Plug-In Hybrid Cars Gain Ground in Race With Electric Rivals –


Some luxury-car companies say they have come up with an improved breed of plug-in hybrids to bridge the gap as they develop all-electric cars. These cars, executives argue, will draw more buyers into the electric age by being nearly as convenient to use as gasoline models while being more fun and powerful.

The $104,900 Range Rover plug-in drips with London-boutique luxury and 443 horsepower. It can travel 48 miles on just electricity. The BMW 330e sedan has a button called Xtraboost, which sends 40-horsepower electric jolts to goose acceleration when pushed, akin to shots of nitrous oxide in “Fast and Furious” movies. The 330e costs $43,495, on a par with standard versions of the same car, even before tax credits.

Even the makers of supercars like Ferrari and McLaren have embraced plug-in hybrids as a way to squeeze the last Dionysian drops from internal-combustion engines. Ferrari has said its 818-horsepower 296 GTB plug-in hybrid, which starts at $323,000, is faster on its benchmark test track than any V-8 model it has produced.

Those flashy models aside, plug-in hybrids have an important role to play, some analysts said, by getting more people into electrified cars sooner than would be the case if the industry relied solely on all-electric vehicles. Mr. Brauer of points out that nine in 10 car buyers in the United States still buy a conventional car.

“If a P.H.E.V. can serve as a purely electric vehicle even part time, and as a hybrid still use less fuel than a traditional vehicle,” he said, “that’s still a huge reduction in CO2, at a cost that makes them more viable to consumers.”

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