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Best plug-in hybrids to save you money on gas

April 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you'd like to save money but are not quite ready for a plug-in electric car, you're not alone. For many drivers, an electric vehicle's limited driving range can be a big drawback.

For those who like the idea of an electric vehicle but not the whole idea, a plug-in hybrid may be the answer.

They plug-in and charge up thanks to extra battery capacity and can then go a certain number of miles on electric power. You also have the option of driving them like a conventional gasoline-electric hybrid, for as many miles as you may need to go.

Ford's got two of them including their Ford C-Max Energi ($32,950 base price). The vehicle's electric range is up to 22 miles depending on conditions and even when in hybrid mode, fuel mileage is very good.

Honda's also joined the trend with its new Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid ($39,780 base price). Oddly, the Accord plug-in is available now, while the regular hybrid isn't due in showrooms until summer. Battery range for the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid is about 12 to 15 miles. Overall, it's the most fuel efficient sedan on the market.

The Toyota Prius, the best-selling hybrid vehicle of all, comes as a plug-in version as well. The estimated range on electric power is about 11 miles, according to the EPA. For shorter trips, it is essentially an electric car.

With these plug-ins, you can choose when you want it to be an electric vehicle. The Ford C-max Energi gives you three choices including automatic mode, electric vehicle now or electric vehicle later.

The others have similar systems as well. By being able to choose, you can use your plug-in battery power when it's most efficient to do so.

The first downside, however, is price. The Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius plug-ins are several thousand dollars more than their non-plug-in counterparts. Federal and state tax credits can make up a lot of the price difference.

You're also going to give up luggage space since that extra battery has to go somewhere. The exception is the Toyota Prius since Toyota engineers managed to fit the Prius plug-in's battery pack beneath the cargo floor.

The pluses may outweigh the minuses for some drivers. Plug-in hybrids include access to carpool lanes with a special sticker, and help you save gas and time.


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