By on November 15, 2018

2016 BMW 330e iPerformance - Image: BMW

In Europe, diesel now holds a reputation as favorable as that of the dark lord of the underworld, while electric propulsion may as well have descended from Heaven. It wasn’t this way just a few years ago.

That said, in the UK, government incentives towards green vehicle purchases have, like the U.S., been ongoing since 2011. A recent study of corporate plug-in hybrid fleet vehicles purchased with the assistance of government grants reveals many buyers were just looking to dodge diesel taxes while bilking the taxpayer for a cheaper ride. Plugging in these plug-ins was not a priority.

As reported by BBC News (hat tip to Jalopnik), a study of several thousand fleet vehicles by The Miles Consultancy shows real-world fuel economy of corporate plug-in models isn’t all that hot, especially when compared to diesel fleet averages. It’s estimated that more than 70 percent of PHEVs sold in the UK this year went to corporate fleets.

Depending on the PHEV’s range, the grants amounted to 2,500 pounds ($3,295) to 4,500 pounds ($5,740) per vehicle.

TCM’s study of 1,500 PHEVs in its database showed a real-world average of 39.27 miles per gallon on the generous European driving cycle — a figure that basically matched that of the diesel cars in its database. Combining regular hybrids with PHEVs returned a figure of 49.06 mpg.

“There are some examples where employees aren’t even charging these vehicles up,” said Paul Hollick, managing director of The Miles Consultancy. “The charge cables are still in the boot, in a cellophane wrapper, while the company and the employee are going in and out of petrol stations, paying for all of this additional fuel.”

Toby Poston, communications manager director for the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), blamed the behavior on a poorly thought out tax regime that incentivised plug-in purchases while disincentivising diesels. For many companies, it just makes sense to buy a PHEV, grab the government cash, and forget about the car’s purpose.

“We have got some situations where company drivers are choosing the vehicle based on their tax liability, rather than having the right vehicle for the right job,” he said.

Not only were employees not plugging the vehicles in, companies would allocate PHEVs for use on long highway trips, where a plug-in hybrid is at its most inefficient — hence the comparatively dismal MPG average. Britain didn’t turn green, it just burned green in the pursuit of it.

You’re seeing the past tense here because PHEV purchases are no longer eligible for government grants in that country. The UK did away with them this month, preferring to offer a smaller sum (3,500 pounds, or $4,617) to buyers of purely electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell cars, and the vanishingly small number of PHEVs capable of travelling 70 miles on a charge.

[Image: BMW]

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31 Comments on “Greenwashed: UK Plug-in Fleets Enjoy the Taxpayer Perks, Never Plug in...”

  • avatar

    Regular hybrids generally do 30-50% better gas mileage. Seems like the most rational way forward

    • 0 avatar

      Hybrids are the sensible approach and they also allow for battery R&D in their development.

    • 0 avatar

      The thing is until dieselgate, diesels were capable of matching PHEV MPG, on long freeway runs occasionally beating them, and not needing plugged in for hours.

      I bought a UK diesel before taxes on diesels were raised, as it is an automatic the yearly tax is only £20 ($30?), if I had bought the manual box (yea boo on me for not) it would’ve been free to tax.

      I could see it being my last diesel though. In the 90s it used to be that diesels were the reliable unstressed option, if a little slow and agricultural.

      These days diesels are highly strung and need high maintenance, there are cludges and fixes for emissions such as EGRs and DPFs that are expensive to replace, and adblue (basically urea) tanks that need topped up.

      Diesels were often sold as the default option in the UK, even for folks doing low mileage, which led to failures as the engines were barely getting warmed up or the DPFs declogged.

      Hybrids and small turbo’d petrol units are catching up on the MPG of diesel, and the anti-diesel backlash means some city centres may ban diesel cars.

  • avatar

    The government grants need to end ASAP, not just for PHEVs, but also for purely electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell cars, and PHEVs capable of travelling 70 miles on a charge.

    The consequence of such grants and subsidies is ironically technological stagnation, which is painfully evident with even recently launched BEVs, which, believe it or not, are still (!) unable to comply even with extremely modest, basic requirements such as having a charging time of 5 minutes (similar to that of ICE vehicles), making them non-viable outside of the bubble of the increasingly brainwashed greenies frequenting TTAC.

    • 0 avatar

      Your two-hours charging time electric car is coming. And the gubbermint is going to take whatever you’re driving away from you and force you to drive it.

