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Why a plug-in hybrid vehicle wasn’t right for us

Having discovered that a traditional hybrid wasn’t what we were looking for in our search to replace our Honda Civic, we set our sights on plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). We knew what we needed in a new car, and at first, at least, it seemed like a PHEV would fit the bill perfectly.

What I liked about PHEVs is their best of both world’s capacity. We could forget about the mileage anxiety associated with electric vehicles (no worrying about running out of energy), while still saving at the pumps by doing our city driving on electricity instead of gas. Unfortunately, being a relatively new advancement in the industry, there aren’t a lot of PHEVs to choose from.

First, we went all in and looked at the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. I say all in because the Outlander is a no-compromise, full-sized, all-wheel-drive SUV. With an impressive 2208L (78 cu. ft.) of cargo space, we would never again have to worry about getting that latest Kijiji purchase home, or taking apart treasures from the as-is section at Ikea. While the cargo space is amazing, it runs the risk of being a little too big. Looking at its external dimension, it barely fits in our garage!

The Outlander’s batteries provide enough juice to drive 35km on electricity before the gas engine roars to life. And when I say roar, I mean roar. After squeezing 35km out of the battery, the Outlanders gas guzzling engine consumes an unimpressive 9.2L/100km (25mpg). At that mileage rate, and with the somewhat limited electric range meaning we’d be using gas more often, we’d be better off sticking with a traditional crossover like the Honda HR-V (7.7L/100km (30.5mpg)), even without it being a hybrid.

Next, being a Honda household already, we looked at the newly released Honda Clarity PHEV. Yes, it’s a sedan, not a crossover or SUV, but we like to be loyal when possible so it was worth investigating. The Clarity is just new this year and can drive an impressive 76km (47 miles) on its electric battery before switching to its gas engine where it achieves 5.6L/100km (42mpg). While I was impressed by its range, its mileage rate left a little to be desired, although it wasn’t the worst we’d seen. The real deal breaker for us, as previously alluded to, was the lack of cargo space. We really liked the Clarity, and we liked the idea of sticking with Honda (we’d had no problems at all with our Civic), but a sedan wasn’t going to cut it for us this time.

Next, we looked at the Chevrolet Volt. I know some people don’t call it a PHEV (Chevy itself calls it a “Range Extended Electric Vehicle”), but that’s what it is. We hadn’t even intended it, but we saw one at the Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre in Toronto when we were looking at other vehicles and got a little swept up in its expansive-looking trunk size and luxurious feeling interior. The Volt reaches a very impressive 85km range on its batteries before switching to its “range extender” gas engine, achieving 5.6L/100km, virtually the same as the Honda Clarity. Unfortunately, it also has the same problem as the Clarity: cargo space. While the large-looking trunk did draw us in initially, it still only provided 300L (11 cu. ft.) of cargo space. It was, after all, just a car.

While we were unsuccessful in finding a PHEV that worked for us, I’m still convinced that this will be a very interesting category to watch in the future. It’s still a relatively new category, but as more vehicles are developed, PHEVs could fill the gap between traditional vehicles and electric vehicles for many people. If electric vehicles are the future, and I don’t think that can be denied, the plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle could be a very useful step in that direction. First, manufacturers need to catch up and build more models to accommodate the varying needs in the marketplace.

For the meantime, however, PHEVs didn’t really seem to fit our needs. Next, we looked at pure electric vehicles.

Published inReviews

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