10 Best Hybrid Cars


Conventional Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Published on May 29th, 2015 | by Zach

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10 Best Hybrid Cars

I’m working on a couple of pieces outside the news cycle this weekend — “Best Hybrid Cars” and “Best Electric Cars.” The pieces are ones that I’ve considered for a long time, but generally felt hesitant/unequipped to write, but I’m taking a plunge now.

Unfortunately, I have not yet driven all hybrid cars on the market, and to be even more specific, I haven’t owned/driven any hybrid cars for a very long period of time. To genuinely be qualified to come up with a list of the best hybrid cars, theoretically, I’d say that one should have driven every single model for a decent amount of time (a month?), but that is essentially impossible. However, there are some factors that I think allow me to jump forward several steps, and if others are going to go and write such lists, I feel I may as well give it my best effort.

How I Easily Jumped Past Dozens of Hybrid Cars

It’s certainly not hidden — I think plug-in electric cars are fundamentally way better than conventional cars, including conventional hybrids. You can conveniently charge at home. You can enjoy awesome instant torque. You have the potential for much more efficient driving, zero-emissions driving, and much less use of gas/oil. Although this is implied above, it’s worth emphasizing that zero-emissions driving results in huge health benefits and is critical to stopping global warming.

So, as you might have guessed by now, if it doesn’t have a plug, it doesn’t qualify for my list of the best hybrid cars on the market.

That said, I’ve got a number of other cars I’m excluding right off the bat as well:

  1. The BMW i3 REx, since the car is really meant to be driven on electricity and the small range extender is basically just there to save you in a very unlucky situation. You are not really supposed to drive the car on gasoline.
  2. Cars that cost over $100,000. Sorry, but that’s just too far outside the realm of reality for most people. And if you have $100,000+ to put into a car, simply put it into a Tesla Model S P85D — it has acceleration like a supercar, drives like a sports car, has a ridiculous amount of space, is apparently the safest car ever mass produced, is on another level with its infotainment/tech features, looks very nice, and comes with free Supercharging.

10 Best Hybrid Cars

In the end, I’m left with a fairly short list of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Still, there are a dozen or so on the market to choose from, and ranking them isn’t super easy. Naturally, they aren’t all in the same class, which makes comparison… “iffy.” So let me say that I am trying to take into account value for the money and broader competition in each class. I’m also taking into account the many reviews and comparisons I’ve read, feedback from owners, sales numbers, and (of course) the things that I think matter most in a car.

On to my “very scientific” ranking…

10. Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

Porsche Panamera S E Hybrid

Last year, it was reported that the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid accounted for about 9% of all Porsche Panamera sales. This is with most buyers probably not even knowing that a plug-in variant was on the market. The Panamera S E-Hybrid was nearly disqualified from this competition, as it slides in at $96,100 ($91,348 after the US federal tax credit for EVs), but it is a pretty awesome car by many accounts, so if you have enough money for a P85D and a Panamera S E-Hybrid, you may find it worth your cash.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid gets to 60 mph (or 100 km/h) in about 5 seconds, seats 4, has an all-electric range of 22 miles (35 kilometers), and has an “average fuel economy” of 50 MPGe — which makes it as efficient as a Toyota Prius for something like 3 times the fun. 22 miles is really not bad for a a plug-in hybrid with such power, and it would get most people all the way to where they need to go on the smooth hum of an efficient electric motor.

9. Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

Porsche Cayenne Hybrid Electric Vehicle

The Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, a newer plug-in car model from Porsche, slid in front of the Panamera S E-Hybrid for a couple of reasons. One is that it comes in about $20,000 cheaper ($77,200, or $71,864 after the US federal tax credit for EVs). And the other is that it is a crossover, which is a design that seems to appeal to and is useful for a much larger segment of the market. The downside, compared to the Panamera S E-Hybrid is that it just gets 14 miles (23 kilometers) of electric range on a full charge.

