In the PHEV versus Hybrid argument, there is a lot more depth and complexity going on than at first glance.
Although there is only one vehicle type that qualifies as a PHEV, there are two types of hybrid vehicles—semi (or mild) and full hybrid.
So you’re really comparing one type of vehicle to two. None of the above are fully electric vehicles but they do come with certain aspects that you can only find in electric vehicles.
As demand for hybrids, PHEVs, and electric cars grows, more new models are added to car lots each year.
But which one is right for you? Much of that depends on how far you drive to go to work or how many errands you run every day.
It also depends on how much long-distance driving you engage in each year.
Closer Look at All Three
There are important distinctions that separate a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) from a hybrid.
There are additional but even more subtle differences between a mild hybrid and a full hybrid vehicle.
A full hybrid vehicle is a combination of an internal combustion engine and a battery. The engine is responsible for much of the driving, with the battery acting as a backup.
In town, when you are traveling much slower, engaged in stop-and-go traffic, the battery takes over periodically.
Regenerative braking and the internal combustion engine are responsible for keeping the battery charged up and topped off.
You never have to plug a hybrid in and charge it, since the battery isn’t large enough nor is it designed for much more than a few miles in slow traffic.
A full hybrid offers excellent range and gas mileage with the peace of mind of knowing your emissions are much lower than standard gas vehicles.
|Very good gas mileage Doesn’t need to be plugged in You can get gas normally Lower emissions Excellent range||CVT transmissions tend to be finicky Longer stopping distances More expensive|
Semi (Mild) Hybrid
This type of hybrid doesn’t use the battery for driving hardly at all.
Instead of an alternator, mild hybrids are designed with a mini-generator for starting and converting DC voltage, along with a smaller battery.
Unlike a hybrid, where the battery can fully take over for the engine, a mild hybrid only assists the internal combustion engine.
The lithium-ion battery also runs all of the auxiliary functions of the car.
The system in which the battery assists the engine is entirely automated.
The computer (PCM/ECM) monitors fuel consumption and the engine’s efficiency and employs the battery only when necessary to assist the engine and extend your mileage.
|Relatively inexpensive Improved gas mileage Gas up normally Improved fuel economy Engine assist is fully automated||Not as green as EVs, hybrids, and PHEVs Longer stopping distance|
Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)
A PHEV has a larger battery than a full-hybrid and can travel longer distances on battery power alone.
Unlike hybrids, however, PHEVs have to be charged from time to time if you want to get the most out of them.
Like hybrids, PHEVs come with regenerative braking, which helps provide some extra juice for the battery.
They’re a little more convenient than a full EV because owners can use level 1 chargers, which plug into a standard house outlet and aren’t expensive.
Fortunately, PHEVs charge pretty quickly—a lot quicker than a full EV. You won’t have to rearrange your garage or add a charging panel to your circuit breaker.
All you need is the plug that comes with the PHEV and you can charge overnight, directly from the closest wall socket.
|Decent mileage on battery only Best fuel economy of the bunch Neither gas nor battery is essential Extended range||Most expensive of the hybrids Frequent recharging is required for full benefits|
Which One is the Best?
If you have to break it down to its fundamental level and drive off the car lot with one or the other, right now, the only separation is based on your needs.
Your driving patterns on a daily basis are absolutely essential to your decision between hybrids or PHEVs.
PHEVs are going to be the most expensive of the bunch, mostly because they are carrying similar size engines to what you find in a hybrid along with having a bigger battery than what the hybrids have to offer.
In other words, you’re basically paying extra for more battery. Most people would look at that as a deal killer.
However, you also have to consider how much money you will make back in gas savings with a PHEV over a hybrid.
A short-term expense may boil down to a long-term financial gain. It depends on what kind of driving you do on a daily basis.
Let’s say you have a daily commute to work and work is five miles away. That’s ten miles per day, round trip.
Ten miles is well within the range window of a PHEV. At that rate, you would only have to charge every two days and never have to fill up on gas.
On the other hand, if your daily commute is 25 miles to work, for a 50-mile round trip, a hybrid makes more sense.
The hybrid will also save you money on fuel costs and you get a lot of range with them as well. With a full hybrid, you’re running on battery-assisted gas on the highway and battery only when you’re caught in city traffic.
Plus, full hybrid cars are cheaper upfront. If you simply don’t have the money or credit to go for a PHEV, a hybrid might be a better option, at least for some.
The choice between a PHEV and a hybrid (regardless of which type) should be determined by your driving habits.
All of the hybrid types out there have something to offer and all of them are an improvement on traditional gasoline and diesel engines, in terms of clean running.
If you need a lot of range each day, a hybrid is probably the best fit. If you just need a little range on a daily basis and gasoline for the occasional long trip, PHEVs fit the description perfectly.