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What Is a Plug-in Hybrid?

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2012 Chevrolet Volt

author photo by Whitney Homans May 2012

Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Hybrid are great choices for those who want great fuel economy, but what is the difference between a traditional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid?

Plug-in hybrids can run in full-electric mode from electricity stored in their battery packs. For example, the Chevy Volt can go up to 40 miles on electricity alone. Plug-in hybrids like the Volt come with a 120-volt portable charging cord and can be fully charged in most traditional outlets in about 10 hours. These hybrids can also be charged at more efficient, 240-volt public or home-installed stations in about four hours. 

When running on gas, plug-in hybrids are still efficient - the Volt gets about 37 mpg - but in full EV mode, gas mileage can be phenomenal. The Volt, for example, can get the equivalent of 94 mpg.

Although plug-in hybrids are generally more expensive and less common than traditional hybrids, they are excellent options if you're looking for a way to get better gas mileage and lessen your impact on the environment.

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What Is a Plug-in Hybrid? - Autotrader