Hybrid cars are known for their efficiency, reduced emissions and lower fuel costs. The success of the first hybrid car, Toyota Prius, has led many car manufacturers to create their version of the eco-friendly vehicle.

Hybrid vehicles use a combination of a gasoline engine, an electric motor and a battery. These cars provide an alternative to conventional gas-powered cars and reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

The introduction of the standard hybrid has opened doors for further research into automotive hybrid technology. It has resulted in the development of plug-in hybrid cars and fully electric vehicles.

The Introduction of Hybrid Vehicles

The term “hybrid” has become commonly used in the automotive industry. Its popularity can be attributed to the worldwide introduction of the Toyota Prius in 2000. 
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The Toyota Prius was the first mass-produced vehicle to combine gas and electric power.

When it was first released in America, Prius was rated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) at 41 mpg in the combined city/highway cycle. In comparison, the Toyota Corolla was rated at 30 mpg combined.

Toyota Prius’ outstanding fuel economy was due to its hybrid powertrain. Hybrids run on both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor-generator fueled by a large battery pack.

Hybrid vehicles deliver substantially better fuel economy and lower carbon footprint than their non-hybrid counterparts. Hybrids are often much more efficient in city driving conditions. 

Using less fuel allows you to make fewer stops at the gas station. However, hybrid cars may not be ideal if you are taking a long commute.

There are two main types of hybrid vehicles: full hybrids and mild hybrids. Full hybrids are typically powered by electricity before it switches to gas at a certain speed. 

The gas engine works with the electric motor under heavy throttle. Once the car is at cruising speed, the gas engine takes over. 

Mild hybrids are similar to full hybrids, but they cannot operate only on electric power. They increase the gas engine in all situations, including initial take-off. 

Traditional hybrid vehicles use the internal combustion engine and regenerative braking to recharge their battery packs. 

However, they can't be plugged in at an electric vehicle charging station, unlike plug-in hybrids. It makes plug-in hybrid vehicles more similar to full electric vehicles. 

The Progression into Plug-In Hybrids

The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) was a step forward from the standard hybrid. After the Toyota Prius’ success, car manufacturers have looked into adding a larger battery and upsized electric motor to their hybrids. 

The added battery capacity provides the PHEV with a much longer driving range on electric power alone.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are based on the same powertrain architectures of conventional hybrids. 

While a conventional hybrid only relies on its engine for battery power, a plug-in hybrid can obtain a significant amount of energy from external sources to recharge its battery. 

However, the plug-in hybrid's big battery packs can also run down quickly. After the electric range is depleted, the PHEV operates much like a traditional hybrid again. 

The battery pack won't fully recharge from the internal combustion engine or regenerative braking. 

The only way to gain enough charge is by plugging it into a regular household power outlet or an electric vehicle (EV) charging station. 

A typical plug-in hybrid, like the Prius Prime, is rated by the EPA at 25 electric-only miles. 

Using 120-volt household current, recharge times for the Prius Prime are about 5.5 hours, and about two hours on a 240-volt charger. 

With its larger battery pack and added hardware and software, PHEVs are priced higher than a standard hybrid. For instance, a Prius plug-in hybrid costs several thousand dollars more than its base model.

Like all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids displace the car tailpipe's emissions to the generators powering the electricity grid. These generators may have lower emissions than an internal combustion engine or may be renewable. 

Rather than using the on-board engine, charging the battery from the grid helps reduce operating costs. 

The Development of Electric Vehicles

The battery-electric vehicle (BEV), or full electric vehicle, relies on a big battery with at least one electric drive motor wired to it. These motors get their juice from a large battery pack. 

The most significant advantage of electric cars is that they run on a clean energy source.  Compared to some hybrids that run on gas, BEV does not emit toxic gases or smoke in the environment. 

Most electric cars, however, have a limited range of about 50-100 miles). You can't use them for long journeys as they need to be recharged, and it may be hard to find a charging station. 

To provide enough charge for long-distance monitoring, the battery pack in a full electric vehicle is larger than what a plug-in hybrid uses. As a result, electric cars weigh heavier than similarly sized cars. 

Another key advantage of BEVs is regenerative braking. It recovers kinetic energy that usually gets released as frictional heat in the braking process. In an electric vehicle, the kinetic energy is used to charge the batteries.

BEVs are typically charged from an EV charging station or conventional power outlets. Electric vehicles get their power using an on-board charger installed in the car. 

However, electric cars do not feature fast charging. The process can take hours or even a day, but it often gives a sufficient charge for normal daily usage.

Some notable examples of battery electric vehicles include the 2012 Tesla Model S sedan, 2019 Chevrolet Volt and 2019 Nissan Leaf. 

Choosing the Right Eco-Friendly Vehicle

Despite their similarities, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars have distinct qualities. The table below compares them using their range, purchase price, reliability, performance and maintenance costs.

If you’re planning to buy a new car, these features can help you choose the right eco-friendly option for you.

 
  Hybrids Plug-In Hybrids Electric Cars
Range (mpg) 55 city/49 highway 30 city/highway 118 city/107 highway
Purchase Price $22,930-$28,340 $39,995-$45,545 $37,990-$54,990
Resale Price $19,000-$24,000 $20,000-$27,000 $37,980-47,870
Reliability Efficient for city driving conditions Can function as an electric car Less complex mechanical design
Performance Fuel-efficient Increased range Immediate and quiet acceleration
Maintenance Costs $2,000 N/A $485

Range

In terms of range, electric cars are the ideal option. The 2020 Tesla Model 3 has 118 mpg in the city and 107 mpg on the highway.

A hybrid model like the 2020 Honda Insight has 55 mpg city and 49 mpg highway. Plug-in hybrids, like the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, have combined 30 mpg.

Purchase price

Hybrid vehicles are the most affordable option among the three. The 2020 Honda Insight’s price ranges from $22,930 to $28,340. 

For plug-in hybrids like the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, the purchase price ranges from $39,995 to $45,545. Meanwhile, the 2020 Tesla Model 3 sells for $37,990 to $54,990. 

Plug-in hybrids and electric cars provide the benefits of a tax credit. For instance, the tax credit lowers the electric car’s purchase price by $7,500. 

Resale price

Electric cars from Tesla have a high resale price that ranges from $37,980 to $47,870. Plug-in hybrids’ resale price ranges from approximately $20,000 to $27,000.

Meanwhile, hybrids have the lowest resale value of about $19,000 to $24,690. 

Reliability

Hybrid cars are efficient for city driving conditions. However, these cars may not be the best choice on a highway or if you are taking a road trip. 

Although they feature a less complex mechanical design, electric vehicles also have a limited range. 

Plug-in hybrids are the superior option in terms of reliability. The car can function as an electric vehicle, while its gasoline engine allows you to take longer trips. 

Performance

When it comes to performance, hybrids provide better fuel economy and easy fill-ups. Plug-in hybrids have increased range, but they need to be plugged regularly to function like an electric vehicle.

Electric vehicles feature immediate and quiet acceleration. However, range anxiety may be a concern because these cars take time to recharge. 

Maintenance costs

Among the three, electric vehicles have the lowest maintenance cost of about $485. Meanwhile, the maintenance of hybrid cars may cost up to $2000.

Where To Buy Your Eco-Friendly Vehicle

If you’re in the market for a used vehicle, look no further than EchoPark®. We offer a wide selection of nearly new vehicles, including many in the hybrid and electric classes. Check out our current inventory and find a location near you.