Right Electric Range For A Plug-In Hybrid: Is Lower Better?

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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

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How much electric range is the "right" amount in a plug-in hybrid or range-extended electric car?

If you're a fan of battery electric vehicles, the answer is "all of it."

But if you want to drive most of your miles on electricity, and still have the security of a combustion engine as a backup for long-distance travel, the answer may vary.

Our reader Jim Bradbury explained last year why he chose a Prius Plug-In over a Chevy Volt--because of the length of his commute and the car's larger interior space.

Other buyers will rank their priorities differently, but this year, they can choose among the following electric ranges (as rated by the EPA):

Now, a study suggests that while buyers of plug-in hybrids are more affluent than the average car buyer, they focus on payback as a major part of the selection process.

While buyers vary in their reasons for buying a plug-in electric car, the buying public's choices of battery pack sizes--and hence electric ranges--will really only become apparent this year, as all five vehicles listed above will be on sale for most of the year.

The study was done by the Carlab, an automotive consulting firm in Orange, California.

Mike Dovorany, a consultant with Carlab, suggested recently in an article in Ward's Auto that an electric range of 11 to 21 miles was probably the right balance between battery cost and electric capability.

2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

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Implied in his comment is that the Chevy Volt's 38 miles of range, delivered by a lithium-ion battery pack that's four times the size of the Prius Plug-In's and roughly double that of the two Ford Energi models, is too much for many buyers.

We suspect many of our fervent Chevy Volt owners may disagree with that.

But it's a good question that will only be settled by the market: What is your ideal electric range for a plug-in hybrid or range-extended electric vehicle?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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