Reader Q: 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid Vs Other Hybrids

Follow John

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

With two dozen hybrid models now on the market, and several mass-market plug-in hybrids as well, weighing costs and benefits can get a lot more complicated.

Take, for instance, our reader Catherine Chan-Smith, who wrote to ask for advice:

I've read your article on the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, and was hoping you could help shed some light on the car.

My husband and I are looking for a fuel-efficient and comfortable car; we test-drove the Toyota Prius and Camry Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and the Accord Plug-in.

We're ruling out the Prius at this point, because we didn't love how it drove, nor was it very comfortable.

I really love the Accord Plug-In--it's comfortable and the 115 MPG is a big selling point, obviously. The trunk is tiny and that's potentially a deal-breaker for my husband, who thinks it's way too small for us and our two kids (ages 2 and 5).

He also doesn't think that we'll be able to get the 115 MPG based on how we drive. I drive 60 miles round trip every day...and my average morning commute in Los Angeles is about an hour.

Do you think we'll be able to get close to 100-115 MPG or will I get significantly less due to my long commute?

You will NOT get 115 mpg, no matter how you drive.

That number is a theoretical equivalent number called "MPGe," or miles-per-gallon-equivalent. It refers to how far the car will travel electrically on the same amount of energy as contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.

It's confusing in that respect, because the car only operates at that efficiency for the distance it can travel on battery power alone.

For the 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid, the EPA says that number is 13 miles.

So if you drive 60 miles a day, you may get 10 to 12 miles on electricity (depending on your speed and driving style). Then the car reverts to being a conventional hybrid when the battery pack is depleted.

Its fuel efficiency as a hybrid is rated at 46 mpg, which is pretty good for a car that large, though you might be better to plan on 35 or 40 mpg in case you're an aggressive driver.

As for its capacity, it's a mid-size sedan, so it should be fine for two adults and two small children.

I don't know how much stuff you carry--so trunk space could be an issue--but in terms of cabin capacity it should be fine--unless you're used to a Chevy Suburban or something!

2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid drive event, NYC area, April 2013

2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid drive event, NYC area, April 2013

Enlarge Photo

Are we better off getting a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid?

I've just driven the new 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which is upgraded compared to the 2011-2012 hybrid model.

I'd say you'll get a real-world 35 mpg or so in that car.

Note that it's not a plug-in hybrid with a battery pack you can recharge from the wall, but a regular hybrid that runs only on gasoline--but more efficiently.

We found the new 2013 hybrid Sonata to drive better than the previous version did.

See details in our 2013 Sonata Hybrid first drive report. We'll have another article on a longer drive up within a few days.

Lastly, do you know if Honda is coming out with a Hybrid Accord (non-plugin) this year?

Honda is indeed coming out with a conventional hybrid version of the Accord, without the plug-in feature.

It'll be out sometime in the second half of this year, but we don't know the price or efficiency rating yet.

The delay is because the Accord Hybrid will be built with other Accords in a U.S. plant, whereas the plug-in Accord is built in Japan.

So, what do you think? Did we give the Chan-Smiths the right advice, or would you have advised them differently?

Let us know what you think in the Comments below.


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Us

Comments (69)
  1. Great informative post. Agree, plug-in hybrids are a confusing beast when trying to understand real-world fuel use. Duel-mode MPG becomes a factor of how much the vehicle can run on electricity (start fully charged) & distance between charges.

    20 mile trip –> 10 miles electric & 10 miles gas = 20 mi / 10 mi * 46 mpg = 92 mpg
    40 mile trip –> 10 miles electric & 30 miles gas = 40 mi / 30 mi * 46 mpg = 61 mpg
    60 mile trip –> 10 miles electric & 50 miles gas = 60 mi / 50 mi * 46 mpg = 55 mpg
    100 mile trip –> 10 miles electric & 90 miles gas = 100 mi / 90 mi * 46 mpg = 51 mpg
    200 mile trip –> 10 miles electric & 190 miles gas = 200 mi / 190 mi * 46 mpg = 48 mpg

    So it depends… with nice reward for shorter trips.

