With the focus on renewable resources these days, the decision to buy a hybrid car or an electric car should be an informed one! There are big differences between these types of vehicles – much more than between hybrids and non-hybrid cars.
First, let’s take a look at structural and mechanical differences. Hybrid cars run on a combination of a gas or diesel engine and one or more electric drive motors. These electric drive motors can power large or small engines and typically get more miles per gallon of gasoline or diesel (mpg) than non-hybrids. The battery charges when braking or stopped while the ignition is still on; this is called regenerative charging. Some manufacturers have guaranteed the batteries up to 100,000 miles. They also have lower tailpipe emissions, producing approximately 90% less pollutants than non-hybrids.
On the other hand, electric cars are powered by an electric motor, with power stored in one or more batteries. They need to be plugged into a power source, preferably a high voltage line for a quicker charge (2-3 hours). They need no oil or gasoline, usually have no tailpipe and produce no emissions.
The driving range of your vehicle is definitely one of the most important to consider before purchasing. If you are a commuter who drives less than 40 miles each way, an electric car may be a great solution to your gas usage/cost/planet conservation issues. The range for most electric cars is 80-100 miles before needing a complete charge, and the charge takes approximately 6-8 hours to accomplish. For families on-the-go within a small range of miles, electric cars are definitely the shape of the future. As electric cars gain in popularity, networks of charging stations will be seen and used all over the country. Currently, the west coast of the US leads in charging station availability.
Conversely, hybrid cars are repowered the same as any non-hybrid – at the gas station. There is no set range of miles the hybrid car can go and no charging stations involved.
As above, most hybrid cars perform regenerative charging while they are running, so no charge is necessary. On the other hand, electric cars need to be charged quite often. Again, this depends on your usage – if you run the battery down completely every day, then you will be charging your vehicle overnight at your home and paying the lower electric rates. It typically takes 6-8 hours to do a full charge of your electric car battery. Out and about, electric cars may need a quick charge here and there and there are more and more networks of charging stations popping up all over the US. However, electric car owners benefit from not needing gasoline or oil in their cars, so instead of watching your gas meter on the dashboard, you’ll be very conscious of how much battery power you have left!
Hybrid cars need to be maintained in virtually the same manner as non-hybrids. The electric car, of course, has no oil and less moving parts – so there is less maintenance. The batteries in both types of vehicle must be replaced. The electric car batteries usually last 5-7 years depending on the owner’s charging habits.
Both types of vehicles have higher starting prices than their non-hybrid/non-electric counterparts. There has been much said about whether the higher prices paid by buyers are really worth it. Most articles are favorable as to achieving the buyer’s goals. Most buyers of hybrid or electric cars usually have some pre-conceived goals in mind when they are ready to buy: they want to spend less money on gas, they are environmentally conscious – so they want lower or no emissions, and they want to benefit from any federal and/or state incentives given for purchasing such cars.
Ultimately, the benefits achieved from your hybrid or electric car are tied to your usage, particularly for the electric car. For example, what distance you drive, what speed you go, the amount of air conditioning or heat used, or even radio usage directly affects drain on the battery. Trade-in or sale value on your hybrid or electric car depends on the length of time you plan to keep it. As Hybrid-car.org states, “it is not abnormal for a hybrid car to run like new when it has 250,000 miles on it.” The electric car, due to its small percentage of moving parts, can last beyond that and still run like new.
As with all new technology, prices on both types of vehicle are expected to come down as the technology becomes more widespread and available. Also, tax credits are making both vehicles, but especially the electric car, more affordable.
Some last thoughts
- Driving a hybrid car is the same experience as driving a non-hybrid car
- Electric car considerations – commuters and family hops around town are best uses for an electric car
- The electric car is a surprisingly quiet ride!
Click here to take Nissan’s brief questionnaire to determine whether an electric car would be a good fit for you!
If you’ve determined that the LEAF is a good fit for you, check out our blog on the 2013 Nissan LEAF for more specifics about that amazing car! Since seeing is really believing, come on over and take a test drive in one of our new hybrids or electric cars and see for yourself.
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