      You know it’s coming. I hope you’ve got a lot of time to waste.

    • 0 avatar

      @asdf:”basic requirements such as having a charging time of 5 minutes (similar to that of ICE vehicles), ”

      I timed my daughter’s fill-up the other day and it took 10 minutes. Going out of her way to get to the gas station, filling the truck, then getting back took ten minutes. If she had the EV, she’d have just continued home and plugged in. Maybe losing 30 seconds of plug-in time. So, EV 30 seconds vs. Combustion truck 10 minutes. Sounds to me like the EV is superior. That makes combustion vehicles unviable I suppose.

      • 0 avatar

        mcs: “but, but – splutter, fidget, fuss – them ee-leck-tricital auty-mow-beels jest t’ain’t whut God intendid! Ah got me a perfickley good Model T over hyar; th’ Hail wit thet thur newfangledy @%#&!”

      • 0 avatar

        This post violated the TTAC commenting guidelines


      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “So, EV 30 seconds vs. Combustion truck 10 minutes. Sounds to me like the EV is superior. That makes combustion vehicles unviable I suppose.”

        There are those of us for whom this doesn’t work and his arguement, however asinine the manner in which he makes it is, holds merit.

        I just spent weeks bounding around the desert around El Paso and White Sands New Mexico for work. However wholly unsuited the Toyota Sienna I had as a rental was for the task (I felt like it was going to vibrate the doors out), it did get me home every day. The mileage I was doing daily would have ruled out any electric. This is not an abnormal occurrence for me.

        Electrics are getting better, no doubt, but there is a chunk of the population for whom the whole “just charge it at night” is a non starter and 2 hour refills are a no go. Maybe they fix it, but there is no electric currently on the horizon that meets my needs in that respect and frankly, my Fiesta is more fun to drive than any of the electrics I’ve driven (Model S, Leaf, Bolt, and a GM EV1 long ago). I think I am at least 2 generations of electrics away still.

    • 0 avatar

      No point to compare charging speed with refueling speed. You don’t need to attend the car while charging, and you don’t need to “go” anywhere to do it. You just need a plug where you sleep or where you work. Don’t know for you, but I sleep eight hours a day and work another eight. So plenty of time for charging.

      • 0 avatar

        Yet another retarded BEV fanboi making the same retarded statement. However, whether one needs to attend the BEV while it is charging is irrelevant, as it doesn’t affect charging time in any way. Introducing a MANDATORY downtime of several hours on a frequent basis is simply unacceptable for a modern vehicle in this day and age, no matter how long one sleeps.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Corporate car = “I’m not paying for it, so I’ll do the minimum to make it run.”

    If these were pure electrics, they’d be getting plugged in.

    You can be sure that privately-held PHEVs are being plugged in.

    • 0 avatar

      When I went to have a software update done to my i3 REx (it needed it, it wasn’t working 100% without it) earlier. While diagnosing the issues the techs asked me several times how often I charge the car. They said they had to find that out to make sure they get the diagnosis right. They’ve come to realise that it’s not uncommon for people to run their i3 RExs without plugging them in at all for months…

      Sure, it could be that those are mainly car-sharing-service i3s, but somehow I doubt that. I suspect that even privately held PHEVs which are strongly hobbled by not having their battery charged are affected by this affliction.

    • 0 avatar

      You’d be wrong in many places…..

  • avatar

    “TCM’s study of 1,500 PHEVs…”

    Turner Classic Movies is studying PHEVs?

    I thought The Miles Consultancy was.

  • avatar

    Civil servants never have been, are not, never will be, and never can be intelligent enough to micromanage all of society with their puny laws, regulations and taxation. Socialism does not work.

    If people are so very much for ‘decreasing CO2’ (only from cars apparently, everything else ignored and not massively burdened by those costs) as the government says they are, then they will make the ‘desired choices’ out of free will. All the ‘super-intelligent’ civil servants and politicians who think they know so much better only have to convince everyone of their superior intellect etc. and then people will act as they wish.

    But for some reason even though they’re so much more intelligent, know ALL the facts, and claim to have the overwhelming majority of citizens agreeing with them things just don’t seem to be going as their ‘facts’ would suggest…

    Why is it that even with all the aforementioned things, and in addition all the massive power, influence and mass-media exposure the armies of civil servants and politicians wield: things still just keep going to s**t?