  2. If one can plug in the car at work to any normal electricity outlet, an 8-hours charging there will be enough to give you another 10 miles so the mpgs become higher.

  3. I think your advice is very good, but I would have added that she also needs to check out the Fusion HEV and Energi that are in the competitive set.

    The trunks in the Accord PHEV and Fusion Energi really are quite small. If they expect to use their vehicle with all of their family members on board or on a trip or carrying sports gear, I would encourage them to take a typical load to the dealer and give it a go trying to pack it to see if it works.

  4. They do sell roof containers, roof racks the last time I checked.

  5. You know I would have advised them to seriously consider a clean diesel vehicle. Why you did not do the same, is a mystery.

    People are so lost, they think gasoline hybrids are the only available fuel efficient and environmentally conscious technology.

    You should have shocked her and told her to look at clean diesels. Shock them. They need it.

  6. Diesels are not efficient as city drivers and hybrids do as good or better on the highway. They cost about the same except you pay more for diesel fuel and it's not available at every gas station. I will say Diesels are great for trucks due to the excellent towing characteristics but the real question is "why does anybody buy diesel cars?"

  7. I would disagree. The diesel does well in the city and much better than the hybrid on the highway. Don't go by EPA ratings as the hybrid ratings are extremely optimistic and the diesel ratings are very pessimistic.

  8. That is not correct in the case of Prius models. The highway fuel economy is outstanding. Some TDis may match the Prius Liftback but they don't beat it by any large margin. True the TDi EPA hwy ratings are pessimistic but that doesn't make them special when their overachievement puts them square with a Prius. Additionally, 30mpg city is not what I would consider "does well" either. You should spend more time on the TDi and Prius forums to get a better idea of what each vehicle type is capable of.

  9. I get 37-42 MPG in the city put-putting around 950 RPM in my clean diesel. Most of the time, I do not even use the gas pedal, just let the engine idle and move the car along. I can get all the way to 6th gear without pressing the gas pedal.

  10. Annatar, that's great but that is not how most people drive. If you want to compare hypermiling in the city then I get 65-70mpg in the city (non-plug in). I'm trying to keep thing honest here. Fanboys love to ignore facts like fueleconomydotgov and Fuellydotcom.

  11. Kevin,
    diesels are quite popular in Europe since the diesel fuel is cheaper compared to gasoline and they have a better diesel infrastructure. It would not be a good buy in the US because the diesel fuel is actually significantly more expensive, and as you pointed out only select stations have diesel.

  12. Catherine stated her commute is in Los Angeles. You don't have to live here to know about the horrible traffic - meaning she won't ever get highway MPG figures. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids are better suited for stop and go city mileage than diesels.

  13. Actually, you re the one who needs to be shocked. I get tired of debunking all the diesel myths out there.
    (1) Diesel is more expensive than even premium....Accord uses regular.
    (2) Catherine lives in CA, with the cleanest grid in the country. So diesel is not even in the same ballpark compared to EV portion of commute
    (3) 50% of all diesel is foreign, and 20% comes from enemy/problem nations. Think of that next time you fill up. Not true with electricity
    (4) Much electricity is renewable and CA leads. Haven't seen biodiesel in large amounts yet
    (5) Hybrid batteries are lasting 250k+ miles in taxi service, and are 100% recyclable. Diesel refining is 10x worse impact on environment
    I could go on, but that's the gist

  14. There are more comments in this thread
  15. Does anyone have a copy of the EPA/DOT window sticker (a/k/a the Fuel Economy and Environment label) for the Accord plug-in?

  16. We took a picture of it when we test drove the Accord. Says 115 MPGe with electricity and gasoline and 46 MPG with gasoline only. Estimating that the annual fuel cost is $850.

  17. Can you post the picture of the EPA/DOT label?

  18. OK, and I pay around $55 every two and a half weeks (diesel is the most expensive fuel here), so let us see:

    $55 / 2.5 * 52 = $1,144 in fuel costs per year, and I get the enormous space of the station wagon plus the V6 truck-like torque for $294 more per year, or $24.50 more per week.

