Hybrids are really part-time electric cars.
They have battery packs and electric motors, like full-time electric cars – but they don’t rely on them exclusively for propulsion, as a full-time electric car does. They aren’t dependent entirely on electricity as their fuel.
Which is why they are the only electric cars that make practical – as well as economic – sense.
The combustion engine a part-time hybrid carries provides much of the motive force for propulsion; it also provides fuel-on-the-go for the electric side of the drivetrain – converting gas (via combustion) into electricity to continuously recharge the battery pack as the vehicle is driven.
What a snappy idea!
It eliminates the range problem that the pure electric car has. You can drive the part-time electric car pretty much anywhere without obsessing about the battery’s state of charge. And how far you can go – before it stops.
Which brings us to the other problem the part-time electric car hasn’t got – the recharge problem.
Which is really a time problem. But only if you are driving a full-time electric car.
While some part-time electric cars can be plugged-in to recharge none of them have to be. They never force their owner to wait longer to get going again than the owner of any other car – because “recharging” is the same as refueling.
Just fill the hybrid’s gas tank up – same as you would any other car, in the same less than five minutes. The combustion engine the hybrid carries will then convert the gas into electricity, recharging the battery as you drive – as opposed to as you wait.
Part-time electric cars are not only more flexible, more-spur-of-the-moment than full-time electric cars, they are more flexible than other cars, period – being able to toggle between pump and plug, as you like.
And as you’ve got time for.
The part-time electric car’s battery pack will probably last longer – and will definitely cost you much less – than a full-time electric car’s battery.
A part-time electric car’s battery doesn’t have to work as hard as a full-time electric car’s battery, which is the only source of motive power (and power, period) in a full-time electric car. The full-time electric car’s battery runs the lights, the air conditioning, the heater – everything in the car that’s electrically powered.
Plus the car.
This requires a bigger, more powerful battery . . . a more expensive battery.
A part-time electric car like the 2020 Prius costs about $4k more than an otherwise similar combustion-only economy car like the 2020 Corolla. You may never recoup the higher buy-in cost of the Prius vs. the Corolla – but it’s not a financial sinkhole like a full-time electric car, the least expensive of which (the $30k Nissan Leaf) costs $10k more than an otherwise equivalent combustion-engine-only car.
A full-time battery also means a harder-working battery; one that never gets a break – unless the car isn’t being used.
Something else comes into play here, which isn’t much talked about – probably because of what it means for the long-term life of the full-time electric car’s batteries.
And what it’s going to cost you.
A part-time electric car has a kind of built-in battery tender system that never lets the battery get severely discharged. The combustion engine plays the role of a relief pitcher – stepping in to provide both motive power and power for the electrically powered accessories.
The battery relaxes – and recovers.
The farther you drive, the less the charge.
Drive a full-time electric car to the limits of its range before plugging it in and the battery will be almost completely discharged. Pumping back all that lost electricity is hard on the battery and will reduce its service life – its ability to accept and hold a full charge.
And once that happens, the full-time electric car becomes a useless car. Or a very expensive car . . . a second time. It has to have an expensive new battery to be viable as a car again.
A part-time electric car’s battery costs less – and lasts longer. But even better, the car still works even if the battery doesn’t. You might not average 50 miles per gallon with a croaked battery. But it beats Hell out of zero miles – which is what you’ll get out of a full-time electric car with a kaput battery.
A full-time electric car’s larger, more powerful battery pack and bigger electric motors weigh twice as much, on average, as a part-time electric car’s battery pack and motors. Which requires more energy as well as more materials to lug around, reducing the overall efficiency of the package as well as the economy of the package.
But never mind.
Full-time electric cars have the virtue of signaling virtue better than part-time electric cars and combustion-engined cars; it’s the one thing they better than any other car. So it doesn’t matter that they’re less practical, much more expensive and far less efficient.
Because rational considerations aren’t the metrics by which full-time electric cars are measured.
. . .
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