by Lori Straus
Are hybrid vehicles more environmentally friendly? What about replacing batteries? How far do they drive? We’ll quickly take you through a few factors you should keep in mind as you research your options for hybrid vehicles.
But First: What Is a Hybrid?
The Ministry of Transportation in Ontario (MTO) considers “electric vehicle” to mean any vehicle that relies at least in part on electricity to drive. The MTO divides electric vehicles into two categories: battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which use no gas whatsoever, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which use a combination of gas and electricity. In this article we’ll be talking about PHEVs, but we’ll use the more common term “hybrid.”
Lower Costs at the Gas Station
Because it’s difficult to compare apples to oranges, Natural Resources Canada uses a commonly accepted equation to help you compare fuel consumption in gas, hybrid, and BEVs: 1L of gas = 8.9 kWh of electricity. To display this information on its EnerGuide labels, the government uses the familiar L/100 km to display fuel consumption in gas-powered vehicles and the newer Le/100 km for electric-powered vehicles.
For example, a Volvo S90 T6 AWD with a 2-litre engine and four cylinders averages about 9.4 L/100 km. Its hybrid cousin, the Volvo S90 T8 AWD with a 2-litre engine and four cylinders, consumes on average 3.2 Le/100 km of electricity and 8.1 L/100 km of gas.
Environmental Footprint of Hybrid Vehicles
Gas is a main contributor to global warming, both because of its extraction and because of CO2 emissions once the gas has been burned. Buying a hybrid can reduce your personal carbon footprint considerably. However, it will depend on how often you use gas. On longer trips without a recharge station, you’ll be using gas just as if you were driving a conventional gas-powered vehicle.
Distance on Single Charge
One major difference between a hybrid and a BEV is the distance these vehicles can drive on one charge. The hybrid Volvo S90T8AW D hybrid will run about 34 km on electricity only. However, hybrids often switch between their gas and electricity drivetrains. Your hybrid vehicle will most certainly not die at 34 km.
However, compare that to the Nissan Leaf SV/SL Plus, which uses only electricity. The range for one charge is 349 km. Your car will die if you don’t recharge before you reach that limit.
Because hybrids have a combustion engine, they require the same maintenance schedule as a purely gas-powered vehicle. You save on maintenance costs with a BEV, since it doesn’t require maintenance procedures like oil checks.
One common concern with electric-powered vehicles is replacing the battery. Be sure to check out warranties, because they can cover a long period of time. For example, Toyota announced last fall that they were going to extend the battery warranty for electric hybrid vehicles, starting with the 2020 model year, to 240,000km or 10 years, whichever comes first.
Green Licence Plates
One bonus of using a hybrid is that you can apply for green licence plates in Ontario. This gives you the option to drive in high occupancy lanes, even if only one person is in the car.
Should You Buy a Hybrid?
Hybrids let you reduce your impact on the environment, lower fuel costs, and provide you with the extra convenience of driving in high occupancy lanes. Although they come with similar maintenance costs as gas-fuelled vehicles, many do pay themselves off in fuel savings within several years. Research the models that interest you: you’re sure to find something.