over 10 years ago, hybrids are cars that utilize both gas motors and electric motors for propulsion. On a hybrid, the gas motor is powered by gasoline, of course, and the electric motor is powered by a bank of batteries. Engineers have designed them so these two different power plants work together to deliver high efficiency and great gas mileage. The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are two popular examples of the hybrid category.

The hot new thing now is an evolution of the hybrid concept, it is called a “plug-in hybrid” or just “plug-in”. Plug-ins function like conventional hybrids, with gas and electric motors providing propulsion, but have a key difference; they have a 100% electric mode of some 40 miles or so where the gas engine isn’t used and they can be charged via an on-board charging port. This is a development that bonds the two major factors of electric cars that are at odds with each other -a car that doesn’t use gasoline (when driven under 40 miles) but has the ability to go long distances when needed. This is appealing to consumers that want to minimize the use of gasoline in their daily lives – an important issue for many.

So who makes plug-ins? There are quite a few on the market now, the Chevy Volt, the Ford Fusion Energi SE, the Toyota Prius Plug-In and the Honda Accord Plug-In are four common examples.

And how are selling? Right now, modestly. Not helping the plug-in’s case are free-falling oil prices. In parts of the country, gallons are going for under $2.00 now, so a tank that required $100 to fill (think trucks and SUVs) now costs somewhere between $40 to $70, depending on you vehicle and where you are. This is allowing for people to save immense amounts of money on their commuting costs instantaneously, and appears to be blinding consumers’ longer-term analysis and investment.

That being said, we should see continued interest in the market segment for two reasons. First, green-minded consumers will still want a vehicle that meets their criteria of burning less fossil fuel when drive. With a plug-in, some consumers will rarely visit a gas station because they simply don’t drive very long distances.

Secondly, the automobile manufacturers will be able to boost their standings in regard to the CAFE regulations. Take the aforementioned SUVs — together, they are perhaps the most inefficient vehicles in the companies’ lineups, but by electrifying them with a hybrid system, they can become among the most efficient.

Article Courtesy of: Len Stoler Porsche


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