The Pros and Cons of Hybrid and Electric Cars

Aug 26, 2022

Vehicle

After fuel prices soared to record levels in June 2022, the steady drop in prices over the following months have provided welcome relief for consumers, especially given pent-up demand for travel in the wake of the pandemic. But unpredictable and often staggering prices at the pump have already accelerated growing interest in ownership of electrified vehicles. In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act and California’s sweeping plan to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered cars with zero-emissions mandates promise to keep the focus on these vehicles in the near future.

Electrified vehicles offer important advantages, including superior energy efficiency and fewer lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for a cleaner alternative to the traditional car powered entirely by an internal combustion engine. However, the average EV or hybrid also requires a larger upfront financial commitment than its gas-powered counterpart. On the other hand, electrified vehicles can potentially cost owners less to operate in the long term due to savings on fuel and, in many cases, lower maintenance costs. In addition, the federal tax credit along with rebates and other incentives from utility providers and state and local governments can significantly defray the costs of many energy-saving vehicles. To provide a clearer picture on the options available, we’ve examined the major upsides and drawbacks of both electric vehicles and hybrids:


Electric vehicles (EVs)

All-electric vehicles (EVs) are propelled by one or more electric motors, usually powered by a high-voltage battery pack. Some also use regenerative braking to extract kinetic energy and convert it into electricity stored in the battery. Because they operate entirely on electric power, EVs don’t require a petroleum-based fuel like gasoline or diesel.

Pros of Electric Cars

Electric vehicles have a minimal environmental impact
Overall, electric vehicles have a lower environmental impact than other car technologies on the market in 2022, including hybrids and conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines. Fully electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, which experts have deemed a leading cause of pollution and global warming. However, emissions are produced in the lifecycle of EVs during manufacturing, distribution and disposal. When it comes to an EV’s carbon footprint, considerations about whether the electricity used to power the vehicle come from a clean, renewable source also come into play. But on the whole, electric vehicles are the most eco-friendly choice.

Electric vehicles will save you loads of money on gas
With an EV, you won’t need to budget for trips to the gas station.  You can keep your vehicle running by conveniently plugging it into a home charging point at night. And charging an electric car will cost you much less money than filling your tank with gasoline or diesel. According to Consumer Reports, drivers in California save about $1,000 per year in fuel costs by switching to an electric vehicle. A report from the U.S. Department of Energy also asserts that the national average cost of fuel for an electric vehicle is about 60% less than that for a gasoline-powered vehicle (and this data pre-dates the gas price surges of 2022).

There is very little maintenance required for an EV
Another upside in terms of time and money is that you’ll eliminate much of the maintenance routinely required for a conventional car. A study from Consumer Reports has found that maintenance and repair costs over the life of an EV are about half of that of a gas-powered car. You won’t need to have the oil changed, or replace air filters, fuel filters or spark plugs. As The Penny Hoarder points out, this can shave hundreds of dollars from your car budget every year.

There is the possibility to recoup some of your upfront costs with a tax credit and/or state and local incentives
You may be able receive a credit of up to $7,500 on your federal income tax return for the purchase of a new electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid. With the restructuring of the federal tax credit under the Inflation Reduction Act, a tax credit will be available for certain used vehicles as well. As Kiplinger notes, although the new law expands the EV tax credit according to certain criteria, it also imposes new restrictions on who can claim the credit (e.g., income caps). Learn more at “EV Tax Credits Are Changing: What’s Ahead.” But be sure not to overlook the incentives, rewards and rebates offered by municipalities, states and local utility providers as well. Find a wealth of information on these programs at “Electric Car Rebates: What to Know by State” from Kelley Blue Book.

 

Cons of Electric Vehicles

You can’t drive the average electric car as far on a single charge as you can a conventional car on a full tank of gas
The term “range anxiety” is often bandied about when referring to one of the disadvantages of EVs. Some people aren’t entirely comfortable with the fact that the average electric car can’t be driven as far on a one charge as a conventional car with a full tank of gas. For some perspective, most electric cars have a range of about 124-304 miles for a single charge, while the average gas-powered car will reach about 300 miles on a full tank.

If you’re taking your EV on a long road trip, you’ll want to do some planning to determine where the charging stations are on your route, and have an idea of how long you’ll need to stop to recharge. But as Car and Driver magazine points out, electric cars have made considerable progress in terms of range over recent years, and many models can now get over 300 miles from one charge.

The purchase price and charging infrastructure can mean paying more in upfront costs
The typical electric vehicle has a higher purchase price than that of its gas-powered or hybrid equivalent. Moreover, installing the charging infrastructure for your home itself may run you several thousand dollars with the average cost at around $2,000 in 2022 for a home charging station and its installation.

