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    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Plug-in Hybrids Are Not Rotten

    If you drive around Atlanta, you see a lot of Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) around this place.

    The Leaf is really the first truly usable purely electric car.  Unlike the Chevy Volt, which uses a gas engine as a range extended to keep its electric powertrain running, and the Toyota Prius, which uses the battery really to take over tasks from the gas engine and extend range (i.e. mileage), the Leaf relies solely on it batteries for locomotion.

    Unlike the Volt, it has roughly an 80 mile range before requiring a recharge (the Volt is good for 37).

    They're kind of 2 sides of the same coin.  The Volt can be taken on a trip of some length, because it's gas engine will power an electric motor to continue to run the car.  You get about 400 miles before it's time to refill.  GM says this makes it the equivalent of a 37MPG car in this type of driving.

    I will point out that nearly all turbo diesels sold by VW and Audi beat this easily, pushing 45-50MPG in highway driving.  So, if you're interested in highway efficiency, with the Prius hybrid (which pushes 50MPG) or a TDI is a more efficient choice.

    If all you're doing is local driving, and you can suffer the 4-8 hour recharges required on these things using normal household current, then most people estimate you're looking at about $2 worth of electricity to restore to full charge.  Until gas/diesel is back at $2/gallon prices, that makes the plug-ins more efficient, but, you need to understand the other trade-offs with these, which include the dwell time while they charge, the loss of efficiency in the summer months, and the ultimate super charge when you replace your batteries at $8000 after 6-8 years.

    Top that off with the still real risk from fire with Lithium Ion batteries (google Chevy Volt fires and check out the 787 Dreamliner's problems with this same technology), and I still think people are buying these for vanity reasons, and not because they're either better cars, or even more fuel efficient over the long haul.

    As for me, I did choose a TDI, and I got a car I know will give me 38-50 MPG consistently, and will not require an engine replacement at the 100-150k mile mark.


    Anonymous said...

    Informative. Nice read.

    cowmix said...

    This guys does SERIOUS highway (130K+ miles) driving and is getting over 60 MPG with his Volt:


    .. and zero mechanical issues...

    Here's me picking up my buddy for the 5th time over his two VW TDIs..


    They are the biggest POS cars (reliability wise) I have ever experienced. Read the TDI forums for all the fun.

    Publius said...

    Since I own a TDI (my 3rd VW, but first TDI), I will let you know my personal experience. Your friend's 60MPG kind of proves my point. He's only getting 60, because his 90k HWY miles are averaged with 40k of electric only operations.

    60MPG is nothing to sneeze at, so good, but pure diesels are approaching that mark anyway.

    Look, I think the Leaf is a superior city car. It has a better uncharged range, and, generally, I think it works better as a car. The Volt is a nice compromise, and while I like to poke fun at Volt owners (because you are a passionate lot), I still consider it a novelty, and I think we'd be better off pushing for more diesel powered cars in general, because the compromises made in being good cars are much less.

    I wish the Chevy Cruze diesel had been available when I bought my Jetta, because I would definitely have considered it. And, when my lease expires, I hope to see many more choices in the diesel market.

    Maybe by then, plug-ins will have solved some of these compromises and I'll even consider them.

    cowmix said...

    It is either a Volt or Telsa.. the rest is too risky..

    Consider this:


    I really think you need to test drive a Volt.. You'll change your tune.