If you’re interested in buying a car, you’ve probably realized that the powertrain you choose can have a huge impact on things like price, fuel efficiency, and acceleration. If you were shopping for a car twenty years ago, the biggest difference in technology was what kind of fuel you put in it—gas or diesel. But today, concerns about climate change and the desire to reduce dependence on fossil fuels means drivers are considering electric and hybrid options.
When it comes to power, which type of car is the best fit for you? You can, of course, go with a gas-powered engine; these have existed since the birth of vehicles. You also have electric cars, which have gained quite a bit of popularity in the last few years. And you can even get hybrids, which combine the benefits of gas and electric cars.
Conventional Gas Cars
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many vehicles—not just cars—were steam-powered, which was actually more efficient for trains than it was for cars. That’s why, in the late nineteenth century, drivers were introduced to cars powered by gasoline. It’s not known for sure who actually invented gas-powered cars due to so many competing patents at the time. But, according to History, some say that the first gas-powered engine could be credited to either Karl Friedrich Benz or Gottlieb Daimler, both of Germany; coincidentally, both filed patents for their inventions on the same day.
Since then, we’ve been running (or, technically, driving) on gas engines. Almost every car you see on the road is powered by gasoline. Even with the increasing popularity other vehicle types, it’s still rare to see a vehicle that’s not gasoline-powered.
- Best for long trips. A full tank will get you roughly 600km on the road. The exact amount depends on the vehicle’s fuel efficiency and how much the gas tank can hold.
- Gas stations EVERYWHERE. It’s highly unlikely you’ll have trouble finding a gas station on any part of your journey.
- Stronger engines. Gas-powered vehicles tend to be better at handling acceleration and towing heavy objects.
- Cheaper to buy. When compared with electric or hybrid cars on the market, gas-powered cars are often the most economical option.
- Environmentally damaging. The Energy Information Administration states that burning one gallon of gasoline creates more than 19 pounds of carbon dioxide, one of the major greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.
A good fuel-efficient gas-powered car you should consider is the Toyota Corolla Hatchback. It’s a compact car with 169 horsepower, 7.1 L/100km, and—with a starting MSRP of around $20,000—is very affordable.
Electric cars have been around for much longer than you probably think. Don’t be fooled by the recent social media craze over Teslas; electric cars actually date back to the late nineteenth century. Car and Driver explains that English inventor Thomas Parker was building prototype electric cars as far back as 1884. In fact, earlier inventors had also tried something similar, but rechargeable batteries hadn’t yet been invented.
With environmental concerns at all-time high levels in recent years, manufacturers are racing to build the best-looking electric cars before the competition steps in.
- Environmentally friendly. Since these cars are powered purely by electricity, there are hardly any emissions produced. Therefore, the only pollution would likely be created once the car ends up in the junkyard.
- Fewer parts. If you look under the hood, you’ll see the battery, controller, and motor; there’s not much else. That means fewer trips for routine maintenance.
- At-home charging. You can charge your car from the convenience of your home.
- Best for short commutes. You won’t be able to travel very far before you run out of power. At best, you’ll get around 160 km, depending on the model.
- Costly. The price to purchase one of these cars is going to be noticeably more expensive than other vehicle types; it’s also going to cost you more for upkeep. The advanced technology used to build these vehicles is very expensive to fix or replace.
- Small size. Electric-powered cars are not big. Don’t expect to see an electric minivan anytime soon.
The best-selling electric car, for now, is the Nissan Leaf. With the 2021 model, you can cover at least 250 km on a charge. And even though it’s a compact car, it comes with a decent amount of cargo space. Prices start at around $45,000 MSRP.
The idea of a car powered by both gas and another power source wasn’t a generally accepted concept until the twentieth century. In the early 1900s, inventors did play around with the idea, but the concept didn’t gain much popularity until late in the century. Both General Motors and Audi experimented with the 512 and Duo, respectively, but Toyota won the hybrid-car popularity contest with the Prius, which began development in 1997.
With a hybrid, you get the best of both worlds: longevity on the road coupled with a more environmentally friendly drive.
- Superior fuel economy. Because the car is part gas and part electric, you can drive for much longer than with any other car. Plus, you’ll release fewer fuel emissions.
- Savings on gas. Fewer trips to the gas station means more money in your pocket over time.
- Not as strong. Like electric cars, you won’t be able to do much towing or fast acceleration.
- Expensive. The prices for hybrid versions of a manufacturer’s trims are likely to cost as much as the luxury trims. Additionally, repair and maintenance will be more expensive due the hybrid’s more advanced technology.
Which Is Best For You?
The next time you’re in the market for a new car, consider all of the above facts. Then, if you’re still having trouble making up your mind, here are a few questions to help you narrow your choices down:
- Do you like to take road trips often? Go for a gas-powered car. These will give you the longest time on the road with the shortest amount of refuelling time.
- Is the car for local and medium-distance travel only? Look into an electric car. Whenever you’re not using it, you can just charge it up at home so it’s ready for the next commute.
- Looking for long-term savings? Invest in a hybrid. Over time, you’ll spend less money on refueling, especially with today’s ever-increasing gas prices.