Electric-only cars lose ground to plug-in hybrids image

Automakers are opting more and more for plug-in hybrids as a way to offer some form of battery-only motoring, but without the range inconveniences.

Compared to regular gasoline-electric hybrids, pioneered by the Toyota Prius, plug-in hybrids allow much more electric-only driving. While the original Prius offered less than a mile of battery-only range and could not be plugged into your house’s socket, plug-ins offer more than 30 miles, allowing drivers with a standard work commute to drive without buying gasoline again. Plug-in hybrids also have the option that when the battery runs out, the gasoline engine steps in, working like a regular car.

Volkswagen says it only produces battery-only vehicles because some state regulators, like California, insist on manufactures making a certain percentage of these cars even if the public demand is incredibly low. The only reason why someone would buy a battery only car when a plug-in hybrid is available, but if the range was doubled, this type of cars stopped being unpredictable and prices would be cut in half.

Volkswagen launched this month the Golf GTE, powered by two engines – a 1.4 liter 148 HP four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 101 HP electric motor, adding to a maximum power capacity of 201HP. The car’s battery can be recharged in two and a half to three and a half hours depending on the domestic power available. VW claims it could go 157 miles per U.S. gallon by driving the vehicle in a combination of two thirds electric use and one third hybrid. Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Golf GTE Plug-in hybrid also has a 28 miles electric range and comes at a much cheaper price than the battery-only Golf.  With its extra gasoline range, it can travel up to 584 miles, according to VW.

Most manufacturers are planning to join the market with PHEVs, especially due to sales projections compared with battery-only cars. According to the IHS Automotive forecaster, by 2020 regular hybrids and PHEVs will account for almost 5% of global sales compared with less than 1% for electric vehicles.

By Gabriela Florea