Home » America’s Plug-In Hybrids Aren’t Good Enough

America’s Plug-In Hybrids Aren’t Good Enough

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General Motors makes some really, really confusing decisions sometimes. For example, the company somehow thought customers buying a sensible car like a Chevy Equinox crossover would be interested in a diesel variant (a total bust, and everyone knew it would be); GM somehow thought it made sense to offer an Opel-derived Buick convertible (a very slow seller, and everyone knew it would be); and GM somehow thought that skipping hybrids in favor of fully-electric cars made sense (a silly move, and everyone knew it would be). Luckily, GM has now reversed course on its no-more-PHEVs stance, and now we’re getting new GM plug-in hybrids. Plus, we can expect many more from competitors as well, as everyone wisens up to the obvious fact that PHEVs make sense for the U.S., especially given battery-sourcing limitations. But here’s the thing: So far, America’s PHEVs haven’t been good enough. Here’s what I mean.

You’ll have to excuse me for giving GM a hard time. Maybe there was some carbon credits reason for the Equinox diesel; according to Automotive News GM does claim that the Buick Cascada “played its role in the portfolio perfectly, outselling many other premium convertibles while bringing in [six of every 10] buyers from outside GM” even though I don’t buy that it was anything but a flop; and maybe GM’s “no PHEVs” policy was based on some kind of solid data, but all of those seemed dumb at the time, and they ended up indeed being dumb in the end. Anyway, for this very first installment of the “David’s Takes” weekly Sunday op-ed, let’s have a look at the pure-EV range figures of some of America’s most popular plug-in hybrids:

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  • Jeep Wrangler 4xe: 22 miles
  • Ford Escape plug-in: 37 miles
  • Chrysler Pacifica PHEV: 32 miles
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe: 26 miles
  • Hyundai Tucson PHEV: 33 miles
  • Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: 31 miles
  • BMW X5 xDrive45e: 31 miles
  • BMW 330e: 23 miles
  • Toyota Prius Prime: 44 miles
  • Lexus RX450H+: 37 miles

 

These numbers are pathetic.

Many of these cars don’t even have enough range to get the average American to work and back without recharging, and even if you can plug in these low-range PHEVs at work, plenty of Americans will still not be able to do a full home-work-home commute.

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I myself have a 17-mile commute to work (that’s a little more than average, which I’ve seen listed at between 12 and 16 miles), and I own an electric car with 25 miles of range — similar to the Wrangler and BMW 330e PHEV.  I can tell you straight up: That range is just not enough if you want to drive in EV-mode the vast majority of the time. If I can’t charge at work, I’m screwed; and if I’m going to go to the grocery store after work or pick up a friend from the airport or drive across town to hang out with friends on the weekend? Forget about it.

You might still be thinking: “Who cares? It’s a gasoline car that I can drive in electric mode sometimes to save gas, and if I have an at-home charger I can save money every day; it’s perfect!”

But that mentality is precisely my problem with the current crop of plug-in hybrids: They’re clearly gasoline cars first, electric cars second. The 30 miles or so of EV range is considered a nifty feature of someone’s otherwise gasoline vehicle. The issue, in my eyes, is that in America there are no plug-in hybrids that are electric cars first, gasoline cars second, and that needs to change. And I think — and this is just an opinion, as this  is the first installment of the “David’s Takes” weekly Sunday op-ed — that transition point from gas car first to EV first starts to happen at about 50-100 miles of range.

And you know how many mainstream plug-in hybrids in the U.S. currently offer more than 50 miles of range? Zero.

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I believe that the fastest way to get as many people driving electric as often as possible (ostensibly the U.S’s goal, since it should theoretically have positive climate change implications) is to offer range-extended electric cars — in other words, PHEVs that are electric cars first, gasoline cars second. And I think not offering these cars has jeopardized perhaps one of the biggest opportunities the auto industry has at having a positive climate impact.

The current crop of cars offered in the U.S. forces people interested in driving electric to choose between 30-mile PHEVs and fully electric cars. Lots of people don’t want to buy fully electric cars; this has been established, especially in recent news stories about softening demand and infrastructure concerns and range anxiety and cost, and on and on. So those people will buy a gas car and keep shooting CO2 and NOx into the air every time they get behind the wheel, or they’ll buy a 30-mile PHEV like the ones mentioned before.

Here’s the issue: PHEV critics argue against the technology because people just don’t charge enough. In fact, Consumer Reports writes that PHEV fuel consumption is higher than what’s on the sticker because of how infrequently PHEV owners plug in their vehicles:

“The fuel consumption of PHEVs in real-world usage is, on average, more than twice as high as EPA estimates,” says Georg Bieker, a researcher with the International Council on Clean Transportation Europe who studies PHEVs. That difference is largely because most PHEV drivers don’t charge frequently enough to maximize driving time on electricity and thus rely too much on the gas engine. Bieker says that, unsurprisingly, drivers who choose PHEVs with higher electric-only ranges tend to get higher real-world mileage.

