The fuels we use to power automobiles today are starting to vary greatly. For the better part of the last century, all we had was gasoline and diesel. Although alternatively powered vehicles were being invented as early as 1828, the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle didn’t come about until 1997. Today, the auto industry has pushed past that, and we’re seeing more plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) than ever before. Some companies are even researching and developing hydrogen fuel cells as a new source, but the practicality and popularity of that is a little ways down the road. Today, it all comes down to cars powered by gasoline, a hybrid, a PHEV, or an EV for getting where you need to go. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, though, and they’re worth taking into consideration the next time you’re in the market for an automobile.
It was the first fuel source for vehicles we had, but it won’t be the last. We all know how they work. We fill up, we drive, we fill up again. So let’s get right down to it.
A lot of the advantages of gasoline powered vehicles are pretty out-dated with the new fuel sources we have now. They used to travel further than most vehicles, unless we’re talking about diesel-power, and the smaller the car the further it will go before it needs to be filled up. However, because gasoline vehicles are practical and conventional, when running on fumes, there’s bound to be a gas station around the corner unless we’re on the interstate, and even then, a place to fill up could be right off the next exit. Plus, when it comes to hauling a payload or towing, gasoline and diesel engines are really the best choice to make ‘cause they’ll definitely get the job done.
We know the disadvantages like the back of our hand. Gasoline vehicles are killing the environment – the Kia Sportage uses 14.3 barrels of petroleum every year! It also emits 397 grams per mile of greenhouse gas emissions. Gasoline prices are never the same, and the more oil we use, the higher the prices will be. Those of you driving around the Bush era know what we’re talking about – $4/gallon, what is this?! And there’s definitely no special perks like the federal tax credits you’ll find below. The main perk is they’re becoming cheaper to build with aluminum and other lighter resources going into auto body construction, so most gasoline-powered vehicles will save you more upfront than an alternative fuel-powered vehicle.
Let’s talk about the first ones to change things up a bit – hybrids. There are two types of hybrid vehicles, but both use a combination of electricity and gasoline to power a vehicle. The difference is the original hybrid could not be plugged in to recharge the battery, and thus the battery was only recharged through alternative means, such as “regenerative braking”. Basically, this system puts the electric motor in a hybrid on hold, and an on board generator charges the batteries with electrical energy absorbed each time the vehicle brakes.
The advantages of hybrid cars are simple. They’re cleaner and more environmentally friendly than conventional gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles, they decrease the global consumption of oil (which leads to lower fuel prices for everyone), have higher fuel economy, and they come with their own perks. Such perks consist of a federal tax credit as much as $7,500 (nice), the ability to drive in the carpool lane even if it’s just you in the car, and a huge chunk of gas savings. For instance, owners of a the new Kia Niro will save $3,000 over five years, whereas owners of another Kia crossover, say the Kia Sportage, will spend $1,000 more on gasoline over five years.
There are of course disadvantages for hybrids. They may be better for the environment on a global scale, but unless you drive below 60 mph on the highway, the higher fuel economy may not make much of a difference in the long run. They come with a federal tax credit, but that’s only helpful during tax season – most hybrids today cost more than their conventional gasoline counterparts. We did point out the savings, but just like the tax credit, it will take awhile to pay off. So, you have to weigh your options.
Plug-In Electric Hybrid Vehicles
PHEVs were a true game changer. Not only do they use gasoline and electricity to power a vehicle, but consumers have the choice of using either fuel source at any time, as long as there is gas in the tank or the battery has a charge. Regenerative braking is still implemented of course, but if a driver didn’t want to wait to recharge the battery, they just need to plug it in at home or at a charging station. Some charging stations can even recharge a vehicle’s battery with an 80% charge in as little as 30 minutes (pending on the port and charging accessory used).
There’s definitely advantages to owning and driving a PHEV. Being able to charge up the battery is apparent, and with regenerative braking in the mix, that leads to even greater fuel economy and the ability to cover much larger distances without filling the tank or stopping to charge up. Most PHEVs can handle the daily commute on electricity alone, which is even better for the environment, and does it really matter if the battery runs empty by the time you get to your destination? Electricity is cheaper than gasoline, so the cost to recharge isn’t all that bad. Not only would the owner of a Kia Optima PHEV also save $5,000 over five years and receive a federal tax credit, but they have a car with a 103 MPGe combined fuel economy. That’s nuts.
We have to be realistic though, people. You hafta spend money to save money, and PHEVs can cost as much as a hybrid if not more. They also share some of the disadvantages that hybrids have. Recharging is a great advantage, but without the proper charging accessory, it can take anywhere from 3 – 9 hours. So unless there’s a charging port near your place of work, then you’ll have to install one at your home, and it’s gonna raise the electricity bill to have something charging for nine hours straight.
Plus, batteries evidently die the more frequently we recharge them, so we have a catch 22 here. Either you recharge the battery a lot, but then eventually need to pay to get it replaced, or you don’t use it that often and get stuck with having to pay for gasoline. In the end, the savings may not be worth it, as we mentioned about hybrids. Again, we need to compare the good and the bad and decide to make a smart decision.
Alright, this is a tricky one. Electric vehicles are automobiles powered solely by electricity. There’s no gas tank, no filling up, just constantly recharging. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but some companies have trouble designing an electric vehicle that’s actually worthwhile.
EVs are GREAT for the environment, truly. They use about 0.2 barrels of oil a year – yeah, in some vehicles, a little bit of that electricity comes from gasoline, surprise surprise. EVs have literally zero tailpipe emissions, so they’re the cleanest fuel source we have to date, and they’re gonna save a little more money in the long run, about $3,750 in five years. Plus, we don’t ever need to stop for gas and shop around for the best price; we just need to find an electric charging station, and voila! The Kia Soul Electric has a total driving range of 93 miles, so that’s another advantage.
Now for the down side. Sure, a Kia Soul Electric can drive 93 miles, and charging stations are popping up. However, when electricity is the sole power source (no pun intended), you gotta keep it charged. It’s a bit of a risk, and we meet the same problem we have with PHEVs in terms of charging and battery life. However, the savings one gets may well be worth it.
In addition, because EVs are expensive to make, they’re expensive to buy, and there aren’t a whole lot of choices. Only in recent years have companies given EVs a shot, so we may not see an electric vehicle from our favorite brand for a while. Kia has a couple in the mix, and more coming soon, so we’ll see what happens in the next few years.
It’s good to have choices. Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and do the research if looking into an alternative fuel powered-vehicle. You can also find all of the Kia vehicles mentioned here in our inventory.