Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles Regain Ground Among Motorists

Plug-in hybrids are a great transition vehicle for people who aren’t completely comfortable with switching to fully electric vehicles. They come equipped with an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, making it possible for drivers to power their cars through either electricity or fuel. This significantly increases range and alleviates a problem that prevents many drivers from ditching their gasoline-powered cars for EVs: range anxiety.

Over the past couple of months, there has been a surge in plug-in hybrid EV sales, partly due to soaring gas prices that have made running conventional cars quite pricey. Wards Intelligence estimates that American buyers bought 176,000 plug-in hybrids last year up from 69,000 units in 2020. This year, Cox Automotive predicts that hybrid sales could hit 180,000 despite overall sales in the new-car market dropping from 15.3 million in 2021 to 14.4 million this year.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) made up around 5% of the new-vehicle market amid increasing EV prices while hybrids accounted for 7% of the market. Most industry executives and analysts expect BEV sales to eventually eclipse hybrid sales as automakers step up their efforts to achieve zero tailpipe emissions and reduce their carbon footprints. However, this could take a while as increasing choices and rising fuel prices have made hybrids popular among American drivers.

Rising electric vehicle prices are pushing more consumers to less costly hybrids. EVs have traditionally been expensive, relying mostly on a small group of first adopters, wealthy people, and a variety of state and federal incentives to boost sales. In recent months, however, automakers have struggled to source crucial battery components due to supply shortages, increasing the cost of production and ultimately raising the average price of a new battery electric car to a whopping $66,000.

Plug-in hybrids tend to be more affordable because they have smaller batteries, which are usually the most expensive component in an EV. Federal income tax credits for models such as the BMW 330e, Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in and the Toyota RAV4 Prime make them even more affordable. A smaller battery also means they don’t have to be plugged in for hours to charge fully, making plug-in hybrids more appealing than conventional electric cars.

With the addition of a combustion engine, drivers basically never have to worry about running out of range because they can pull into one of more than 140,000 gas stations in the country and refuel. The average plug-in hybrid has a lot to offer in terms of cost savings and range, and American drivers are starting to take notice at a time when entities such as QuantumScape Corp. are also making strides in developing alternative battery chemistries so that the batteries in BEVs and PHEVs can do a lot more work before needing to be topped up.

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