In addition to standard gasoline-powered vehicles, you can choose from other power options, including hybrid, diesel, and electric. The big question many vehicle owners wonder about is if these alternative-fuel vehicles are worth the higher asking price. By looking at the pros and cons of these alternative-fuel vehicles, you can come to a decision about whether one of these vehicles is right for your specific needs.
Hybrid vehicles comes with a gasoline or diesel engine, but they also utilize some form of alternate fuel source as a secondary mode of operation. The type of hybrid car determines the fuel economy of the vehicle.
How a hybrid car works. In the U.S., a hybrid relies on gasoline and electricity as a power source.
Hybrids utilize a battery pack and an electric motor in conjunction with an internal combustion engine.
Most hybrids recharge while you drive, but many also require you to plug in the battery when you are not driving, especially full and mild hybrids.
Some hybrids also use stop-start technology, which turns off the gasoline engine while the vehicle is at a stop.
Another technology that some hybrids use is the continuously variable transmission, also known as the CVT. The CVT allows the gears to shift more gradually, allowing the engine to run in a more fuel-efficient Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) range.
Different types of hybrid cars. The different types of hybrid cars include full, mild, and plug-in hybrids.
When choosing a hybrid, you can choose between a few types, including a full, mild, and plug-in hybrid. Another category of cars that display some hybrid characteristics are the micro and muscle hybrids.
Full hybrids are the most fuel-efficient version of hybrid cars. Full hybrids can operate in a variety of modes, such as series, parallel, and all-electric mode. An example of a full hybrid is the Toyota Prius.
Not as fuel efficient as a full hybrid, the mild hybrid still offers a higher fuel mileage than a comparable fully gasoline-operated vehicle. In a mild hybrid, the battery and a helper motor work with the gasoline engine to make the vehicle go, but they never fully take over. A perfect example of a mild hybrid is the Integrated Motor Assist system in the Honda Civic Hybrid.
A plug-in hybrid has a larger battery than most other hybrids, including the full hybrid. This larger size requires you to have to plug them in between trips. Plug-in hybrids can also run in all-electric mode for a specific range of miles. The Chevy Volt is just one example of a plug-in hybrid.
Micro and muscle hybrid cars hardly utilize an electric motor, if at all, to run the drive wheels. The micro hybrid uses an electric motor to operate the on-board electronic systems, but not much else. A muscle hybrid uses technology to supercharge the electric motor, giving it more power to operate the vehicle's systems. For the micro hybrid, a good example is the Chevy Malibu with stop-start technology. For the muscle hybrid, you can check out the Infiniti Q50 hybrid.
Advantages of owning a hybrid car. Owning a hybrid vehicle has its own set of advantages.
The biggest advantage of owning a hybrid vehicle is its environmentally friendly nature. The twin-powered nature of the hybrid engine means that the vehicle runs cleaner and pollutes the environment less.
The cleaner nature of the hybrid vehicle means it uses less gasoline to run and can greatly improve the fuel economy of the vehicle.
Hybrid vehicles are also known for keeping their resale value, making it easier to recoup some of the money spent on it if you later decide to sell the vehicle and get a different car.
Disadvantages of owning a hybrid car. In addition to advantages, hybrid cars also have some disadvantages.
One of the main differences between a hybrid and a standard gasoline-powered vehicle is the engine power. For the most part, the combined power of both the electric and gasoline engines in a hybrid car are often less than that of a comparable gasoline-powered engine.
The biggest drawback to hybrid cars is that they tend to cost more than gasoline-powered vehicles. Luckily, they tend to hold their resale value, so you can recoup some of your costs if you decide to sell later.
Another drawback is the decreased cargo capacity of a hybrid vehicle. Much of the extra cargo space that you find in other types of vehicles is eaten up with the extra electric engine, battery pack, and other items required in a hybrid vehicle.
Another option, compared to a hybrid and electric car, is a diesel-powered vehicle. Diesel-powered engines run more efficiently than gasoline engines. This is possible due to the higher compression that most diesel engines can achieve.
What is a diesel car? Different than a hybrid or electric car, diesel-powered vehicles are more fuel efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles.