According to the National Motorists Association which cites Kelley Blue Book, the average price for a brand-new EV is about $55,000 versus $35,000 for a gas-powered, four-door sedan. At the same time, there are economical options available in EVs, such as the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona Electric, KIA Soul EV and Chevy Bolt EV. But on average, you’re looking at higher upfront costs. While savings on fuel and maintenance as well as incentives like tax credits and rebates will offset them, it may take years to recoup the difference in price.

You’ll need to consider access to charging ports
In addition to the cost of installing a charging point at your home, it’s important to consider whether this is, in fact, feasible where you live. For many renters and those in urban areas, installing one at home is not an option. Accessibility to charging stations is critical, although this will be less of an issue as the number of charging stations increase.

Charging an electric car takes longer than fueling up with gasoline
In most cases, EVs will take anywhere from six to 12 hours for a full charge, which can be done at home, at a public charging station, or even at the office if your workplace is equipped for this. Faster-charging capabilities are available, such as DC fast charging, which allows you to charge a battery up to about 80% in about 30 minutes. But as The Penny Hoarder notes, this results in more rapid battery deterioration.

 

Hybrid Vehicles
While an electric vehicle relies only on electric power, hybrids run on both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. They’re equipped with only a small battery, so you’ll still need to fuel up at the gas station. The battery is actually charged by the internal combustion engine and via regenerative braking. Although hybrids offer many advantages, they have only a limited capacity for electric driving, with most driving powered by the internal combustion engine. Here’s a quick breakdown of reasons for and against buying a hybrid:


Pros of Hybrids

You can drive a hybrid for a long distance before having to refuel
A major plus for driving a hybrid vehicle is the long range that it offers, which exceeds that of both electric cars as well as conventional cars. Many hybrids can be driven up to about 700 miles before needing to be refueled.

Hybrids are an affordable option and you don’t have to worry about finding a charging station
Although you’ll typically pay more out of pocket for a hybrid than you would for a gas-powered car, hybrids are less expensive to buy than fully electric cars as well as plug-in hybrids. What’s more, you won’t need to budget for a charging infrastructure or scope out public charging stations near your home or travels, as you would with an electric vehicle. Just a few economical hybrids include the Toyota Camry Hybrid LE, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue and Ford Maverick XL FWD. Find more options at Motor Trend.

City driving is more fuel efficient due to regenerative braking
When it comes to the stop-and-start driving that you experience in urban areas, hybrids have the upper hand compared to gas-powered vehicles. This is due to the energy saving technology of regenerative braking, in which hybrids capture energy when you apply the brakes or release the accelerator pedal in order to coast.

Hybrids are better for the environment than traditional gas-powered vehicles
Unlike fully electric vehicles, hybrids do produce tailpipe emissions because they run on both liquid fuel in addition to battery power. However, fewer emissions are produced by hybrids than their conventional counterparts. One estimate puts the overall environmental impact of hybrids as 40-50% lower than that of vehicles powered by an internal combustion engine.

 

Cons of Hybrids

You’ll need to pay for gasoline
Although they are highly fuel-efficient, hybrids are still reliant on their internal combustion engine. Gas mileage will vary according to the model and type of driving, but a typical hybrid like a Prius might get about 50-55 miles per gallon.

They’re more expensive to buy than your standard, gas-powered car
Although they typically won’t set you back as much at the outset as an electric vehicle will, hybrids are still generally more expensive to buy than their gas-powered counterparts.

Hybrids are low power
If horsepower and strong acceleration are top considerations for the next vehicle you buy, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. Hybrids are well-known to be low power.

You’ll pay more when you have to take your car in for repairs
Although hybrids tend to have fewer issues than the average vehicle, they are also known to cost you more when you do need to take them in for repairs. This is due to not only the cost of parts but also the need for specialized mechanics.

Another Alternative to Consider: The Plug-in Hybrid
Finally, if you’re looking for a highly adaptable option when it comes to energy-efficient vehicles, you may want to investigate plug-in hybrids. Like EVs, many of these models are eligible for tax credits and incentives. Plug-in hybrids can run entirely on an electric motor powered by battery, and then transition to the gas engine once the battery charge is depleted. A huge plus of plug-in hybrids is that you can rely primarily on electric power for short commutes, and then fuel them up with gasoline for long road trips.

In most cases, the battery of a plug-in hybrid can’t be recharged by the internal combustion engine, so you’ll want to have a charging port at home, or at least convenient access to a public charging station. Also keep in mind that plug-in hybrids have less interior room for passengers or baggage, since multiple powertrain components including a large battery take up a good amount of space. A few affordable options include the Toyota Prius Prime, the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid and the Ford Escape PHEV.

While there are advantages and downsides to each type of electrified vehicle, the best choice for you will come down to personal choice, lifestyle and budget. With a growing number of options on the market and plans to expand the network of charging stations across the nation, it’s getting easier than ever to find one that meets your needs and won’t force you to make concessions when it comes to style. For help in assessing your potential savings, check out the EPA’s calculators for hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and/or visit CLEAResult from the U.S. Department of Energy for a breakdown on electric vehicles.

 

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