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Plug-in Hybrid Cars offer drivers the fuel-efficiency benefits of hybrid cars with the added feature of being able to plug-in to household electricity when the car is not in use. This leads to increased mileage and fuel savings.

A plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle offers extended electric-only propulsion. Drivers can use the electric mode for short trips, and switch to 'blended' mode (combined gas/electric) once the battery runs low, or if higher engine performance is needed.
   

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Plug-ins require larger batteries than normal hybrids, which drives up their cost. Rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMh), used in hybrid vehicles, are bulky but less-expensive, while advanced lithium-ion batteries are smaller and have a higher output of energy, but are very costly. Improvements in battery storage capacity are key to the success of plug-ins.

Plug-in technology is currently in active development by the major auto manufacturers, with working prototypes of both plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and plug-in electric vehicles which have small backup gas generators.

The following plug-in cars are currently in development:

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  Chevrolet Volt
Ford Fusion Energi
Ford C-Max Energi
Toyota Prius Plug-in
Volvo V60 Plug-in
Honda Plug-in

Ford Escape Plug-in
Ford Edge HySeries Drive

Dodge Sprinter Plug-in
Jeep Renegade (concept)
Audi E-tron Plug-in Diesel Hybrid
Toyota 1/X (concept)
 

Chevrolet Volt


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 35-40 miles (64km)
- extended range: 379 miles (609km)
- estimated mpg: 230*
- recharge time: 6.5 hours at 110v

- cost: $30,000 - $40.000
chevrolet volt
The Volt runs entirely on electricity, with a small on-board gasoline engine 'range extender' which acts as a generator to charge the batteries once the electric power has been expended. This is referred to as a plug-in 'series' hybrid. It is not referred to as a 'hybrid' car because the hybrids run with combined gas-electric technology acting in parallel.

The Volt's electric-only range of 40 miles exceeds the average per trip range of most drivers, and so for most trips the car will use no gas. When the car is parked at home, it is designed to use a common household plug for recharging.

* When gasoline is providing the power, the Volt might get as much as 50 mpg. But that mpg figure would not take into account that the car has already gone 40 miles with no gas at all.
So let's say the car is driven 50 miles in a day. For the first 40 miles, no gas is used and during the last 10 miles, 0.2 gallons are used. That's the equivalent of 250 miles per gallon. But, if the driver continues on to 80 miles, total fuel economy would drop to about 100 mpg. And if the driver goes 300 miles, the fuel economy would be just 62.5 mpg.
 




2013 Ford Fusion Energi

- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): n/a
- extended range: n/a
- estimated mpg: 100 MPGe
- recharge time: n/a

- cost: n/a
2913 Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid
Ford's next generation Fusion will be available in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, and is touted to exceed the Checrolet Volt in mileage. Ford expects this model to achieve EPA ratings of 100 mpge. (The "e" is the mileage equivalency mettric for electric vehicles.) This mileage rating would make the Fusion plug-in the most efficient midsize sedan on the market.

The Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid, dubbed the Fusion Energi, has the latest in automotive technology, including a system of cameras designed to keep drivers from wandering out of their lanes, adaptive cruise control and parking-assist sensors.The Fusion Energi also comes with automatic start stop system technology, which Ford claims can reduce emissions and fuel consumption by 3.5 percent. Inside voice control will guide many functions of Ford's SYNC communications and entertainment system.
 

2013 Ford C-Max Energi


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range: battery mode: 20 miles; extended: 500 miles
- estimated mpg: 47 city/hwy
- max. speed (battery mode): 47mph
- recharge time: n/a
- available: 2012

- cost: est. $25,000 - $30,000
Ford C-Max Energi
The new van-like compact car, due out next year, will be available in the U.S. in two hybrid versions. One of those, the C-Max Energi, will be a plug-in hybrid with capabilities similar to those of GM's Volt but with a much longer total driving range. The other version, the C-Max Hybrid, will be a standard hybrid, similar to the Toyota Prius.

Instead of just pure-gas or pure-electric driving modes, the C-Max Energi will have an intermediary "blended" phase between battery-only driving and gasoline-only driving. During that time, both energy sources will be used. The all-electric range, top speed, and battery size have yet to be announced. Gasoline and diesel-powered versions of the C-Max are already on sale in Europe but aren't planned for the U.S.
 

2013 Toyota Prius Plug-in


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 15 miles
- max. speed (battery mode): 62 mph
- recharge time: 3 hours at 110v
- available: 2012 was first model year

- cost: $32,000 - $39,525
Toyota Prius plug-in
Toyota was the first to bring a plug-in hybrid to market with the 2012 Prius Plug-in. There are no significant changes in the 2013 model. The Prius Plug-In uses the Hybrid Synergy Drive system of the regular Prius, which is paired with a 4.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack in place of the Prius' nickel-metal-hydride battery. The battery is located under the cargo floor along with the onboard charger.

