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Plug-in hybrid cars offer drivers the fuel-efficiency of hybrid cars and the ability to plug in to household electricity when the car is not in use. A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (or PHEV) offers extended electric-only propulsion, combined with the reliability of a backup engine.

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.

Plug-in hybrids more fuel-efficient, they produce far less pollution, and save hundreds of dollars a year in fuel costs because they have a large battery which can be charged by both the engine and an outlet. A conventional hybrid vehicle also has a battery, but it can’t be charged by plugging it in – instead, the motor charges the battery. Because of this, a plug-in is generally more expensive than a conventional hybrid because the battery has to have a larger capacity.

Plug-in cars typically use lithium-ion batteries instead of rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries, which are smaller in order to save space, but also cost more.

The following plug-in cars are currently available:

2018 Ford Fusion Energi SE

Ford Fusion Energi SE 2018

• Battery pack: lithium ion
• Range (battery mode): 20 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): 85 mph
• Extended range: 550 miles
• Estimated mpg: 104 MPGe, 38 MPG gas
• Recharge rate: 2.5 hours at 240v
• Cost: $34,000

Ford’s next generation Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid, dubbed the Fusion Energi, is well received in the marketplace as a roomy 5-passenger sedan. It 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 regenerative braking which recovers 94% of the kinetic energy lost due to friction. Inside, voice control guides many functions of Ford’s SYNC communications and entertainment system.

2018 Toyota Prius Prime

2018 Toyota Prius Prime

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 25 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): 84 mph
• Extended range: 640 miles
• Estimated mpg: 133 MPGe, 54 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2.3 hours at 240v
• Cost: $27,000+

Toyota was the first to bring a plug-in hybrid to market with the 2012 Prius Plug-In. The second-generation plug-in, the Prius Prime, uses the Hybrid Synergy Drive system of the regular Prius, which is paired with an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack (double the previous generation) in place of the Prius’ nickel-metal-hydride battery.

The Prius Prime, unlike the Prius Plug-In, is able to use both the 60-kilowatt motor and the motor/generator simultaneously, translating to more than 91 hp. The 133 MPGe rating makes it one of the most efficient vehicles on the road, even more than some full EV cars.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In

• Battery pack: lithium-ion / hydrogen fuel cell
• Range (battery mode): 40 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): n/a
• Extended range: estimated 370 miles
• Estimated mpg: n/a
• Recharge time: n/a
• Cost: $45,000+

The Honda Accord Plug-In has been discontinued and was replaced by the Honda Clarity Plug-In hybrid in 2017. The Honda Clarity midsize 5-passenger plug-in hybrid model has more passenger and cargo capacity than previous Honda hybrids and electric cars.

It is unusual in that the batteries are charged by a hydrogen fuel-cell and will have zero emissions, despite using an engine. Fuel cells have previously taken up a lot of space, decreasing cargo and passenger capacity, but the Clarity is touted to be one of the most comfortable and powerful sedans in this category.

2018 Chevrolet Volt

2018 Chevrolet Volt

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 53 miles (85km)
• Max speed (battery mode): 100 mph
• Extended range: 379 miles (609km)
• Estimated mpg: 106 MPGe, 43 MPG gas*
• Recharge time: 6.5 hours at 110v
• Cost: $34,000 – $40.000

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 53 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 53 miles with no gas at all. So let’s say the car is driven 63 miles in a day. For the first 53 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 90 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.

2018 Audi A3 E-Tron Sportback

2018 Audi A3 E-Tron Sportback

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 30 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): 80 mph
• Extended range: 380 miles
• Estimated mpg: 86 MPGe, 35 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2.3 hours at 240v
• Cost: $39,000+

A3 Sportback is a compact, sporty, 5-passenger luxury plug-in sedan featuring a 1.4-liter turbocharged gas engine and a 75 kW electric powertrain providing 30 miles of electric driving. Top speed is reported at 138 miles per hour with the gas engine running, but that drops down to a modest 80 mph purely on electricity.

The Audi is low in price for a mid-range luxury vehicle although it doesn’t have the same range as other cars of the same size.

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range: battery mode: 25 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): n/a
• Extended range: n/a
• Estimated mpg: 125 MPGe, n/a MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2.5 hours at 240v
• Cost: n/a

The Hyundai Ioniq went on sale in 2017. It has a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine, and an 8,9-kWh battery pack, making it set to compete with the Toyota Prius.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid

2018 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 27 miles
• Max. speed (battery mode): 75 mph
• Extended range: 590 miles
• Estimated mpg: 99 MPGe, 39 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2.75 hours at 240v
• Cost: $34,800

The Hyundai Sonata is only recently being offered as a plug-in model. The Sonata is one of Hyundai’s most popular cars, and it packs a punch as a plug-in, featuring a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine, and a 9.8-kWh battery for a longer range than other sedans of its class. It also has the same comfortable interior of the conventional Sonata, but still has an impressive fuel efficiency rating for its size.

The electric motor in the Plug-In is 32% more powerful than the Hybrid model at 154 hp, which is a lot less than the BMW plug-in but a lot more than a Prius Prime.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Plug-in

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Plug-in

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 30 miles
• Max. speed (battery mode): 70 mph
• Extended range: n/a
• Estimated mpg: 80 MPGe, 28 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2 hours at 240v
• Cost: $43,000+

This is a seven-passenger minivan. You wouldn’t necessarily equate the Chrysler with innovation, but Chrysler has managed to introduce the world’s first plug-in hybrid minivan, first available in 2017. With an EV range of 30 miles, the Pacific Hybrid plug-in drives on electricity alone unless full-throttle is needed, which is over 70 mph. For most minivan drivers, this is enough to stay electric most of the time.