Diesel engines, while similar to a gasoline-powered motor, does not use spark plugs to unite the fuel-air mixture. Instead, it uses the heat from compressing the air in the chamber first to ignite the diesel fuel, supplying power to the engine. A diesel engine usually has an improved fuel efficiency of 25 to 30 percent over a similar performing gasoline engine.
Advantages of owning a diesel car. Like other alternate fuel vehicles, diesel cars have certain advantages that make them attractive to potential buyers.
As mentioned, their improved fuel efficiency gives owners a 25 to 30 percent increase in their fuel economy over gasoline-powered vehicles. They can even deliver more fuel economy than some gasoline-electric hybrids.
Using no spark or distributor, but relying on the heat produced by the compression of the air in the cylinder, a diesel car requires no ignition tuning.
The more rugged nature of a diesel engine means it lasts longer than most gasoline engines.
Diesel-powered vehicles tend to have more engine torque, giving them more power than their gasoline counterparts.
Disadvantages of owning a diesel car. While diesel has many advantages, they also have a few disadvantages.
Diesel fuel, as of now, costs more than gasoline. While this could change in the future, this higher cost tends to lessen the higher fuel mileage advantage that diesel engines have over standard gasoline-powered vehicles.
Gasoline-powered engines tend to give their vehicles more speed and better performance.
Repairs can cost more in the long run, though most diesel engines are very low maintenance. As long as you keep up with your vehicle's scheduled maintenance, you should generally have minimal problems.
Electric vehicles provide an attractive alternative to standard gasoline-powered engines. This is due mainly to their non-reliance on gasoline as a power source, which makes them attractive to drivers who are environmentally conscious.
What is an electric car? An electric vehicle operates mainly on electricity, as compared to the hybrid, which operates on both gasoline and electricity.
The way an electric vehicle works is that in between driving sessions, you connect it to the power supply via a plug, which charges the battery for use while driving.
When driving, the vehicle runs on the power of the batteries, which runs an electric drive train.
Braking helps recharge the battery in a process called regenerative braking.
Different types of electric cars. When purchasing an electric vehicle, you typically have a limited range of choices, though as the technology becomes more commonplace, expect to see developing technologies, such as fuel cells, continue to grow in popularity and use.
Battery Electric Vehicle, or BEV, operates entirely on the energy provided by a battery. This power runs an electric drive train that operates without the aid of an internal combustion engine. In addition to requiring you to plug them in between trips, many BEVs use regenerative braking to recharge the vehicle's batteries while driving. The range of 81 miles for the BMW i3 makes it a great BEV to own.
Fuel-cell electric vehicles represent an emerging technology that relies on the electricity produced by the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to power the vehicle. While relatively new, look for vehicles driven by fuel cells to become more commonplace in the future. The Toyota Mirai is one of the first vehicles to use fuel cell technology.
Advantages of owning an electric car. Electric vehicles have some great incentives for those who drive them.
Electric cars run entirely on electricity, saving you at the pump.
Electric cars are also emissions free, meaning no added pollution to the air around you while driving.
Another advantage to owning an electric car is its relatively low maintenance requirements.
Disadvantages of owning an electric car While there are some great advantages to owning an electric vehicle, they also have some disadvantages.
One of the biggest disadvantages is finding a recharge point when away from home. This is a hassle when using your electric vehicles for long trips, though if you stay mainly close to home, this is not a big issue.
Saving on having to purchase gasoline is sometimes offset by the cost of the electricity to charge the vehicle in between trips.
Most electric cars have a limited range, usually between 50 and 100 miles. Hopefully, future development of the technology can improve this driving range.
Electric cars also usually cost more than other vehicle types due to the newness of the technology, but the price point should continue to decline as the technology becomes more developed and widespread.
The decision to purchase a hybrid, diesel, or electric car rests primarily on your budget and devotion to improving the environment. The improved fuel efficiency that many of these vehicles provide is worth the extra expense these vehicles might cost. Before purchasing any used hybrid, diesel, or electric vehicle, have one of our expert mechanics perform a pre-purchase car inspection.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Should You Buy a Hybrid, Diesel, or Electric Car? and was authored by Cheryl Knight.