Should you buy an EV or PHEV?

The debate about which EV to buy has become a simplistic discussion just about range. Most reviewers seem to focus only on how many miles you can drive between charging, as if that’s all that matters or is more important than anything else. What’s missing in all of these reviews is that we don’t all use our cars in the same way, and the recommendations are very much dependent on use case. In only perhaps 10% of the cases, is range is of paramount importance.

Range matters for those that travel long distances each day such as a sales people. It has little meaning for those that commute to an office 10 or 20 miles away or simply do errands around town. Range doesn’t matter at all if you drive less than your maximum range in a day and then charge your car at home.

Range is simply a benefit to minimize the inconvenience of recharging, and that only matters if you can’t charge where you live, such as in an apartment, or when you’re away from home for an extended period and need to rely on public chargers. A couple of long trips a year should not drive your decision about what’s best most of the time. It makes a lot more sense to focus on other factors. It’s like picking a car based on the size of the gas tank when you only consume a full tank every week or two.

There are many more factors than range, just like there are with conventional cars – items like cost, interior fit and finish, seating comfort, visibility, performance, ride quality, interior noise, ergonomics, and technology. You can use much the same process as you do with gas-powered cars to make a selection.

If you’re driving an older car, you may be surprised to see the advanced technology found in new models, such as very large bright displays – some spanning much of the dashboard and the use of cameras that monitor the space all around to make your trip safer. Other new features include rear view mirrors that turn into LCD displays, heads-up displays that project directions and other real time information onto your windshield, and adaptive speed control and lane guidance for effortless driving on highways. The combination of CarPlay and Android Auto and large displays provides a great navigation solution with easy access to all sorts of entertainment, including music services, podcasts, and books on tape. I especially like not needing to plug my phone in to access CarPlay, because it’s all done wirelessly. These are all good reasons why you may want to buy a new car.

EVs and PHEVs

If an EV just doesn’t work for you, you can still drive an “electric” PHEV that combines battery with gas. But unlike the original Prius hybrid that use both gas and battery together, a PHEV is an EV that becomes a gasoline-powered car when the battery runs out. They’ve become one of the hottest segments of the automotive market, but still gets short shrift from reviewers – because of their short range!

But for many it’s the perfect solution. In fact, Toyota has minimized the importance of EVs, and put a strong emphasis on building more PHEVs, while GM foolishly killed what was the best PHEV ever built. In 2019 their CEO killed the Volt, because she said customers did not want them. GM is really our of touch with their customers, first killing the Volt, trying to kill the Bolt, and now removing CarPlay and Android Auto from their vehicles and doing their own in-car software in an effort to sell us apps for the car.

According to the WSJ, GM dealers are resisting:

Dealers who serve on advisory committees to the automaker have urged executives in several recent meetings to add hybrids [PHEVs] to GM’s lineup, according to people involved in the discussions. GM has focused on fully electric cars in recent years and largely bypassed hybrids, which pair an internal combustion engine with a small battery and electric motor to boost fuel efficiency.

The dealers said they expressed concern that more customers are looking for a middle ground between conventional gas-engine cars and EVs, which are more expensive and require regular charging. 

Buying an PHEV or EV depends on your personal situation. Don’t buy an EV unless you live in a home where you can easily charge at night. For those that never want to stop and charge when away from home, and usually drive less than 40 or 50 miles a day, an PHEV is a perfect choice. In fact after driving a Volt PHEV with a 54 mile range, I used less than 75 gallons of gas each year

While GM never figured it out, consumers have spoken and PHEVs now account for 25% of plug in sales:

We should be celebrating all of the new choices. Never before has there been so much innovation from so many companies across the world. No one needs any longer to settle on a gas only car .

by Phil Baker

2 thoughts on “Should you buy an EV or PHEV?

  1. McKinney says:

    Whether EV or Plug-in EV’s- Even if you own your home, if you do not have an electrified garage you are out of the demographic.

    The Honda Hybrids (no plug in) get 40+ mpg on regular fuel. That’s better than any PHEV.

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