No shit. Am I really going to recharge my PHEV every 25 minutes of highway driving during a road trip? That’s just far too much stopping; I’ll only be saving 1.5-ish gallons of fuel (depending upon the car) by plugging in, so the incentive just isn’t there. I’d rather just keep driving.

As for commuting, if I have at-home charging, sure, I’ll plug in. And even then, as I mentioned before, I probably won’t make it to work and back in my Jeep 4xe or BMW 330e. And in the winter if I lived somewhere cold? I might not make it to work and back in EV mode in any of the plug-in hybrids available on the market today. Not to mention, if I don’t have at-home charging, am I really going to run to a public charger every single day, or multiple times a day, to fill my little battery up? There’s no way in hell.

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Now imagine a PHEV that — unlike those in the bulleted list above — is an electric car first and a gas car second. A car like, say, a 2014 BMW i3. It has a range of about 75 miles in pure electric mode. That will get me to work and back easily, and if I have to grab groceries or do an airport run, I’m still only ever using electricity. On road trips, I have an incentive to charge up, because that’s going to save me three gallons of gas (and as the PHEV range increases, so does this incentive. A 2020 BMW i3, for example, will go 120 miles, making plugging in even more worthwhile during a road trip). Plus, with my i3, I only have to plug in once every hour or so, and not once every 25 minutes as with a modern PHEV.

With my i3, if I have at-home charging, I just plug it in every night and I’ll basically never have to use gasoline unless I go on a rare road trip. If I don’t have at-home charging, the range is high enough to where I only have to go to a public charger at most, once a day, but if I’m just commuting I can charge once every two days and still only use electric-mode.

But with the death of the i3 (and the second-gen Chevy Volt, which actually offered 53 miles of EV-only range; quite impressive), if I want a car today that I can comfortably drive in EV mode 95 percent of the time, I have no choice but to buy a BEV. It means I’ll have to spend a bunch of money on a big battery that I’d probably use less than half of on a daily basis, meaning I’d be dragging around hundreds, maybe thousands of pounds of expensive, relatively-dirty-to-manufacture weight just so I can occasionally go on a road trip. This is silly.

Honestly, the way the industry has been trending towards humongous batteries so that folks can have long-range vehicles is absurd, and it’s not just me saying it. Here’s a quote from Jim Farley, via Green Car Reports, talking about how it doesn’t make sense for automakers, either:

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“I have no idea what’s going on in this industry right now. All I hear is all these announcements of 450-mile range, a 500-mile range, there was another one today about a three-row crossover, it’s going to go electric. These batteries are huge; if you have those kind of batteries you will not make money.”

So if not everyone wants to drive a battery-electric vehicle (maybe because the range isn’t high enough, and that’s not something that will be fixed anytime soon without shoving in a massive battery, which we’ve established is dumb), but we as a society want to get lots of people sometimes driving electric as soon as humanly possible, the current PHEVs will work. But if we want to maximize the product of how many people we get driving electric and how often they’re driving electric (which is what would have the greatest climate impact), then it seems to me that we need to focus on higher-range PHEVs. And I think range-extended PHEVs make the most sense.

Range-extended PHEVs basically just use the gasoline engine as a generator. There’s no transmission, there are no driveshafts, the engine’s revs/load is a lot more predictable (meaning it can theoretically run at an efficient operating point more often than a typical ICE) — it’s simple, and it saves space, which is good, because that lets you easily fit in a battery that will get you 50 to 100 miles. The modern PHEVs on the bulleted list, though, are set up like gasoline cars — with transmissions and drivetrains that take up a lot of space. This adds complexity and, you would think, cost.

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Actually, there is one brand that’s heading in the right direction in my view, and that’s Ram. The upcoming 2025 Ram Ramcharger will have a relatively modest 92 kWh battery (this is modest because EV pickups set up for towing have much larger battery packs to handle the range-hit. The Ram 1500 REV’s pack is a whopping 168 kWh) that will get you 145 miles in pure-EV mode when unladen. That’ll get me three or four days to and from work without having to recharge. This is reasonably practical whether I have at-home charging or not.

