Are plug-in hybrids doomed?

Fabian Kirchbauer

Presented as an alternative to 100% electric for companies, plug-in hybrid vehicles are starting to make some fleet managers cringe. The reason? Too big a difference between theoretical and actual cost.

Last January, the canton of Valais, Switzerland, decided to remove subsidies for plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV). This measure was taken following a report published by Impact Living, a Swiss company specializing in particular in electric mobility. “Real fuel consumption measurements show that these models fall far short of their promises and offer only very slight (if any) advantages over a conventional internal combustion engine car”could we read.

A pithy decision? Yes and no. Because this technology is in itself a paradox. Explanations. PHEVs have two motors, one thermal and one electric. To operate the latter and have 50 km to 80 km of autonomy in 100% electric mode, depending on the model, the car carries batteries, i.e. 200 kg to 300 kg additional. But when unloaded, they become dead weight, leading to overconsumption.

Despite this overweight, they display approved consumption of barely 1 l/100 km, synonymous with CO emissions.2 very low (less than 20 g/km). With such characteristics, despite a higher price, PHEVs quickly entered car policies. Reduced taxation and a transition to seamless electrification for the employee, so many arguments in their favor to meet the mobility orientation law (LOM).

Declining sales

Today, they represent 11% of the B to B sales mix, a market share that has climbed to 20% with certain rental companies such as Alphabet. Stéphane Crasnier, its president, regrets that this technology has “Sold very badly, seeing here a dichotomy between the use of the vehicle and taxation. Before equipping his fleet with PHEV, the manager must ask himself the right questions: what use will the employee make of it? His mileage? Will he be able to recharge it or not? The PHEV is perfectly suited for drivers who drive daily in urban areas and who can plug in daily. This will not be the case for the big rollers. The PHEV, a casting error? Many manufacturers, Stellantis the first, have sold it as an alternative to diesel, which, incidentally, with a market share of 23.8%, is still the second best-selling energy on the BtoB market. “To optimize the TCO of a PHEV, you have to recharge as often as possible, recalls Stéphane Crasnier. Otherwise, beware of unpleasant surprises. It is therefore essential to train employees in good practices.”

Because, depending on usage, the differences between theoretical consumption and actual consumption can be multiplied by three, or even by ten on the motorway! However, interest in PHEV seems to be slowing down. In Europe, for the first time, sales fell 6% in the third quarter. In France, since January, they have fallen by 12.1% while non-rechargeable hybrids have increased by 5.2% in an overall market down by 10.3%. Is the fate of PHEVs sealed then? It is very likely. France will join the decision of the canton of Valais. From 1er January 2023, the €1,000 bonus for a PHEV – provided it costs less than €50,000 and has a range of more than 50 km – will be removed.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *