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Plug-In Hybrids Are Electric Cars With an Insurance Policy!

Plug-In Hybrids Are Electric Cars With an Insurance Policy!

The idea for a plug-in hybrid is fairly basic: You get a mix of an internal combustion engine (ICE) and a battery powered motor. The first one for long environment damaging trips and the other for short and clean ones!

Most major manufacturers seem to have got the idea of a plug-in hybrid is a great stepping stone to all-electric vehicles or fuel cell cars without the need to fully give up on the ICE as it’s what they spent so many years perfecting.

Everyone who is deciding to make a plug-in hybrid is giving us the impression that:

  • In the next few years they’ll be everywhere and almost everyone will have one.
  • That they’ll save the struggling car industry and also save the planet while they’re at it!

So how do they work?

Well basically they use the electric motor for as long as they can which is usually about 40 miles and then when the battery is almost gone they change to the ICE.

In some cars like the Chevy Volt the ICE will only be used to charge the battery like a generator when it gets drained but in others the ICE will move the wheels when the battery runs down.

The great advantage of how they work is if you just do your daily commute each day, and plug the car in at night to charge, you end up burning no fuel at all. Most people only travel about 40 miles on average a day in America, which means that you could end up spending days on end without ever even burning a drop of fuel!

So – I can usually take it for granted that there isn’t much out there right now when it comes to alternative transport and plug-in hybrids are no different. But I have to say the future looks pretty good for plug-in hybrids right now!

To put it in perspective – Toyota hopes to sell one million hybrids every year starting this year (2010).

So thinking of that, what plug-in hybrids should we expect to see in the near future?

Well after lots of promising and pushing back deadlines it looks like Toyota is finally going to make a plug-in version of the Prius. They say they’re now going to release it fully in 2011. They say they put it off for so long as it was a lot harder to change to plug-in than people think, even though many companies have been modifying them to plug-ins for years now!

The BYD F3DM (now there’s a hot little name!) may not be the most exciting looking car but it is ALREADY FOR SALE, but just in China at the moment, for around the equivalent of US $20,000. It’s also supposed to be exported in 2010 sometime.

Well we need something to spice this back up after that! In late 2010, Fisker will start delivering the Karma which is a plug-in hybrid sports car available for $87,900. Henrik Fisker, the CEO of Fisker used to be a designer for BMW and Aston Martin. So if he didn’t pick up a few tips on how to make a car look good from them then there’s no hope for the world!

The last promising car then out of a big bunch of expected plug-in hybrids is the Chevy Volt. It’s being talked about as if it’s going to save Detroit and America’s car industry and it’s going to be available in the US in 2011. It should also be available as the Opel Ampera in Europe around the same time. To be honest though for an 18 year old like me 2011 seems like an extremely long time away!

OK – so you heard all the up sides to plug-in hybrids but what are the downsides (apart from mainly not being available yet)? Well here are some that I see:

  • They have a lot of unproven technology as they have never really been tried in mass production yet so it could take a while to iron out the kinks.
  • Some people could have a problem trying to find a place to charge them – which could mean they take the “lazy” option of mostly using the engine all the time.
  • Obviously another one is the price! – at the moment they look a lot more expensive than even the usual hybrids which are already more expensive than a regular car. The Prius had a problem with price for a long time.
  • And finally Are they too little, too late – to save the environment, because that’s what they’re all about aren’t they?

So in summary: It looks like out of all the options for Electric Cars for me – the Plug-in Hybrid seems like the best one – especially compared with the All-Electric Cars around at the moment. But we’ll also have to wait a year or two first. Right now though I have to get my hands on some of those electric scooters and electric bicycles around at the moment!