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Plug-in hybrids: On the grid and in the tank (pictures)

Hybrid cars marked a first step from gasoline to electric power, and now plug-in hybrids take us one more step closer to an electric-car future.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 7 Sarah Tew/CNET

BMW i3

Although billed primarily as an electric car, BMW will also offer the i3 model with a range extender gasoline engine. The engine works as a generator, charging up the batteries to power the drive motor. The i3, which debuted in late July, goes on sale next year.

Gasoline engine: 34 horsepower 650cc two-cylinder Electric motor: 125 kilowatt Battery pack: 22 kilowatt-hour Electric range: 80 to 100 miles (estimate) Total range: 180 miles Fuel economy: Not available

2014 BMW i3 preview

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2 of 7 Josh Miller/CNET

Chevrolet Volt

The oldest of the plug-in hybrids, the Volt came out in 2010. Chevy likes to call it a range-extender electric vehicle, because its electric motor drives the wheels most of the time, while the gasoline engine primarily charges the batteries. Under certain conditions at highway speeds, the gasoline engine contributes motive power to the wheels.

Gasoline engine: 84 horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder Electric motor: 111 kilowatt Battery pack: 16 kilowatt-hour Electric range: 38 miles Total range: 380 miles Fuel economy: 93 mpg equivalent, 37 mpg (gasoline)

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3 of 7 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Ford C-Max Energi

The C-Max began life as a gasoline-fueled car in Europe. When Ford brought it to the U.S., the company only solid it with a hybrid or plug-in hybrid drivetrain. The C-Max Energi, the label Ford uses for its plug-in hybrid cars, works primarily as a hybrid car, but the high-capacity battery can drive the car with electricity for extended periods of time.

Gasoline engine: 141 horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder Electric motor: 88 kilowatt Battery pack: 7.6 kilowatt-hour Electric range: 21 miles Total range: 620 miles Fuel economy: 100 mpg equivalent, 43 mpg (gasoline)

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4 of 7 Ford

Ford Fusion Energi

The Ford Fusion Energi uses the same gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain as the Ford C-Max Energi, so the performance comes out the same. By offering both cars as Energi models, Ford gives customers a choice between midsize sedan and hatchback plug-in hybrids.

Gasoline engine: 141 horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder Electric motor: 88 kilowatt Battery pack: 7.6 kilowatt-hour Electric range: 21 miles Total range: 620 miles Fuel economy: 100 mpg equivalent, 43 mpg (gasoline)

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5 of 7 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid

Following the introduction of its all-new Accord model late last year, Honda will introduce both a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version of this midsize sedan. As such, the plug-in version primarily operates as a hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle, although its battery allows extended electric drive time. The Accord Plug-in Hybrid should come out late this year as a 2014 model.

Gasoline engine: 137 horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder Electric motor: 124 kilowatt Battery pack: 6.7 kilowatt-hour Electric range: 13 miles Total range: 500 miles Fuel economy: 115 mpg equivalent, 46 mpg (gasoline)

2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid preview

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6 of 7 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Outlander PHEV has the distinction of being the first plug-in hybrid SUV, and its two electric motors give it four-wheel drive. Its gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain switches off between gasoline and electric driving depending on battery charge and driving conditions. The U.S. version of this new vehicle is set to launch at the 2014 Detroit auto show.

Gasoline engine: 2-liter four-cylinder Electric motors: 2 x 60 kilowatt Battery pack: 12 kilowatt-hour Electric range: 37 miles Total range: 546 miles Fuel economy: Not available

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV preview

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7 of 7 Josh Miller/CNET

Toyota Prius Plug-in

After the Prius made its mark as the most popular hybrid car in the early 2000s, hackers began converting it to a plug-in vehicle. It took Toyota quite some time to capitalize on plug-in capabilities, but it eventually released a production version. The Prius Plug-in drives similar to the standard Prius hybrid, but its larger battery pack gives it 11 miles of electric range.

Gasoline engine: 98 horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder Electric motor: 60 kilowatt Battery pack: 4.4 kilowatt-hour Electric range: 11 miles Total range: 540 miles Fuel economy: 95 mpg equivalent, 50 mpg (gasoline)

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