  19. Sorry, that should have read $5.65 ((1144 - 850)/52) more per week.

  20. I would recommend the Volt. While it is not as large as the others spoken of, it does have a MUCH longer range than the plug-in hybrids. If she is able to plug in at work, she WILL be able to go round trip on electricity alone. It also costs about the same as the Accord plug-in.

  21. The Volts retail price is similar to the Accord PHEV, but it ends up being cheaper with the full EV tax credit rather than the partial amount from the Accord (not counting any of the high tech features that come standard on the Accord PHEV).

  22. Very informative. Personally I'd avoid Hyundai - long-term it's still an unknown. Ford and Toyota are tried and proven, so really once the letter writer understands how the plug-in Accord works, it's a question of what works best for her based on her values and the cost of the respective choices. 60 miles round trip...I'd probably go Camry or Fusion Hybrid.

  23. Or a Volt. I'd go Volt. Ha.

  24. I would recommend the Volt for them as well. The kids are young enough that you don't need a ton of room. The Volt would fit their commute needs nicely and provide the highest efficiency at a reasonable price assuming they get on board with the massive $15,000-$15,600 worth of incentives right now in CA. This is coming from a Prius Plug In owner who commutes 100 miles round trip!

  25. I can't seem to find any incentives (other than the usual fed credit and Cal rebate). True, the price then comes down to about $30,000, but I haven't seen anything else. Where do you find the additional incentives.

  26. Check Rydell Chevy in SoCal or John L. Sullivan in Sacramento. They both offer the $3,250 in dealer discounts plus the $3,000 GM cash bonus for 0% 48mo financing.

  27. Thanks for all your insight! I am caught in a lot of traffic (more often than not) and unfortunately, i do not have the capability to recharge at work. What do you guys think about the Lexus 300H?

  28. Even if you don't have the ability to charge at work, traveling at least part of your commute on electric power(via plug-in hybrid) is still more economical than driving the entire commute using gas (hybrid, conventional engine). You might want to look at the Ford Fusion Energi or Ford C-max Energi as both of those cars offer a similar powertrain to the Accord PHEV, but both offer greater electric range.

  29. Also, the Ford C-max Energi offers 19 cu/. ft. of cargo compared to 12 cu. ft. for the Lexus ES300h. That's with the seats folded up. With them down, it's 42.5 cu. ft. Although the C-max Energi and ES are not the same body style type, the C-max Energi is pretty comfortable and has a nice upright seating position. Plus the drive will be nicer since the Energi spends more time with the gas engine off compared to the ES300h.

  30. Thanks K H! I'll have to check out the Ford C-max Energi...i don't love how the Fusion looks...but honestly have not considered the Energi. I also feel like Ford's don't have the longevity of say a Toyota or a Honda--though it could be perception on my part.

  31. I shared your perception until I started looking into their newest vehicles. I can't speak from experience because I drive a Chevy Volt, but it seems as though their hybrids have good longevity:

  32. seems like the Volt is very popular...will have to seriously consier one.

  33. Catherine, we love our Volt, but with the four bucket seats, you can't drive with five, so it's not for everyone. There are great choices out there, so do your research and I hope you get exactly what you are hoping for!

    Please note that Toyota has led the industry in recalls two of the last three years and Honda the other, although the Prius has still been excellent. I don't think I would even give Toyota an edge and I worked in Japan for seven years and have driven them for much of my career as my company car. Good luck!

  34. Open letter to Ford:

    I thought my 2013 C-MAX would be a Prius Killer? NOT! As a returning Ford buyer I feel deceived. I want to support US companies and US jobs. What was Ford thinking when they published 47/ 47/47 estimates? Based on the advertised EPA estimates, I would have been ok with low 40's but 28-33 mpg is not even in the ballpark. This is not an issue about EPA testing standards, but rather an issue about setting false customer expectations in order to promote sales.

  35. So you're not getting anywhere close to the MPG estimates with the Ford C-MAX? Could it be the way you drive? I'm new to understanding all of this...and it's still a bit confusing...but i was told the way i drive would not get me the most optimum estimates with most hybrid or hybrid/plug-in cars..