But when I need more range when towing or road-tripping, instead of having another 76 kW worth of expensive and dirty-to-mine lithium-ion batteries that I lug around for no reason 95 percent of the time, I have a V6 engine that I lug around for no reason 95 percent of the time. Depending upon how often one uses the gas motor, I bet this setup could be even environmentally friendlier than the fully-electric Ram 1500 REV with its huge battery pack, and part of me guesses that it’ll be cheaper, though that’s hard to know. (Maybe integrating that gas engine and generator is pricier than another 76kWh worth of batteries, but I don’t know).

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Even if it’s not cheaper, this electric-first PHEV will be hugely appealing to folks not ready to make the full-EV plunge, and yet it will get them driving in electric mode probably 95 percent of the time. And isn’t that what the goal is (at least, in theory)?

Seriously, if the government’s goal is what they say it is — to get folks driving electric — then we need higher-range PHEVs, ideally relatively-simple, range-extended models that are clearly EVs first, gas cars second. If we can get reasonably-priced, 70-ish-mile PHEVs out there, I bet we’d see a lot more folks driving electric sooner than we think.

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Defenestrator
Defenestrator
9 days ago

The 2nd-gen Volt is right about at the sweet spot for PHEV range, I’d say. Doubling it would probably shift a few gallons a year from gas to electric, if that. 99% of my gas-burning is road trips where an extra 50 miles won’t make much difference.

The Ramcharger’s overkill, IMO. Something like 50 miles of towing range around town (so ~100 not towing) is the top-end of what’s worth it in a PHEV. That’d mean a ~$4,000 lower price and another 200lbs or so of payload, with very little change in gas consumed.

The other problem with a lot of PHEVs is power. Or, rather, that they’re designed as parallel systems first and foremost. Push the pedal a bit too far down and the ICE kicks in. The i3 and Volt are the only ones I know of where that’s not the case.

Last edited 9 days ago by Defenestrator
Mall Explorer
Mall Explorer
12 days ago

I wonder if the dearth of PHEVs in the US has to do partially with the regulatory requirement that they come with a 10/150 powertrain warranty as opposed to the 8/100 that full EVs are subject to.

Didn’t DT’s i3 battery pack fail past 8/100 but before 10/150?

As a fellow member of the “got my PHEV battery pack replaced before 150k” club, I also wonder if the higher number of charge cycles on a smaller battery pack, coupled with a longer mandated warranty, means that manufacturers are leaning towards either a tiny 1kwh conventional hybrid (much lower warranty cost when replaced) or a full EV (larger pack and shorter warranty means less likely to exceed charge cycle limits).

Nigel Tufnel
Nigel Tufnel
14 days ago

When I got my first Chevy Volt (2013), I thought to myself (and to anyone else that would listen) that in 5 years all cars would be made that way. It just made too much sense not to.

Then I got my Gen 2 (2016), with more range. When that lease ended, in 2019 I flew from Chicago to Rochester, NY to pick up one of the dwindling supply after Chevy killed it, paying $24K for a dealer demo car. And every day, I still look around me and wonder why cars like this, with 50 mile battery range, aren’t the new normal. I happily (and smoothly, silently, and quickly) drive 100% electric on a day to day basis. And when I need to drive a few hundred miles to my home office or in-laws’ place, I just top off the tank and go (at 40+ mpg, cruising nicely at 80mph on the 1.5L ICE). And I still wonder why it never became the default – and why GM (a) never marketed them and (b) killed them.

First Last
First Last
14 days ago

I’m going to take the other side of this argument. The point of a PHEV is not to maximize the number of all-electric trips, it’s to maximize the overall electric miles driven vs gas miles. If you regularly finish your daily commute/errands on electric power (an “all-electric trip”) then it means you’re carrying around extra batteries for no good reason. These extra batteries are heavy, expensive, dirty to manufacture, and they take up valuable space. If your vehicle already has to have a big enough engine to power the car by itself for a road trip (whether in series or parallel), then any amount of extra battery is just pure added dead weight and expense.

The average car in the US goes 10-12k per year, which is only 27 to 33 miles per day. Yes, averages don’t tell the whole story because actual patterns of course are much lumpier than that, but I would argue that this is actually pretty close to the most efficient electric range that best balances all the pros and cons of carrying batteries. Plus, you can charge it at home from a standard outlet. It’s not a coincidence that most PHEVs fall into this range today.

Now that said, we humans are an emotional bunch and I get it that we all want the good feelz of driving around on electric only. And maybe we’d be more motivated to plug it in in the first place to get the satisfaction of more all-electric days. I’d say that’s a fair enough reason to try to bump that range up to a more psychologically friendly number, which for me would be 50 miles and no more. It’s a big enough, kinda round number that maybe aligns better with what people think they need. Plus, in the wintertime when that range drops, it would still cover the 27-33 miles that people actually drive.

