More choices for plug-in cars that help avoid high gas prices

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ByDave Kunz via KABC logo
Friday, May 25, 2018
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Toyota and other carmakers are offering a wider range of plug-in choices.

A new plug-in electric vehicle is in Nissan showrooms that has a familiar name.

The LEAF lays claim to being the first mass-produced EV to the market back in 2010, and also the leader in electric car volume. Nissan has sold more than 300,000 LEAFs worldwide, with more than 100,000 of those in the U.S.

The biggest news for this second-generation LEAF is more range, now estimated at around 150 miles. That widens the pool of drivers who can go electric for their daily travel needs.

The previous LEAF started out with a range of 73 miles in the 2011 model year, and by 2016 had an available battery range of 107 miles.

Also new this year is a plug-in version of the Kia Niro hybrid. With its rechargeable battery, the Niro PHEV can go 26 miles on just electricity.

In the plug-in hybrid category as well is the Toyota Prius Prime. Prius leads the world in hybrid cars, and the Prime model allows for pure electric driving of up to 25 miles.

Those plug-in hybrid range totals don't sound impressive, but it's about more than that.

The EPA uses a formula called MPGe, for "miles per gallon equivalent."

There, the numbers are impressive. The Kia Niro PHEV is rated at 105 MPGe, while the Prius Prime's MPGe number is 116. Both those figures represent huge improvements over the non-plug-in versions.

And one car has ditched its gas engine altogether. The cute little Smart fortwo has been available as an EV before, but now it's only available as an electric. No more gas power for the Smart.

One thing to keep in mind if you're looking at an EV or plug-in hybrid: the industry has standardized the charging plug. No matter what model you have, it can be recharged with any portable charging cord, any home charging cord, or any public charging station. The only exception is Tesla, which uses its own type of connector. But Tesla owners can still use other charging stations with a special adapter.

And the auto industry is developing more plug-in choices with each passing year.

Drivers have to figure out which kind of electric power might be right for them, and what kind of range they can live with. The Smart fortwo Electric Drive is only estimated at 59 miles of driving, while the Prius Prime can go a combined 640 miles on electricity and gasoline. The Kia Niro PHEV can go an estimated 560 miles, when the electric range and gas tank range are combined.

For buyers who choose any of these, each mile running on electricity means one less mile burning.