  36. There have been reports of people not getting the advertised mileage in the new Ford hybrid vehicles (not necessarily counting the Energi models). It's hard to know what the cause is - cold weather (they debuted during the winter), batteries haven't "broken-in" yet, and/or the EPA did not calculate the MPG correctly. In my opinion it's less of an issue with the Energi models because you are relying more on the electricity that comes from the grid rather than the gas in the tank. If your commute is 60 miles, you could cover up to a third of that on EV power.

  37. Forgot to add aggressive driving to possible causes. Ford hybrids have more horsepower than Toyota hybrids, which may cause some people to drive in a more spirited manner, thus lowering MPG.

  38. Could be true to an extent but even driving around like a maniac I could never get below 42mpg in my Prius (2005,2012 and 2012 Plug In). That includes driving at 80+mph, 17" wheels and accelerating like a teenager. The folks on the CMAX forum are able to achieve EPA numbers but it requires slower speeds (

  39. I test drove a 2013 Fusion Hybrid in October 2012. This low mileage show room vehicle had a life time average of only 30 MPG which was shocking but I enjoyed the car compared to my test drive of the Prius C. I received my factory ordered Fusion Hybrid in February but at first I only averaged lifetime mileage after 1200 miles of 28 MPG. At 2700 miles it is up to 36.7 MPG lifetime mileage as of May. I can get 52 MPG with short runs in the city (Wash. DC). I am confident with more mileage I will get over 40 MPG with another 1000 or more miles on it. I purchased this vehicle with no expectation that it would get 47 mpg as promised with the 2013 Fusion Hybrid or the 2013 C-Max. Did any of you disappointed folks test these vehicles first?????

  40. Ronald,
    They all do it. I purchased a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid (which I have since traded in for a 2012 Nissan Leaf) They listed the Honda Civic Hybrid at 51 mpg. On the highway the best I got was 45 mpg but normally less than 40 mpg. It was a realiable car. Never had a bit of trouble, but those sticker mpg's can be deceptive.

  41. @Ralph: FYI, in 2007 the EPA adjusted its calculations for hybrid cars to make its mileage estimates better resemble real-world results. Your 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid is now listed at 41 mpg (manual) or 40 mpg (CVT):

    Also, "they all do it" because EPA numbers are the ONLY legally allowed gas-mileage estimates that automakers may use in advertising.

    The issue with the 2013 Ford hybrids seems to be that the car does MUCH better on the gentle EPA test cycles compared to more aggressive real-world driving.

  42. There are more comments in this thread
  43. You should check out the 2013 Jetta Hybrid!! great car and fun to drive

  44. If you drive only 60 miles a are a perfect candidate for an EV. An ALL ELECTRIC vehicle.
    We are in a similar situation.
    We recently made the jump.
    Never considered a hybrid.
    (Why would I want to maintain not one, but TWO drive train systems in a single car???).
    Anyhow test-drive some plug-ins.
    Don't neglect the one we picked. It is STILL a secret at your TOYOTA dealership.It's the new RAV4 EV!
    It is a great-looking, roomy, comfortable SUV - with TONS of bells & whistles!
    If you have a smart phone, you, your phone & your new RAV EV will merge into a single menage a trios of bliss!
    Ok - maybe over the top, but you get the idea.
    Check it out.
    They are trying to sell the

  45. Stephen...we actually saw the Rav3 EV at the dealership...and i was definitely intrigued...but my husband is concerned that i would run out of electricity? How long does a fully charged car run? I'm 60 miles...but lots of traffic...guesstimating about and average of almost 3 hours on the road every day.

  46. The RAV4 EV is rated by the EPA for 103 miles per charge. This is a little pessimistic as you could probably manage to squeeze 120 miles or more in the city if you're not an aggressive driver and use the power saving features of the car. It's actually one of the better deals on the market. I believe after the Toyota discount, tax credit, and state rebate you could get one for around $30k with identical cargo room to the non-EV RAV4.