I’m personally not that big on crossovers and SUVs, so take my viewpoint here with a grain of salt, but I actually think this is the best-looking crossover or SUV on the market.

Despite its utilitarian focus, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid can get to 60 mph (or 100 km/h) in just 5.4 seconds. I think you’d still get a lot more for your money by going for the Tesla Model S (or reserving a Tesla Model X), but there’s still a lot going for the Cayenne.


 

8. Cadillac ELR

Cadillac ELR Prices

It was quite hard to determine where to place the Cadillac ELR. At a rather high base price of $75,000, and a very modest 0–60 time of 7.8 seconds, it’s actually hard to justify the ELR being on the list. On the other hand, there are some great deals out there on the ELR, the car is eligible for the full $7,500 US federal tax credit, the car comes with a huge helping of luxury, and its 37 miles of all-electric driving is really not too shabby. Also, for those who are into the style, it passes as the hottest-looking cars on the market. The ELR hasn’t seen huge sales, but I’ve seen many happy reviews from owners, and I don’t think anyone regretting the purchase.

7. Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid

volvo-s60-plug-in-hybrid

Initially, I had this car much higher up the list, but I eventually dropped it down to #7 because of its rather high price. At about $62,000 (a current exchange rates and based on the UK price of £40,558), it’s really not in the range of many people, and why not spend a little extra and just get a Tesla Model S?

Still, the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid has received a lot of praise. It is luxurious, gets from 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) in under 6 seconds, has 5 seats and good amount of space, and has 31 miles (50 kilometers) of electric range (based on European testing). You could do much worse for $62,000!

6. Ford C-Max Energi

Ford C-Max Energi at LA Auto Show Via WikiCommons Some Rights Reserved

The Ford C-Max Energi is a solid buy for just $31,770 before incentives ($27,763 after the US federal tax credit). It seats 5, has 21 miles (34 kilometers) of electric range, and has a fuel economy of 100 MPGe on electricity and 43 MPG on gas. If you feel like you need the crutch of a gasoline engine and you don’t want to spend over $30,000 on your car, there are probably only a couple of better options on the market, and I think that’s why it is the 6th-best-selling electric car on the US market so far this year.

5. Ford Fusion Energi

ford fusion energi

By the way, the Ford Fusion Energy is the 5th-best-selling electric car on the US market so far this year, and that’s one of the reasons why it also falls 5th on this list. The Fusion Energi is a couple thousand dollars more expensive than the C-Max Energi, at $33,900 ($29,893 after the US federal tax credit), but it seems to be worth that extra cash. Basically, it offers a bit more space and comfort than the C-Max Energi, but I think it also looks much better. Otherwise, however, the specs are the same: 21 miles of electric range, 100 MPGe on electricity and 43 MPG on gas, and 5 seats.

3/4. Audi A3 e-tron & Volkswagen Golf GTE

Audi A3 e-tron

2015-volkswagen-golf-gte

The Audi A3 e-tron and Volkswagen Golf GTE tie on this list of best hybrid cars because they are built on the same platform. So, what’s left is really just a very subjective matter of styling and brand. The cars get 31 miles of electric range on a full battery, which is decent but not great… (although, that’s a rating from Europe, which means the real-world range is much lower — estimated to be around 18 miles).

The cars can get up to 60 mph (100 km/h) in just 4.9 seconds, which is pretty dern attractive at a price point of approximately $40,000 before any incentives. Despite the sporty focus, they are quite practical cars and seat 5. Unfortunately, these cars are only available in Europe at the moment.

2. Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In

Mitsubishi-Outlander-PHEV

The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In is the best-selling electric car of any kind in Europe so far this year (even ahead of the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S). It is a crossover/SUV that has served the niche well while waiting for its first competitor to hit the market. The Outlander Plug-In also sells very well in its home country of Japan, and North Americans are simply wondering when they will finally get to taste the vehicle.

