Your Guide to Choosing between a PHEV and a BEV

February 26, 2021

Your Guide to Choosing between a PHEV and a BEV

You’ve decid­ed to buy an elec­tric vehi­cle: con­grat­u­la­tions and wel­come to the club! Now that you have decid­ed to buy elec­tric, whether for the cost sav­ings, green­house gas emis­sions reduc­tions, or air qual­i­ty ben­e­fits, one ques­tion that may be hound­ing you is which type of elec­tric vehi­cle to purchase!

The answer to that ques­tion is one that depends on so many fac­tors that make up the chaos of your life and your cur­rent mobil­i­ty needs. So, we have cre­at­ed a deci­sion tree to help make the choice a bit sim­pler. How­ev­er, deci­sion trees can be lim­it­ed, so below the graph­ic you will find a deep dive guide for choos­ing between a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) and a Bat­tery Elec­tric Vehi­cle (BEV).

Key ques­tions to ask yourself: 

How far do you drive in a day?

We rec­om­mend that you con­duct a “mileage audit” for 1–2 weeks. Record­ing how often and how much you dri­ve can pro­vide key insight into dri­ving habits that car­ry heavy weight in the PHEV vs. BEV deci­sion-mak­ing process. Sim­ply write down the dis­tance and fre­quen­cy of your dri­ving dur­ing a “typ­i­cal” week—the results may sur­prise you!

The aver­age Amer­i­can dri­ves less than 40 miles a day. Cur­rent­ly, all full-bat­tery elec­tric mod­els have ranges above 100 miles. On the flip side, plug-in hybrids tend to have rather short all-elec­tric ranges, land­ing some­where between 10–50 miles until the gas engine takes over. To ful­ly take advan­tage of the elec­tric miles in a PHEV, the dri­ver must be will­ing to charge on a more fre­quent basis than a BEV-driver.

Are you able to charge at home or at work?

If you have an out­let with­in 12–20 feet of where you park your car (garage, dri­ve­way, etc), you are able to charge your car. It’s true! Your elec­tric vehi­cle (whether BEV or PHEV) can charge off a reg­u­lar 120-Volt out­let. It’s as sim­ple as charg­ing your phone! How­ev­er, this type of charg­ing is called “trick­le charg­ing” for a reason—it is quite slow and can take between 12–15 hours to ful­ly charge your bat­tery. How­ev­er, many BEV dri­vers that dri­ve less than 40 miles a day rely on this Lev­el 1 charg­ing dai­ly and do not expe­ri­ence range anx­i­ety because their bat­tery rarely ful­ly depletes.

If you are look­ing for a faster charge, you can have a Lev­el 2 charg­er installed in your res­i­dence with the help of an electrician—and you may be eli­gi­ble to receive rebates on these charg­ers from your local util­i­ty and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. Alter­na­tive­ly, your work­place may offer Lev­el 2 charg­ing for employ­ees or may be will­ing to con­sid­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty of installing one with enough employ­ee sup­port. Want help talk­ing to your employ­er about EV charg­ing? Con­tact a coach today.

If you live in an apart­ment com­plex that does not offer res­i­den­tial charg­ing (again, feel free to reach out to us for help!) or you park on the street, you can rely on pub­lic Lev­el 2 or DC fast charg­ers to get your juice. This is not an ide­al sit­u­a­tion for most dri­vers, but many do make it work. PHEVs will charge faster because of the small­er bat­ter­ies but will require more fre­quent charg­ing com­pared to BEVs.

Do you want to maximize financial savings?

Do you want to max­i­mize your sav­ings based off pur­chase price or total cost of own­er­ship over the vehicle’s lifes­pan? PHEVs are often cheap­er upfront than BEVs because of the small­er bat­ter­ies. How­ev­er, PHEV own­er­ship costs are high­er than BEVs because PHEVs are less effi­cient cars and there are more mov­ing parts to break and maintenance.

If you are look­ing to save mon­ey long-term, BEVs are a bet­ter option. You will save mon­ey in both main­te­nance and fuel. Addi­tion­al­ly, BEVs are eli­gi­ble for bet­ter finan­cial incen­tives at pur­chase—includ­ing Colorado’s $2,500 incen­tive, the fed­er­al government’s $7,500 incen­tive*, and poten­tial util­i­ty incentives.

