Look around you in traffic. On the Peninsula, I guarantee that you can hold your breath until you see an electric car and pretty much not interrupt normal breathing. Being an area full of highly educated people, early adopters and just up the street from where they make Teslas stacks the odds a bit.
But what if you’re not quite ready to take the all-electric plunge? A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a great way to go. In fact, I think PHEVs are the underappreciated gateway to electric mobility for the majority of Americans.
Let’s use the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid as an example. It’s a gasoline-electric hybrid (think: Toyota Prius) that splits the propulsion chores between a gas engine and an electric motor. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s the other and sometimes it’s a blend. The computer figures out which is right and most efficient for the conditions and makes it so.
It gets great mileage just as a hybrid – a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 52 mpg combined city/highway, which is exactly what I saw driving a round trip between the Peninsula and Folsom.
But the plug-in part is where things get very cool. The Ioniq PHEV gets 29 miles from a charge. So if you live 14.5 miles or less from work, you can commute without using a drop of gas or putting a particle of pollution in the air, charge it overnight and do the exact same thing over and over. If you have charging at work, that commute could be 58 miles round trip without gas or pollution.
It could literally be months before you dip into the fuel tank and put emissions out the tailpipe. But if your progeny needs one more carful of stuff taken down to the dorm at UC Santa Barbara, for example, you can make that 300-mile run without having to stop for charging along the way. You could almost make the round trip on a single tank of gas. (My calculations show you’d be 6/10th of a mile short, so buy half a tank in Santa Barbara for the trip home.)
Options o’ plenty
Having just driven more than 250 miles in the Ioniq PHEV a few hours before writing this, I can tell you that it’s comfortable, roomy, composed and well equipped. The base price is $29,350, and that buys a lot of standard equipment, including: vehicle-stability management and traction control; anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist; four-wheel disc brakes with integrated regenerative braking; automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist; blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist; rearview camera; smart cruise control; and 7-inch color touchscreen audio display.
All this makes for a complete enough vehicle that you could buy one for $650 shy of $30,000 and be quite happy. Our tester, in fact, had only two options – carpeted floor mats for $125 and the Ultimate Package (power tilt-and-slide sunroof, HID headlights, rear parking sensors, integrated memory system for driver’s seat, navigation and an upgraded audio system) for $2,975.
That brought the bottom-line price, with $885 inland freight and handling, to $33,335. That’s a reasonable price for any car these days – especially one with this level of equipment.
Again, if you’re feeling like you could do more for the environment but your lifestyle isn’t quite pure-electric ready, PHEVs in general and the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid in particular are a great start.
Mike Hagerty has been writing about cars since 1997 and is vice president of membership for Western Automotive Journalists. To read more of his reviews, visit tirekicker.blogspot.com or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikehagertycars or Facebook at facebook.com/mikehagertywritesaboutcars. He is the co-anchor of the KFBK Afternoon News in Sacramento.