Buyer's Guide: 2014 Plug-In Hybrids From Toyota, Ford, Honda & More

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2014 Cadillac ELR

2014 Cadillac ELR

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Not all plug-in electric cars rely on battery power alone; some also have gasoline engines as backups, for longer range or more power.

Last year, we identified six plug-in hybrid vehicles on sale during 2013.

This year, the list gains three new entries (from BMW, Cadillac, and Mitsubishi) and loses one (the Fisker Karma).

Note that we're lumping into this category cars with two different types of drivetrains.

First are the plug-in versions of conventional hybrids, including the Ford's C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi models, the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, and  the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

Then there are the range-extended electric vehicles, in which only electricity powers the wheels and the engine runs a generator that produces electricity for that purpose.

Those cars include the upcoming BMW i3 ReX, the Chevy Volt, its platform twin the Cadillac ELR, and the now-departed Fisker Karma.

Then there's the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid, which can work either way. (The Accord Plug-In Hybrid can act either way too, but it's adapted from a conventional hybrid).

With that little bit of education out of the way, here's our list of plug-in hybrids that will be on sale in the U.S. for the 2014 model year.

2014 BMW i3 concept live photos, 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

2014 BMW i3 concept live photos, 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

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2014 BMW i3 ReX

New to the market early next year will be BMW's first plug-in electric car, an all-new dedicated vehicle that comes as a battery-electric vehicle or with a small two-cylinder range-extending engine.

The car's 21- or 22-kWh lithium-ion battery pack sits in an aluminum chassis structure, with a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic body shell on top. The shell is so strong that BMW can dispense with center door pillars altogether: the rear doors are rear-hinged, meaning the entire side of the car opens up for unparalleled ease of access.

A 125-kW (168 -hp) electric motor powers the rear wheels, but the "ReX" range-extended version uses a small two-cylinder engine and generator that also tucks under the rear deck.

That engine, along with a 2- or 3-gallon gas tank up front, will give the BMW i3 ReX almost double the battery range of 80 to 100 miles (figures haven't yet been released).

But, unlike the Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR, performance in range-extending mode may not match that delivered by the battery pack.

BMW points out that the range extender is not meant for everyday use, but more for occasional and emergency situations.

The first BMW i3s are likely to arrive at dealers shortly after January 1, at a price similar to that of a well-equipped 3-Series, or perhaps $42,000 to $46,000.

The ReX range extender, however, will likely cost a few thousand dollars more on top of that.

2014 Cadillac ELR revealed at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

2014 Cadillac ELR revealed at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

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2014 Cadillac ELR

The striking Cadillac ELR range-extended electric coupe has had a checkered history, with production approved and then canceled during the days of GM's 2009 bankruptcy.

Widely lauded for its striking lines, the production version of the ELR goes on sale later this year in a form remarkably close to the concept car shown in 2009.

It shares the Voltec range-extended powertrain of the Chevy Volt, including a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack housed in the tunnel and under the rear seat, and a 1.4-liter range-extending four-cylinder engine up front.

But the ELR is expected to have quite different electronic control software, giving it a different feel and most likely more performance to offset the weight of its many luxury features.

GM hasn't released final power, performance, range, or fuel-efficiency ratings for the 2014 ELR, nor has it said anything about its price.

That information will likely arrive this fall.

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Comments (7)
  1. Great article as always, John.

    My wife and I own both the 2013 C-Max Energi and a 2012 Rav4 EV. Speaking of the Energi, it is a wonderful vehicle. My wife leaves for her 12 mile commute to work, in auto mode, which stays electric for virtually her entire trip. She has the option to plug in at work, so her entire commute stays electric. She's averaging over 100 MPG so far on lifetime miles.

    She loves the spacious feel of the Energi, and reports that it has great visibility, unlike her previous Volt (which is a great car too). The fit and finish of this vehicle is top notch, and the only way she thinks it can be improved is with a larger battery for all electric travel - ideally 40-50 mile range. Great job Ford!

  2. I have the all-battery Ford Focus Electric and really love its luxurious feel, fit and finish!. I've sat in the C-Max hybrid and love the thought of yet more interior cargo room--but I haven't seen the cargo area of the Energi version. Is it really bad?

    Also, I've sat in mock-ups of the BMW i3. Wow! Talk about interior room! But price..? (Ouch!)

    Like Xiaolong says below, "...we do need some affordable plugins that can perform like a Tesla S..." And by "perform," I would mean carry stuff AND get 100-150 miles to the charge (Real-world, in ALL kinds of weather, etc.)

  3. The ELR has a real potential to be a good seller. Caddy owners don't shop price
    and if the Voltec gives good performance it should sell

  4. More choices the better.

    But we do need some affordable plugins that can perform like a Tesla S and we need a "serious" plugin SUV and plugin pickup trucks to prove to the public that EV is capable for all type of terrain and duties...

  5. Love the performance of the Volt drive train. It really is more an electric drive than a hybrid. The seating is limiting but in my case the other features win out. It has performed well beyond my expectations.

  6. I read a GM post where it said the Volt uses a planetary gearbox, which makes me think the Volt is hybrid-hybrid. It is in series mode, EREV 95% but switches to parallel when needed such as high speed and high slopes. There are good videos on YouTube showing the gearbox system. Brilliant design.

    I just test drove the C-MAX and Fusion Energi and was also impressed.

  7. Volt's so called "parallel mode" only works when it is in the "gasoline mode or aka hybrid mode or so called ranged extended mode" and ONLY at speed above 70mph.

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