Home » Plug-In Hybrids Still Have An Important Role In Our Increasingly Electrified World: COTD

Plug-In Hybrids Still Have An Important Role In Our Increasingly Electrified World: COTD

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As EVs continue their trek for world domination, you may wonder if plug-in hybrids are worth keeping around. After all, you retain the maintenance of a gas engine and add the complexity of a hybrid system. Hybrids fall short of BEVs on pure EV range and depending on where you live, it may be hard to find a technician willing to work on it. There are zero shops willing to work on my wife’s Prius in our city of 30,000. For all of those concerns, hybrids still do one thing great.

Patrick George got to drive the new and seriously attractive 2023 Toyota Prius Prime for a week. His tester had up to 39 miles of range from its battery, which isn’t a lot of miles for EV-only running. Yet, it resulted in the car being returned with a tank that was barely even used.

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From the perspective of reducing the consumption of fuel, the Prius shows that it’s still relevant, even if it’s not pure EV. Peer into the comments of that article, and you’ll see even more reasons why hybrids still rock:

Nsane In The MembraNe takes the COTD crown today:

I legitimately get excited when I see the new Prius in the wild. What Bizarro world are we living in when I get hyped up to see a Prius? It’s weird and I’m not sure how to feel about it…but boy is it striking in person.

I’ve also said innumerable times that PHEVs are amazing and are the perfect solution for folks in urban environments who need extra range every now and then. I’m not surprised at all that you barely touched the gas tank in the press car. I think around 50 miles of pure EV range is the sweet spot for a lot of people and it seems like it’s more or less what manufacturers are aiming for at this point.

Hell my dad’s new X5 50e has nearly 50 miles of EV range! That’s nuts to me. Anyway if you want to reduce your emissions and save some money without all the BEV comprises PHEVs are great right now. They’re here! They’re available! They don’t cost $60,000…and I remain perplexed as to why we aren’t talking about them more.

As a side note, I love creative usernames and Nsane In The MembraNe definitely gets a smile from me. Matt Haubrich followed it up with another good anecdote:

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This summer we did a 3,500 mile road trip in my 2016 X5 PHEV, including a couple of nearly 600mi days. Never could have done it in a pure EV. We were able to charge nearly every night at hotels, which helped with overall fuel economy. Performed really well on rural two-lanes even though it’s only a 4cyl 2.0L gas engine because the electric motor kicked in to aid in passing maneuvers – 55 to 85 in practically no time. Definitely will be looking for another PHEV next time I’m in the market for a new car. Now that I’m back home, I won’t need to visit a gas station for at least a month, since nearly 100% of my day-to-day driving is in EV mode.

Those stories right there are why PHEVs are still great. For many people, they have enough range for day-to-day driving. Then, when it’s time to put some serious miles down, you aren’t married to charging stations down your path. That’s a win in my book! It’s for this reason one of the cars I want to own someday is a first-generation Chevy Volt.

Since we’ve been a couple of days behind, I’ll nominate one more COTD. A comment thread in this morning’s TVR Cold Start had me giggling. From Man With A Reliable Jeep:

TVR deftly straddles that ambiguous line between “garage-built kit car” and “legitimate auto manufacturer.”

This sparked a thread with Captain Muppet delivering an equally hilarious reply:

As an engineer who has worked for some British OEMs I totally agree.

“Are we really doing it like this?”
“Yes”
“But this isn’t how Honda or BMW or Toyota would do it”
“If these parts were good enough for the 1971 Morris Marina they’ll be good enough for us!”

Fantastic. Have a great evening, everyone!

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12 Point Socket
12 Point Socket
9 months ago

I really want to love the new Prius Prime, I think it looks pretty good, but when a new Tesla model 3 with tax credit ends up being the same price or cheaper it is just a hard sell for me.

Fletcher Smith
Fletcher Smith
9 months ago

Yeah, but then you’re supporting Elon Musk in purchasing one of those.

Tesla is on my No Way in Heck list because I don’t want to be mistaken as someone that aligns with him.

Goof
Goof
9 months ago

In the right environment, Hybrids and PHEVs are one of the best, “transition vehicles” right now until full-fledged BEV technologies figure out what the long-term standards will be for battery composition, system voltage, etc. Plus while independent mechanics increasingly familiarize themselves with doing extensive service on BEVs.

