If you’re looking to green your life, one of the best things you can do for the environment is to use eco-friendly transportation in your daily commute, like cycling, walking, or taking public transit. However, if driving is essential for getting around in the town in which you live, but you want to reduce your footprint from transportation, you may want to consider swapping out your car for a hybrid or an electric model.
If you’ve heard of eco-friendly cars (but aren’t all too familiar with how they work), you may be wondering how hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles benefit the environment, what the difference is between the three, and of course, which might be the best option for you. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! In this post, we’ll take a closer look at all three options so that you can become a little bit more knowledgeable about them before you begin to shop around.
Not so long ago, green car fans had only one option: a hybrid vehicle (which acquires all of its energy from gas). Today, drivers have a choice of several pure battery-electric vehicles that get all their energy from grid electricity, several plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that get their energy from a mix of grid electricity and gasoline, and several conventional hybrids.
Conventional Hybrid Cars
This graphic by Ford Motors does a great job of illustrating the difference between a hybrid, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles. Conventional hybrid cars rely on two sources of power working simultaneously: a gasoline engine and a battery-driven electric motor. These types of green vehicles automatically transition between gas mode and electricity mode or both to power the vehicle. Conventional hybrids use their gasoline engines to keep their batteries charged as you drive, without the need to plug them in. Hybrid cars are able to charge their batteries in two ways: using the gas engine, which acts as a generator, converting mechanical energy into electrical energy to recharge the battery, or through regenerative braking, which is the process that captures the wasted energy (of the motor continuing to spin even though the car is attempting to slow down) and uses the motor as a generator to create electricity and therefore recharge the battery. Note that all three vehicle types rely on regenerative braking.
- Fuel flexibility (ability to run gasoline as well as a battery) and therefore have a higher range
- Great for city driving as hybrids only use gas on longer drives
- Can save fuel expenses
- Tend to be more costly than traditional fuel-powered vehicles
- Still rely on fossil fuels and will require gas for driving longer distances
Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles
Like conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids have a gas engine, however, they have a higher-capacity battery and can be charged at electric-vehicle charging stations and utilized for driving short-distances on all-electric power.
- As with conventional hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids offer extended range compared to electric cars because of the additional gas-powered engine
- Great for city driving and can also be charged to use for driving longer distances
- Tend to be more affordable than electric vehicles (EVs)
- Generally, more expensive than conventional hybrids and fuel-powered vehicles
- Carry more weight than a conventional hybrid due to the larger battery
Electric vehicles (as implied by their name) are entirely electric, meaning they don’t require any gasoline. Therefore, along with the power produced by regulative braking, all EVs must be plugged in to charge the battery.
- EVs emit zero emissions and are the most environmentally-friendly of the three-vehicle types discussed
- Electric vehicle owners will definitely save money on fuel costs if they have an at home charging station (since electricity is cheaper than gas and the electricity needed to charge a car goes towards the electricity bill)
- Offer a silent drive
- Low maintenance cost due to their structural simplicity
- EVs are quite pricey
- Limited in range with long charging times
- Owners require an at-home charger
- Replacing a battery if it degrades is also costly
Any of these three car types is less harmful to the environment than a traditional, gas-powered vehicle. Along with the obvious environmental benefits (associated with reduced emissions) of switching to a hybrid/plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, you’ll also receive the benefit of cost savings over time. Sure, the initial investment of purchasing the vehicle may be higher than a traditional, gas-powered vehicle, but imagine all of the money you’ll avoid spending on gas.
At the end of the day, choosing between an all-electric, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid comes down to individual lifestyle and needs. For example, those with frequent long drives will have a greater benefit by opting for a hybrid or plug-in hybrid car, as opposed to an EV (due to its limited range).
Along with investing in an eco-friendly car, there are lots of other ways in which you can play your part for our planet. If you want to help create a sustainable future, be sure to check out our Products page to learn about our eco-focused energy and natural gas plans.