To EV, or to HEV: That is the Question

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America



As the transportation sector becomes electrified, many consumers remain conflicted about buying a new car that is fully electric vehicles (EVs). Whether warranted or based on misconceptions, concerns about EVs are slowing their adoption. Fortunately for automotive suppliers–and power electronics engineers–hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) offer a “bridge” technology to going totally electric. The following are the main concerns consumers have with EVs:

Cost and Performance

EVs rely on 100% on battery power all the time, which means they are more expensive – and you can’t simply go to your local garage for service. HEVs, which rely on both gas and electric batteries, offer more flexibility in this area. Also, EVs have issues with resale value; HEVs not so much.  

EVs have bigger, heavier batteries than HEVs. Heavier vehicles cause tire wear. Plus, severe weather conditions, especially cold temperatures, impact EV performance.  

Extended highway driving power consumption on EVs can be much greater than expected. This is because there is not as much regenerative braking and deceleration energy available to charge the batteries. Again, with HEVs this is not an issue.  

Green Benefits

It is a fact that electric vehicles have zero carbon emissions; however, many power plants in the U.S. still use carbon based non-renewable energy. Depending on where you live, your EV can still have a carbon footprint. In this case, your EV is still being powered by unfriendly energy. So the “green” environmental benefits of an EV may be negligible compared to an HEV, which also tends to be less expensive for the reasons mentioned above.

Range Anxiety

This is a big one. Most consumers won’t consider using an EV as their only household vehicle. Although power electronics engineers are trying to improve charging technology (EV chargers are SiC, after all) and battery manufacturers are working more reliable batteries, the range of an EV is typically much shorter than a fuel-powered car. 

In other words, EVs drivers are limited by their battery charge. This causes anxiety when the EV driver sees their battery charge running out and they can’t find a charging station. Rural areas especially can be a charging station wilderness. And once a charging station is found, long charging times await. Once again, HEVs present a more acceptable sole vehicle for families since they switch to gas – and keep going – once the electric battery is depleted. 

In summary, the electrification of transportation is happening rapidly and major advancements in battery technology, charging systems, on-board and off-board power electronics, and more, are growing at a rapid pace. 

But automotive companies are not yet “all in” on EVs, despite what they say in their marketing campaigns. Battery technology needs to be improved and an EV charging infrastructure needs to be built out before major car companies can be comfortable with EVs as a business model.  Until then, HEVs provide a valuable alternative to EV technologies and will help overcome some consumer objections to widespread adoption of full electric vehicles in the future.