Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models becoming more popular in the SUV segment

Dave Kunz Image
Sunday, November 12, 2023
Hybrid and plug-in hybrid SUV models becoming more popular
As gas prices hover around the $5 mark, some drivers are looking at ways to cut down on gasoline reliance without completely going electric.

It might have seemed like Lexus already had plenty of SUVs in its lineup, but now there's one more for 2024.

The new TX model is sharp-looking, brims with safety and convenience technology, starts in the mid-$50,000 range, and has three rows of seats. Lots of seating is an important trait for a number of SUV buyers.

It's also got something else going on: plug-in hybrid power as an option. The TX550h+ joins a growing number of new vehicles hitting that sweet spot. Sport utility practicality, with the ability to sample EV driving without stepping up to a full electric. Battery-only range is about 33 miles, so that could mean a good portion of local trips done with no gasoline at all.

The TX is also available as a conventional model, or as a regular hybrid, already in showrooms. This plug-in hybrid version will come at the beginning of the year.

Kia's Sportage has grown in popularity over the years, and here too, a plug-in hybrid version is available. Charge up the battery, and the Sportage PHEV can take you about 34 miles on pure electricity. This is also the most popular size of SUV these days, so it lands in the sweet spot in that regard.

Even when the battery runs out, the gasoline portion is pretty good on fuel consumption. EPA estimate is 35 mpg combined. Factoring in driving the EV miles too, the MPGe, "miles per gallon equivalent," is 84.

The Sportage PHEV has a base sticker price of $38,690.

When it comes to fuel economy, a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle is least fuel efficient when it's driving in really heavy traffic. Or stopped completely, like at a long red light, or while waiting in a drive-thru line. Those situations are when a hybrid vehicle of any type is most efficient, as they're usually running on stored battery power.

Honda's extremely popular CR-V isn't available as a plug-in hybrid yet, but the conventional hybrid version does a good job of keeping the engine off when it's not needed. In "EV mode," you can roll at low speeds with the engine on standby, an impressive amount of the time. The result is an EPA city mpg rating of up to 43 for the 2WD model. The CR-V Hybrid had a base sticker price of $38,600.

Honda's next move for the CR-V? Not necessarily a PHEV, but a hydrogen fuel cell variation.

The buying public's appetite for crossover SUVs shows no signs of slowing down. And a growing number of people are willing to give plugging in a try. An SUV with some plug-in range is probably going to be its own increasingly popular segment for quite some time.