I’ve done a battery swap in a normal Prius. Never did one before. All in, cost me less than $2,000, operated as if it was new, replacement cells had a fantastic warranty, and just took me a weekend in the garage. If I did another one, I could do it in a long day.

I recommended a friend buy a barely used RAV4 Prime off his (disliked) sister who really didn’t know better and had decided she wanted a Venza. 18K miles, near mint, and half of what dealers were asking for new ones during the pandemic. He puts 18,000 miles a year on it. Lots is very local, where plugging-in at home covers trips, but he does have some longer 200-250 mile round-trip family visits they do fairly often.

Per his tracking, he’s averaged 170mpge. If it wasn’t for the family visits, he’d probably have to put Sta-bil in it before he fuels up, because it’d take forever to burn the tank down.

Last edited 9 months ago by Goof
Mick Molte
Mick Molte
9 months ago

Another 2nd gen Volt owner, just popping in to say that they’re amazing. And that it’s insane GM couldn’t figure out how to sell them…or how to put the drivetrain in a C/SUV form factor…or how to keep the press from absolutely destroying the 1st gen upon its launch.

We’ve had ours for 10k miles and have gotten 170mpg over those 10k miles. The first owners leaned harder on the gas motor and only got 110mpg over the 30k miles they drove it. PHEV specs as a whole are just now almost sorta barely catching up to the specs of the Volts—eg, this Prius slots in about half way from gen1 to gen2 Volt specs. Insanity.

PHEVs really are the ideal solution for most people, but try to explain it to most people and it’s like you’re trying to explain differential calculus or something.

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
9 months ago

You can get a hell of a deal on a first Gen Volt. Get one with a bad battery and pop a refurbished unit in there. You have content for articles and a car that’s cheap as hell and super reliable

Jeff Hager
Jeff Hager
9 months ago
Reply to  Dinklesmith

Four years back I went looking for a Volt to replace a Prius C. I had a shorter commute and bought a house with the main electric panel in the garage. A PHEV was the perfect choice. My commute is all electric and if I want to go on a road trip, I don’t have to plan around chargers in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately there was some sort of pandemic that closed everything down. Eventually I found a Cadillac ELR for new Versa money. If you don’t need a back seat, it’s a nice choice. After the pandemic my SO added a PHEV Wrangler to the garage. She also commutes on electrons. I’m pretty sure she filled it up in June sometime. Honestly it probably adds $35 a month to the electric bill and dodges the BEV tax on tag renewals in my state.

Elhigh
Elhigh
9 months ago

My son owns a first-gen Volt. He loves it. Gases up maybe once a month, after driving an overnight trip to visit his wife’s parents.

Goof
Goof
9 months ago
Reply to  Elhigh

You know a car was really good when they were very heavily favored by auto journalists and video personalities to the point where they bought them rather religiously.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
9 months ago

My parents are pretty happy with the Niro PHEV they picked up last year. They use it for in-town errands and grandchild hauling, so they’ve only put gas in it a few times. You are definitely paying for the technology over the niceties though. The interior isn’t awful, but if it was a standard ICE vehicle you’d rightfully feel like you got screwed for the price. Sooooo much hard black plastic. Econoboxes from a decade before this car had better interiors. There are reasons why the RAV4 Prime costs a lot more, and it’s not just the Toyota tax.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
9 months ago

Thanks Mercedes! I’ve had a dreadful week so far and this has cheered me right up.

PlugInPA
PlugInPA
9 months ago

I love PHEVs and own two (Chrysler Pacifica and Chevy Volt). I used to own a C-Max Energi. BUT…Patrick only plugged in the Prime once during his review. There’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe parked on my street that seems to never get plugged in. And many PHEVs have been advertised as “plugging in is optional”, especially by BMW and Jeep. So I’m sympathetic to the idea that PHEVs are a more efficient use of batteries than full electrics, but they’re a hideously inefficient use of batteries if they’re never plugged in and they just take up space in a car that’s getting under 25 MPG like many of the most popular examples.

