This is not a car review. It’s an account of a week spent with a plug-in hybrid car. It’s aimed primarily at people who have never driven an electric or plug-in hybrid car and are wondering whether to take the plunge.
or I’ve wanted to buy an electric car for a long time. But as regular readers of these sites know, I’ve never felt able to do so due to range anxiety and poor public charging infrastructure.
Could a plug-in hybrid be a best-of-both deal? If I could charge 50km (or more) of pure electric driving from home and by default fill up with a normal tank of gas when running for free, wouldn’t that be a breakthrough? For city traffic (usually less than 50km) it could just as well be an electric car, right?
I’ve just finished a week with Toyota’s Rav 4 plug-in hybrid, a mid-size SUV with a relatively large 18kWh battery backed by a very powerful 2.5L petrol engine.
I rode it nearly 500 miles, most of which was a 400-mile round trip into rural Mayo. This trip only cost me €38 in petrol, which is about half what it would have cost me in my current 1.6 liter diesel vehicle. Two (home) battery charges were included, but that was no more than about 6 to 7 euros.
The rest of the drive I did was in Dublin based solely on charging via the 3 pin charging cable that the car comes with (takes around 6 hours from a standard household socket). The battery was good for between 60km and 75km per charge depending on how I rode.
That’s the equivalent of driving round-trip from my home in central Dublin to Maynooth, Co Kildare without ever using a drop of petrol from the tank.
The Rav 4 Hybrid is a pretty big car. It’s certainly bigger than the Toyota Rav 4 models I remember from a few years ago. This makes it very comfortable and spacious inside (my model came with an optional leather interior). Admittedly, the tech inside, from the USB-A ports to the somewhat bland touchscreen, feels a bit dated compared to VWs, Kias, Hyundais and Skodas.
But overall it drives and handles wonderfully. It’s smooth, quiet and ultra-powerful (compared to most regular family SUVs or crossovers) with 306 horsepower braking power; this makes overtaking other cars or accelerating out of a situation incredibly easy.
While it starts at around €52,000, the version I had (‘Sport’) starts at €54,000. That’s a lot of money, although not compared to an electric car; The ID4 from Volkswagen and the Ioniq 5 from Hyundai each cost well over 50,000 euros in the larger battery models. Also keep in mind that this type of plug-in hybrid attracts the lowest road tax margin (€170 annually); a petrol or diesel 2.5 liter car with this kind of performance would cost more.
For me, the best thing about this car compared to one or two other plug-in hybrids out there is the extra range that Toyota has given this battery. 18 kWh are 40 more than, for example, a Skoda Superb plug-in hybrid. It’s about what you get from pretty snazzy competing plug-in hybrids like Volvo’s XC40.
For my purposes, it increased my electric range from the 40km I was expecting to something closer to 70km. Even driving Dublin’s M50 and a stretch of motorway at 120 km/h, I still managed 65 km on electric power alone. If I were the guy who only drives out of town once a month or less, that would effectively mean I’d be driving it for the same fuel cost as an electric car, which is less than half the cost of a diesel or petrol car.
There is a side effect of driving a plug-in hybrid and, I imagine, an electric car – it changes your driving habits.
I usually drive at the speed limit or even 3km or 4km over it. To me, a car is a means of getting somewhere: if it’s safe to do so at 100 or 120 km/h, I’ll absolutely drive those speeds to expedite the utility. Except for the plug-in hybrid, I drove at 90 km/h in a 100 km zone or at 110 km/h on a motorway. I became obsessed with how much range I could get, knowing that more moderate speeds and smoother acceleration would allow me to go a few more miles on each charge.
I’ve occasionally done something similar to a regular petrol or diesel car, but it’s not the same. You don’t have a clock counting down your range like you do with a hybrid or electric vehicle.
The irony here is that, like most electric or semi-electric cars, this Rav 4 can be a beast on the road, with acceleration that leaves most regular vehicles in the dust.
That means if I were to buy a plug-in hybrid, would it be this one? It certainly meets many criteria. It’s a (really) great ride with plenty of space without really being a huge SUV. Inside I think it could be a bit more tech-savvy, but ultimately the range from the battery makes it a very, very attractive alternative to an electric car. In the long term, I still see my future in an electric vehicle. For now, this might be a good option.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/reviews/toyota-rav-4-plug-in-hybrid-offers-a-great-option-for-those-of-us-suffering-from-battery-range-anxiety-41952070.html The Toyota Rav 4 Plug-in Hybrid offers a great option for those of us who suffer from battery range anxiety