Out of Bounds

Are Hybrids the Answer?

While EVs sales cooled, hybrid vehicles are getting a second look

By Rob Breeding

A few weeks ago I wrote about electric vehicles. For the right owner, EVs offer a low-carbon option that is also cheaper to operate, though that’s a trade-off for the higher purchase price. 

Still, I don’t think EVs are ready to be the primary vehicle for many users, just yet, especially in the rural West.

The three big drawbacks for EVs are range, recharge time and the availability of chargers. All three of these factors make EVs less than suitable for the average hunter or angler who likes to play in remote places where other humans are scarce, as are Tesla Superchargers.

Electric vehicle technology has come a long way, but the energy density of batteries is still a fraction of a tank of gasoline. A battery pack for an F-150 Lightning weighs 1,800 pounds and provides about 250-300 miles of range. A 30-gallon fuel tank filled to capacity comes in at roughly 300 pounds while allowing a half-ton pickup to travel about 550 miles between fill-ups.

Even when battery capacity grows to more closely match gasoline-powered vehicles, if the recharge time doesn’t also improve, we’re still going to have problems on the highway. I’ve driven a lot of miles on Interstate 90 across Montana or I-15 to some of my favorite winter haunts. It’s impossible to imagine what the refueling line would look like at a place like the Town Pump at I-90 and Highway 287 near Three Forks if everyone needed 45 minutes to recharge, rather than the five minutes it takes with gasoline.

Don’t misunderstand me, I like EVs and I think we may all be driving one in another decade or so, but we’re not ready for everyone to be driving one right now.

Some may fret about the obstacles and conclude, “It can’t be done.” I don’t agree, but we won’t just flip a switch and find ourselves in a gasoline-free world overnight. The transition will take time.

I think part of that transition will be hybrids. And no, I’m not talking about a Prius. Instead, consider the capabilities of the Ford F-150 Hybrid, which came out in 2021 but was then quickly overshadowed by the 2022 release of the all-electric F-150 Lightning.

Both trucks are great, but the hybrid operates as would a gasoline-fueled truck, with the benefit of more power and an inverter system in the truck bed to plug in run tools like saws for cutting firewood.

It seemed like auto manufacturers and a lot of buyers lost their heads over EVs for a while. The Lightning seemed so cool with that ginormous frunk and the Tesla Model X Plaid was roasting gasoline-powered supercars at the drag strip.

But recently, the market cooled some for EVs. Sales are still up year over year, but the adoption rate has slowed. There are still too many compromises that come along with EV ownership. I’m not worried about that. If EVs do become the vehicle of the future, we’ll work out the battery and charging issues and the electrical infrastructure needed to create a non-carbon, renewable energy future, and make it so.

By the way, while EVs sales cooled, hybrid vehicles are getting a second look and Ford has increased production. Toyota is also all in on hybrids. The new Tacoma’s top engine choice is a hybrid. And there’s a Jeep Gladiator hybrid coming maybe this year.

I’m not in the market for a new truck, but if I was, and prices returned to more affordable pre-pandemic levels, I’d give hybrids a look. The one vehicle I might exchange my gas-powered Ford Ranger for — by the way, 23 mpg over 30,000 miles so far — is a plug-in hybrid Ranger. Charge it at night and drive up to 28 miles before the gas engine kicks in.

That Ford is only sold in Europe, however. So for now, my bank account is safe.