Plug-in Hybrid Cars and Electric Cars: a Summary
What is a plug-in hybrid? It is a car that runs on electricity via a battery that you can charge by plugging into a regular electrical outlet. These cars, being hybrids, also have gas tanks that can be used to power the car and recharge the battery, giving you what some might call the best of all world’s (assuming mass transit, bicycling or walking aren’t options). Best of all would be to burn no liquid fuel, but plug-in hybrids allow us to reach, or closely approach, this ideal in many cases.
What is different about plug-in hybrids? The plug! Current commercial hybrid cars use batteries, but they inconveniently keep a barrier between you and the electric company. You have to burn gasoline (petrol) to charge the battery.
How can you buy a plug-in hybrid? You can buy a hybrid car “off the shelf” and have it converted to a plug-in hybrid. This service is available in the US, the UK and elsewhere. Plug-in hybrids may be available directly from Toyota by 2010. For more information on plug-in hybrid cars, the following sites are very valuable: Plug-in Partners, Plug-in America, Hybrids Plus (a manufacturer of plug-in hybrids in the US). See also the DVD “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, read the book “Plug-in Hybrids: the cars that will recharge America”, and read the blog “plugs and cars”. The site “What Green Car?” provides information about plug-in hybrids for consumers in the U.K.
What are the running costs of plug-in hybrids? Estimates suggest that the transportation costs are equivalent to gasoline at $1.00/gallon.
Don’t forget that purely electric cars and trucks and buses are also available in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. For example, in the US, Tesla Motors, Volt and Phoenix Motor cars offer a range from trucks to sports cars. I wrote a recent, short post on very small and inexpensive electric cars being made for India.
I’d like to hear about other plug-in hybrid and electric car options in the US and around the world, and people’s reaction to (a) the low cost of plug-in hybrids coupled with the security of a gas tank if you need it, vs. (b) purely electric cars, which now have long range driving ability as well as high power (in some cases).
Don’t forget that you can couple electric cars or plug-in hybrids with solar and/or wind powered electric systems for your home or work-place to minimize or eliminate the use of liquid hydrocarbon fuels like gasoline/petrol, ethanol, etc. You can even run your home off your car battery!
© James K. Bashkin, 2008
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