All these comments looking for 75-100 miles? I think if you gave us the actual car we’re asking for with a 100-mile range and we saw the cost of it and saw how much cargo space we were giving up for all those big heavy batteries, we’d find an excuse to not buy it.

John Weirauch
John Weirauch
14 days ago
Reply to  First Last

Well articulated. Additionally, there is the societal benefit of getting the most EV miles our of a unit of Battery component. If 100kwh of battery let’s a Tesla S go 300 miles on a charge, but on average, Joe Owner only drives 28 miles per day, not only is He carrying around 90kwh of battery “just in case”. But society could have had 10 PHEV on the road each driving 28 miles of EV every day, that is 280 miles each day for 100kwh of battery material vs just one BEV driving 28 miles per day.

100 mile PHEV would need 35-45kwh of battery. More for a pickup or 3 row SUV. Which means you can get two or three ‘large range PHEV”. For every 100kwh of battery vs the 7-10 for “commute range PHEV ”

Since battery materials are not green, we should be as green as we can with their use as a society .

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
13 days ago
Reply to  John Weirauch

Wow, you and First Last managed to perfectly articulate everything about why I favor moderate range (around 50 mile) capable PHEV’s over BEV’s for the forseeable future.

John Burkhart
John Burkhart
14 days ago

Yes, I totally agree PHEV with 50 to 100 miles range! We have a 2014 Cmax Energi PHEV and while it is an unlovable little lump, it demonstrates the usefulness of the concept. When my wife pointed out to an anti EV mechanic that if he got say 75 miles of EV range he could commute daily on EV and still have a gas option for longer trips, he had to pause and reconsider. We have used ours like a small plane and we still get 50 MPG. Glad to read that we might start seeing some policy to support this idea.. I believe there is a MB GLC PHEV available in Europe that gets 60 miles on electric, can we get that? Could I get it with a turbo diesel?

Chris Jackson
Chris Jackson
14 days ago

I think it’s awesome that I started reading this and said ’50-100 miles would be the number’ in my head, and then when I scrolled down, that’s exactly what you said.

I think my family’s use case is the perfect example. 90%+ of our driving is going to town and back (pick up the kids from sports, shopping, church, etc.), which is a 22 mile round trip. Once every 1-2 weeks, I have to go into the office, which is a 250 mile day.

So I would use up the battery plus some gas on the way down. Potentially charge to get at least some of the range back, and then return home on mostly gasoline.

But that’s only one trip every couple weeks, which is way fewer miles overall on gasoline than we would be using electric for.

Footlongcone
Footlongcone
14 days ago

PHEVs need to up the range and in the midsize-fullsize family hauler range especially. We have 2 cars, a 2014 Mazda2 and a 2008 Mazda5. The 5 is the one that will be replaced first but it’s the main family hauler and long trip car. Electric anything in the size we’d be looking at is well outside our budget, not to mention needing to figure out charging at home. A PHEV that got 50 miles or more would be amazing for our daily needs, be easier to deal with charging and still be a hassle free road trip car.

Last edited 14 days ago by Footlongcone
Dan Bee
Dan Bee
14 days ago

 that transition point from gas car first to EV first starts to happen at about 50-100 miles of range.”

Good news: CARB updated the rules in August 2022 that incentivize exactly that: strong plug-in hybrids with “Punch it, Chewie!” type of power and a minimum of 50 miles of all electric range starting with model year 2026. (See Advanced Clean Car II if you want details.) Winning.

Agree the goal is to electrify as many miles as soon as possible and to eliminate as many cold starts as possible, PHEVs offer options to more customers sooner who can’t or won’t drive a BEV. The Ram Ramcharger just may be a homerun and PHEV versions of the big Grand Wagoneer are also coming. Maybe GM will launch its first PHEVs as options on the Silverado and Tahoe/Suburban. Not only do those benefit most from a PHEV tech, but also those customers actually have some pretty extreme use cases compared to other vehicles.

And before someone says “but a PHEV truck would be so expensive,” yes they are. So is a 2024 3/4 ton full-size diesel pickup to buy… and maintain.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
13 days ago
Reply to  Dan Bee

I’m kind of floored that it took this long for the notion of a hybrid full-sized truck to take off. I’d have thought the electric torque with potential for energy recovery on descents coupled with the range of the gas engine would be a no-brainer.

Last edited 13 days ago by Jason Smith
Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
14 days ago

“I’ll basically never have to use gasoline unless I go on a rare road trip.” Says the guy who buys $500 clunkers every time he needs to take a road trip. Seriously, though, pretty much everything here is spot-on. I’ve been saying it for years. While everyone waits for the perfect BEV, we continue to burn a crapload of gas in ICE cars instead of driving PHEVs that cut our usage way down.

