The Future of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Lester D'Souza, Auto Tech Outlook | Friday, January 08, 2021

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are the first step to make car buyer fully accustomed to a fully electric vehicle. 

Fremont, CA: Electric vehicles are the allies of the environment; however, they have received an average response in Europe. The automakers of the country are concerned about the lukewarm response, but they do have plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) as their trump card. The PHEV encompasses a battery and electric motor in a conventionally powered vehicle that users are accustomed to — at the same time, allowing automakers to reduce CO2 output by 50 to 80 percent. Moreover, the PHEV qualifies for various tax incentives and purchase grants in multiple European Union (EU) countries.

Additionally, these vehicles can enter into many cities with ultra-low emission zones, which ban conventional vehicles. On the contrary, EVs have their disadvantages. If the government officials and environmental groups decide that PHEVs do not deliver the claimed CO2 figure, then it will be a potential backlash.  The carbon footprint of the vehicle depends on the regularity of electric motor usage.

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The PHEV were conceptualized to get customers acquainted with the idea of plugging in their car before going full electric. LMC Automotive, an automotive production and supply and demand forecast company, predicts that PHEV sales will be more than double in Europe in 2020 up to 590,000 from a full-year estimate of 220,000 in 2019. These sales numbers would give PHEV a brief momentum against full-electric vehicles and a market share of 3.1 percent. From an automaker's perspective, PHEVs are unavoidably expensive, which restricts their rollout. Fitting a battery, electric motor and the power electronics to an existing combustion-engine adds thousands of Euros to the cost of production. Bernstein analyst Max Warburton believes that customers are not prepared to bear the extra cost, and the automakers have to absorb approximately 60 percent of the value of the PHEV technology themselves.

In markets where incentives such as purchase grants and company-car tax breaks are prominent, the car sales will soar. However, the predicament of incentives arises when they are lifted. The sales of PHEV are unstable and will be heavily dependent on the government's support. As an instance, the Dutch government abruptly pulled PHEV incentives after an in-depth analysis of the fuel-card data, which showed that the drivers were using the PHEVs as standard hybrids to save tax. If electric hybrids are not charged, then the combination of a downsized gasoline engine has to work twice as hard to propel the vehicle made heavier by the addition of a battery and other components causing higher levels of emissions than a conventional diesel engine.

Plug-in hybrids are progressive. Major carmakers in the market are upgrading the battery packs to enhance the electric-only range of the vehicles and reduce the CO2 emission figures. This significant change caused due to the tightening of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) rules. Eventually, fully electric cars will surpass the PHEVs and conventional combustion-powered cars as the batteries will get better and cheaper.

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