Are you in the market for a new car? Gas prices are rough and electric cars can be expensive, but there’s good news: Hybrid cars aren’t just less expensive—they may actually be better than fully electric cars in today’s world.
Hybrids Are the Perfect Compromise (for Now)
This article isn’t about attacking electric cars. Affordable zero-emissions electric cars served by a widespread infrastructure of charging stations—all powered by inexpensive clean energy—is the dream. It’s a world we’d like to see.
But electric cars have some serious issues as of 2022. They can be much more expensive than gas cars, and that new EV credit in the Inflation Reduction Act is pretty complicated. Even if you could afford them, you’re dependent on charging stations that just aren’t as widespread as gas stations. (They’re more widespread in some areas than others.) And how are you supposed to charge an electric car at night if you live in an apartment complex without chargers or have to park on a street?
Likewise, traditional gasoline-powered cars have the obvious advantages of being less expensive up front and being able to refuel at widespread gas stations. But, while they’re cheaper to buy, you’ll be paying at the pump. Gas prices have gone down somewhat from their peak in 2022, but who knows what will happen in the future. (Of course, emissions are a real concern—but there’s a strong enough argument for avoiding traditional gasoline-powered cars just based on personal interest alone!)
That’s why you should give hybrids a look. Hybrids combine many of the advantages of electric cars with many of the advantages of gasoline-powered cars.
That said, if you’re excited about paying top dollar for an electric car and you know the recharging experience is going to work for you, go right ahead! This article is for the rest of us—those who balk at the high cost of electric cars and wonder if the traditional gas-powered car is a better option. There’s a third way.
So, About That Expensive Electric Vehicle’s Range…
Let’s talk price and how it compares to range. As of September 14, 2022, here’s a look at the prices of some new electric cars and their range on a charge.
You can get more range from some of these cars, but you’ll have to pay extra for a model with a bigger battery. The Mazda MX-30’s range is shockingly low—only 100 miles. Meanwhile, there are other gotchas: The Nissan LEAF still uses CHAdeMO for Level 3 charging, meaning it will be much harder to find charging stations where you can charge it at top speeds in the U.S.
If you’re going longer than that, you’ll have to find an EV charger on the way. Once you’re at the charger, how long it takes to charge your EV will depend on a wide variety of factors, including your car and the charger type you have available. A Level 3 charger can typically charge a vehicle to 80% in a half hour or so.
Hybrids Offer the Longest Range and Easier Refueling
Hybrids are significantly cheaper than electric cars. You can generally expect somewhere between 48 and 60 miles per gallon, although a truck will, of course, offer fewer miles per gallon than a sedan.
For example, the 2022 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid starts at $27,350, gets 52 miles per gallon, and has a 13.2-gallon gas tank. That means this car has a 686-mile range when its gas tank is full.
Do the math: You can go nearly three times the distance as an electric car before you have to refill a hybrid like this. When it’s time to refuel, you can stop at any gas station and quickly refill the tank. You don’t have to ensure you reach a charging station on your current range and sit there waiting to recharge.
And, if you don’t have a place to plug in the car at your work or home, that’s fine—you just have to stop at a gas station once every 600+ miles.
It goes without saying that a traditional gas-powered car is much less efficient than a hybrid with a battery. Comparing apples to apples, the 2022 Hyundai Sonata (non-hybrid) gets 32 miles per gallon and starts at $24,500.
This is just one example of a hybrid—there are many other great hybrid cars out there, and we’re not recommending one manufacturer over another here.
A Plug-in Hybrid Might Be an Even Better Idea
Plug-in hybrids are another great idea. Take the 2022 Toyota Prius Prime, for example. It’s a plug-in hybrid with a $28,770 starting price. If you plug it in to charge, it can get 25 miles of range in EV mode before using gas.
If your daily commute is 10 miles each way, you could charge your car at home every night and never use gas on your commute—not unless you need to go any further. If you do go further, your car will use its gas tank.
You’re never forced to find a charger. You can plug a plug-in hybrid if you want, but it’ll work as a normal gas-powered hybrid if you don’t. A plug-in hybrid gives you that option.
There are other plug-in hybrids that get you between 30 and 40 miles of electric range, too. Again, we’re not recommending one particular manufacturer here.
Plug-in hybrids seem like an important part of the future. They can help make day-to-day errands and commuting possible over electricity without the massive batteries, range anxiety, or any charging infrastructure at all beyond your own garage.
Even California’s much-publicized plan to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2035 includes an exception for plug-in hybrids, which will still be allowed.
Hybrids: Better Than EVs?
Which vehicle you buy is an incredibly personal choice. But, as we’ve seen, there’s a very strong argument for hybrid vehicles in the early 2020s. They’re not just cheaper than electric cars: They’re arguably more convenient and flexible.
We hope that will change going forward as electric charging infrastructure becomes more widespread and EVs become more affordable. Until then, there’s good news: Even if you can’t justify buying an expensive electric car, those less expensive hybrids might be even better.