As for the Prius Prime, Toyota’s technical achievements don’t matter if they’re not in stock but 4Runners are.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
9 months ago
Reply to  PlugInPA

I know for the BMW X5, the price premium for the PHEV was pretty “cheap”. So when you could get it with a tax credit, the PHEV ended up being a pretty good deal if you wanted an X5. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tax credit for the Jeep PHEVs does the same thing.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
9 months ago
Reply to  PlugInPA

How’s the Pacifica been? It interests me, but the PHEV version catches shit tons of flak for supposed reliability issues.

PlugInPA
PlugInPA
9 months ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

We almost got rid of it this summer because of issues, but none of them cost us a dime and it’s back on its good behavior. The problem is that Chrysler’s software people are not great and that replacing any component of the battery coolant loop introduces bubbles which might break other components.

Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour
9 months ago
Reply to  PlugInPA

Does the missing stow-n-go affect you? We have a Grand Caravan and the ability to use the stow-n-go for storage or to lower one or both of the captains chairs while away from home has been a game changer for us that has kept me from going hybrid. Also it’s paid off so gas will have to go higher to justify a new van payment even with increased mileage.

Jimmy7
Jimmy7
9 months ago

Let me take you back to a dark time on the automotive internet, 2011, when nobody understood the Volt. “It’s electric, but it only goes 40 miles! That’s useless!”
”GM got bailed out and they had to build it! I’ll never buy one!” “It uses premium gas! How does that save me money?” “Two motors! A maintenance nightmare!”
Automotive writers actually wrote about testing a Volt when they didn’t have a place to plug it in!

Everything that we’ve learned about online trolls since Trump I first learned on Jalopnik when I bought a Volt. They swarmed to the comment section to trash the Volt, bashing GM and Obama and electric cars and treehuggers and hippies. Then (according to what I read online) Musk saved the world with Tesla and the Volt was even dumber, because it wasn’t electric enough.

Dealers were clueless about the car, even in Southern California. I went to buy the Volt right when GM temporary shut down production to cut down on inventory. GM dropped the price five grand six months later. Sales stayed down.

Toyota brought out the first Plug-in Prius with 13 miles of range and advertised it misleadingly as All Electric, but it got carpool access and because it was a Prius it was below the firing line and now they’re the new standard. Honda built the misnamed Clarity in both plug-in and electric versions and advertised it…not at all, and it withered away. GM killed the Volt after improving it, built and killed the Bolt, and now drifts aimlessly after squandering breakthrough technology.

And I drove my Volt to work for 7 years, charged it from midnight to 4 am, and filled up the 8 gallon tank once every 2 months. It was a great car but it was the BetaMax of transportation.

I’m glad PHEVs are starting to be appreciated. They still work best for most people, but they get overshadowed by pure electrics.This morning I passed a MachE with a “Let’s Go Brandon” sticker on the back window.

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
9 months ago
Reply to  Jimmy7

Can we award a follow up COTD on a COTD article itself? Because there is none more correct than James the Seventh, here.

If it were possible to extract energy from a metaphorical lightning rod, a single first generation Volt could have V2G’d our entire national electrical grid. GM designed the Volt as an attempt to leapfrog the Prius and in many ways it did, including generating controversy. By 2011 the Prius was already sliding into its comfortable position as “unkillable efficient penalty box” rather than “lib’rul smugmobile” but the Volt was there to pick up the baton.

You’d get some of the most dementedly dishonest journalism, too. “Don’t buy a Volt! It only goes 25 miles and then you’ll be stuck in the snow and have to eat your loved ones like the Donner Party!”

It was tightly linked to Barack Obama (who, in fairness, did say some rather silly things like “this is the first car that can drive across the country on electricity it makes itself,” which, lol) but by the tone of the editorials and cartoons you’d think he personally forged each one like Sauron crafting the rings. It was an Obama effigy to burn.

(PS. If you think Jalopnik’s comment section was bad, I genuinely hope you didn’t visit The Truth About Cars’ Volt articles in the early 2010s or, really, ever since.)

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
9 months ago
Reply to  Zeppelopod

I think those Jalopnik commenters moved on to The Drive. Man, that comment section can have some mind numbingly dumb takes.

PlugInPA
PlugInPA
9 months ago
Reply to  Jimmy7

Unfortunately PHEVs mostly seem to be appreciated as a rhetorical device to oppose EVs.

