Sunday, February 16, 2020
News Plug-In Hybrids Have No Future

Plug-In Hybrids Have No Future

The push for electrification has put a number of OEMs in a weakened position as they lack true EV tech. To make up for it, they’re trying to sell plug-in hybrids

Like most of you, I get tons of emails, mostly spam, from business and industry-related marketing companies, random associations and the likes. Only once in a blue moon do I actually get something worth reading. This time, it was a link to a research done by IDTechEx Research entitled: Plug-in Hybrids: More Models but No Future.

This caught my immediate attention as I’ve never liked the idea of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), never really cared for any of the ones I’ve driven and reviewed with one possible exception; in short, I’ve always thought they were “smoke in mirrors” and nothing more than a cash-grab by car companies.

In fact, I’ve considered them a waste of precious metals, oil and money for a few years. The title to this email, then, intrigued me as I’ve thought of PHEVs as having no present. I first dug (aka Googled) up stuff on the IDTechEx Research only to find out that they are based in the UK and seem legit.

The report itself contains over 240 pages of detailed information comparing EV strategies from the majority of car companies and digs very deep into the future of batteries, supercapacitors, motors, power electronics and energy harvesting. It also evaluates all other forms of transportation but I focused my attention is the summary which pertains to plug-in hybrids.

Admittedly, I did not read the report given the $12,500 asking price but the fact that part of the conclusion touches on PHEVs is enough for me to elaborate on my opinion.

As most PHEVs offer a full-electric range between 25 and 75 km, their daily-usability goes from nil to limited. In order to take advantage of this range, the vehicle must be plugged in at every opportunity, unlike an EV with a current minimum of 200 km. When the battery is depleted, after 50 km, for example, your gasoline engine takes over and not only must it provide forward motion for the vehicle, it must carry hundreds of kilograms of batteries, negatively affecting fuel consumption, until the next charge. Whatever brief advantage you may get from your EV range, it is quickly be negated in real-world usage.

Knowing full-well that fully electric vehicles will be a huge part of the automotive fleet in the very near future, and as ranges continue to climb ever closer to conventional petrol-powered cars, PHEVs will quickly find their worth suffer tremendously. No longer will they provide any advantage – in fact, the encumbrance of both sources of energy with involved maintenance and need to plug in will constitute nothing more than burden and compromise.

In my mind, PHEVs will soon suffer a huge decline in sales, demand and as a result, resale value. With this in mind, I would strongly suggest leasing a PHEV, if you are considering one, as in four or five years from now, they may very well become worthless. If, once again, you are in the market for a new “green” car, I would recommend you hold on to your current ride for another year or two. Numerous carmakers have huge EV plans starting in about a year for the 2021 and 2022 model years.

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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,400 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

6 COMMENTS

  1. What happens when electric rates sky rocket and petro prices plummet as a result of change in demand. What is the alternative to a fully electric vehicle? seems to me that is would be better to have or be protected by having both options. We know humans to be a very finicky species. Electric is the flavor of the month, then what?

    • PHEVs are mediocre EVs and burdened “regular” vehicles – it is best to stick to one or the other option. The transition will take years and decades to occur. Petrol prices may drop but then so will the cost of purchasing an EV. By the same token, the purchase price of an ICE vehicle may very well rise to curb their appeal, along with electricity rates. That is the nature of business among humans.

  2. This is an incredibly shortsighted article, and completely misses the point of plug-in hybrids. You’re also letting “perfect” be the enemy of “good enough for now”.

    Yes, longer ranged EV’s are coming, but other than Tesla, they’re being made in limited quantities largely due to limited battery supply. It’s unlikely to ramp up as quickly as they’re going to need it to. The Hyundai Kona EV and Kia Soul/Niro EV come to mind.

    You also talk as though public charging stations are a dime a dozen and can be freely accessed no matter where you live. But outside of a few cities, they’re still fairly hard to find, and again, outside of a Tesla, planning a road trip in an EV that’s much further than its range will require a lot of meticulous planning and luck that any charging stations they plan to use will be available and in working order. Chances are if its a remote area, the charging station is being used by a gas car parked in its spot known as being “ICE’d” in reference to the internal combustion engine. Or worse, it’s broken.

    Many people also simply have no way to plug-in, such as apartment dwellers or people who only have street parking available. An EV would be very impractical for them if they can’t find a place to reliably charge regularly.

    The reality is that many people are still going to be driving on gas. The beauty of a plug-in hybrid is that it helps to cut down on your daily gas usage. Even if you still end up having to run on gas everyday, it will be a lot less than a regular gas car would be needing.

    My Chevy Volt allows me to do my daily driving to work and back everyday completely on electric. But if I need to drive farther, or I just simply forgot to plug it in the previous day, I can just simply run it on gas and not have to stress out about finding a place to charge. I only have to visit the gas station every few months now, instead of every week.

    If you go with the “then you’re carrying around a gas tank/engine” argument, keep in mind if I owned a BEV, I’m also carrying around hundreds of pounds of battery that I’m not using everyday either.

    So in short, plug-in hybrids are a great interim car to get people used to driving electric without the range anxiety worries. Granted, I wish the automakers would strive for more than 40 km/25 miles of electric range, but it’s a start.

    • Your Chevrolet Volt is not a plug-in hybrid. It is an electric car with a range-extender – a very different type of electrified vehicle which is not addressed by this piece. Why GM chose to cancel it however demonstrates that, in their mind at the very least, its technology and layout have no future. Those who live in apartments or frequently travel to remote areas will be far better served by a fuel-efficient hybrid (non plug-in) or by a less-expensive and smaller right-sized vehicle with a modern gasoline engine.

  3. When a fully electric car will take me 500 miles in a day on one charge and charging stations are common everywhere in numbers that won’t keep me waiting for a turn at a price that compares favorably with my solar panels cost equivalent, I will happily go for an all electric vehicle. In the meantime I am great full for my car that only needs a little gas when my trip is more than 25 miles. If I never took the 300 or 1800 mile trips that I occasionally do, I would need to fill up once or twice a year. My current ‘17 Prime likely will last me 6-8 years before another car tempts me to pass it down to a grandchild!

    • Have you figured out the real-world fuel economy of your Prius Prime on these long trips? In our experience, real-world fuel economy numbers between the Prius hybrid and the Prime are not that significant. Considering the Prime, in Canada, costs $5,000 more than the regular Prius (before incentives), it will need to go on many, many long trips before reaching the breakeven point.

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