Electric Car FAQs: Is It Still Worth Buying A Hybrid?

Electric cars — and electrified or hybrid cars! — are mostly like regular cars. You step on the pedal on the right and the car goes, you turn the wheel and the car turns, and the only real difference is what kind of fuel goes in it. We say stuff like that all the time. If we’re being completely honest, though, that’s only mostly true. 99% of the time the only difference is what kind of fuel goes into the car, but that last 1% probably needs explaining.

To provide that explanation, we’ve launched a new segment called “Electric Car FAQs” that hopes to answer those oddball questions that come up 1% of the time. Today’s question: is it still worth buying a hybrid?

EV FAQs: Is it Worth Buying a Hybrid?

bmw hybrid phev
Image courtesy BMW.

The future is undoubtedly electric, and any automaker with serious plans to still be selling cars past 2030 is committing huge amounts of money to develop a full line-up of electric cars, trucks, and SUVs. That said, EVs are still a growing market, and the vast majority of new cars sold in North America are still powered by internal combustion. As buyers begin to see the (electric) light, it seems likely that many will choose a hybrid as their first electrified car, and that they’ll do so somewhat sooner than later. And, when they do, they will undoubtedly run into the gatekeepers.

What is a gatekeeper? A gatekeeper is someone who takes it upon themselves to set the standard of what someone must do/not do in order to identify with a given group or movement — and the EV community is littered with gatekeepers who would rather make their friends feel bad about being interested in a hybrid because it’s not electric enough for their liking.

That said, that’s not what we’re about here. We’re going to celebrate any positive change, and if the choices are pure ICE gasmobile or hybrid, it’s obvious that the better choice in terms of reducing lifetime carbon emissions is the hybrid, and there are plenty of valid reasons to consider a hybrid over a pure ICE car — especially if you’re working on a jobsite.

Ford Pro Power Gets it Right

Ford F-150 hybrid
Image by Jo Borras, CleanTechnica.

It’s a quirk of American culture that the people most likely to benefit from improved access to medical care, taxpayer-funded education, and electric vehicles and the very people most likely to oppose Obamacare, student loan relief, and anything that doesn’t guzzle oil and gas like that’s its job. Americans aren’t stupid, though, and when they see the added capabilities that a Ford Powerboost F-150 equipped with Ford Pro Power brings to the jobsite they know that they’re looking at something brilliant.

Pro Power acts like a generator, tapping into the hybrid’s large, 48v battery pack to power 110 or 220 style standard outlet appliances. Ford pitches this as a jobsite thing, allowing workers to plug in their power tools without the need for an on-site generator — but you can plug in anything. Toaster? Blender? Big-screen TV and Sony Playstation? All of it — it all works as expected, without an adapter or inverter, and the big hybrid system barely breaks a sweat.

The Ford Powerboost Pro Power onboard generator/power outlet is so good, in fact, that it handily won Autoblog’s Technology of the Year Award for 2021. “It’s so good,” writes Autoblog’s Zac Palmer, “that we can’t believe nobody else had thought of it yet.”

He’s not alone, either. Roadshow’s Reviews Editor Antuan Goodwin calls Pro Power “a game changer”, and used the generator to power the world’s saddest “Big Game” tailgate party in his driveway last year. Check it out for yourself.

Roadshow | F-150 Hybrid

And, in case those extra capabilities aren’t enough, the fact that Ford’s Powerboost pickup also happens to be the most fuel-efficient full-size pickup on the market also helps gatekeeping fleet managers take their electrified medicine, too. “Our team spent months living with and observing truck customers at their homes, on job sites and on the weekends,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product platform and operations officer. “Using electrification, we realized we could now give customers something they had long wanted but didn’t think was possible – tremendous power, great fuel economy and all-new capabilities to make their F-150 even more productive.”

People Still Have Range Anxiety

mitsubishi outlander phev
Image courtesy Mitsubishi.

As recently as September 2021, the J.D. Power Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Ownership Study showed that range was still the number 1 consideration among first-time EV buyers. And not just claimed range, but experienced range. “The factor most cited in deciding what EV to buy is the range—or how far the car can travel on a single battery charge,” writes John Voelcker, in Forbes. “Once an EV driver has the car, its ability to match the maker’s rated range is equally important.”

This fact has held true for years now, regardless of the fact that most Americans drive less than 40 miles per day. Drivers of ICE cars trust gasoline in the sense that they “know” they’ll be able to find it when they need it — partly from habit, and partly from the fact that gas stations are simply more visible than charging stations by virtue of having 100′ tall glowing signs with American flags waving from them that are visible for miles around advertising their presence.

Gas vs electric fuel advertising
Image courtesy Matt Teske.

Until people can start seeing electric fuel with the same level of clarity that they can see gas or diesel, the best way to see how an electrified car could fit into their lives might be a PHEV. In the early days of this wave of EVs, Chevy Volt owners would often brag about “never using a drop of gas” — and many of those hybrid buyers went on to buy a pure BEV afterward.

There’s a lesson here, too, for critics of PHEVs who point out that many PHEV buyers never plug in their cars, and that’s the fact that plug-in hybrids are making a compelling case for EV technology by showcasing benefits that matter to traditional car buyers right now, for the way they live and work and play today, and not in some utopian future where we’ve shut down the Top 100 Polluting Companies and the choice between a Prius and a LEAF is going to turn the tide.

That mention of a Nissan LEAF, by the way, is a nice segue into this final section of this particular FAQ — and, while it’s definitely a low-percent use-case, it is one that is increasingly front of mind for many people being impacted by climate change.

In Case of Emergency / Hybrid Tech to the Rescue

Hybrid Ford F=150 came to the rescue after Texas ice storms
Image courtesy Ford.

It’s a simple fact that gas pumps run on electricity. When the power goes out, the pumps stop working, and anyone who has lived in the aftermath of a major hurricane or earthquake can tell you that the ability to get gasoline goes away quickly. Despite that, most slow adopters will still point to emergencies where the electricity goes out as a reason to hold back on buying an EV.

When ice storms hit Texas and many in the state lost power, owners of Ford hybrid pickups and pure electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF with vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home technology built in were able to weather the storm (sorry) better than others. In this tweet, one hybrid owner was able to keep food from spoiling and other electrical systems running for days.

“It sounds as though the F-150 went above and beyond the call of basic duty,” wrote Motor Trend’s Alexander Solkosa. “Powering a 75-inch TV, a coffee maker, and a freezer for “10-12 hours per day.” Keep in mind, temperatures in the area were hovering in the teens during most of this time. The Ford owner says the F-150’s hybrid powertrain only chewed through a few gallons of gasoline during this period and noted how the engine would come on and turn off periodically to keep the batteries onboard juiced up.”

As we pointed out in this article about the potential link between Libertarianism and solar power, it’s equally possible to own your own electric fuel and keep your home or vehicle powered up. Even whole communities, if not critical buildings like hospitals or logistical centers, can be kept humming along in an emergency thanks to recycled EV batteries, if the electrified vehicles themselves are needed elsewhere.

All of which means that life can go on, even without gasoline — but, in case there’s a weeks-long outage of power and long-term infrastructure failure (as there was in New Orleans, after Katrina, and Miami, after Andrew), it’s hard to argue against a fuel that can be pumped into a vehicle by gravity.

Gravity feed fueling in NASCAR, courtesy NASCAR.

That’s one way of approaching the hybrid question when speaking to late majority EV adopters, but certainly not the only one! We’d love to hear your take on the matter in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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