My year with a plug-in hybrid

This is one of the standard plugs used by some automakers. It has a converter that can be used with standard household outlets.This is one of the standard plugs used by some automakers. It has a converter that can be used with standard household outlets. (Photo: George Thomas Jr.)

Even with a limited battery-only range, I can’t remember the last time I had to fuel up at a gas station.

But if you pressed me, I’d recall it was some time in early January — more than two months ago. I filled the tank at the time, and even after nearly 600 miles of city driving since then I still have more than a quarter of a tank left.

Less fuel, less pollution, and big cost savings

A year ago I purchased a 2023 Subaru Crosstrek Plug-in Hybrid. I wanted to transition into the electric vehicle (EV) arena, but didn’t want to sacrifice the handful of long car trips I take each year when I venture away from home for vacation or long day trips to the mountains for outdoor activities.

Related: Plug-in hybrids offer great value for drivers who fear sacrificing long-distance travel

A plug-in hybrid was the obvious solution for me, and, having previously owned a Crosstrek, I wanted to stick with the same style. This particular model has a battery-only range of 17 miles, which did concern me a bit, but, as I’ve discovered, it’s plenty, with many newer plug-in hybrids offering twice that range. As noted, my trips to the gas station have been few and far between, and when I do get stuck in rush-hour traffic I am glad not to be spewing fossil-fuel emissions into the community.

Charging and distance anxiety no more

As we’re inundated with stories about the lack of charging stations and EV battery distance limitations, plug-in hybrids are the perfect solution for people who want to start the transition into the world of EVs. In my case, I didn’t even need to have a special charger installed in my garage because my charger comes with a converter that can be plugged into a standard household outlet. And while this lengthens the charging time to nearly 5 hours for a full charge, it’s no big deal to charge it overnight.

We also are starting to see comparisons about the cost of EV charging versus the cost of filling up on gasoline, as well as stories about whether or not you live in an area where electricity is generated by fossil fuels, or whether the cost of your electricity is too high to even consider buying some version of an EV. Valid concerns all, certainly, but consider the fact with a plug-in hybrid it’s more likely than not you’ll spend a lot less on gasoline even if your electric bill increases. I usually charge my car twice a week, and my electric bill has increased by about 10 to 15 percent. And excluding the long-distance trips I’ve taken in the past 12 months, I’ve needed to go to the gas station just 5 times — not even filling up the tank each time.

Plug-in hybrid and EV policy incentives are too limited

In a recent Washington Post editorial, Biden should push plug-in hybrids, not just EVs, the newspaper’s editorial board makes this compelling point: “Opening a short transitional phase in which the government includes substantial room for plug-in hybrid vehicles in its vehicle standards would create time for the next generation of battery technologies — which won’t require as many rare minerals — to mature.” Five plug-in hybrids can be made from minerals used in one EV, according to American University’s Paul Bledsoe, who also served on President Bill Clinton’s Climate Change Task Force.

While the Inflation Reduction Act includes tax breaks for the installation of charging stations and tax credits for up to $7,500 for an EV purchase, the list of eligible vehicles is shockingly scant — especially given the benefits of reduced fossil fuel emissions and the ensuing improvement of air quality in your community.