*the U.S. EV pur­chase incen­tive depends on the man­u­fac­tur­er of your vehi­cle. Be sure to check what incen­tive your vehi­cle qual­i­fies for at

Do you want to maximize environmental impact reductions?

If a key fac­tor in your deci­sion to go elec­tric are envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, full bat­tery-elec­tric cars are going to be the best option. BEVs max­i­mize envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits by elim­i­nat­ing tailpipe emis­sions and improv­ing air qual­i­ty. Addi­tion­al­ly, you are sup­port­ing the local elec­tric­i­ty grid, which is becom­ing increas­ing­ly diver­si­fied with renew­able ener­gy resources and less reliant on for­eign oil.

Bonus: Once vehi­cle-to-grid tech­nol­o­gy advances, your car may offer resilien­cy against black­outs dur­ing severe storms and oth­er disasters.

PHEVs, on the oth­er hand, con­tin­ue to emit tox­ic pol­lu­tion into the air through the tailpipe when run­ning the gas engine. Again, as not­ed above, fre­quent charg­ing is a require­ment with PHEVs, as the bat­ter­ies have a lim­it­ed capac­i­ty (as low as 10 miles of range). The key mes­sage here: you will be dri­ving an ICE vehi­cle if you do not keep the PHEV bat­tery charged.

Will this vehicle be one of two (or more) in a household?

If this is your first for­ay into elec­tric cars and you live in a mul­ti-vehi­cle house­hold, the per­ceived lim­i­ta­tions of a full-bat­tery elec­tric vehi­cle may be less daunt­ing. If you have a sec­ond car, either a PHEV or an ICE vehi­cle, to rely on in case of long-dis­tance dri­ving or heavy tow­ing, we’d rec­om­mend going for the ful­ly-bat­tery electric!

Do you go on multi-day road trips frequently?

If you are often dri­ving cross-coun­try, whether for work-relat­ed rea­sons or leisure, you may decide to go with a PHEV, which have com­bined electric/gas ranges of 300–600 miles. You can max­i­mize your finan­cial and envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits by recharg­ing your elec­tric bat­tery as fre­quent­ly as pos­si­ble on your trip.

How­ev­er, if you rarely embark on mul­ti-day road trips, we’d rec­om­mend going with a BEV—ranges can reach up to 350 miles on one charge. That’s less than the dis­tance between Col­orado Springs and Grand Junc­tion! Many BEV dri­vers love road trip­ping in their EV, which is becom­ing eas­i­er as major inter­states grow their fast charg­ing net­works. They also say that road trip­ping in their BEV allows them to appre­ci­ate the sur­round­ing land­scape more—allowing addi­tion­al time to rest, recharge, and explore less vis­it­ed areas of the country!

Alter­na­tive­ly, if you don’t want to wor­ry about your charge, you’d still be sav­ing mon­ey by going with a BEV and rent­ing a PHEV or an effi­cient ICE vehi­cle for your adventure.

Do you frequently haul bulky items or tow heavy equipment?

You might be an out­door adventurer—often tow­ing heavy recre­ation­al crafts—or a ser­vice work­er who requires heavy machin­ery to per­form your dai­ly job func­tions. In this case, it is impor­tant to make sure your choice of PHEV or BEV is rat­ed to tow and to be aware that heavy weight can deplete your bat­tery faster.

More BEV mod­els with high tow­ing capac­i­ty are emerg­ing on the mar­ket now and should not be over­looked! Pick­up BEVs like the Riv­ian R1T and GMC’s Hum­mer are great options for fre­quent tow­ing, while max­i­miz­ing the ben­e­fits of full-bat­tery elec­tric vehi­cles! Like­wise, these trucks are great for off-road­ing and heavy-duty performance.

If you fre­quent­ly haul bulky items, we rec­om­mend going with a BEV. PHEVs have to accom­mo­date both bat­ter­ies and gas engines in their frames, so they often have less stor­age space com­pared to the roomi­er BEV models!

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