Crossover sport utility vehicles (CUVs) have largely replaced sedans and minivans in the US automotive landscape. Built with the underpinnings of a traditional passenger car, they are not as tough and rigged as a traditional sport utility vehicle, nor do they have exceptional load-carrying and towing capacity but they do combine a high seating position and plenty of interior space with improved fuel economy and a car-like ride.
The fuel economy of a CUV can be further enhanced by adding a hybrid drive system. Combining an electric motor with the gasoline engine makes it possible to collect the energy wasted during slowing down and braking and reapplying it during acceleration to improve both performance and fuel economy. Taking this one step further, a small or medium-sized battery pack can be charged at home, the so-called Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, or PHEV) providing a level of electric vehicle operation before the normal hybrid mode kicks in.
If you consider the average US commute to work each day is 16 miles each way, a small battery can provide 30-40 miles of range, meaning that many commuters will not have to use any gasoline during their daily commute. Because the range is limited the battery can be much smaller than that used in a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) resulting in less weight, less cost, and a shorter charging time.
Car companies look at PHEVs as a transition solution to get people used to plugging in their vehicles every night and as a way to address the range anxiety that some potential BEV buyers have expressed. The downside is the need to carry two complete drive systems in the vehicle, adding weight and complication. But for many people, a PHEV is a viable solution to their transportation and commuting needs.
Here are eight plug-in hybrid crossover utility vehicles that are on the market right now. These 8 vehicles range in price from just over $30,000 to more than $70,000, so there should be an option for just about anyone looking for a CUV. We have listed them from least to most expensive and included the EPA fuel economy rating, as well as the distance they can travel in EV mode.
First, let’s look at the Kia Niro.
Kevin Clemens is a Senior Editor with Battery Technology.