The Prius plug-in can run in electric-only (EV) mode for maximum fuel efficiency, or "blended" mode (combined electric/gas) for enhanced performance and longer trips when recharging is not an option.

The Prius plug-in is powered by the current Prius’s 1.5-liter inline four. The electric motor generates 50kW, which combined with the battery pack, lets the car reach over 60mph in EV mode alone. The 2013 model achieves 50 mpg when operating as a hybrid.
 

2013 Volvo V60 Plug-in


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 32 miles
- max. speed (battery mode): 70 mph
- recharge time: 7 hours at 110v
- available: 2013

- cost: (est.)$81,000 US
2013 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid
The upcoming Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid has three drive modes: "pure" for electric-only, "hybrid" for combined gas/electric, and "power" for gas/diesel only. The diesel engine, for the European market, is a powerful 2.4 litre, 215hp. A gasoline engine will be provided for the US market. And living up to Volvo's reputation, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid was named 'Safest Electrified Car' by Europe's NCAP. Volvo expects the V60 will be the most fuel-efficient car of its class, at 100+ mpg, 49 g/km CO2, and 32 miles of electric range.

Availability will be challenging for the initial wave of vehicles coming off the line. The first 1000 diesel-hybrids are presold in Europe, but Volvo has announced it will be bringing the V60 to the US market shortly after the European introduction.
 

Honda Plug-in


- battery pack: 6kWh lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 10 - 15 miles
- max. speed (battery mode): 62 mph
- recharge time: 2.5 hours at 120v, 1.5 at 240v
- available: 2012

- cost: n/a
Plug-in Honda
Honda's next-generation hybrid features a two-motor system that continuously moves through three different modes to maximize driving efficiency: all-electric, gasoline-electric and a unique, engine direct-drive mode. The plug-in hybrid also uses regenerative braking to charge the battery. It is compatible with daily driving habits, allowing for short, frequent trips in all-electric mode, while providing long-distance driving capability when needed.

The vehicle can also run in a gasoline-electric hybrid mode, the platform features a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter, i-VTEC® inline 4-cylinder, Atkinson cycle engine, paired with an electric Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT). An onboard generator adds to the battery powering the electric motor. For more efficient high-speed cruising, the vehicle can engage in a direct-drive mode, in which only the engine drives the front wheels.
 

Ford Escape SUV Plug-in


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 30 miles
- max. speed (battery mode): 40mph
- recharge time: n/a
- available: 2013

- cost: n/a
Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid
A plug-in version is currently in development for the popular Ford Escape compact SUV gas-electric hybrid. The Escape plug-in has five times as much battery capacity and hardware as the current Escape hybrid to recharge the battery from a standard household outlet.

The Escape plug-in can achieve fuel economy of up to 120 miles per gallon, Ford claims, during the first 30 miles of driving at moderate speeds after a full charge. Ford's Greg Frenette, chief engineer for plug-in and fuel-cell vehicles, forecasts 70 to 80 mpg on the highway, where the gas engine works more, and 30 miles of light driving up to 40 mph on a charged battery alone.

 


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Ford Edge, HySeries Drive


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 25 miles
- extended range: 225 miles
- max. speed (battery mode): 85mph
- recharge time: n/a
- available: n/a
Ford Edge plug-in
The Edge is the world's first drivable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle with plug-in capability. Ford's HySeries propulsion system is similar to that used in GM's Chevrolet Volt, but with one big difference: the HySeries uses a hydrogen fuel cell, not a gasoline engine, as the on-board back-up generator. The fuel cell starts re-charging the battery when the charge level drops to around 40 percent.

Ford claims a plug-in-power-only range of 25 miles before the hydrogen is needed. After that, the Edge with HySeries can go another 200 miles on a tank of compressed hydrogen. Ford estimates the gasoline equivalent mileage of the HySeries Edge at 41 mpg city/highway combined if you drive the full range.
 

Dodge Sprinter Plug-in


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 20 miles
- max. speed (battery mode): n/a
- recharge time: 6 - 8 hours at 220v
- available: n/a
Dodge Sprinter plug-in
The Dodge Sprinter Plug-in operates, like other hybrid vehicles, on its electric motor and internal combustion engine combined. However, the Sprinter uses a diesel engine instead of gas. The diesel engine offers added fuel efficiency and more power at low speeds which suits the utility of a van/cargo vehicle.

