Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars
Plug-in hybrid electric cars combine two propulsion modes in one vehicle–a battery-powered electric motor that is plugged in and recharged, and a gasoline engine. They offer all-electric power for short trips and the opportunity to gas up and drive for as far as you desire. Plug-in hybrid cars vary in the distance they can travel on all-electric power, and the fuel efficiency and emissions they have when driving on gasoline.
Because most Californians commute less than 30 miles per day, most plug-in hybrid electric driving can be done in electric-only mode.
How They Work
Plug-in hybrid electric cars offer both gas-only and electric-only driving—even at relatively high speeds. With smaller batteries than battery-electrics, plug-in hybrids achieve an electric-only range of 20‒55 miles, during which they produce no tailpipe emissions. When the vehicle uses up its electric range, it switches to gas and drives just like a conventional car.
The transition from electric to gas is seamless, though you do lose quick acceleration inherent in electric mode. Some plug-in hybrids run full time on gas and electricity, switching back and forth until the electric supply runs down.
One of the main benefits of plug-in hybrids is that most day-to-day driving can be done in an electric-only mode, traveling on battery power alone between 10-50+ miles with the capability of 300+ miles in gasoline-electric hybrid mode. Factoring in access to public and workplace charging, you can potentially double your all-electric range on a daily basis.
- Engine – Assists electric motor when driving at high speeds, and powers the vehicle when the battery is depleted
- Electric Motor – Powered from the battery, the electric motor propels the vehicle up to high speeds
- Gas Tank – Smaller gas tank than conventional cars
- Onboard Charger – Converts incoming AC electricity to DC power for charging the battery
- Electric Generator – Captures energy from regenerative braking and transfers to battery
- Charge Port – Enables the vehicle to be plugged in to an external power source to charge battery
- Battery – Stores typically between 8-16 kWh of electricity to power the electric motor
Like battery-electric cars, plug-in hybrids have quick acceleration, great torque and a quiet drive in the electric mode. When electric and gas miles are combined, plug-in hybrids offer great miles per gallon ratings and reduced pollution. Even in gas mode, they generally still have lower emissions and good miles per gallon ratings.
Plug-in hybrids may be eligible for a variety of incentives, such as the Clean Air Vehicle decal, California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and programs to support clean transportation ownership in low-income and disadvantage communities. To find incentives in your region, visit incentive search.
A comprehensive listing of electric car models currently available in California, including incentives.
Plug-in Electric Vehicle Handbook (U.S. DOE)
A plug-in electric vehicle handbook that answers basic questions and points readers to additional information to make the best vehicle selection.
Information about charging, range, batteries, incentives and more explained in simple terms.
California’s Advanced Clean Cars Program (CARB)
Understand how California’s emission rules for cars and trucks will help clean the air, abate climate change and provide cars that save consumers money at the pump.