With the price of regular gasoline edging back up to the defining $3.00 point in the U.S. market, many potential car buyers are giving serious thought to either buying an electric power car versus the standard gas-powered car.
In truth, there are only two fully functional electric cars on the market today, Chevrolet’s Volt, which has so far received mixed reviews, and Nissan’s Leaf, a smaller car, about the size of the Honda Fit.
The promise of the Volt is that it will drive for 40 miles on one overnight battery charge. While the promise of the Leaf is that it will deliver a 100-mile trip after an overnight charge. Will either of these electric power cars achieve their goals?
That’s a good question? So far, the jury is out as each of the all-electric vehicles are still equipped with a gasoline-powered engine. The key difference between this type of vehicle and a hybrid is that the engine is linked only to the charging system for the battery. It makes no contribution to the overall power load of the vehicle. A hybrid, on the other hand, uses both its gasoline and electric motor systems when demands are too great for the electric system alone.
Indeed, gas powered cars, the standard for more than a century may be much more efficient than anyone has thought. Take a Honda Civic EX, for example. Normally, the Civic would get about 24 mpg around the city and about 36 on the highway, thanks to developments such as the VTEC valve train profiling system that adjusts as speed adjusts and keeps the engine working at optimal levels.
The all-electric Volt is far more limited in that, as noted, its range is tuned to 40 miles and then you have to pull out the charging cable. The generator system and regenerative braking does make up some of the losses, but not enough to give you much more than the 40-mile range and then the temperature has to be right, as even lithium-ion (Li-On) batteries are meant to work in a range of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit to about 75. Anything above or below robs them of their power.
Further, if you carry a load or passengers then you can expect–say auto experts–that your mileage return will be less than 40.
The hybrid might seem like a good alternative, but it isn’t. Hybrid car performance depends a great deal on how and where you drive. If you drive primarily in the city, then you can take advantage of the regenerative braking to push power back into your batteries. And, the engine will only serve as a charger, much like the Volt.
On the other hand, if you drive on Interstates or have a heavy foot on the accelerator where your electric motor is overwhelmed, then you’ll find that both hybrid motors (gas and electric) are working straight out and not putting power into the batteries where it belongs.
In this instance, your best bet is a standard car, as it will return top mileage.