During most of the history of the car, the type of engine to choose from has been pretty simple. In fact, there’s been just one choice: the internal combustion engine. Today, there are many more, though. In fact, new car buyers can consider one of four primary types: Internal Combustion; Hybrid; Plug-in Hybrid and All Electric (EV.) Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type.
Internal Combustion Engines
The internal combustion engine is your standard gasoline or diesel-powered engine. Sometimes referred to as Otto-cycle (gasoline) or Diesel-cycle (diesel) engines, these powerplants use exploding gases to drive pistons up and down and to power the driving wheels.
Pros – Internal combustion engine vehicles have been in production for over a century. If you have been building something that long, you tend to get good at it. As a result, we can make high-quality internal combustion engines quickly and cheaply. And let’s not forget the infrastructure. The United States is covered in gas stations. If you have a car that runs on gasoline or diesel, you can be confident you will be able to find fuel just about anywhere you travel.
Cons – The most obvious downside to the internal combustion engine is the fact that they pollute. Most scientists believe climate change is real and is going to change the average temperature of our planet. The only argument left is what role the internal combustion engines plays in climate change – a minor role, or a major role. If the environmental impact of petroleum-based power isn’t enough of a negative, consider that fossil fuels will eventually run out.
Hybrid vehicles use traditional combustion engines supplemented with an electric motor. In its most basic form, a hybrid vehicle uses an electric motor to power the vehicle at lower speeds and then switches to the internal combustion engine for faster speeds. Not long ago, hybrid cars were only available as sedans. Now there are many more body styles on the market. Chrysler, for example offers the Pacifica in hybrid form. Our consultant at Newark Chrysler in Newark, DE proudly told us that this is America’s first hybrid minivan and it is being received very well.
Pros – The pros and cons of a hybrid vehicle are similar to those of an internal combustion engine. You can make use of the existing infrastructure, and most of the technology under the hood is well established. And you have the added bonus of lower running costs and less of an environmental impact, particularly if you drive just 10-20 miles per day.
Cons – Of course, hybrid engines are still reliant on fossil fuels and all the baggage that comes with that. Hybrid vehicles are also more expensive than their internal combustion engine counterparts but these prices have been coming down.
Plug-In Hybrid Engines
A plug-in hybrid vehicle is basically a hybrid with the added advantage of being able to charge the battery pack by “plugging it in.”
Pros – Plug-in hybrid cars have the advantage of not being entirely reliant on fossil fuels. Though they are designed to use gasoline or diesel fuel (like a regular hybrid does,) they can also be charged via an electric outlet.
Cons – Well, very few. The can utilize fossil fuels when necessary or be plugged in and charged. The best of both worlds.
Electric Engine (EV)
Pros – Absolutely zero direct impact on the environment when you drive. Of course, the electricity you’re charging your car with could have come from a powerplant that uses fossil fuel. Then again, if it comes primarily from hydropower, you have generated almost no pollution.
Cons – The range of an electric vehicle is somewhat limited by its batteries. Your driving range could be less than other vehicle types. However, the range of EVs is getting longer and longer as battery technology advances.
Which would you buy? Which should you buy? Basically, take a look at the advantages/disadvantages as noted above an see which technology fits you lifestyle the best.