A recent national survey conducted by CarMax found that 55.9% of car owners said they are “likely” to buy an electric vehicle or hybrid as their next car purchase.
“For most people, the top benefit of hybrid and electric vehicles wasn’t personal: It’s for the environment,” the report reads. Some 68.4% of respondents said their main incentive for buying an electric car was the environmental benefit. There are other incentives, including rebates, lower cost per mile and less maintenance.
Alexandra Kelley, writing for thehill.com, stated, “While both U.S. infrastructure and consumer enthusiasm need to see further growth, 89.5% of car owners believe hybrid vehicles are becoming more popular and a whopping 91.8% believe sustainable cars will outnumber traditional gas-powered vehicles by 2050.”
President Joe Biden has set a new target for the U.S. to reduce 50%-52% of its greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. To help meet that goal, his administration wants half of new U.S. vehicle sales to be electric by 2030. Regulators are also tightening emission standards for all cars and trucks.
“The importance of these new vehicle emission standards is hard to overstate,” said Dan Lashoff, director of the World Resources Institute. “Along with the infrastructure investments currently under consideration in Congress, these standards will be among the most impactful measures that the Biden administration can take to address the climate crisis.”
If you are a part of the 55.9% of those likely to make a hybrid or electric car your next new car purchase, how do you decide? Should you get a hybrid, go electric or get a plug-in, and what is the difference?
Here is the run-down.
A hybrid is 100% gasoline-fueled, but also relies on an electric motor that can at times power the car to delay the use of the gasoline engine and save fuel. When you are stopped at a stop sign, or coasting, the electric motor acts like a generator and stores that energy in a small battery where it is immediately used the next time you accelerate. This extra energy improves your gas mileage. As a result, hybrids have better mileage when driven in town than on highways.
In contrast, an electric car (EV) has a large battery and an electric motor powerful enough to provide adequate range and performance without an engine or gas tank.
The third alternative is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). A PHEV is a hybrid with a much larger battery that is recharged, like an electric car, via an external power source. It works a lot like an electric car in that, when the battery has a charge, the gasoline engine is dormant. When the battery is down, it works like a hybrid. PHEVs lack the range of most fully electric cars, but are easy to charge and provide the ease of finding a gas station when you are traveling.
Increased mileage means less fossil fuel emissions. A hybrid such as the popular Prius gets over 50 miles per gallon, but uses fossil fuel and still spews out emissions, albeit less than a conventional vehicle. Many small gas-powered cars get at least 35 miles per gallon.
Electric cars are an entirely different animal. There are no emissions at all. There is no gas engine. Range on a charge will vary, but many new electric cars have a range in excess of 200 miles. Arguably, there may be emissions generated in producing that electricity. But, you can bet there are enormous added emissions involved in getting the gas you are putting into your car, from drilling, pumping, refining to transporting.
According to a Sierra Club report, the CO2 emissions from well to gas pump can range from about 3.35 pounds per gallon to 6.7 pounds per gallons, including the equivalent of other global warming gases, such as methane. Add to that the 4.6 metric tons of CO2 the average gasoline car emits each year.
Many environmentalists consider hybrids and PHEVs transitional. If you can afford it, the best bet is solar on your home’s rooftop that produces the electricity that charges your electric car. If you mostly drive in town, a good hybrid is convenient and will increase your gas mileage.
As for me, I am looking at the new PHEVs, at least until all those much-needed charging stations get built. I do have solar on my roof and can get up to the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon with some PHEVs. You just have to remember to charge it.
Judith Polich, a longtime New Mexico resident, is a retired attorney with a background in environmental studies and is a student of climate change. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.