Plug-in hybrids: How do they work and are they right for you?

By Kijiji Autos
Plug-in hybrids- How do they work and are they right for you? Kijiji Autos

The market for electric and hybrid cars is getting bigger every year in Canada. In 2019, there were over 50 fully electric (BEV, for "battery electric vehicle") or plug-in hybrid (PHEV, for "plug-in hybrid electric vehicle") options available. With so many choices on the market, more people are going the PHEV route. But is it the right choice for you?

BEV vs PHEV: What’s the difference?

It’s important to know what separates BEV and PHEV vehicles. A BEV has no traditional combustion engine, which means fewer moving parts, no tailpipe and no changing oil. “Fill up” the batteries via an electrical outlet or charging station. Most can use a standard 110-volt plug, or a faster 240-volt charger (the same as a clothes dryer). Some BEVs even offer a 400-volt DC fast-charger port capable of recharging around 80% of a battery in 30 minutes.

PHEVs use both batteries and an internal combustion engine. Most can operate for a short distance on electric power alone, only turning on the engine for maximum acceleration or if the battery is depleted. They can use the same outlets as BEVs, and the second engine they have on-board means they aren’t limited to only charging stations when covering long distances.

There are other differences between the two options, as well. Read our in-depth comparison between BEVs and PHEVs for more info.

Depending on where you are in Canada, you should always check for any current provincial or national incentives for buying an EV. Check out four more things to consider when buying any an electric vehicle.

The benefits of choosing PHEV

There are a few key advantages of going PHEV.

First is the gradual changeover. If you’re coming from a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) car, a PHEV like Hyundai’s Ioniq Electric Plus will feel largely similar. The biggest difference between it and regular ol’ ICE cars in daily operation comes down to the brakes: Hybrids use regenerative braking, which results in quicker deceleration when you’re off the throttle. This helps extend the battery’s range.

The second important benefit is no range anxiety. A PHEV can still use a gas station if it’s running low on juice, something its all-battery competition can’t do. This makes it a better choice for those prone to taking longer trips. There may be more public charging stations than ever before, but they can’t match the speed of the classic gas station fill-up.

There’s also the matter of shape. PHEVs come in a variety of them, from small hatchbacks to sports cars and SUVs. BEVs tend to stick to just the former, outside of a few exceptions like the Tesla Model S and X.

PHEV Drawbacks

It isn’t a PHEV knockout victory over BEVs. There are certain situations where a BEV is the better option for you.

If your commutes are exclusively short-distance, a BEV makes more sense. Even if you’re plugged in during the highest-cost part of the day, fully charging an electric car is cheaper than filling up a fuel tank.

The other benefit is the pollution, or lack thereof. Every time a PHEV has to make use of its regular engine, it’s contributing to air pollution, no matter how little.

Speaking of the environment, regardless of whether you’re buying an electric vehicle, here’s the ecological impact of buying used versus new cars.

Now that you know what advantages PHEVs offer, check out Kijiji Auto’s full selection of hybrid cars.

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