If you want a hybrid that's actually capable of extended periods of electric-only driving, it's wise to opt for a plug-in hybrid. These cars use similar drivetrains to your garden-variety hybrid, but a much larger battery permits EV-only operation for significant lengths of time -- often enough to cover entire commutes. Hyundai's entering this growing segment with the 2016 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, and it's offering up some details just before the car goes on sale.
Under the body lies a 9.8-kilowatt-hour battery, roughly five times the size of the unit in the standard Sonata Hybrid, which allows the car to qualify for the highest federal tax credit for its class. That sizable pack also allows this plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) to achieve a 27-mile all-electric range. Charging time is roughly 3 hours on a 240-volt charger and about 9 hours on a 120-volt plug. Total range is estimated at 600 miles.
Connected to that electric drivetrain is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine that either charges the vehicle while it's operating or powers the wheels when juice is low. Between the two methods of propulsion, the Sonata PHEV puts out 202 horsepower. The PHEV's electric motor is 32 percent more powerful than the one in the regular Hybrid, as well.
There are two trim levels of Sonata PHEV available -- Standard and Limited. Without any federal tax credit, the cars cost $34,600 and $38,600, respectively. The federal tax credit for a PHEV with this size of battery is $4,919, and additional state or local incentives may also apply. Thus, you could walk out of the showroom with a plug-in Sonata for less than $30,000, depending on where you live.
Moving up to the Limited model loads the car with creature comforts and safety technology. Your hard-earned thousands go toward a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and lane-departure warning. There's also a smartphone app that controls charge times so you can jump on cheaper off-peak utility rates.
The Sonata Plug-In arrives in dealerships the week of November 16.