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Reader asks about possible purchase of a hybrid vehicle

Wheels: Ray writes by email:

“I currently own a Chevrolet pickup truck that is almost 20 years old. I want to purchase a car next time – something that gets better fuel economy. Some of my friends and co-workers have suggested I buy a hybrid vehicle, such as a Prius, because fuel economy is important to me. I changed to a job that now involves a long compute of about 100 miles a day. I really don’t want a hybrid, however, because I don’t want to have to plug it in every night when I am home. What do you suggest?”

Halderman: I think you are confusing an electric vehicle (EV) with a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). Hybrid vehicles use both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, and do not need to be plugged in to an electrical outlet to charge the high-voltage battery. The gasoline engine is used to keep the battery charged. An electric car, such as a Nissan Leaf or a Tesla, are all electric without a gasoline engine; these must be plugged in to charge the high-voltage battery.

There are many vehicles that get outstanding fuel economy, and many are not hybrid electric vehicles. HEVs achieve their superior fuel economy by trapping the energy during braking, called regenerative braking. As a result, they achieve their best fuel economy when driven in the city’s stop-and-go traffic. Many vehicles today are able to deliver 30 miles per gallon or more, especially on the highway; some can achieve 40 MPG. I am sure you will find a vehicle that meets your needs. It may or may not be a hybrid, but don’t overlook purchasing a hybrid. I have one and I love it.

A dash display on a Toyota hybrid electric vehicle showing the engine, electric motor and the high-voltage battery pictograms. James Halderman photo

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