The spacious vehicle seats 5 comfortably, comes with 30 miles (48 kilometers) of electric driving range (based on European testing, so probably under 20 in the real world), and is stylish. It’s no speed demon, clocking in at around 11 seconds when going from 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h), but that’s not what most people are looking for when they buy a crossover/SUV. At £33,249 (before the UK’s £5,000 plug-in car grant) or ~$50,850, the Outlander Plug-In isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot of car for the money.

1. Chevy Volt

2016 Chevrolet Volt 2016 Chevrolet Volt 2016 Chevrolet Volt

The Chevy Volt won all kinds of big awards when it came out, and for good reason. The Volt has a good all-electric range of 38 miles, or 61 kilometers, and it is getting even more with the 2016 refresh, 50 miles (80 kilometers). Focusing on the 2016 Volt since it is just around the corner, the price is just $33,995 before incentives ($26,495 after the US federal tax credit). It apparently takes the Volt about 9 seconds to get to 60 mph, but its all-electric instant torque still impresses and thoroughly pleases most owners.

Before the Model S came along, the Volt, based on owner surveys conducted by Consumer Reports, was the most-loved car in America for two years running. It is the 4th-best-selling electric car on the US market so far this year (behind the all-electric Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF, and BMW i3) despite the fact that a much better version is coming out later this year. If you’re looking for an affordable plug-in hybrid car, I think you’ve got to consider the Volt — it’s the best around from what I’ve heard, read, and seen.

Images: Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid and Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In by Zachary Shahan | EV Obsession | CleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 4.0); Cadillac ELR by Mariordo (CC BY 3.0); all others by manufacturers.


 

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009.

Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity.

Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, SCTY, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB. After years of covering solar and EVs, he simply had a lot of faith in these companies and felt like they were good companies to invest in as a portion of his retirement strategy.

To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • markogts

    Hi, as an owner of the Outlander PHEV, allow me to clear some points:

    Range: European cycle lies a lot about mileage, but range is a different story. The very shallow acceleration of the EU cycle are an advantage for ICE, not for EV. I get consistently 45km/ 28 mi of real range, on hilly terrain. Just avoid AC and very low temperatures.

    Acceleration: it wastes a lot of time in the very first meters. The motors are slow to apply torque at low speed and the full power can only be achieved when the engine is running. But for overtaking this car is real fun: just hit the “charge” button so the engine is ready to spool up.

    • markogts

      Biggest limit of this car, imho, is the maximum power in EV only mode, which is limited to 60kW. If you want all the 120kW, you need the help of the ICE. Really missing some kind of supercapacitors for surges of power, like when overtaking.

      PS given that is a hybrid, you can use all of the 45km range, no anxiety whatsoever.

    • Thanks! Very interesting points.

      • Greg

        I wish you were not so hard on the plug in point. There are a lot of people who do not have the ability to plug in, so they might be shopping for a conventional hybrid such as apartment dwellers. Also, you are fooling yourself if you think electric cars have zero emissions. They are charged by the electric power grid, which at this point is still dominated by fossil fuels, so in a nut shell they have to burn more fuel to generate electric to charge your car.

        • Rick Danger

          Nope. The vast majority of EV owners charge their cars at night, when excess power is simply wasted. Not 1 more gram of fossil fuel had to be burned to charge those cars.
          Surely you know that by now. Have you been comatose for the past 5 years???? Or have you been breathing too many exhaust fumes?

          • Greg

            Wow, you didn’t have to sling mud. Regardless of when you are charging your car, fossil fuels are still being burned to do it. Also a majority of people may be charging their EVs over night granted, but not everyone. Some people charge at home overnight and at work during the day. Here in Chicago, there is an EV rental place I drive by on my way to work, their are always cars plugged in their during the day. I could insert an insult here like you Rick, but I’d rather just discuss the topic.

