disadvantages of plug-in hybrid cars
Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) don’t get much respect in the EV industry these days. They are the epitome of a transitional technology, and it would be hard to argue that many of them justify their price premiums over mainstream hybrids. It is widely believed that, thanks to ill-conceived government incentives, many PHEVs are bought by drivers who never intend to plug them in disadvantages of plug-in hybrid cars.
But wait – it gets worse. A recent study indicates that the real emissions of some PHEVs may be much higher than advertised – shades of Dieselgate aka the Dirty Diesel Debacle, a scheme in which automakers conspired to deceive car buyers and regulators disadvantages of plug-in hybrid cars.
Advocacy group Transport & Environment commissioned the Technical University of Graz in Austria to road test three new popular mid-size PHEVs – the BMW 3 Series, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane – and found that they did not live up to their advertised specifications.
disadvantages of plug-in hybrid cars
The researchers describe their findings in ” Plug-in hybrids 2.0: A dangerous distraction, not a climate solution. ”
The researchers found that real CO 2 emissions from the vehicles tested ranged from 85 to 114 g/km, about 3 times the artificially low official values of 27-36 g/km. When the vehicles were not charged, the emissions were 5-7 times the official values, and even with a fully charged battery, the real emissions were between 1.2 and 3 times the official values. Two of the three vehicles showed significantly lower range than advertised: 26% lower for the BMW and 47% lower for the Peugeot disadvantages of plug-in hybrid cars.
Two years ago, T&E tested the BMW X5, Volvo XC60 and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV under a wide range of conditions, mostly over longer distances. This year, T&E tested three smaller PHEVs on shorter ”commuter” routes. Even when starting with a fully charged battery and driving in the mode the car was selected, Peugeot and Renault emitted between 1.2 and 1.7 times the amount of carbon dioxide 2 indicated by their official ratings (33-50 g/km). The BMW emitted over 100 g/km, 3 times the official value.
It was a best case scenario. One of the dubious selling points of a PHEV is that you don’t need to charge it, and many drivers don’t. (By my estimate, charging my Prius Plug-in saves me about 40 cents, so some might argue ”Why bother?”) According to T&E, studies have shown that many PHEVs, especially utility vehicles, rarely or never charge. When tested with an empty battery in the city, the BMW and Peugeot emitted 200g/km – equivalent to the emissions of the older VW Tiguan SUV. The Renault, which is lighter and has a much smaller gas engine, had emissions of 138 g/km disadvantages of plug-in hybrid cars.
Most PHEVs offer limited electric range, and T&E found that the three models it tested didn’t even deliver the paltry range they should have. None of the three managed more than 50km of driving around the city of Graz, and only the Renault achieved its advertised range. The BMW’s electric range was 26% lower than it should have been, and the Peugeot’s was 47% lower.
BMW’s eDrive Zone geo-fencing feature is advertised as a way to automatically switch to zero-emission driving when in designated zones – a way to follow (or avoid) the emission-free zones found in a growing number of European cities. Aside from the question of whether it makes sense to shift emissions from the city center to the suburbs, T&E found that the feature didn’t even work. ”During the test, the technology could not guarantee emission-free city driving. With geo-fencing technology enabled, the engine turned on twice while driving in the city.”
Despite their dubious climate benefits, automakers benefit from generous government subsidies for PHEVs. According to T&E’s calculations, European subsidies in 2022 were worth €0.9 billion or €8,200 per PHEV to BMW; €1.3 billion or €9,300 per PHEV to Stellantis; and €0.3 billion or €6,900 per PHEV to Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi. ”Selling PHEVs with artificially low emissions also means that fewer BEVs need to be sold for car manufacturers to comply with CO2 2 targets.”
T&E (among others) recommends that policymakers stop purchasing subsidies for PHEVs. Failing that, at least official emissions figures should be regularly updated with real data, and PHEVs should not be treated as zero-emission vehicles, even if they have so-called geo-fencing capabilities.
Source: Transport & Environment