The Sprinter plug-in is currently being road tested as a delivery vehicle for the NY Times. This is the first fleet test of a diesel plug-in hybrid system. The Sprinter is designed to benefit commercial uses where trips are short and the vehicle returns to its base for recharging.

 

Jeep Renegade (concept)


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 40 miles
- extended range: 400 miles
- max. speed (combined): 90 mph (144km/h)
- recharge time: n/a
- available: n/a
Jeep Renegade Plug-in
Chrysler has unveiled concept designs for a sporty two-seater all-wheel drive - the Jeep Renegade plug-in. The concept model features two electric motors, one for each axle, and a 1.5 liter, 115hp diesel engine. The frame and body features lightweight aluminum architecture and recyclable materials. Designed for open-air utility, the wireless interior can be hosed down, with interior water channels and drain.

The Renegade plug-in has a low gear mode, locking differentials, and a Bluetec diesel "range-extender" engine that gives it the equivalent of 110 mpg when combined with the electric motors. According to Chrysler, the Renegade is capable of achieving an equivalent petroleum fuel economy of 110 mpg.
 

Audi E-tron Plug-in Diesel Hybrid


- battery pack: 9.1 kWh lithium-ion
- range (battery mode): 31 miles
- max. speed (battery mode): 37 mph
- recharge time: n/a
- available: 2012

- cost: n/a
Audi E-tron Spyder Plug-in Hybrid
Unveiled at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the Audi E-tron Spyder plug-in diesel hybrid is still in concept stage. The two-seater is equipped with a 221 kW (300 hp) twin-turbo V6 TDI at the rear axle and two electric motors producing a total of 64 kW at the front axle. It requires on average just 2.2L diesel/100 km (107 mpg), corresponding to CO2 emissions of 59 g/km (95 g/mile). A range of more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) is possible with the 50-liter (13.21 gallons) tank. A 9.1 kWh battery supports an all-electric range of up to 50 kilometers (31 miles).

The E-tron Spyder is a performance sportscar, with questionable value as a "green" car. It does however, advance the plug-in technology. And if the concept can deliver a real MPG of 100+ it is impressive and yet another step toward lowering oil demands.
 

Toyota 1/X (concept)


- battery pack: lithium-ion
- range (extended): 150 miles
- max. speed (battery mode): n/a
- recharge time: n/a
- available: n/a
Toyota 1/X Plug-in
The Toyota 1/X concept car has the same interior space as the Prius, but weighs two-thirds less, coming in under 1,000 pounds. This ultra-light weight lets the 1/X offer twice the fuel efficiency. The car is designed with highly rigid carbon fiber, which is reinforced by a plastic frame to ensure superior collision safety.

The 1/X also features a flex fuel 500cc engine and plug-in hybrid drive system. Toyota quotes fuel efficiency that is double of the Prius in a package that's roughly the same size and seats four. The Toyota 1/X concept car is capable of traveling 150 miles on a four-gallon tank of gasoline.
 


PLUG-IN CARS IN THE NEWS

4 Apr 2014 - VW to build plug-in cars in China
2 Apr 2014 - Accord plug-in plays keep up
1 Apr 2014 - Cadillac recalls 2014 ELR plug-in hybrid
30 Mar 2014 - Volvo 360 plug-in car review
27 Mar 2014 - VW battery-only Golf a stop-gap before plug-in hybrid arrives
13 Mar 2014 - Rolls Royce considers building a plug-in hybrid
25 Jan 2014 - To hybrid or plug-in hybrid?
23 Jan 2014 - Is the Chevy Volt destined to remain GM's niche product?
3 Jan 2014 - US plug-in vehicle sales surge in 2013
2 Jan 2014 - Ford testing plug-in hybrid that charges via rooftop solar panels

 
Plug-in Car Links:

Electric Drive Transportation Association
Information about electric vehicles, events, emissions, environmental impacts and more.
The US Office of Transportation Technologies Information about alternative fuel, hybrids and advanced transportation technologies.
Buyers Guide for Hybrid Cars offers current price comparisons.
FuelEconomy.gov - side by side comparisons
About.com - guidance in choosing a hybrid
Research Hybrid Cars - comparison data for hybrid cars
Related Articles:

Hybrid Cars - the current hybrid car lineup, with features, prices and specifications
Fuel-Efficient Driving
- you can boost the overall fuel-efficiency of your car as much as 30% by simple vehicle maintenance and attention to your style of driving.
Car Sharing - get around town in a shared car, and save yourself the costs of car ownership.
Energy-Efficient Vehicles - the best and worst of the 2008 models