There is no regenerative braking or EV only mode, but the Chrysler Pacifica has given families as much bang for their buck as possible with a reasonable price tag and a familiar driving experience.

2018 Volvo V60 Plug-in

2018 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

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 pre-sold in Europe, but Volvo has announced it will be bringing the V60 to the US market shortly after the European introduction.

2018 BMW 330e

2018 BMW 330e

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 14 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): 75 mph
• Extended range: 350 miles
• Estimated mpg: 72 MPGe, 38 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 275 hours at 240v
• Cost: $44,000+

The BMW 330e feels like any other BMW in driving, acceleration and handling as a sports luxury car, and as a 3-series it has some roominess for five passengers as well as a decent amount of trunk space. As a plug-in, BMW has not sacrificed driving dynamics as an electric vehicle, evidenced by the many driving options including Save Battery mode, Max e-Drive, Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport-plus.

The BMW 330e has one of the smallest EV ranges at 14 miles, but has one of the best gas fuel-efficiency in its class, allowing you to either drive a high-performance vehicle as what it is, or set it on eDrive and let the car decide how best to save fuel.

2018 BMW X5 xDrive40e

2018 BMW X5 xDrive40e

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 19 miles
• Max. speed (battery mode): 75 mph
• Extended range: n/a
• Estimated mpg: 59 MPGe, 24 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2.5 hours at 240v
• Cost: $63,000+

The BMW xDrive40e has the familiar design of the X5 luxury SUV, and does not sacrifice size for the sake of fuel efficiency, although it does lose the option of having a third row seat. It hauls on a 20-inch wheelbase and a 245 hp engine that gives you the full all-wheel drive experience.

While it is supposed to give you 19 miles of EV range, that is considered an optimistic number, with the reality closer to 13. Like the BMW 330e, BMW refuses to sacrifice traditional BMW performance for fuel efficiency, but still offers a level of efficiency far above other SUVs, and continues to be the main competitor to the Mercedes GLE550e SUV.

2018 Mercedes C350e Plug-in Hybrid

2018 Mercedes C350e

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 20 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): 81 mph
• Extended range: 550 miles
• Estimated mpg: 112 MPGe, 40 MPG gas
• Recharge time: n/a
• Cost: $45,000+

With a 4-cylinder 208 hp engine, a variety of drive modes and electricity-management options, the Mercedes C350e offers the typical comfortable Mercedes cruising style with accessories galore. Calling itself ‘aggressively elegant’, it has Crosswind Assist, 14-way power driver seat, a touchpad controller, and keyless start included.

This 5 passenger sedan stacks up against other sedans of the same size, beating the Hyundai Sonata on fuel efficiency and EV max speed. Considering that the price gap between the Sonata and C350e isn’t that big, Mercedes hopes to appeal to the upscale buyer.

2018 Mercedes GLE550e 4Matic

2018 Mercedes GLE550e 4Matic

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 12 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): 80 mph
• Extended range: 460 miles
• Estimated mpg: 43 MPGe, 21 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2 hours at 240v
• Cost: $66,000+

The Mercedes GLE550e is just one of a few plug-in SUVs and does its best to retain the speed and power of a heavy crossover. It has an 8.7-kWh battery pack that has been rated for a 10 mile range by the EPA but optimistically gets 12. With similar driving mode options to the C350e, and the same features as any GLE series, this vehicle is designed for someone who loves the Mercedes driving experience and is looking to gain some fuel-efficiency.

However, it has the worst rating of any plug-in on this list, falling short of the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid SUV of the same class.

Dodge Sprinter Plug-in Hybrid

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

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.

2018 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

2018 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 14 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): 78 mph
• Extended range: n/a
• Estimated mpg: 47 MPGe, 22 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 3 hours at 240v
• Cost: $78,000+

The S in the name stands for Sport, and the Porsche Cayenne stays true to that goal. Like BMW, Porsche has tried to maintain the same luxury sport performance with its plug-in models. With a 3.0 V6 engine it has one of the most powerful engines on this list, which comes at a price, both out of pocket and in fuel economy.

It does improve upon the fuel efficiency of many AWD SUVs, but it is only slightly better than the Mercedes GLE550e in overall range or electric fuel economy.

2018 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

2018 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 20 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): 83 mph
• Extended range: 485 miles
• Estimated mpg: 50 MPGe, 22 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2.5 hours at 240v
• Cost: $94,000+

Like the Cayenne, the Panamera has an equally powerful V6 engine coupled with a 9.4 kWh battery, and with a range of 20 miles it is better than the Cayenne and competes with the BMW. With the ability to monitor engine performance with the Porsche Car Connect app and two luxurious bucket seats in the rear, the car is designed for showing off to friends, except that it does not have the traditional Panamera Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) transmission. Instead, the S E-Hybrid has an 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic.

The Panamera plug-in is also one of the most expensive plug-in hybrid cars on the market, with a price tag over $20,000 more than a base Panamera.

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin-Engine

2018 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin-Engine

• Battery pack: lithium-ion
• Range (battery mode): 14 miles
• Maximum speed (battery mode): n/a
• Extended range: 488 miles
• Estimated mpg: 53 MPGe, 25 MPG gas
• Recharge time: 2.5 hours at 240v
• Cost: $68,000+

The Volvo XC90 is the only plug-in that Volvo is currently offering in the United States, but like the V60 offered in Europe, it has three drive modes: “pure” for electric-only, “hybrid” for combined gas/electric, and “power” for gas/diesel only. With typical Volvo attention to detail, the XC90 Twin Engine has the option of a crystal glass gear stick that is crafted by hand using traditional glassblowing and crystal-cutting techniques.

Like other SUVs in this class, it has a 9.2kWh battery that delivers 14 miles of range, and is only slightly better than the competition. What it does have is seven seats, something only the Chrysler Pacifica can offer as a plug-in.

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