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Electric, gas, or hybrid? How to make the right decision for your lifestyle.

It’s no secret that electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids are gaining traction in the car buying market. As production increases, new, more affordable EVs and hybrids look enticing to more car buyers. If you’re looking to make the switch from gas to electric or even just looking to learn more, this article may help you decide if you should hop on the electrical wave.

Types of electric vehicles

There are three types of car technologies that use the word “electric” – hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric. These vehicles provide a range of options for consumers to consider:

  • Hybrid electric vehicles, or “hybrids,” run on both a gas-powered engine and a battery-powered motor. The battery recharges through the energy produced when you hit the brakes.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), like standard hybrids, have both a gas-powered engine and a battery-powered motor that’s partially charged by braking. But unlike standard hybrids, PHEVs are also charged by plugging them into an electrical outlet. PHEVs can run on battery alone, on gas alone, or in a “blended mode,” providing consumers with a kind of transitional EV option.
  • Fully electric vehicles (EVs) run entirely on an electric motor, with a battery charged by plugging the car into an electrical outlet and partially through braking. EVs are the only electric cars that do not produce any tailpipe emissions. 

A traditional, gas-powered vehicle is marked by its internal combustion engine (ICE), which is sometimes used as shorthand to refer to traditional cars when discussing EVs. If you're looking to make the switch, but are still on the fence, a hybrid or PHEV may offer a middle ground that still feels familiar. Both hybrids and PHEVs have lower emission levels than typical gas vehicles on the road.

Pros of owning an electric vehicle

Owning an electric vehicle is an attractive option for many drivers because of several notable upsides:

High-tech features

Electric vehicles are at the forefront of technological advancements in the automotive industry. If you’re looking for a quiet ride, the battery in an EV is strikingly silent compared to ICE vehicles since there are no gears, valves or fans. Combine this with features like intelligent collision warnings, advanced braking, AI-assisted systems and touchscreen consoles and you’ll enjoy many new high-tech features on the market today.

Lower maintenance costs

Although the upfront cost of an EV or PHEV is often higher than an ICE, there are other ways EVs help you save. One perk includes lower maintenance costs — no oil changes, spark plugs or timing belts necessary. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, EV owners can save approximately $4,600 on avoided maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle compared to a gas-powered car — and don’t forget savings on gas.

More sustainable driving option

An obvious benefit of owning an EV, PHEV or hybrid is lower tailpipe emissions than driving a fully  gas-powered vehicle. EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, and both PHEVs and Hybrids produce significantly less pollution than traditional cars. Additionally, using electricity (rather than gas) to either fully or partially power your plug-in car is becoming less and less carbon intensive as the U.S. transitions to more renewable energy sources.

Faster acceleration

From a mechanical perspective, electric vehicles often accelerate faster than the average ICE vehicle. In a gas vehicle, a decent amount of power may be lost through the drivetrain and other mechanical components.

Incentives and rebates

Federal and state governments are offering a variety of rebates and incentives to drive the transition to more electric vehicles. Currently, the federal government offers a $7,500 rebate off the cost of a fully-electric car, and plug-in hybrids are eligible for a portion of that rebate, depending on the electric driving range. This rebate is available for the first 200,000 qualified EVs sold by each manufacturer, and then winds down over time. There may be additional rebates and discounts offered by your state, municipality, or local electricity provider. Discover the saves you may be eligible for using this incentive look-up tool.

Additional perks

Electric vehicles and hybrids sometimes get privileged parking spots and free charging stations. If you live somewhere like California, they’ll allow you to travel in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane with just one person.

Cons of owning an electric vehicle

Despite the many pros of owning an electric or hybrid vehicle, there are still some cons worth considering before making the switch.

Battery price

A common apprehension among EV and PHEV drivers is the cost to replace the critical EV battery if it stops working. The average cost for an EV battery replacement is about $5,500. The good news is many EV manufacturers provide a warranty on the battery for at least 8 years or 100,000 miles. Companies that make EV batteries are improving their battery-making process (and therefore, decreasing their price), but it’s still something to keep in mind if you’re worried about potential future costs.

Fewer repair options

Neighborhood auto shops aren’t as experienced dealing with electric vehicles as they are with ICE vehicles and may not have the equipment needed for a repair.  However, EV manufacturers and dealers typically offer service by technicians who are intimately familiar with that particular EV model. Talk to your dealer about what service you can expect with the model you’re interested in purchasing.

Larger manufacturing footprint

According to a report by Carbon Brief, the initial environmental footprint to make EVs and PHEVs is greater than that of an ICE vehicle. This is due to the lithium mining that needs to occur for battery production. As EVs become more popular, more lithium mining will occur and create a larger environmental impact. Electric car companies are working hard to improve production efficiency to meet this demand.

What to consider before making the switch

If you’re thinking about making the switch to an EV, here’s a quick checklist of factors to consider when making your decision:

  • Price: Determine your budget and shop accordingly. It’s helpful to remember the full cost of ownership goes beyond just the sticker price of the car. EVs and PHEVs often qualify for rebates and incentives, so be sure to look up which incentives you might qualify for. Learn more about price considerations on our dedicated EV site.
  • Environmental impact: Many drivers have made the switch to EVs after considering the environmental impact of making that choice.
  • Access to charging stations: Having ready access to charging options at home or at work can make a big difference to your overall experience as an EV owner. Public charging stations are increasingly common in some areas and make longer road trips more accessible to EV drivers. Learn more about charging on our dedicated EV charging page.
  • Proximity to EV service: All cars require maintenance, and that includes EVs. Having easy access to your EV dealer or another EV-certified repair shop may be immensely helpful if trouble should arise.

In summary

More and more people are making the switch from gas-powered cars to electric or hybrid models. Advanced technology, increased affordability, lower maintenance and environmental sustainability have helped electric vehicles become an enticing option. PHEV and hybrid vehicles help bridge the gap for those who aren’t ready to fully take the leap yet. Overall, it’s an exciting time to be a car buyer! 

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