          • Ellen Bell

            But, here’s the thing. Electric power generation is typically out-of-balance. Most power is, of course, used during the day. Electric utilities must plan for that daytime peak and it leaves them with a lot of excess power generating capacity at night but now that EVs will be taking up that slack by recharging at night, it makes electric utility companies very happy. 🙂 Any new power generating facilities that are required will be added as gradually as the sales of EVs increase. They are probably hoping that we don’t get any new oil shocks before the conversion is complete. As we have likely already hit “peak oil” we need to conserve the supplies we have, instead of wasting them on cars (50% of oil demand) which can now be easily accomplished with EVs–especially hybrids like the Chevy Volt. With the new extended range, on the 2016 models, most Volt owners are very happy that 90% of their mileage is gas-free.

          • Greg

            Besides, that does not negate my initial point. What about people who do not have plug in access? I was hoping to find some info on that front. In large cities where EVs and Hybrids make the most sense, there is a large percentage of the population that does not have an opportunity to plug in based on parking situations.

        • Sorry, just from driving various models, I really don’t like the plug-in hybrids as much. Pure electrics drive much nicer. But yeah, if limited, the BMW i3 REx and Chevy Volt offer real electric-only driving, and various PHEVs offer it to an extent.

        • ~40% of EV owners have solar. As Rick pointed out, if charging at night, many EVs won’t be increasing electricity generation at all. Lastly, the grid is getting greener every day, but it’s still much greener to drive EV than a gasmobile (including hybrids like the Prius)… and keeps the local air much cleaner.

          • Greg

            I have a hard time believing 40% of EV users have solar. Maybe so in somewhere like southern California, but here in Chicago, residential solar is rare.

          • Well, most US EV owners live in California.

        • Ellen Bell

          It is still a win in that category as solar, wind and nuclear continue to replace a lot of fossil-fuel generation. Even natural gas (N. America is the “Saudi Arabia” of natural gas) is a much better, cleaner-burning alternative to coal-fired plants. The Chevy Volt website actually gives the figures on how much the Volt saves, even including the power plant emissions required to produce the energy to run the car.

    • Interesting. My experience is EV range is exaggerated in Europe on most models, but maybe Mitsubishi is just honest. 😀

  • The Cadillac ELR really is surprisingly good-looking in person. That said, it can’t be on this list ahead of the Mercedes S400.

  • Matt

    I stopped reading once I got to the part about global warming. Global warming is a big fat lie and I can’t believe the author believes in it so I believe the author is a Democrat who wants to spread wealth from rich nations to poor nations because that’s all that the global warming hoax is for.

    • djr417

      yah, all those crazy scientists….total pranksters that they are.

      • Ellen Bell

        Well, there WAS a LOT of politics baked into the “discussion”. I think that the aim of the whole “climate change” program is ultimately to get us off of enriching certain “s-disturbers” in the M.E. but that was not PC to say so. So they came up with AGW (anthropogenic global warming) as an excuse to cut back on the use of “fossil fuels” (and oil is the only serious use in that area other than coal for electricity generation which will be gradually phased out as well). Don’t get me wrong–I’m all in favor of limiting our use of fossil fuels but there is likely no way that it will be done very quickly, without leaving a large proportion of the planet’s human inhabitants starving in the dark. But we must start.

        In reality, it is simply likely that we are going through a warming phase and will soon be returning to a cooling phase (that may be already happening as there is a bit of funny business with the temperature sampling being done).

        The IPCC was the brainchild of Maurice Strong (he was also the hand behind the very corrupt oil-for-food program) and they stacked the deck for “anthropogenic global warming consensus” by only including, on the panel, scientists who believed in it. A not insignificant number of climate scientists have said that the models are flawed and that they don’t believe the thesis at all. So, there is no need to panic, but we should be heading in the direction of decreasing our use of fossil fuels (oil) in the least painful fashion as possible. Going to EVs is probably one of the easiest and least painful solutions–for now. One day, when scientists finally get fusion power figured out–then we are looking at abundant energy forever. 🙂

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