  47. I've had my plug in Accord for two weeks. Charge it every night and drive it from the SF Valley to the west side every day - a 38 mile roundtrip. Going into the city I get 90 to 190 mpg based on about 12 miles all electric and a lot of downhill thereafter (and ignoring the cost of electricity). Coming home, all hybrid mode very stop and go & much uphill is 32 to 40 for a daily average of 58 or so. It is very comfortable and roomier than my 06 Acura RL that I'm trying to sell. Has many bells and whistles including Adaptive Cruise control, CMBS, nav w/traffic, Pandora, etc. As for trunk space, it's more than advertised. They put a giant styrofoam container to hold the cord in what would be the spare tire well. When removed, you gain 3 cu ft.

  48. I meant to say 36 mile round trip. So Brian Henderson's chart at the top is very good. For me, going to work is about 12 electric and 6 gas or less than a 7th of a gallon of gas for my 18 mile drive. Wish I could charge at work. The Accord charges in about 40 minutes to an hour on 220 - 3 hours on 110. LADWP is paying for my 220 volt charging station including installation - $2,000.00. Also, if you live in LA, and drive that much, you shouldn't consider a standard hybrid because you won't get the carpool stickers. Finally, if you can afford it, get a Tesla! :-)

  49. Just saw this after i responded to your first post. Don't say Tesla!! :) I LOVE how the Tesla looks!! But's a pretty penny...and certainly out of budget!!! How were you able to get LADWP to pay for your charging station? and we're just starting to test drive and do research (hence all these questions) standard hybrids dont' get carpool you know which cars do?

  50. Here is the list:

    White stickers are for pure electric cars (RAV4 EV, Tesla model S, Nissan LEAF, etc).
    Green stickers are for plugin hybrids (Accord PHEV, Chevy Volt, Ford C-max Energi, etc).

  51. thanks KH!

  52. Update: Now getting to work using all electric if i can get to the top of Mullhullond Drive with .5 miles of EV left, it's mostly downhill from there and regenerates w or w/out braking, so electric range in that (south) direction is actually up to 20 to 22 miles. But going north on the 405, it's more like 10-13 miles because of the gradual uphill. Charging update: 30 minutes on my Level 2 home charger @ 240 volts. 35 at some public charging stations, and 2:45 on 110.

  53. Thanks Cary!! Getting feedback from an actual Accord Plug-In owner is what we were hoping for!! Few questions...if you don't mind me long does it take to fully charge? It sounds like we're in the same boat, unable to re-charge at i would by all hybrid mode heading home as well. And was there an upcharge to your car? Our aread--Pasadena/Arcadia is upcharging $5000 on top of the sticker price. And were you able to get any government or Honda rebates? Glad to hear that you're enjoying your new car!

  54. Just the other day I drove around town in EV mode and drained the battery, came home, plugged it in to my 110 and 2 hours later it was fully charged at which point I took off again using EV only.

    BTW, I paid ZERO up-charge. I simply paid the MSRP at Hansel Honda in Petaluma.

  55. 110V is ONLY capable of 1.4KW. 2 hours later means that 2.8KWh max charger.

    Either you have a very small battery or your battery wasn't fully drain or you have "lost time".

  56. It only takes 4 kWh to fully charge the Accord. The battery is 6+ kWh but the rest is the standard hybrid storage similar in capacity to what is in a standard Prius, for example. So the three hours (on a 15 amp circuit) is about right. If you do the energy math based in the EPA MPGe rating on the car, you will see that there is no way the electric mileage would be very good if it was using 6.7 kWh to go 15 miles.

  57. I would strongly recommend the Passat TDI. It has a huge trunk, the best rear seat room in the mid-large car range and it is probably the most engaging drive. Given the 60 mile drive (I drive one) I would expect similar mileage to a hybrid and quite a bit better on pure highway trips. A Jetta TDI would also be great in a smaller package.

  58. My wife drives a Chevy Volt 60 miles a day with no charging at work. She gets about 40 miles per charge in the summer and 38 miles per charge in the winter. She is at over 30K miles in less than 2 years and is getting 124 mpg. It costs about $1.30 to charge for the 40 miles. Great car!! Quiet, good handling, wonderful ride.

