Plugin Electrics vs All Electric Battery EVs, Epic Throwdown?

I get this every time I discuss EVs.  Something along the lines of oh, you shouldn’t be including PHEVs in with EVs, they don’t count, or are not real EVs, just a stopgap etc.

I tend to think PHEVs may be better product.  At least for now.  And I follow the GM’s Chevy Volt vs the Nissan Leaf with interest.

The main arguments on each:

Plug in Hybrids

  • No range anxiety
  • Still need gasoline
  • Can fuel up at either electric charging station, your home or gas station
  • Depending on driving patterns, may not need MUCH gasoline at all
  • Expensive because:  need both gasoline and electric systems, and batteries are still pretty expensive, even with a fraction of the amount that’s in an EV
  • Get all the torque and quiet and acceleration punch of an EV without the short range hassle
  • But not really an EV, after a few miles it’s “just a hybrid”
  • Future is just a stop gap until EV batteries get cheap? Or just a better car with all the benes and no cons?


Electric Vehicles

  • No gasoline at all (fueled by a mix of 50% coal,20% gas, and the rest nuke and hydro with a little wind 🙂 )
  • Amazing torque and acceleration
  • Dead quiet no emissions
  • Fairly slow to charge compared to gas
  • Lack of charging stations is getting solved, but still somewhat an issue
  • Switching one fuel for another, no extra flexibility on fuel
  • Expensive because lithium ion batteries are still pricey and way a lot
  • Future is cheaper better batteries?  Or they never get there and the future never arrives?

I tend to think the combination of plugins and EVs has actually worked together solved range anxiety.  As a consumer, I get to pick from a full basket when I buy, Leaf, Volt, Prius, Model S, lots of pricey batteries to deal with range anxiety, a plug in that gets me almost there with zero range issues, or a Leaf in between.  Whatever range anxiety I had disappears into consumer choice, just like it should.  I don’t think pure EV is any better or worse than a plugin, just a different choice.  They work together in the fleet, too, plug ins help drive demand for EV charging stations that are critical to electric car success, and EVs drive the cost down on the batteries that brings the plugin costs into line.  Unlike with the Prius over a decade ago, it’s not a single car changing the world, it’s the combination that’s working well for us.

3 replies
  1. biodiversivist
    biodiversivist says:

    Range anxiety is overblown. Google “range anxiety myth”

    Fast charging stations may be critical for EV success, but the slow ones being installed everywhere are pretty much a waste. I predict that ten years from now they will all be gone from public places …a huge waste of money. What good is a few extra miles of range while shopping? Stopping for five hours to get enough charge to get home should be a rare emergency measure. AAA can now send a fast charge truck to give you enough charge to get home if you mess up.

    I used to think that the plug-in hybrid would be the bridge to all electric but after seeing the expense of the the Volt and Prius plug-in, I may have to change my mind. The engineering compromises to achieve the Volt performance:

    1) 400 lbs heavier than Leaf, 600 pound heavier than Prius plug-in
    2) Much more expensive than Leaf
    3) Four passenger capacity
    4) 37 mpg in hybrid mode vs 50 mpg for Prius plug-in

    Not to say people should not buy a Volt, just reminding them that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

  2. Mike Parrott
    Mike Parrott says:

    First, you have an obvious error: “Expensive because lithium ion batteries are still pricey and *WEIGH* a lot.” Not to be picky but given the context of this article a basic scientific term like weight should be spelled correctly.

    Also with regards to this: ” I don’t think pure EV is any better or worse than a plugin, just a different choice.” I’d have to say that until you define *better* more precisely … you can’t answer this question. However, given a specific scenario/metrics you care about you can clearly make a choice. This also yields a much more interesting/in depth discussion.

    For example, if you compare the average American driver as defined by the DOT they drive 13,476 miles per year or 36.9 miles per day which is only HALF of the EPA’s 2013 model year estimated range of the Leaf. Given this context, you can re-interpret your pro/con list as follows (ignoring points that remain the same):

    Plug in Hybrids

    – For the Volt, the 2013 pure electric range (defined by EPA) of 38 miles means this car is also all electric on an average day
    – Knowing distributions of driving patterns you can calculate exactly how much gas you can expect to need annually. i.e. how many days does a driver do more than 38 miles? How often will you not be able to charge overnight? etc. This also takes out the wishy-washy question of “how much of a hybrid is this”?
    – If you can reduce gas consumption for the average American by 80% … do we really care if batteries ever get better? This makes the ‘future’ speculation less important.

    – Fairly slow to charge compared to gas *** this is more important than range for the average person.
    – Future is cheaper better batteries? *** Do you even need a better battery if the current one is double the needs of the average person? Is charging the bigger concern? Will other solutions (like the Tesla battery swapping station) mean that improving the battery is no longer relevant?

  3. John Nistler
    John Nistler says:

    PSIDA ZEV produces both electric and hybrid electric vehicles. I honestly believe that there are needs for each depending on the circumstance. If I look at our hybrids, the Renegade trucks, the Zeus SUV and the Grizzly jeep, adding a 50 cc series generator is much less expensive than stacking up on lithium batteries. And if a hybrid or EV is not affordable – its just not affordable! To truly penetrate the market, Hybrids and EV’s need to be cost competitive against similar product. And in general, over 90% of the time a hybrid should act like an EV.

    Now in my general running around, an EV such as the City 6000 electric motorcycle or the all Electric RoadRunner work just fine as long as I am talking about short trips to San Marcos or Lockhart, Texas. But if I need to go to Austin or San Antonio I either need to take a Commuter or 10K electric motorcycle or take one of the hybrids if I am going to the far side of those cities. While electrically all of these vehicles will obtain up to 140 miles, if I am pushing the limit, its better to be in the hybrids.

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