I had planned for my next car to be an all-electric model. But, after years of driving a gas-powered car, my switch to an electric vehicle, like everything else in these troubled times, seems a little less certain. A combination of rising gas and electricity prices means I don’t feel like I can choose one side or the other.
In short, a compromise has to be found. I’ve already ruled out a regular hybrid, which has no plug-in capabilities and means you don’t get any of the same benefits as an electric vehicle. But after driving the Lexus NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid for a week, I’m starting to see the appeal of a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) – and the ability to switch between electric power and internal combustion in a single set of wheels.
The luxury SUV can travel over 40 miles on battery power alone. This makes it perfect for short trips around town, while the smaller battery means charging is quick and easy.
Longer runs can be achieved in comfort and stress-free, thanks to the super smooth 2.5 liter petrol engine. The way I see it, it’s the best of both worlds. And, by using the car strategically and kicking off those short charging sessions at cheaper times of day, I might even save money on running costs.
So if gas prices are getting too high for you and you’ve been considering going all-electric, make sure you don’t overlook a PHEV just because it falls in the middle.
There are many choices if you want a PHEV
The Lexus NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid is a mid-size SUV, so it’s well suited for family use. There is space, comfort and a lot of technology. However, if you’re looking for a plug-in hybrid, there are options in every model class. In fact, compared to battery electric cars, there are many more hybrid options available.
The BMW 330e is ideal, for example, if you love the endless appeal of the 3 Series but want the benefits of the PHEV automobile. For those interested in the beefier Germanic automobile, the BMW X5 xDrive45e offers a similar experience to the Lexus.
But it is possible to choose a PHEV to meet any type of need. Audi’s A7 55 TSFI e Quattro Plug-In Hybrid is a solid sedan choice offering space and luxury, while Toyota’s RAV4 is also a fun and funky option. Hyundai’s Sante Fe plug-in hybrid or Kia’s Niro plug-in hybrid both tick the right boxes for people after value for money.
Even the likes of Jeep, whose first EV isn’t expected until 2023, have PHEV options available to you with the likes of Wrangler or Cherokee. Even Bentley, one of the kings of premium automobiles, offers a Bentayga Hybrid if your wallet can handle it.
Charging is easier and performance is top notch
The great thing about a plug-in hybrid is that you can plug it in at home and charge the battery overnight. This can mean cheaper charging, depending on your electric provider, and is certainly more convenient than having to hook up a much larger EV battery. Especially if installing a home charger is not an option for you.
That said, Lexus recommends installing a home wall box. With access to the dedicated EV charging port, fully charging the NX 450h+ takes a very reasonable 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Lexus also claims you can squeeze around 42 miles out of the battery in the worst case, and up to 55 miles in urban situations. Commuting around town or running errands means going all-electric makes perfect sense. I also found the car to be enthusiastic about performance when driving on electric alone. The Lexus will hit over 80mph if the need arises, and all without having to burn a drop of gas.
In fact, the Lexus turned out to be livelier than I expected. The 18.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack is pretty beefy, while the plug-in setup means you still get 302bhp. This is most noticeable when you put your foot down, with Lexus numbers saying 0-62mph comes in just over six seconds. Not bad for a heavyweight SUV.
There’s also more potential to extract the best and most efficient level of driving from the Lexus. The guy who dropped off the car pointed out the ability to change the EV mode, letting you decide whether you want to drive purely on battery power or use the motor to help restore the battery on long trips.
However, the main thing to do to ensure the best economic return is to get into the habit of charging regularly – as is the case with any PHEV.
Hybrids don’t have litter anxiety worries
Another distinct advantage of driving a plug-in hybrid is that there’s no range anxiety, no matter how you look at it. There are plenty of people who would say range anxiety isn’t a problem, but I’ve had enough stressful trips in pure electric vehicles to know it can be a problem.
Therefore, having the backup of a gas engine is a big deal, because if you need to do a longer run, you just have to jump in and drive. Driven carefully, the Lexus NX 450h+ has the potential to go over 300 miles if you harness both full throttle and electric potential.
So while the power supply is perfect for any short trips you might take in your area, you can still take longer trips without having to stop and wait to recharge along the way.
Whichever way you look at it, the ability to use electric power somewhere along the way can save you valuable dollars. Whether you use that power to get to the highway or save it to move when you actually reach your destination. Alternatively, you can also mix and match, because the key to remember here is that the driver can choose.
And that gives you a supply advantage. The gas tank, as any driver knows, only takes a few minutes to fill, and the Lexus’ battery is small enough that it doesn’t take an age to recharge. This is especially useful if you happen to be somewhere with a free charger, like the supermarket.
Hybrids can offer an economic special
With soaring energy prices and no signs of an impending slowdown, not spending money unnecessarily seems very reasonable right now. The plug-in hybrid definitely proves to be a good choice over a traditional model, especially since plug-in models have the ability to drive using only electric power.
Not only does this help you reduce your personal emissions, which is a benefit from an environmental perspective, but it also means lower running costs. Energy prices can skyrocket, but electricity is always cheaper than the equivalent amount of gas. Even the US Department of Energy says so.
A plug-in hybrid might still have a gas tank, but the fact that you’re not beholden to it means you’re in a much better position than if you had a regular car.
Plus, the fact that hybrids emit less CO2 means there will be less to pay when tax season rolls around. Here in the UK you would find yourself paying less vehicle tax with a hybrid, while driving one for business purposes could offer additional savings. The BIK (Benefit In Kind) rate, for example, reduces running costs for owners of company cars with CO2 emissions of 20g/km, or a BIK rate of 7% in the case of the Lexus.
Similarly in the United States, just like all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids are eligible for the federal income tax credit. In some cases, like the Lexus NX 450h+, you can claim the full $7,500 refund when the IRS calls you. Although the amount you can claim depends on the specifications of the car battery.
At the end of the line
Choosing these charging times carefully and harnessing the versatile potential of the PHEV’s battery and gas engine combination can help you save money. And, with rising fuel and energy prices, it’s worth doing all you can to drive smarter.
All-electric cars have some advantages that even a plug-in hybrid cannot offer, such as the reduced cost of routine maintenance. But you’re also beholden to the vagaries of charging infrastructure and longer charging times, especially on long journeys. And that’s why I’m going to conserve gas a little longer and get myself a PHEV.
So if you’re looking for a family-flavored SUV but don’t fancy something like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 or a Mercedes-Benz GLC, then the super smart Lexus NX 450h+ could be an ideal alternative.