  59. Seems to me that anything short of a plug-in with mileage greater than you daily drive is a major missed opportunity. GREEN, CONVENIENT, SUSTAINABLE, ECONOMIC transport SOLUTION

    Ready when you are: personal, point-to point-convenience: home to destination service -no transfers no waiting
    COST OF OPERATION ONLY .2 cents per K. Why take 2500 pounds to shop??

    1. Semi-recumbent trikes are safe with low centre of gravity. The “C” frame of this unit provides a near circle of protection with easy ingress and egress.
    2. Trikes and bikes with a light weight 10 AH batteries can be produced with very low weights- less than 90 pounds including batteries and motors. A 10AH Lithium battery will create a range in the order of 20 K with no pedalin

  60. I like the Volt too. Test drove one. But the Accord doesn't make me miss my RL as much. Linda: It charges overnight in 3 hours and there's an app timer to start. My 220 isn't installed yet, but I'm 1/2 way there. LADWP has approved the plan. I paid about 2k over sticker at Hollywood Honda (Jesus) plus they threw in some stuff for free (wheel locks, bumper guards, rubber floor mats, door guards, etc.). He even picked me up at home to pick the car up. The state rebates $1,500 and the feds give a tax credit of about $3,400 for the Honda I think. BTW, the carpool stickers won't help you on the 210 freeway. I think the white ones work on the 110, but not the green. Not to be mean, but FYI Tesla did announce a new financing scheme yesterday.

  61. Cary...i called to check on the stickers...and was told the green and white stickers work as solo drivers on all highways that are carpool--but not express/toll lates. so the stickers should work on the 210 and 134 portions. A girl can dream about the Tesla!!

  62. Ive put 2k miles on my 2014 Honda Accord Plugin Hybrid so far and am thoroughly enjoying this car. It drives and handles well although not as well as the Boxster S I was driving previously.

    I commute 80 miles every day. There is no plug available in SF, so I don't get to recharge at work. As it is I'm averaging 50MPG. Just this last week, I had two days off so more driving was local and I achieved 90MPG. Ive been going 550 miles on a 10.5 gallon tank of gas.

    As more and more charging stations become available my MPG numbers will just get better.

    Ive been researching fuel efficient vehicles for many years and while I had my eye on a Tesla S, the cost was prohibitive, but the Honda Accord PEHV is an excellent car and I highly recommend it.

  63. Just get the Volt if 4-seater is acceptable option to you. Its trunk is larger than the Accord Plugin. Also, for a 60mile commute in LA. The Volt will barely burn 0.5 gallon of gas in that trip. Plus, you will get the Carpool sticker which is very useful for the LA traffic.

    My Volt seems to work out great. 16,000 miles in the last 10 months and I have only used 120 gallons of gas.

  64. After reading all the comments suggesting a Volt..we looked into it...and the 2-seat back seat is a deal breaker for us unfortunately. And it seems to have significantly smaller backseat than we expected. We also checked into the carpool stickers...and while it's definitely a of the highways i use is a toll road...and so it wouldn't necessarily help me a ton unfortunately.
    Glad that you're enjoying your Volt and getting such great gas mileage!

  65. "Annatar, that's great but that is not how most people drive."

    One can physically not drive more than 25-35 MPH in the city, what with all the traffic, it is impossible, so the whole attempt of "keeping things honest" is out of the question: this has nothing to do with hypermiling, although low fuel consumption is a very nice bonus, and everything to do with the physical limitations of driving in the city.

  66. "One can physically not drive more than 25-35 MPH in the city, "

    Hmmm... Well, that all depends, doesn't it?

  67. I guess I'm not sure where you are trying to go with this. The current diesel options in the U.S. are no match for a Prius in the city and they are simply competitive with them on the highway. Hypermilers can do amazing things with a TDi (think new Passat TDi) but more can be done with a Prius. The facts are the facts. Go to the sites I listed as well as the relevant forums for data. It's all out there. That being said, one could buy a Volt and jam around town without a care for efficiency and still pull off awesome numbers. *shrug* A tool is a tool. Just have to pick the right one for the job.

  68. I have a 20 mile commute and get 110 mpge.

  69. 20 miles in each direction for a total of 40 miles but recharge at work

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.