Gas, Electric or Hybrid - What’s Right For You?Buying Tips & Tricks September 07, 2021
The demand for hybrid and electric vehicles have progressively increased with consumers considering an alternative to the ordinary gas guzzler. Manufacturers like Tesla and models like the Toyota Prius have become ultimately synonymous with EVs and PHEVs, and more automakers are releasing their own hybrid or electrical alternatives. With President Biden’s plan to make half of new vehicles electric by 2030 in the United States (NBC News, 2021), Canada has followed suit and aims to ban all sales of combustion engine vehicles by 2035 (Driving, 2021). If you are considering jumping on the environmentally-friendly bandwagon, here’s our guide to finding the perfect vehicle for you.
What’s the difference?
The traditional gas or diesel vehicle that we all know and (mostly) love - these have an internal combustion engine (ICE) that turns fuel into mechanical energy to operate your car (Sweeney Chevrolet, 2020). Gas vehicles have spark plugs that ignite fuel in the engine, whereas diesel engines use high levels of compression to generate the same heat needed, without a spark plug (Car & Engine). Diesel engines are more durable, but they have higher torque and less horsepower than their gasoline counterparts. However, the effects of climate change have been glaringly present in the last decade, with the harmful emissions of gas cars to be partly to blame.
Hybrid vehicles are a great compromise between electric cars and gas vehicles, combining the best of both worlds into a modernized, eco-friendlier ride. There are two types of hybrid vehicles, the first being the standard hybrid (HEV) and the second being a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). No need to wonder “How do hybrid vehicles work?” - we’ve got you covered. The standard hybrid combines energy from both a gasoline engine and an electric motor (The News Wheel, 2018). PHEV hybrids also use a gasoline engine; However, these cars mainly use its electric battery to run the vehicle, rather than its gasoline engine, during certain modes or at specific speeds (Energy Sage, 2018). It can be charged by simply being plugged in, similar to your iPhone.
Electric vehicles are the ultimate solution to reducing one’s environmental footprint by eliminating the need for fuel entirely. There are two types of electric vehicles: battery-powered (BEV) and fuel-cell electric cars (FCEV). BEVs have an electric motor and derive its power from battery packs. To charge, you can plug in your BEV to a standard 120-volt outlet, level 2 240-volt, or a level 3 power source (Open Road Auto Group, 2019). FCEVs, on the other hand, use an electric motor and compressed liquid hydrogen for propulsion. The electric motor is powered by the combination of hydrogen and air inside the fuel cell stack. You don’t need to plug in an FCEV to charge it - instead, it uses regenerative braking to create kinetic energy (UC USA, 2014).
Which vehicle type is best for you?
Gas vehicles are the best option if you are looking for an affordable car to purchase and use for long-range driving. Plus, if you live in an area where fuel is cheaper than most, then gas is definitely your top choice. However, if you are filling up frequently and want an option that produces less emissions, it could be worth it to look into purchasing a hybrid or an EV. Regular cars also cost more to maintain on a regular basis, as there is more strain on the ICE engine (Energy Sage, 2018). Hybrids and electric cars might be harder on the wallet to buy initially, but they cost less to maintain consistently (Forbes, 2020).
Hybrid vehicles can maximize your fuel efficiency and help you save bundles of money on gas as the annual cost of charging your vehicle at home is a fraction of what you would pay for gas per year (Energy Sage, 2018). The electric components help decrease the amount of emissions your vehicle produces and you could qualify for certain rebates if you reside in British Columbia or Quebec. If you mainly take shorter commutes or drive within the city, this may be the car for you! One of the main drawbacks, however, is that hybrids come with smaller batteries than gas vehicles, so they usually cannot last long commutes without stopping to be charged, and you may experience some range anxiety if there are not a lot of charging stations in your area. Charge times for electric batteries vary, from as little as 1 hour with a level 3 charger to anywhere between 8-40 hours with a standard level 1 110 volt outlet (Energy Sage, 2020) Additionally, a hybrid might not be the best fit for you if you cannot park in a garage as electric batteries can lose more than half their range in snowy weather (The Personal).
If you want to take it a step further in creating the smallest environmental footprint, then an electrical vehicle is the perfect match for you, especially if you live in a dense, urban area with an abundance of charging stations. You won’t have to worry about wasting fuel sitting in stop-and-go traffic every day and you’ll qualify for rebates, as previously mentioned. EVs are fantastic if you drive less than 80km per day, as the average charge can last about 140-450 kilometres (The Personal). Both BEVs and FCEVs are cost-effective and efficient vehicle types, but the savings really add up if you are not driving long-range and have ample access to plug in stations. However, EVs of either type can be costly to purchase, and FCEV tank refill stations are quite scarce across the country. As well, charging can be time-consuming with wide durations based on the type of charger, just like a hybrid car.
If you’re still on the fence about switching to a PHEV or EV car, use the following tools to help you weigh the pros and cons. CAA offers an online calculator, where you can compare the annual cost of a hybrid vs electric vehicle vs. your gas vehicle. There are also a handful of apps that can generate a map displaying your nearest charging stations: Plugshare, ChargeHub, and Electrify Canada are our favorites. Google Maps can also display an EV charging stations map. Whether you’re a committed fan of ICE engine vehicles or interested in making your footprint a little bit greener, Curbie has the car for you.