MARK FISHER
MARK FISHER
14 days ago

I’d be interested to to see how a constant speed diesel (or gas) powering a generator to charge and power a traction motor. This is a bit like a diesel locomotive. This would allow a very efficient IC engine driven at it’s best efficiency point. The engine can be reasonably small since the occasional need for more power up a hill or accelerating could be handled by the IC engine plus the battery while in cruising mode, the IC engine could put out enough power to keep the car going. The size of the battery pack would be based on the battery-only range desired. As an engineer, I’d love to see the cost and efficiency breakdown of a system like this compared to more traditional systems. It may be worse and it may be better, but it seems like what you’d consider this architecture if starting from scratch.

Black-Villain
Black-Villain
14 days ago
Reply to  MARK FISHER

You’re describing a BMW i3 or Mazda MX-30 R-EV (or kind of a Gen 1 Volt). Having pure serial operation doesn’t give you amazing efficiency like you’d think, the losses associated with generating the electricity, storing it, then using it to power your electric motor result in not-great fuel economy when your battery is low and you’re relying on the ICE. The BMW i3 REx (which has a 2-cylinder motorcycle engine) gets ~36-38mpg when you run out of battery and you rely upon the ICE. The MX-30 R-EV seems to get ~29mpg from the few Euro reviews I’ve seen. Gen 1 Volt got ~35ish when the battery was dead as well.

You can also end up in situations where you don’t have enough power to do what you need to do. To avoid this, you need a large buffer, and a more powerful ICE than would otherwise be necessary. The Volt had a Mountain mode that you were supposed to engage before climbing a large grade in order to build up a buffer in the battery. The BMW i3 w/ the stock US software automatically engaged the range extender once the battery hit ~4%, which meant if you were on the highway and needed to go uphill at all, the 2-cylinder engine couldn’t provide enough oomph to maintain speed; With a euro software flash, you can enable the Range Extender at a much higher state of charge, and give yourself a large buffer for interstate or mountain use. RAM learned from BMW’s mistake and is giving the upcoming Ram REV a relatively massive buffer.

Ron888
Ron888
14 days ago
Reply to  MARK FISHER

Your description implies two different things.I guess that’s why Black-Villain thought you were talking about a series hybrid.
So you’re actually describing something similar to a prius but with a diesel engine -and bigger battery obviously.
It should outperform a prius.But probably not by much since the prius’ atkinson engine is nearly as efficient as a diesel.

Last edited 14 days ago by Ron888
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
14 days ago

Might there be a way to use recombinant braking, solar panels, and a gasoline powered generator/alternator to recharge the batteries enough during driving to get better range? Also forgive for suggesting less devices, less electricity usage to decrease the amount of electricity used and available for range? Stop adding crap to market the vehicle with options no one uses or needs or even how to use.

Ron888
Ron888
14 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

All hybrids have those features except for solar,which would contribute the teensiest amount to overall performance.That’s why cars dont use solar panels

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
14 days ago
Reply to  Ron888

Thanks there aren’t a whole lot of EVs around here.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
15 days ago

I’ve got the Grand Cherokee 4xe right now and I can generally stay in electric during the week, if I stick to just my commute. I think the Ram’s setup is the ticket. Hopefully we see the next gen Jeep 4xe’s get this drivetrain.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
15 days ago

I could not possibly agree more with this article. Thank you DT.

D0nut
D0nut
15 days ago

I have some opinions here. We recently bought both a PHEV (Mazda CX-90) and an BEV (BMW iX). The PHEV absolutely needs more range. The numbers you published are IDEAL, and in the winter months are nearly cut in half. I’m starting to wonder if it’s really worth the complexity. There is no way a PHEV will end up being more reliable than a pure gas or pure electric. There are so many complex systems in order to get it right. Also, I need to know about drive modes, etc. I like the car, but it’s absolutely a compromise.

I think range extended BEV is a good solution (BMW i3) as long as the extender is effectively a generator in a very compact package (you could imagine a world where this were swappable with an extra battery cube or something). I would argue it also drives a lot better (like a BEV) as it’s direct and more efficient.

RataTejas
RataTejas
15 days ago

Having owned 2 PHEV’s, a 2018 Honda Clarity that has moved on to RataJr and a new to me 2023 Volvo S60 Recharge, the 17-19 KWH battery that gives you around 40 miles in range, charges in 8-10 hours overnight at level 1.

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
15 days ago

Before going full EV, I had a 2017 Kia Optima PHEV. 29 mile all-electric range. Wife’s one-way commute was 20 miles and mine was 23. Whoever had the longer commute of the day drove it. We had a “summer tank” every year. That is to say, we filled up sometime in late April and not again until generally late September.

