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Sierra Club Reviews Plug-in Hybrids

Ford Plug-insMost people don’t think of Sierra Club as the place to go for information about new technology. After all, the 121-year-old organization, with the motto “Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet,” is best known for its efforts spent protecting the places where living things live.

But since, these days, we do a lot of our exploring and enjoying behind the wheel of a mobile steel and glass vehicular bubble, it makes sense that they should feature an article that advises us on vehicles that can explore while, if not protecting then, at least, minimizing their impact on the planet. Hence, this new online guide to Plug-in hybrids.

The idea behind plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), is to provide a best-of-both-worlds option, combining the kind of range that gas-powered vehicle drivers are accustomed to, with the carbon-free, inexpensive, peppy performance that has garnered all-electric cars so much attention. The six vehicles featured in this review (shown with retail price after federal tax credit): Chevrolet Volt ($32,495), Ford C-Max Energi ($30,389), Ford Fusion Energi ($35,744), Honda Accord Plug-in ($36,944), Fisker Karma ($95,000-108,500) and Toyota Prius Plug-In ($30,295-37,829) display several different approaches to the job-sharing that takes place under the hood between the electric drive train and its gas-powered counterpart. For example, in the Chevy Volt, the gasoline engine never directly powers the wheels, but instead, drives a generator that ensures that the battery stays charged so long as there is gas in the tank. All the others have the gas engine driving the wheels at certain times, whether it’s after the battery has depleted, or for an extra boost of power. Sometimes these options are selectable, in other cases they are programmed as defaults in the car’s operating software.


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