The smartest-working cars in America

  • You can have an electric car as your only car, hassle-free.
  • You don't have to change your lifestyle one bit.
  • This tech is ready right now -- you don't have to wait for it.

In the world of transportation, especially automotive transportation, everybody likes to wax on about the future. But the future isn't here yet -- pure electric cars and hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles are cool, but they still aren't ready for full-time primetime unless you live in a world with nothing but short commutes with no surprises or you're always near a place to buy hydrogen. In either case, you're likely to own a second car.

So let's get practical and talk about the present, because no matter how romantic the future seems, the present is where we live. And in the present, we want fuel efficiency, smart value, and no range anxiety (the fear that our car's battery will be drained before we arrive and we'll be stranded with nothing but a freeway shoulder to cry on). Let's talk about PHEVs -- plug-in hybrid vehicles that can run purely on cheap, efficient electric power or on a gasoline engine, or both. Advantage? You'll never have to worry about getting stranded. Advantage? If you're a pure city dweller or a commuter, you rarely have to buy gasoline. Advantage? You can own one vehicle that requires no compromises and doesn't waste fuel.

For 2018, there are more plug-in hybrid models available than ever before -- 23 by our last count -- coming in every flavor from luxury SUVs to simple, honest commuter cars. PHEVs shine because for most people, they can plug into a regular wall socket, charge up overnight, and get you to your job the next morning on pure electric power with zero tailpipe emissions and -- if the unexpected happens and you suddenly need to take a road trip -- offering superior fuel economy and good highway manners.

With so many new plug-in hybrids available and making the present so livable, we decided to capture the moment with a real-world comparison test featuring four of the most interesting plug-in hybrids on the market today: the Chevrolet Volt, the new Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid and Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid, and the Toyota Prius Prime. We gathered these players together, then started the test in the worst Los Angeles rush-hour traffic we could find. After that, we drove our noble group of PHEVs north -- straight up the spine of California on a long-distance road trip. Here's what they're supposed to do, and here's what we learned.

In alphabetical order:

2018 Chevrolet Volt

The car that famously brought mass-market appeal, access and peace of mind of gasoline/electric plug-in hybrids still plays a strong role in the PHEV world.
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2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

The Kelley Blue Book 2018 Best Buy award winner in the Electric/Hybrid category deserves your consideration as well.
Read more.

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid

With a good price and great fuel economy and driving range, the Ioniq represents the best of what a PHEV value should be.
Read more.

2018 Toyota Prius Prime

With the best EPA-certified gas/electric range and fuel economy in our group, the Prius Prime is an individual standout with its own character and individual appeal.
Read more.

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