Is It Time to Consider an Electric or Hybrid Car?

Is It Time to Consider an Electric or Hybrid Car?

You’ve heard about the great gas mileage. You probably know someone who owns a Prius. You are certainly intrigued by the idea of never having to pay for gas again if you go full electric. But you wonder about reliability. How will it drive? And what is this term ‘range anxiety’ (fear of running the battery down and being left stranded somewhere) you’ve read about? Well, before we go any further, let’s define some of the terms you’ve probably been hearing about. The three types are: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric.

Hybrid cars (in broad terms) have a gas engine and also batteries that work together. These use the gas engine for distance and power, and rely more on electric power for shorter, lower speed trips. This is why they often have higher city ratings than highway EPA ratings. A Toyota Prius is the most popular of this type of configuration.

Plug-in hybrids can go a short distance on full electric power, and then switch over to the gas/electric hybrid mode to give you range. “Plug-in” means you actually plug it into your wall outlet. This charges the small battery so you can go those short trips (typically 10-20 miles) without using the gas engine. If you do go on a longer distance, you get the benefit of a hybrid as mentioned above. Usually, you’ll see the term “plug-in hybrid” as part of the vehicle name. The Chevy Volt is an example.

Electric cars do not have a gas engine on board, and rely solely on rechargeable batteries to power the electric motors that drive the wheels. Examples would be any vehicle made by Tesla, and the new Chevy Bolt.

Why buy an electric car? First, they use a lot less energy than a car that runs on gasoline, have lower maintenance costs, and can save you up to two-thirds the cost to run. For example, no more oil changes—ever. You won’t need to fill up your tank again—ever. They also don’t pollute at all: electric cars produce no tailpipe emissions (and also don’t have tailpipes!).

Why might an electric car not be for me? First, they often cost more (initially) than a comparable gas-engined car. Also, if you drive more than 70 miles per day, and can’t easily get to a public or workplace charging area, this could be an issue, unless you have a car that has a longer range. The Chevy Bolt, for example, has a range of up to 238 miles between charges. You also need to have access to a 240-volt outlet and a place to park your car overnight for recharging. It’s one thing if you have a home/garage, but if you’re in an apartment or condo, that could be an issue if you can’t park near an electric outlet. Also, it can take up to several hours to charge an electric car, so that needs to be figured into how you live your life and your car needs.

No more oil changes–ever. You won’t need to fill up your tank again–ever.

Consumer Reports suggests that you ask yourself the following questions as you consider an electric car: How many miles do I drive each day? Do I have regular access to charging at home or work? How much does my electricity cost? Do I need a faster charging option, or can I use my regular outlet (this determines rate of recharge)? How often do I drive outside the range my car is rated for? Are there charging stations along the route I take?

How much do electric cars cost? Per Consumer Reports, base prices range from $21,750 for the Smart Electric Drive to more than $125,000 for a high-performance Tesla Model S. However, some electric cars are eligible for up to a $7,500 federal tax credit to offset the extra cost. Additional city and state tax credits, rebates, or vouchers may be available depending on where you live. Ask your dealers if any might apply, as these would help reduce the upfront costs.

You should definitely test drive one (or more) if you are considering an electric or hybrid car. They drive differently. Electric cars often deliver power right away, and are smooth and quiet. This is because electricity is being used to power an electric motor, and it’s very much an “instant on” effect, like turning on a switch.

Maybe a hybrid is a better choice? This is a personal decision, but there are advantages to hybrids over electrics. Hybrids have a gas engine on board that gives you the benefits of great gas mileage plus a good range for distance. Also, you’re not reliant on plugging it in to charge—just go to the gas station and fill it up. The Hyundai Ioniq hybrid gets over 50 MPG, which is really substantial.

So, as you consider whether or not replacing a current car with a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric vehicle, think about how you live, and how you use your car now. Is it primarily local, short trips, or longer excursions? Maybe you have an opportunity to add one of these types of vehicles into your family, as a way to dip your toe in the water. If you have friends with any of these types of vehicles, talk to them! You’ll find that those who drive these types of vehicles have done a lot of research, and are willing and happy to share their stories.


Go online and search for a “conversion calculator for better mileage” website. This is where you can enter your current car’s MPG (miles per gallon), and then enter information on the new car, such as cost, electric or hybrid, and gas mileage. It will calculate when switching to a new car will pay for itself based on the data you supply.

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