Testing EVs, PHEVs, and HEVs on the Highway – How Totally different Are They on the Highway?

This article was originally published by Steve Schaefer on Clean the fleet report, a publication that provides readers with the information they need to switch to the best fuel economy cars and trucks, including electric cars, fuel cells, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, and advanced diesel and gasoline engines.

Over the past few weeks I’ve tested all three types of battery-powered electric cars – all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid. In all fairness, with the pandemic and my decision to stop testing pure gasoline vehicles, I’ve had few chances to drive test cars since March. However, I tested a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid in mid-November, spent 45 minutes with the brand new, fully electric Volkswagen ID.4 Crossover on the last day of November, and in my driveway is a stunning BMW 330e plug-in hybrid.

The organic selection is growing

If it were up to me, we would all drive gas-free electric cars today. But as we’ve seen lately, life is throwing curveballs and some things take a while longer to develop than we’d hoped. The most important thing is to set a clear direction and work towards the goal. In the case of the climate crisis, we have limited time to complete the task.

Yes, the climate crisis has not gone away just because we are in the middle of another immediate crisis.

All-electric, battery-powered cars won’t work for every driver, which is why we need alternatives. Here hybrids and plug-in hybrids still play a role.

The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a brand new design suitable for anyone who likes cars and is looking for a large five person sedan. Honda Accord and Toyota Camry owners, that means you! With its hybrid powertrain, the Sonata Hybrid earns up to 52 miles per gallon (combined) per EPA.

Hyundai Sonata HybridHyundai Sonata Hybrid

As with other hybrids, you never have to do anything other than jump in, hit start, and go – no charging cables or plugs. Travel wherever you want, refuel at every gas station. Of course, you will only find yourself there half as often. For the best possible effect, you can ride gently while avoiding aggressive acceleration and hard braking. Regardless of whether a hybrid replaces a standard gas sedan, it only consumes half the CO2 in a car into the atmosphere. That is not insignificant. My rating is Here.

Volkswagen ID.4 battery electric crossover

I had a masked, aloof 1-on-1 with the long awaited Volkswagen ID.4 back in September. I had to look at it, sit in it, watch a PowerPoint, and talk to knowledgeable VW representatives. I was pretty impressed.

Volkswagen ID.4 EVVolkswagen ID.4 EV

The follow-up visit on November 30th was a real drive, and in the spirit of COVID-19 safety, I got a refurbished, gleaming white pre-production car all to myself. They gave me a preset route map that guided me through city traffic, the freeway junction, and down empty, winding country roads.

The car was lock to drive and attractive in the wild. The interior is stylish and airy right up to date. The ID.4 is the second fully electric car from VW in America after the E-Golf and is based on a brand new EV-specific platform. While the E-Golf, an electrified version of the popular gas golf, can travel 124 miles at best on one charge, the new ID.4 goes twice as far.

The spiritual successor to the E-Golf is actually the ID.3 hatchback, which is already available in Europe and elsewhere. However, the leaders at VW made a careful decision to offer us a more spacious crossover in the US as this is the type of vehicle that most of us are buying in the US.

BMW 330e plug-in hybrid

The BMW in alpine white served me as a drive to the ID.4 test, which was carried out by a local VW dealer. As a plug-in hybrid, the BMW 330e uses a gas engine and an electric motor, using a much smaller battery than the all-electric VW, although a larger one than the Sonata Hybrid. You plug the car in to charge it and it only takes a couple of hours at 240 volts (level 2) or overnight on normal household electricity (level 1). The BMW is good for approximately 22 fully electric miles, making it perfect for local trips like commuting, shopping and running errands. If you take it with you on longer trips, it becomes a hybrid that uses gas and electricity efficiently.

BMW 330e plug-in hybridBMW 330e plug-in hybrid

On my trip to the dealer for the ID.4 test, I set the car to “electric” so that it only uses electricity. When the juice ran out, it automatically switched to hybrid mode to notify me of the change on the large center screen. Since my destination was 24 miles from home, I made it almost petrol free. If I could have used a charger at the dealership, I could have driven most of the journey home on battery power. I’m happy to say that the mostly gas powered return trip was almost as quiet as the electric leg of the trip, which shows that the gas engine is quiet and quiet, and that BMW used a lot of soundproofing.

My second trip in the BMW was to rehearse for a couple of hours with my three band mates who through careful planning have become part of my COVID bubble. Since the drummer’s house is only 6 km away, I was able to drive in either direction without gas. That’s what makes plug-in hybrids so attractive – mostly electric driving, but never fear of range. The downside is that you might have the best of both worlds, but you also have to lug around the hardware of both words – engine + engine, battery + fuel tank, radiator, engine oil, etc – and occasionally have to take the car with you for maintenance on these components. Battery electric cars have little service other than tire rotation, which I can verify than before Chevrolet Bolt and current Fiat 500e Owner.

I think people buy and love 3 Series BMWs because the model has a long history as the Ultimate Driving Machine®. I drove my first BMW test car in 1992 shortly after I started writing road test pillars in my local newspaper and I was blown away. My older son is enjoying his and I hope to get him into a 330e (or maybe even the rumored all-electric 3 series) when his lease expires. While a hybrid can take half a car off the road, a plug-in hybrid that is driven locally most of the time can do much better.

The lowest electrical line

With many automakers announcing big electric vehicle plans over the next few years, there will soon be a generous selection of electric vehicles in each category. Then it is up to consumers to buy or lease the cars over the next decade. Realistically, we won’t achieve 100 percent EV penetration in new car sales by 2030, but we have to try – and it will accelerate once the market is well filled.

Yes, I have often asked myself what we will do with all the perfectly good gas cars that will still be around. I envision a massive recycle and reuse operation, but they won’t go away overnight. But we have to stop driving them.

The U.S. state of California, which has long been a leader in cleaner transportation and higher fuel economy standards (and home to Tesla), has passed governor’s ordinance stating that all new vehicles for sale in the state are zero-emission (both batteries) -electric or fuel cell) after 2035. That gives us 15 years to get the deal done. It is expected that more states will follow (15 more states and the District of Columbia have signed a memorandum of understanding advocating the move in 2035). Maybe at some point we will see a national mandate. The biggest selling point, however, won’t be saving the planet, but rather driving a better, quieter, quieter car that costs less to run.

EV chargingElectric vehicle charging is key to EV growth

To support widespread adoption of electric vehicles, we need to build a robust and widespread charging system and support home charging, powered by rooftop solar panels whenever possible. We have to work towards ensuring that 100 percent of the energy used to power the fleet comes from sustainable sources. This means no more coal and a rapid reduction in natural gas for power plants. Solar and wind power are already cheaper than old-school fuels. With good battery storage, they can provide a stable and reliable energy supply for everyone. We also have other options, including local transport and micro-mobility like scooters and e-bikes. And there’s always walking when you’re close enough to your destination. No car is always cleaner than any car.

The movement to replace the combustion vehicle fleet will not be simple or easy, but driving an electric car will be easier. I’m looking forward to the day when we look around and suddenly find that electric vehicles have taken over. The streets will be much quieter.

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Published on December 11, 2020 – 18:00 UTC

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