Do Plug-In Hybrids Matter? #YouTellUs

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Toyota Prius Plug-In

Toyota Prius Plug-In

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Electric cars are coming, electric cars are coming!

Not so fast. While electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster are already here, plug-in hybrids are stepping stones between hybrids and full electric cars for many manufacturers.

Toyota is set to launch the new 2012 Plug-In Prius early next year, and Fisker is set to deliver its first Karma plug-in hybrid sedan this month. While the Prius Plug-In falls into the future category, Chevrolet is already selling the Volt, and will take sales nationwide very soon.

While these new plug-in vehicles are a step forward for hybrid owners in many ways, does it matter? Yes, plug-in hybrids use less gasoline and rely on electricity which can save consumers quite a bit of money. It also lowers our dependance on foreign oil while causing less pollution.

But are automakers wasting time with this stepping-stone technology instead of jumping straight into the deep end of the fully-electric pool?

Today we ask you, do plug-in hybrids matter? Tweet us your response and make sure to include the hashtag #PlugInHybrids -- and you'll join the chorus right here via CoverItlLive.

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Comments (16)
  1. So far it doesn't appear that plug-in hybrids will really matter if the Volt is any indication. It's just too complex and hence too expensive to save anybody any money (quite the contrary) and therefore it's sold in too small numbers to have any impact at all on issues like oil addiction and environment. Too bad really. The idea is brilliant in theory, it's just that the numbers don't seem to work in practice. Maybe the Toyota approach can turn things around.

  2. Chris: I have to say that Volt sales for the first year will be limited to what GM said they'd build (10K or 12K), and have little relationship to market demand. It will take a couple of years at least for GM and Nissan to get to the point where they can build enough to assess what the market demand is. See here for more perspective:

  3. John Voelcker: I'm well aware that at this point sales aren't actually indicative of market demand. I intended to express my own expectations of the Volt's market potential which I feel is bound to be limited due to it's high price. I hope I'm wrong though. GM already lowered prices slightly and hopefully they can lower them more so the car becomes appealing to a larger public. I fear though that the complexity of the vehicle will put limits on how low GM can go with Volt pricing due to high production cost.

  4. Chris: Indeed, Volt pricing is far higher than comparable gasoline compact cars. Most new auto technologies launch at higher prices. Unfortunately, GM's price changes for the Volt actually make the same equipment levels cost *more* for 2012 than they did for 2011--not the direction I think we all want to see. Details here:

  5. Chris O.
    If I understand you right, the answer to the question "Do Plugin Hybrids matter?" is "Not if they are going to continue to cost $45,000."

  6. John Voelcker: thanks for clearing up the Volt price change for me. Turns out it's harder than I thought to find something nice to say about that car.... Regarding the scope for lower prices for the Volt I think we should keep in mind that most of this vehicles components like body and the ICE part of the drivetrain are already at their optimum in terms of production cost. The EV part of the drive train is what's left op optimise. So it's not like electronics like Dave Baragona suggests; it's not going to sell for a fraction of the price some day. Furthermore when the EV part gets cheaper BEV's like the Leaf are likely to benefit relatively more so I don't see the current price gap between the Volt and the Leaf get smaller any time soon.

  7. John Briggs: What I mean is that PHEV's are only going to matter for the average consumer if their price could come down to the point it would actually pay for him to buy one. If that doesn't happen it will be a niche product that will quietly disappear from the scene without ever having had any measurable direct impact at all on oil dependency and environment once battery tech improves.

  8. There are more comments in this thread
  9. Actually, considering the Volt is not in full production, and only available in 5 states out of 50, the sales numbers are quite promising. Despite these limitations, the Volt is already in the top 3 in hybrid sales. That sounds pretty significant to me.

    As far as the cost, no first generation product was ever priced for the masses. If we judged other products by their first 6 months sales numbers, we would not have cell phones , HD TV's or personal computers.

  10. I think elecric cars would be good because of almost zero maintenance. So I am not agree on hybrids, because there are two powerplant to keep running and probably problems will multiply + gas engine...

  11. Plug-in hybrids do have a roll to play, as a sort of stepping stone toward going full electric. But with pure electric cars only getting better and more numerous it's becoming easier and easier to just skip a stone.

  12. There is an awful lot of inertia in the car business. The introduction of batteries increases that inertia hugely. It takes forever to develop a battery and then at least a decade to determine if it really is what it needs to be. But the addition of batteries and electric motors to the automobile is here to stay. They will add flexibility, economy, and performance. Over time, the definition of what is a desirable car will change. Kids drive old Hondas now, they used to drive "muscle" cars.

    Electric cars including the Volt are too early in their life to judge. We probably need to get the liquid fuel usage down to the point that we do not require petroleum. We can do it.

  13. You are simply replacing one form of energy storage for another. In fifty years all the greenies will be screaming about the thousands or millions of batteries piling up polluting the environment.
    If you're so concerned about saving the environment I'd suggest living in a mud hut in the Amazon.

  14. Phillip

    Two points:

    1. You can't replace one form of energy with another unless there is another form of energy available to use as a replacement.

    2. Used batteries are an opportunity not a problem. They will be employed for energy storage at places like wind farms and then they will be recycled into new batteries.

    The question at hand is if plug in hybrids matter. They are certainly transitional and may be the car of the future with modifications.

  15. As I really, ICE vehicles all have batteries. Now why is it that we don't have a big problem with them piling up? hmmmm.....

    Oh yes, they are recycled. Perhaps that would work for EVs as well.

  16. Three quick thoughts:
    - Plug-in hybrids are a critically important option for those in states without the EV infrastructure.
    - Once the EV infrastructure is in place and battery range increases, plug-in hybrids are going to look like liesure suits - outdated.
    - The world market place has shifted gears and new technologies are adopted much faster than what we have seen in the auto industry historically. I predict that EVs will become the standard much faster than we might typically expect.

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