Is a plug-in hybrid relevant to the green car revolution?

Electric car purists drive either a Nissan LEAF or a Tesla Model S. They think a plug-in hybrid car is a cop out, because it still relies partially on an internal combustion engine. But what does a man who owns both have to say on the subject?

Peder lives in Southern California and has been blogging about electric cars since 2009. Over the years, he and his wife have owned and driven a number of electric cars, including an e-Golf and a MINI-E. Right now, their garage contains a BMW i3 and an i8. What better way to compare all electric driving with plug-in hybrid driving than the real world experience of one family who does both?

in his latest blog post, Peder writes, “This past month driving around our semi-urban, suburban home turf of Carlsbad California, our BMW i8 returned a fuel efficiency of somewhere north of 100 mpg. I expect this will be the normal life of our i8 in the years to come with the exception of a long road trip or two annually around America in which we average around 30mpg.” He thinks his experience driving the i8 is important because BMW is planning to offer a variation of the i8 drivertrain in every model across the entire BMW lineup in coming years.

Drivers of pure electric vehicle scoff that a car that only has a nominal electric-only range of about 20 miles is irrelevant. Peder thinks that view is wrong, because actual range will depend almost entirely on how the car is used. If a driver is always pushing the car to get maximum acceleration, range will be shorter. With a more restrained driving style, however, range can be quite a bit longer than average.

Studies have shown that a Chevy Volt only runs its range extender engine about 10% of the time. The majority of daily driving falls well within the car’s expected range. With the second generation Volt having an even more range, the gas engine should get used even less.

What Peder wants people to remember is that a plug-in hybrid completely eliminates any lingering range anxiety – the number one factor keeping many people from buying an electric car in the first place. He thinks the plug-in hybrid is an essential link in the transition from fossil fuels to fully electric cars. If plug-ins become irrelevant someday, it will be long after they have helped lead the way to general acceptance of electric driving.

As Peder puts it, “There never has been just one type of car that works for all. EV and PHEV’s should play nice in the sandbox together, as they both transition people, some more hesitant and slow to change than others, to electric driving.” Amen to that, brother.

Posted by Steve Hanley

Steve Hanley is a car nut and Formula One addict who occasionally drives his Mazda MX-5 on track at HPDE events. He has been known to drive to Nova Scotia just to see the lupins in bloom or to Watkins Glen for a weekend of historic racing. He writes about automobiles, technology and travel from his home in Rhode Island.

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