During the winter, when the engine was running much of the time to provide heat, we still got 100-ish MPG. And on a road trip it just acted like any plain jane Hybrid, with similar economy.

Imperfect but available is still better than “perfect but unobtainium”. Sure, another 10 miles of range would have been nice, but I absolutely would have bought it again if I was in the same situation with vehicle availability at the time.

Oh, as far as range extended EVs – I would NOT want that. Even the occasional fast charge stop on a road trip is much less of an inconvenience than dragging around a few hundred pounds of engine, fuel, and miscellany that I’m basically never going to use, and the maintenance and reduced range that goes with it. It makes sense in the case of the RamCharger as an intermediate solution to the issues currently experienced by EV pickups, but that is a niche application.

Combine that with the fact that my state has different annual registration charges on electrified vehicles based on battery-only range, and a 50+ mile PHEV makes even less sense, because it gets charged the renewal rate of a 200+ mile BEV.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
15 days ago

I agree with all of your points, and honestly I am a bit surprised that more people here aren’t saying the same thing.

Ben
Ben
15 days ago

Ugh. There are so many bad takes in this article and in the comments that I don’t know where to begin. I’m just going to leave it at “I disagree” and move on.

Tom T
Tom T
15 days ago

All automotive journalists are dead wrong bout PHEVS. A shame. Take your PHEV all electric range and multiply it by 1000. That is how many miles your can expect to do before the battery starts to die. 1000 cycles is good for an all electric with a range of 200 miles which would give you 200,000 miles. But is dismal if the EV range is 35 miles. That means if you drive 50% of the time in pure electric your battery will be toast at around 70,000 miles. All present lithium technologies degrade at an exponential rate after 1000 charge/discharge cycles and what’s more PHEVs have rudimentary battery cooling systems inferior to full EV’s which further exasperate the problem. What’s surprising is that some brands actually encourage you to drive your PHEV in full electric and even allow you to see what % of your driving is all electric. The warranties only cover full battery failure not decreased range. So even if you EV range becomes 1mile with a full charge it is not under warranty. Test drive any PHEV with 60,000 miles or more on the odometer and you will be surprised how poorly they perform. It is a fatal design flaw, put a small battery that people charge daily therefore running crazy amounts of cycles through it. An those models with a CV-E transmission like Toyota or Ford cannot run in gasoline mode with a defective battery as the battery and motor are required in order to obtain the correct gear ratio.

Cranberry
Cranberry
15 days ago
Reply to  Tom T

I’m not swinging in with a big rebuttal for everything but I wanted to point out that there’s a flaw in 1 charge = 1 cycle calculation assumption. PHEV batteries don’t fully cycle every 100-0-100 charge. There is a buffer built-in above and below the usable range of capacity to promote battery health long-term.

You can see that in Chevy Volts going more than X electric miles without significant degradation. The defunct https://www.voltstats.net/ is a neat look into what people have done. And the Volt doesn’t have a reputation for needing a battery at 50k electric miles, the concerns with Volt ownership are that the drivetrain is unique/uncommon rather than the battery is going to die. Toyota PHEV’s aren’t that new so people can also look at historical performance of earlier Primes which hasn’t been a dumpster fire either.

I’d say bigger concerns would be what software can do (Artificial range reduction over time of first-gen Outlander PHEVs without a specific dealer procedure) and parts/service availability long-term. (sourcing an Optima/Sonata PHEV battery and who can work on it.)

Edit: I found this interesting but you already touch on the range-warranty issue. https://savemaple.org/2023/02/03/1702/

Last edited 15 days ago by Cranberry
First Last
First Last
14 days ago
Reply to  Tom T

You present this as simple unassailable math, and yet the lithium battery in my iPhone X that I bought in 2018 still works after (checks math) more than 2200 recharge cycles.

My point is not that phone batteries are the same as automotive batteries. Just that there are a lot of mitigation strategies to deal with lithium battery degradation that engineers from companies not named Nissan seem to have figured out.

Toyota started selling the Prius Prime PHEV almost eight years ago and it is somehow not a paperweight.

Swedish Jeep
Swedish Jeep
15 days ago

Thank you for mentioning my Volt- It was the perfect car for what everyone complains about. I turned it in when the lease was up, but I miss it. I only filled up once or twice a year, but I never had to think about it. I plugged in at work, and plugged in at home. Never went to a gas station….. or a public charger. Airport pick up- check, shopping- check, impromptu road trip-check. Used it in electric at least 95% of the time. I believe that the 5% of the time is the “freedom” that people are afraid to give up. That tiny little Gerbil powered backup motor is a must for a true ICE car replacement.

