As we are moving into an unprecedented era of EV domination, hybrid and PHEV cars seem to be a stepping stone in this direction - utilizing both an internal combustion engine and electrical components, Plug-In Electric Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs) use gasoline and electricity as sources of fuel. Generally, electricity is used until the battery is depleted, after which the gas engine kicks in to power the car and the battery needs to be recharged by plugging the car into a power source. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) also require plug-in charging, but are not considered PHEVs.
List of The Best Plug-In Hybrids
Here is a list of the best plug-in hybrid vehicles that earn a spot on our rankings:
These are the qualities that are most commonly associated with plug-in hybrid cars:
Powertrain: Like hybrid cars, PHEVs run on a combination of gas-engine power and electrical assistance. The defining feature here is that the car can run on electrical power until depleted, and will then switch to gas.
Charging: As the name implies, PHEVs need to be connected to a power source to recharge the depleted battery. Most can be charged on household outlets, although it can take quite a bit of time to fully charge the batter like this. Higher level chargers offer quicker charging times.
Fuel Economy and All-Electric Range: Thanks to the electronic wizardry under the hood, PHEVS can travel on electric power alone for a set range of miles; depending on the size of the battery, this varies from PHEV to PHEV. Once depleted, the car reverts to utilising the internal combustion engine. In hybrid mode, a combination of gas and electric power are utilized to improve gas mileage, with regenerative braking adding charge to the battery as you drive. Gas mileage figures for PHEVs using both electricity and gas power are expressed as MPGe figures, which stands for ‘miles per gallon equivalent’
Versatility: You’ll find all different types of body styles on our list of the best plug-in hybrids, and this is because the technology is so versatile. From already frugal hatchbacks and sedan cars all the way through to heavier SUVs and high-performance convertibles, every type of vehicle can benefit from hybridization.
Pricing: While prices will vary depending on the type of car you want to buy, both in terms of body style and level of luxury, you can be assured that you’ll spend more on a PHEV than you would on a gasoline variant. However, the improvements to fuel economy usually make up for this added cost.
What to Consider Before Buying a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle
Here are some of the best plug-in hybrid electric vehicle qualities, and their drawbacks:
Rechargeable, so available power is less inconsistent
Electric-only range useful for those who do short trips daily
Less money spent at the pumps
More environmentally friendly
Often higher performance figures than gas-only cars
Pricing is much higher than standard models
Once the battery charge runs out, you get gas-only mileage
Heavier thanks to all the extra tech on board
Charging can take time
List of plug-in hybrid cars is not very extensive - yet
FAQs about PHEV cars
What is a plug-in hybrid vehicle?
A PHEV uses both a combustion engine and electric components to power a vehicle. Usually, the two work separately, with the electric motors and battery providing a certain level of electric-only range depending on the size of the battery pack before the engine kicks in and takes over. This gives them better overall fuel efficiency, especially with multiple short trips between charging cycles.
What is the difference between HEV and PHEV?
A regular HEV or MHEV also uses battery packs and motors like a PHEV, but it can only recharge spent electrical energy through the regenerative braking function. This means you will seldom have a lot of charge stored at any given time, and the impact on fuel economy is minimal. A PHEV also has regenerative braking, but it also lets you manually recharge the battery using a power outlet. This means you can travel a lot further on electrical energy alone, and refill it between trips for significantly better fuel economy.
What are the disadvantages of a PHEV?
Despite their many benefits, plug-in hybrids have a few drawbacks, too. These include the fact that they are often quite a bit more expensive than a gasoline or even standard hybrid car. Their touted fuel economy also means very little over long journeys, since their electric-only range is generally between 15 and 40 miles only.
Do plug-in hybrids charge while driving?
Most people will charge their PHEV at home before each trip, to ensure they get the most out of the electric range. But, as with regular hybrids and cars with mild-hybrid technology (MHEV), they will also slowly build up charge during driving through the regenerative braking system. The impact this has on overall fuel economy is small, however.
Which PHEV has the longest range?
You can normally expect an all-electric range of between 30 and 40 miles from the better-rated PHEVs on the market. However, some go a lot further than this, with the Polestar 1 boasting an impressive 93-mile all-electric range. The closest runner-up is the Mercedes-Benz GLE at 66 miles.