Root
Root
9 months ago
Reply to  Jimmy7

I was really excited about the Volt back when they first came out, but then I sat in one. Found the interior was not my cup of tea – my memory is that it had too much hard plastic and capacitive touch “buttons” that didn’t seem particularly responsive even when new. Then there was the silly gap between the two rear seats that would allow small items in the hatch area to just roll forward into the back seats under braking. It seems like it would have been great for the commute I had at the time, but I couldn’t imagine spending nearly 2 hours a day with that interior. Was really banking on other options coming out, but as other commenters have pointed out the other manufacturers really didn’t offer options to compete with the Volt for about the next decade.

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago

Range Extended BEVs > ICE based PHEVs.

Stealthwang
Stealthwang
9 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

i see that even after an engineer in another thread told you that there are functionally no distinguishing features between these things you are still beating that dead horse

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
9 months ago
Reply to  Stealthwang

Hang around here long enough, and you’ll learn that MrLM002 is the living example of: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.

Utherjorge
Utherjorge
9 months ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

“you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them think”

FTFY

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

I am stubborn, but comparing me to a horse is uncalled for. The damn Native Americans solved the Horse problem in America then Europeans brought them back here…

I’ve personally seen horses attempt to curb stomp a blind and deaf Shih Tzu because it’s old ass got out of the house and managed to cross a line invisible to it and the horses deemed that a killable offense.

Donkeys are cool though.

Last edited 9 months ago by MrLM002
Scoutdude
Scoutdude
9 months ago
Reply to  Stealthwang

The things that have been sold as range extended EV’s in the US were nothing more than PHEVs but that does not mean that there is no functional difference between a true range extended EV and a PHEV. A true range extended EV would allow you to start the engine before the battery was drained when you knew your trip would exceed the EV only range. The engine would be small like in the i3 but by having it running from the start it could maintain a minimum SOC so you have the power on tap when needed. The i3 can be programed to run as a REEV but that is not the way it was sold.

Mick Molte
Mick Molte
9 months ago
Reply to  Scoutdude

“A true range extended EV would allow you to start the engine before the battery was drained when you knew your trip would exceed the EV only range.”

That’s literally something literally every single Chevy Volt built since literally 2013 offers with literally a push of a button.

The amount of people who have no fucking clue about how these things work never ceases to amaze.

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago
Reply to  Stealthwang

So I assume you saw their engineering degree, and assume that an engineer has never been wrong once, and that you yourself have never seen an engineer do or say something idiotic…..

Most trains in the US are diesel electric where the engine generates power for the electric motors that drive the wheels. Engines constantly dancing around the rev range is not optimal for them. Running at a set RPM does the best to minimize wear and tear of the engine.

Since apparently you cannot tell the difference between Range Extended BEVs and ICE based PHEVs I’ll list out the obvious ones.

Range Extended BEV: Greater usable electric range, is perfectly functional as a BEV with an inoperable ICE engine. less engine wear and tear, is primarily a BEV (less exhaust pollution), has a more efficient drivetrain, etc.

ICE Based PHEV: Hardly any useable electric range, without the ICE engine it’s a BEV dragging around a boat anchor and most cannot do highway speeds in BEV mode, more engine wear and tear (greater use, more complex, etc.), less efficient drivetrain (that is also more complex), generally an afterthought (lets take this ICE car, shoehorn electric motors into this ICE drivetrain not optimized for them, and take up interior space with a battery that won’t fit), etc.

Stealthwang
Stealthwang
9 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

it sure is easy to claim that this is a god’s gift to powertrain design when there are literally no production examples in existence

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago
Reply to  Stealthwang

BMW i3, Fisker Karma, etc. Most modern-ish ICE powered locomotives use series hybrid drivetrains and many ships use series hybrid drivetrains, they just don’t use plug in chargers.

A Series PHEV (commonly known as a range extended BEV) is ICE fuel and grid charging optional, you can run it purely on combustible fuels (depending on what the engine is built for), you can run it purely on electricity from grid charging, or more likely you’d use both. A nice thing about Series PHEVs is that the ICE engine can be OPTIONAL just like it was on the i3. If you want a pure BEV you can get that, if you want to give up a slight amount of pure electric range for extra ICE range and the ability to fill up at gas stations you can do that too very easily. So easily with the proper design you could make the range extenders easily replaceable generator units that are super easy to remove and install from the car. Why have your car in the shop waiting for service, repair, or replacement of a range extender when the range extender can literally be a generator that you can just take out the the car in less than an hour?