Mitchell Leitman
Mitchell Leitman
15 days ago

For my use case, my Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2023) is perfect. I have an 8km commute and running errands rarely has me exceeding the 50-60 km range. Just yesterday, I went to pick up my daughter at work, we went downtown to Chinatown for dim sum (yum) and then to a mall in the burbs and got home with nearly 20km range left. Of course, the mild winter we’ve been having (I’m in Ottawa) helps. Including two trips on gas to Toronto and one to Montreal, since the fall, I’m averaging 3.8 l/100km. Not too bad.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
15 days ago

I was hoping someone would mention the Outlander PHEV. It’s EV mileage is probably best in class, and it is a serial hybrid, which the article posits as superior (and I agree).

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
15 days ago

“the company somehow thought customers buying a sensible car like a Chevy Equinox crossover would be interested in a diesel variant” Their only mistake here was optimism, and hope for humanity, because a sensible normal boring means of transport is exactly where a diesel shines.

Now, regarding the actual Tracy Take:

“PHEV that… is an electric car first and a gas car second.”

As you did mention, that’s just a range extended electric car, and they have some issues and some advantages.

So: electric vs gas vs plug in hybrid vs range extended electric:

Let’s assume we’re working for the objective of minimal CO2 emissions(kind of questionable whether this effort is best spent on personal vehicles, but let’s assume that we are).

Gas cars burn a lot of fuel, and burning carbon fuels makes CO2. Bad.

Electric cars produce very little CO2 during normal operation: good. The battery produces a humongous amount of CO2 during manufacturing: bad. The battery is made of non renewable mineral resources that are currently produced almost exclusively by a somewhat hostile foreign power: bad. The very little operating co2 can offset, and more than offset, the manufacturing CO2, but it takes a long time, and a really long time. For a very efficient EV like a Tesla, it takes 50-100,000+ miles of driving before the net CO2 is less than driving a comparable gas car. For a less efficient EV like a Rivian, the break even point is 150,000-never. Hummer EV is definitely never.

So batteries are Bad and it would be beneficial if we could use less.

So what if we had a car that could drive a little bit on electric, and didnt need a lot of batteries, but could drive on gas for the more edge cases? Good idea. Plug in hybrid! So this is great, if you can drive 20,30,40,50 miles on all electric, saving money, gas, and CO2, but it’s just as capable as a gas car! You are kind of limited on how much batteries and how much range you can have before it starts to be a bad gas car, but even 20 miles of range covers a pretty significant majority of most people’s driving. There is the issue that when driving on electric, you need that motor and those little batteries to output the full 200hp or whatever, and that’s a lot of strain on the batteries, and requires a special design.

Well, what if we burned less gas, but kept the advantages of a gas engine? A range extended electric is an electric car, with a significant amount of range(100mi+) but still a lot less batteries than a Tesla, and that covers 99% of driving around town, but it can do road trips! So you have a small gas engine as a generator for road trips. Bonus: a small car uses only about 20hp for steady state cruising, maybe 40-50hp for a big one, so you can use a small and light and efficient and cheap little engine. There are some issues: if you use a really small engine, like the i3 does, it sucks to drive on gasoline. The i3 is limited to 60mph or something silly when running with gasoline, and you will start to lose range if you go up a hill or meet a headwind. If you make the engine a whole lot bigger, it starts to get wastefully expensive and heavy. Hopefully it is possible to strike a happy medium, but the multitude of large mountains in the American West wants a big engine.

Dodge Ram decided that they don’t care, and they were gonna use more batteries than a Tesla, plus a whole 300hp engine that’s really big and heavy and uses a lot of gasoline! You get all of the emissions and other issues of a Tesla, with all of the gasoline burning potential of a gas car, plus a LOT of extra weight! You will never convince me that a full EV drivetrain(with all of those emissions) plus a full gasoline drivetrain(with a lot of those emissions) in the same car is a good idea, or beneficial to anybody involved.

So: gas cars kinda bad, electric cars also kinda bad but hopefully better, 20-50 mile PHEVs kinda good but heavier and complicated, range extended electrics really good around town but kinda marginal on road trips unless you go full Ramcharger, which is bad.

You know what makes significantly less emissions than any of those? At risk of sounding like Toecutter, a small one or two seat car with decent aero could be totally combustion fueled and easily(grossly) exceed 100mpg, and have much less lifetime emissions than any of the above issues. Even smaller four seater cars can easily be over 100mpg. And when you consider that you could make a small efficient car powered by gasoline, electric, or some kind of hybrid, the possibilities look really good.

Now I know what you’re saying: people don’t want to drive a little one seater car shaped like a teardrop. People don’t even want to drive a small efficient four seat car; people want a 5000lb crossover with ventilated massage seats, Car play, and 14 airbags.

