pros and cons of hybrid cars

Pros and cons of hybrid cars

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are becoming more popular each day, and for good reason: drivers that switch to cars like this have a number of both environmental and financial advantages to look forward to.

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However, hybrid cars are not the best solution for everyone’s commute; here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding whether a hybrid car is right for you.

Pros and cons of hybrid cars summarized

Some of the benefits to owning a hybrid car include:

  • They are environmentally-friendly
  • You save money
  • They’re quiet
  • They often require less maintenance

Some of the drawbacks to owning a hybrid car include:

  • Higher upfront costs
  • Maintenance can be expensive (when it’s needed)
  • They still produce fossil fuel emissions

Read on to see each of these points broken down in detail.

Pros of hybrid cars

Hybrid cars are environmentally friendly (compared to gasoline-powered cars)

There are many negative environmental impacts of using gasoline-powered vehicles: for one, these cars emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases straight from their tailpipes. Over time, this can have a large impact on the environment: according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, plus other pollutants like methane and nitrous oxide – all greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Even before the gasoline hits your engine, extracting the fuel to use as energy has a number of environmental costs to consider as well.

With hybrid cars, you have two options for fuel: gasoline or electricity. If you run your hybrid car solely on gasoline, you’ll still emit greenhouse gases from your tailpipe, but less so than you would with gasoline-only counterparts because they’re more fuel-efficient–some hybrids allow for more than 50 miles per gallon! This means you’ll use less gas to travel the same distance, and therefore emit less pollution.

However, if you buy a hybrid, it’s pretty likely that you’ll also use electricity to run your car, especially if you buy a plug-in hybrid. When doing so, you will have no direct tailpipe emissions. That said, how environmentally friendly your commute is in a hybrid car will vary depending on where your electricity comes from: while more and more of our electricity comes from renewables each year, fossil fuels continue to generate the majority of electricity throughout the country. The source of your electricity (i.e. your electricity mix) impacts your overall transportation emissions, known as well-to-wheel emissions. If you’re curious about what this means for you, check out this tool from the Department of Energy (DOE): they have an interactive tool that displays the annual emissions per vehicle based on a state’s electricity mix. 

You can save money with a hybrid car

With a hybrid vehicle, you can avoid making frequent trips to the gas station and paying high charges to fill up your tank thanks to efficient engines and the option to switch to electricity for fuel. However, it can be difficult to estimate just how much you can save since savings depend heavily on your own driving habits, your reliance on gas for power, your area, and more. For some numbers, take a look at Edmund’s “Gas Guzzler” calculator: this can help estimate how much you can save on gas by switching to a hybrid based on your state, the car, and how many miles you drive.

In addition to savings on gasoline, the federal government currently offers a favorable tax credit if you purchase a plug-in hybrid vehicle. Depending on your tax status and the type of car you choose, you can save as much as $7,500 with this incentive. (Note: regular hybrids are not eligible for this incentive). Before you purchase a hybrid car, also check to see if there are any state or local incentives available to help decrease your costs even further.

Hybrid cars are quiet

Hybrid cars are much quieter than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles thanks to their electric motors. In fact, they’re so quiet that the U.S. had to pass laws to require both hybrids and electric vehicles to make audible sounds when traveling at certain speeds because of safety concerns.

(Author’s note: have you seen the episode of The Office where Andy pins Dwight up between the fence and his car? He’s able to sneak up and catch him off guard because, as Oscar points out, a Toyota Prius remains completely silent when driven under five miles per hour.) 

Hybrid cars often require less maintenance

Because hybrid cars have two sources of power (the gas engine and the electric motor), there is less regular wear and tear on the car’s engine. This often means less need for oil or coolant, and fewer routine maintenance costs than cars that rely solely on combustion fuel engines. Admittedly, maintenance costs can vary depending on the type of hybrid car you have, so make sure to do a bit of research on the specific make and model!

You won’t experience “range anxiety” with a hybrid car

One of the biggest downsides of all-electric vehicles is “range anxiety,” or the fear that you won’t have a high enough charge to make the distance from one charging station to another, heightened by the lack of electric car charging stations in some areas. You don’t have to worry about this with a hybrid vehicle: when your battery runs out of electricity, the car will switch to using gasoline in your tank–and there are still plenty of gas stations around to refuel!

Cons of hybrid cars

Hybrid cars typically cost more upfront

You shouldn’t expect to pay the same for every hybrid that you would for a luxury vehicle, but generally speaking, hybrids tend to cost more to lease or buy than comparable gasoline-powered alternatives. You can make up for this in fuel savings, and federal incentives can certainly help. But if you’re going to switch to a hybrid, you likely have to accept paying a higher price upfront.

When maintenance is needed, it can be more expensive for hybrid cars

Like we mentioned before, hybrid cars typically require less regular maintenance than cars that run on combustion engines. However, if maintenance is necessary, it can be more expensive than with other types of cars – especially if you have to replace the battery.

Most hybrid car manufacturers warranty their batteries for 10 years, and many batteries are designed to last more than 150,000 miles. If you end up needing to replace a battery, it can cost $2,000+.

Hybrid cars are not always as environmentally-friendly as we’d like

The environmental impact of a hybrid depends on how often you power it with gasoline vs. electricity, as well as where your electricity comes from. Hybrid cars are cleaner than gasoline cars, but they tend to have higher well-to-wheel emissions than their all-electric neighbors, and way more emissions than biking or walking.

Power your commute with the sun

With a solar panel system, you can maximize the fuel savings and minimize the emissions of a plug-in hybrid car. On the EnergySage Marketplace, you can compare up to seven custom solar quotes from local installers. If you’re planning on buying an electric car in the near future, simply note it in your account so that installers can add a few extra panels to charge your car.

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About Kerry Thoubboron

Kerry has worked in solar for more than 5 years, starting out as an Energy Advisor helping customers compare their options and make well-informed solar decisions. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Environmental Analysis and Policy. Outside of work, you can find Kerry snowboarding, watching The Office, or having passionate debates about which New England state is best (spoiler: it's Vermont).

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