So, what are the benefits of plug-in hybrid cars? Plug-in hybrid drivetrains may seem like a complicated solution to a simple problem, but in reality they address the two fundamental issues that have prevented pure electric vehicles from becoming economically viable: range and weight.
Though battery technology has improved dramatically in recent years, the potential range of a pure electric vehicle is still below the roughly 300-miles of travel a typical consumer expects from a tank of gas.
According to Saturn, with a pure-electric range of up to 40 miles, the Vue plug-in hybrid will accommodate the 80 percent of consumers who live within a 20-mile radius of where they work. For these drivers, the gasoline engine would only be used to provide extra power for acceleration, passing, and merging.
Because the drivetrain is engineered for maximum efficiency in daily short-range driving, a plug-in hybrid is not saddled with what Saturn estimates is 400-600 pounds of additional battery capacity.
Given that it should be possible to always drive a plug-in hybrid vehicle within the range of its plug-in battery capacity, and gently enough to avoid requiring power assistance from the engine, it is theoretically possible to never consume gasoline.
More likely, fuel consumption would decrease dramatically in routine commuting, though the reduced cost of gasoline is offset to some extent by increased electricity usage.