Plug-In Hybrids and Their Hype

Eric Peters finds plug-in hybrids promising, but their costs hard to justify.

Published: 01-May-2008

Will plug-in hybrids save us from $4 per gallon fill-ups -- or at least, ease the pain a little?

The hype about these vehicles -- which differ from the current crop of gas-electric hybrids in that they can run on pure battery power for longer and, when their batteries run down, can draw power from a household outlet instead of an internal combustion engine -- is that they have the potential to lower fuel consumption by as much as 20-40 percent over what the best conventional hybrid cars (like the Toyota Prius) can deliver.

But, there's a catch. Several, actually.


Powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries and two 67bhp (50kW) electric motors to drive the front and rear axles, the Mixim is a four-wheel-drive car with a theoretical top speed of 112mph and a potential maximum range of 156 miles.

Dodge ZEO is 2+2 electric muscle car for the 21st century powered by 200kW electric drive with 0-60 mph in less than 6 seconds and range of 250 miles.

The Air Car may do better than fuel-cell cars, but experts say that using grid power to charge a battery-powered electric vehicle is much more efficient than using electricity to compress and store the same amount of energy in a tank.


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