  • avatar

    I for one am glad I could help a rich person by a Tesla, help Elon Musk and Tesla shareholders. Thanks government!

  • avatar

    Can’t say as I’m surprised they don’t get plugged in. Especially in urban areas, many people don’t have off street parking so it’s not practical to run extension cords to plug in a car.

  • avatar

    I feel the issue of ‘tax liability’ needs to be expanded on, because I don’t see the article actually mentioning it.

    All ‘company car’ drivers in the UK are liable for a ‘Benefit in Kind’ (BiK) tax, and the level of tax you pay increases with the ‘official’ CO2 emissions figure of the car you drive. PHEVs have an official CO2 figure that, like their fuel economy figures, are measured according to the fanciful NEDC routine, which involves a lot of low-speed running which a typical PHEV’s 30-mile range can handle with the gas engine barely being needed.

    The thing is, not only do many company car users not care about fuel economy if their employers foot the bill for gas, but that low CO2 figure is official irrespective of how the car is driven, even if it never, ever visits a charging socket.

    The next generation BMW 330e PHEV produces an official 39g/km of CO2, currently slotting into the 13% BiK bracket. The next 330i, meanwhile, produces 132 g/km which means a 27% tax liability.

    The exact amount you pay depends on the value of the car (minus its initial registration fee and vehicle excise duty, otherwise termed its P11D value). Assume both cars have a P11D value of £35,000, the taxable value of the 330e would be £4,550, while the 330i would be £9,450.

    The proportion of that figure that a driver pays as BiK tax is based on their individual tax rate, but a 40% tax payer would pay £1,820 a year to drive a 330e, compared to £3,780 for the 330i, even if both cars are driven in a determinedly non economical manner, such as at 90mph for hours on end every day.

    It’s nonsensical, especially when you consider that those who actually plug their 330e’s in are probably more likely to do so for the acceleration boost that electric assist offers than to actually contribute to greater economy / lower emissions.

    Yes, it’s possible that fuel-efficient cars CAN be driven in a way that makes them worth incentivising, but I’ve been overtaken by such machines frequently enough to see that they seldom are.

    I’m kind of glad that the Government has now ceased to offer a grant that reduces the price of PHEVs, but reducing the grant offered to buyers of pure-electric cars that NEVER directly emit any CO2 seems a backwards step.

  • avatar

    The solution is simple: keep the grants but tax the fuel.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, with UK gas prices in excess of the equivalent of $6.00 per US gallon, I’m sure slapping a bunch more tax on it would be fine.

      I reckon sorting out the way CO2 and fuel consumption figures are calculated ought to be the first step. We could start by assuming that hybrids have a flat battery.

      • 0 avatar

        Traditional hybrids’ main mechanism for reducing fuel consumption, is a smaller, less powerful Atkinson’ish engine, great aerodynamics and low parasitic losses. Even with a flat battery, they are efficient as heck (Cue Prius highway mileage). The electric stuff, make an otherwise rather wheezy and under powered car, more palatable to buyers.

      • 0 avatar

        If you want to reduce CO2 emissions, you do so by taxing their emissions as directly as possible. High taxes on a race car bought to sit in Jay Leno’ garage, does none of that. While gas taxes accomplish it almost perfectly.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’d imagine the only way to alter purchasing habits in U.S. would be to raise taxes but no one can pass a gas tax, as most are at the state level.
    Missouri voted there’s down yet again last week(despite already having one of the lowest in U.S. already and in this booming economy. I live in Kansas so I unfortunately have to use their crummy roads daily .

  • avatar

    This is exactly what you can expect when plug-in vehicles get adopted by “regular” consumers instead of “tree-huggers” or “hyper-milers” or “enthusiasts”. Regular consumers are mostly some combination of lazy, unknowledgeable, and distracted, which means plugging in a car every time they stop will not happen. With a plug-in hybrid, it will simply mean they stop to buy gas every time the warning light tells them they are running low on range, and in an EV it means they will come out in the morning without enough range to drive to work (because they forgot to plug-in overnight) and will be pissed off at the car (because consumers never blame themselves for being stupid). They will tell their friends about the stupid EV that is always running out of gas, and their “regular” friends won’t buy one. Cordless charging might solve this problem (if they can remember to park in the right spot in their garage), but at the cost of lost efficiency and more greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. the reason for electrification).

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