Driving Green: Are You Ready for a Hybrid?
What is the Difference between Hybrid and Electric Vehicles?
Hybrid vehicles rely on more than one form of fuel for power while electric vehicles (EVs) run exclusively on electricity. Most commonly, the two types of fuel used by a hybrid vehicle are gasoline and electricity. Hybrids and EVs are often more powerful than vehicles that are powered entirely by petroleum or diesel, and they use less fuel and require fewer trips to the engine repair shop.
Hybrid technology has been around since 1900, and electricity was considered as a potential power source by inventors tasked with designing the first automobiles. Ford popularized the gasoline engine in 1905, but car manufacturers revisited the idea of electric and hybrid vehicles periodically over time, finding greater success in more recent years.
Hybrid and electric vehicles have historically fetched a higher price than gas-powered models but they are becoming increasingly affordable. In addition, federal tax credits and Vermont’s “Green Driver” incentives can reduce the purchase price by up to $7,500. If you shop around, dealer incentives may be available to sweeten the deal even more. And don’t forget the gas savings, which can really add up.
The Power of Hybrids and EVs
Do hybrid and EVs have as much power as a gas-powered vehicle? In fact, electricity has more power on the road, offering a kick that gets you off the starting line more quickly (if that type of thing is important to you). Unlike gas-powered vehicles, there is no pause between the moment you press your foot on the pedal and when the hybrid or EV reacts.
The Problem of “Range Anxiety”
One common reason for not buying an EV that does not have gas backup is range anxiety. Range anxiety is the unease people feel when they’re not sure they will have enough juice to get to the next charging station. This can be an issue for drivers of gas-powered vehicles when driving in rural areas but for drivers of electric vehicles, it can be problematic in any state that is not well-populated with charging stations. The great news is that public charging stations are becoming more prevalent in Vermont, with more dense clusters located in more urban areas like Burlington, Montpelier, Rutland, Brattleboro, and Bennington. Drive Electric Vermont provides a map of charging stations.
A Word on Charging Stations
Charging stations come in three voltage levels: Level 1 (120 volts), Level 2 (240 volts), and DC Fast Charging (480 volts). Level 1 chargers offer the same current your home outlet offers. Level 2 offers twice the current of a Level 1 charger, reducing charging times to get you onto the road faster. DC Fast Charging stations are the speediest, but because they are more expensive to install they are more difficult to find.
Note: Did you know that VSECU has three charging stations? In collaboration with Green Mountain Power, VSECU offers level 3 and level 2 chargers at their Montpelier branch and a level 2 charger at their Williston branch. The stations are NRG stations, which you can learn more about at https://www.nrgevgo.com/.
Drawbacks of EVs in Vermont
EVs and hybrids are low on drawbacks but Vermont conditions pose a couple of challenges that the consumer should consider before making a purchase. You probably already know that cold temperatures are known to reduce the efficiency of gas-powered vehicles. The same is true of hybrids and EVs. Until the batteries warm up to at least 60 degrees, EVs will be sluggish and hybrids will rely more heavily on gas.
The Vermont roads are another challenge for EVs. Trends may change in the future, but for now, many EVs are designed to have a low profile. As a result, they may not be a great choice for people who live on poorly maintained dirt or stone roads.
Is a Hybrid Vehicle for You?
Hybrid vehicles are not for everyone but they are becoming more popular as a low-cost and low-impact means of transportation. For those who avoid green vehicles because of their high price tags, it may be time to reevaluate. Many Vermont dealerships are stocking their floors with reasonably priced green vehicles, charging stations are reaching into more rural areas, and incentives and low-interest auto loans bring them well within reach of a modest budget.