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With all of the hype associated with hybrids (e.g. Toyota) and electric-gas combo (e.g. Porsche, Mitsubishi) SUV vehicles, it is hard to decide which one can best provide expected SUV performance with the associated fuel savings. Can you share your insights on the benefits or drawbacks of one technology versus another? – Michael

By the models you have listed, I believe you are looking to review the differences between a traditional hybrid (HEV) and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). While the two technologies are similar, they have one significant difference. The Toyota HEV is completely self-reliant as its main power source is its internal-combustion engine (ICE). The electric motor assists the ICE. Its batteries are completely charged by the onboard regenerative systems.

Alternatively, the Porsche and Mitsubishi PHEVs' main motivation comes from its grid-charged batteries powering the electric motor with the ICE being the backup, kicking in only when extra horsepower is needed. An external charge is necessary at some point.

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A key point has to be whether or not you want to be dependent on your local electric grid to charge your vehicle as the availability/convenience of charging stations will undoubtedly be a factor. However, my research suggests that most drivers live with relatively short commutes, making life with a PHEV achievable.

Another factor is price. The performance and luxury of the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is high on many buyers' list, but once reality sets in, affordability plays a significant role at purchase time.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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