Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEVs) models such as the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid and Chevrolet Volt were popular and plentiful in the not-too-distant past. They appeared to be the ideal way for people accustomed to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to dip their toes into the EV waters without having to go completely electric.
PHEVs have an all-electric range for short distances and can be used as EVs for daily commutes without using the gas engine. However, because of their hybrid nature, they have a good range for road trips.
Of course, PHEVs are not extinct, and some automakers continue to offer them, including the aforementioned Honda, as well as Hyundai/Kia, BMW, Volvo, Chrysler, and Subaru. GM, one of the world’s largest automakers, is conspicuously absent from the list, have publicly stated that it has abandoned the PHEV in favour of the battery electric vehicle (BEV).
This comes as Hyundai, Ford, and Volvo expand their PHEV offerings. What are GM’s motivations? What’s more, are they correct? And where can you go to get a PHEV?
GM Stands Out
GM has discontinued sales of all PHEVs previously offered in the United States, but continues to offer a single model in China. When General Motors discontinued the Chevy Volt, which debuted its Voltec PHEV powertrain nearly ten years ago, it drew a line in the sand.
There will be no new PHEVs developed in the future because they are simply countermeasures to ICE cars that force customers to pay more for a car that may or may not be necessary. GM believes that by devoting all of its resources to the development of BEVs, it will be able to outperform the competition in the EV race. In 2020, GM will have sold more than 200,000 electric vehicles.
VW Is Following Suit
Although Volkswagen sells PHEV vehicles around the world, such as the Touareg R, their days are numbered. For the time being, VW sees PHEV technology as suitable for some performance models in order to provide the horsepower and performance customers desire while also providing far better gas mileage and some EV range.
However, as they transition to their MEB all-electric platform, their PHEVs are likely to be phased out. VW, like GM, sees the technology as merely transitional.
PHEVs: The Good
But why do so many manufacturers continue to produce PHEVs? In the United States, approximately 30 PHEV models are currently on the market. This is due to the fact that they continue to provide several distinct advantages:
The range. Many people are still concerned about the range of electric vehicles and the time it takes to fully charge them. A PHEV may only have an all-electric range of 15 to 30 miles, but this is sufficient for most daily driving, and the ICE can be used for longer trips, giving them an excellent overall range.
Batteries that are smaller. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have smaller batteries that charge faster, even if only Level 1 charging is available. Smaller batteries save weight as well.
It’s a smoother transition. A PHEV provides a scaled-down EV experience with the peace of mind of an ICE to eliminate range anxiety. It is an excellent first car if you want to transition but don’t want to commit to going completely electric.
CO2 emissions are lower than in ICE vehicles. Owners who primarily use the EV range on a daily basis can save a significant amount of fuel and eliminate tailpipe emissions while in EV mode. This makes PHEVs one of the best options for commuting, especially when compared to ICE vehicles.
PHEVs: The Bad
Of course, there are some reasons why PHEVs may not be as appealing today as they once were:
They are pricey. You are paying for two technologies – ICE and EV – in one vehicle. It is simply more expensive to develop and build such a vehicle, so it costs more. In a range, the PHEV is always one of the most expensive models and never the base model.
They continue to pollute. Unless you use your PHEV’s EV-only capability, you will end up relying solely on the ICE for long trips once the battery is depleted. In such cases, it is no better than an ICE car and will not provide better fuel economy.
Complication. Because of the dual technologies and tight packaging, more things can go wrong and require maintenance. Furthermore, not just any mechanic would be willing to work on it.
Profitability is an important factor. Because of the aforementioned costs, automakers struggle to make a profit on PHEVs unless they sell them at a high MSRP, which in turn reduces sales. It’s the cost of having to construct two cars in one.
Cargo room. Unless a platform was specifically designed to be a PHEV, some valuable trunk space is frequently lost to house the PHEV’s batteries.
The PHEVs Available To US Buyers
The list changes on a daily basis, but at the time of writing, the following PHEVs are available for purchase in the United States; these vehicles are a mix of sedan, crossover, coupe, SUV, and four-door models:
- Audi Q5 and A8 L 60 TFSI e quattro
- BMW 330e, X5 xDrive 40e, 740e, and X3 xDrive 30e
- Bentley Bentayga Hybrid
- Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid and Cayenne S E-Hybrid
- Land Rover Range Rover PHEV and Range Rover Sport PHEV
- Hyundai IONIQ PHEV
- Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid and Niro PHEV
- Jeep Wrangler 4xe
- Toyota Prius Prime, RAV4 Prime
- Polestar 1
- Volvo S90 T8 PHEV, XC60 T8 PHEV, and XC90 PHEV
- Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
- Honda Clarity PHEV
- Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
- Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4
- Karma Revero GT
- Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e
Some EV owners are reverting to ICE vehicles due to the hassle of charging their EVs and a reluctance to use public charging stations. This is likely to be a passing phase as EV infrastructure improves and fast charging becomes more common.
With EV battery prices continuing to fall, VW and Tesla have revised the once-elusive benchmark of $100 per kilowatt-hour to a far more ambitious $60. At that price, EVs will be less expensive than ICE vehicles, making them the obvious choice. PHEVs will take a back seat and eventually disappear in the face of these advancements.