To that I say: 20 years ago nobody wanted to buy an electric or hybrid car. But the manufacturers, the government, and the ecomentalists successfully changed demand. 40 years ago, nobody wanted to drive an SUV or pickup, but manufacturers(mostly, also Congress) manufactured enough demand that consumers won’t buy anything else.

This is really a question of what’s in style, and it has been proven before that the opinions of the car buying masses can be artificially influenced, to a huge degree. There is no doubt in my mind that if the industry and the government pushed for small lightweight efficient cars instead of 9500lb Hummer EVs, then they would be in style. And the fact that the government and industry aren’t pushing this just proves that they don’t care about actually reducing CO2 or doing what’s best for you.

Man, what an essay that was! I wasn’t even planning on going down the “small cars better and the government doesn’t like you” rabbit hole. My point here was just to say that DT is kinda wrong and plug in hybrids are kinda good.

Last edited 15 days ago by Rust Buckets
Nathan
Nathan
14 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

“Dodge Ram decided that they don’t care, and they were gonna use more batteries than a Tesla, plus a whole 300hp engine”

In the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid the same engine has 260 horsepower. Would make more sense to use the Atkinson cycle software that they already have.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
14 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

I’m not sure they have actually advertised the horsepower in the Ramcharger, but the Pentastar makes as much as 300 peak horsepower in other applications. In any case, it will be producing much less maximum continuous horsepower running as a generator.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
15 days ago

While I agree the 20 something range is too low, 40 is perfect for the average car/CUV/SUV. For a pickup no more that 100 is correct. Go higher than those numbers and you start getting into EV price range and loose the big advantage of PHEVs needing such a small battery. So sorry but you are wrong, as you mentioned the average daily commute is less than 20mi so for many people a ~40 mi EV range is perfect to allow to only charge to 80% to maximize battery life and account for colder weather. We are on our second PHEV and its 37mi range will give us enough to do our daily driving when charged to 80% in all but the coldest of weather, which admittedly is warmer than many parts of the country.

Harmanx
Harmanx
15 days ago

Due to big oil lobbies, the Inflation Reduction Act ended up allowing for PHEVs with piddly battery range to get the same tax credit as full BEVs. So, many companies making PHEVs put in minimal effort.

John McMillin
John McMillin
15 days ago
Reply to  Harmanx

As a PHEV driver since 2017, I don’t care whether I runout of EV range at 20 miles. I take a lot of short trips, plus a few long ones. Every trip starts with a first 20 miles, so that benefit adds up daily. My Ford Energi C-Max has done approx. 65 mpg over its 70,000 miles, giving me double the fuel mileage of any gas car I’ve ever had. In my book, that’s good enough.

Pikmin
Pikmin
15 days ago

I have a 2022 Prius Prime and it’s the perfect car for me. I have a second home 800 miles away (it’s complicated) and considered a BEV, but with driving 800 miles every week seven months out of the year it just didn’t make sense. During the winter when I fly instead of driving I use approximately 12 gallons of gas in five months because I can do almost all of my commute on electric. Then when I’m doing the long haul I get about 57 mpg. Like David said, my only wish is that I had more range.

The other thing about a PHEV is that it’s almost like training wheels for a full BEV. I didn’t realize how awesome electric was until I was able to try it for myself with my plug-in. It’s a great way for people to dip their toes in, and hopefully as more people become familiar with them demand will increase even more. In my tiny sample size of friends and family, most of them didn’t even realize PHEV was a thing until I told them about my Prius and then they were all jealous.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
15 days ago
Reply to  Pikmin

You fly 800 miles a week five months out of the year? I don’t think the kind of car you drive affects your CO2 footprint much. If you’re just trying to save gas money then I understand.

Pikmin
Pikmin
15 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I am absolutely aware that it doesn’t affect my enormous carbon footprint, but it doesn’t hurt and I also save money so I take it as a bonus.

Carsgofast
Carsgofast
15 days ago

I agree with what you are saying, but what I’ve always wondered is why is there so much pressure to drive PHEVs in EV mode as much as possible? Why isn’t there more talk about simply driving a PHEV the way you would drive a HEV? It seems to me that a PHEV left to its own programming (as you would a HEV) would return the most benefit rather than depleting the EV range to then only be left with the gasoline engine lugging around a heavier than normal vehicle at that point. Maybe I’m missing something, but I think there are no articles comparing HEV to PHEV fuel economy when left in their normal modes, which I think is really missing the potential. Shouldn’t a PHEV be a super efficient HEV if you don’t keep forcing it into EV only mode?

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