Non-Series PHEVs are hardly ICE Fuel optional when brand new in optimal temperatures, many cannot do highway speeds in BEV mode even brand new. Taking a Non-Series PHEV and trying to make a BEV off of it is much harder as 90% of the time you’re taking an ICE design, shoehorning a charger, oversized battery, and (an) electric motor(s) into it. If you don’t have the room for a (relatively small) PHEV battery pack stock then you’re going to have likely lots of trouble fitting a pure BEV battery pack in there as well. It can be done, but usually with much worse BEV range than an equivalent from the ground up BEV. ICE engine failure in a Non-Series PHEV basically totals the vehicle as it is hardly usable in BEV only mode, and it has to lug around the massive amount of dead weight from the large ICE engine and the transmission.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
9 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

It is just too bad that no one has ever sold a true Range Extended EV in the US.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
9 months ago

I’m all for PHEVs as we purchased an Escape PHEV back in Feb. In our normal everyday driving we are pure EV and usually only charge to 80% to get that done all with one of the standard outlets in the garage. We haven’t used any gas since it’s last road trip 3 weeks ago and I don’t expect to use any before our next road trip at the end of the month.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 months ago

Thanks Mercedes! I’m glad my name tickles you. I’m a big fan of puns, I drive an N, and I love old school hip hop so it all came together pretty quickly. Speaking of PHEVs I’m going to get a bunch of time around my dad’s new X5 50e over the next couple of weeks and I’d be happy to write something up about it for the site if anyone’s interested.

Last edited 9 months ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
RootWyrm
RootWyrm
9 months ago

“If these parts were good enough for the 1971 Morris Marina they’ll be good enough for us!”

And that’s how you spot the engineer unfamiliar with the 1971 Morris Marina.
Or really any Morris Marina.
Or any Morris at all.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
9 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

I Co-own a very charming Morris Cowley, 1924ish, the thing is unstoppable. Not a joke about the brakes, although they are dreadful, but the whole very functional thing. William Morris was not, first and foremost an engineer or designer. The cars were bitsas, a bit of that from one engineer, a bit from another and so on. Assembly took place in Cowley, but very little mechanical fabrication What it is is a small, slow piece of raw capitalism.
Engineering was not Lord Nuffields first love.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 months ago

“one of the cars I want to own someday is a first-generation Chevy Volt”

Me too but it’s the 2nd gen on my short list.

TDI_FTW
TDI_FTW
9 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Yeah, definitely go for 2016+. Also on my short list

Millermatic
Millermatic
9 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Picked up a 1st Gen on the cheap about a year ago. Love it. Still gets at least 35 miles before the gas kicks in (I’ve seen 40+… but not with AC). Put a 220v plug under the porch… and think we’ve used about 20 gallons of gas in the last 5000 miles.

Last edited 9 months ago by Millermatic
TommyG
TommyG
9 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

We drive a 2016 Volt with 66,xxx miles. We love it. I’d estimate 3/4ths of our driving is all on electric but gas will come in handy next week when we visit our son 150miles away. Highly recommend one if you can find one that has not been abused. Wish GM had seen the logic of this drive train. Don’t know what we’ll do when it has to be replaced.

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
9 months ago

Admittedly I’m biased (1st gen owner here) but I do love the aesthetics of the original more.

You kinda have to appreciate it for what it is – the vehicular version of EPCOT Center at Disney World. It leans so hard into “this is the car of TOMORROW!” that it comes around to being endearingly silly. Especially the interior – capacitative buttons are the devil in 99.9% of cars but I like them on the first-gen Volt because, again, endearingly silly.

It’s somehow a reflection of Obama-era “things might not be so bad after all” cautious optimism while also being a sober reminder of bailout era GM while ALSO being a showcase of what GM could do when it let the engineers have free rein. (Which is also why the thing cost $44k in 2011, because it is vastly over-engineered for what it is. Having a 16.4 kWh battery and using 10.5kWh of it is some magnificent state-of-charge pampering.)

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