By on September 14, 2021

Chrysler/Stellantis

Mainstream hybrid cars have been with us for more than twenty years – at least since the first Toyota Prius hit the market in 1998 – and their image has evolved considerably. When they first arrived on the scene, for example, they were hailed as the car to be seen in if you wanted to be seen saving the planet, and there were a lot of celebrities who wanted to be seen in the things in the early Aughts. Over time, the virtue-signaling vehicle of choice switched from the Prius to the Tesla, but the Prius soldiered on with considerable green cred, eventually spawning an entire line of Priuses (Prii?) in the process. These days, however, the green crowd doesn’t want to talk about hybrids in a positive light, with some journalists calling for an end to the “era” of hybrids to come – now.

From climate crusader to internal-combustion enabler in the span of just two decades, then. That’s kind of impressive, I think, but it got us thinking about plug-in hybrids. Were they really a transitional technology that could hold the hands of overly cautious consumers as they tiptoe from internal combustion to battery power, or were they a flawed, compromised technology by definition – the worst of all possible worlds, combining the pollution and maintenance needs of internal combustion with the added weight and electrical complexity of electric, with nary a benefit over either to be found? 

I, for one, think the answer to that question depends on your definition of “benefit”.

ELECTRIC DOESN’T HAVE TO BE GREENER TO BE BETTER

When Ford called me out to get a sneak peek of the new-for-2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid truck, I made the same mistake that a number of my fellow journalist/tree huggers made: I approached it as a “green” vehicle whose purpose was to make the F-150 more environmentally friendly.

If “going green” were the goal, it would be hard to call the PowerBoost a success. Sure, it gets better MPG than the EcoBoost or the 5.0L Coyote V8, but the 25/26 MPG ratings aren’t going to land the F-150 PowerBoost on the cover of the Sierra Club newsletter – especially in “How many cows do you think died to upholster this interior?” King Ranch trim, you know? But, as I said, this was a mistake. Ford’s PowerBoost-equipped pickups weren’t created to help greenwash rural America. They were created to show every Ford truck buyer everywhere that electric was better by offering on-the-job capabilities that couldn’t be matched by trucks powered via internal combustion alone.

Just look at all that—110 and 220 available right from the bed of the truck, without the need for a secondary, gas-burning generator. Heck, you don’t have to keep your F-150 with PowerBoost running at all if there’s enough battery. What’s more, the system is smart enough to kick the gas engine back on if the charge on the smallish (compared to a “pure” EV) battery gets too low.

The advantages of having a rolling electrical outlet don’t stop on the job site, either. You can plug your camper into the bed of a PowerBoost-equipped Ford and glamp to your little heart’s content from just about anywhere, without the sounds of a generator spoiling the scenery. If you’re a Starlink customer, you’ll even have Netflix or Peacock or whatever.

Ford’s not alone in making a practical, rather than an ideological, case for electric adoption, either. Over at Jeep, the Wrangler 4xe is doing such a great job getting the general public to accept electrification that some of them don’t even realize it’s electrified to begin with!

That makes sense, of course, because the electrified Jeep Wrangler 4xe is by far the cheapest way to lease a new Jeep Wrangler going.

Yes, some of that has to do with Chrysl—sorry, Stellantis subsidizing the lease and some of it has to do with the $7,500 federal tax credit that most new 4xe buyers will qualify for, but more of it has to do with the fact that the residuals on the Jeep 4xe are a fantastic 74 percent after 3 years. Compare that to something like a Mercedes-Benz GLE, which is projected to lose more than 40 percent of its value after just three years of ownership, and the Jeep’s super low cost of admission starts to make sense.

What’s more, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe offers genuine off-road advantages compared to the internal combustion Jeeps in its pure-electric 4 Low setting like instant torque and uber-predictable power delivery with a single pedal that will make the trail-rated 4xe much more accessible to off-road noobs.

Speaking of off-road, it’s getting harder and harder to take internal combustion vehicles off-road at all, thanks to increasingly common fire restrictions and some states’ outright ban on off-road combustion engines. In the 4xe, that’s simply not a problem. You can drive out to Bentley Hills on your gas engine, then cut it off when you get to the trails and ride around fire-free.

Kind of, anyway.

ANSWERING THE QUESTION.

So, I guess I should answer that initial question about hybrid tech and whether it’s worth pursuing. In an ideal world, where consumers are educated and smart and everyone understands that electricity is electric fuel and you can almost literally get it anywhere? No – of course not. Everyone should have an EV because EVs are cleaner, quieter, and (most importantly) faster than a comparable internal-combustion car in almost every real-world scenario a typical American driver will face.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. Consumers understand “regular and premium” most of the time, but even that’s a little hazy, so getting them to understand CCS or CHAdeMO or fast charge or slow charge or kilowatt-hours is going to be a big ask. Even if they understood all that, gasoline is marketed with 100’ tall signs that light up at night and wave the American flag.

Matt Teske

That little tiny sign on the left? That’s also advertising fuel – in this case, electric fuel. Do you think the average consumer is equally aware of the fact that they can get gasoline and electric fuel at this location? What if they were driving past at 45 mph? 70?

I know, I know – there are antiquated laws preventing the for-profit sale of electricity at play here that don’t allow a business case for advertising electric fuel to be made, but that’s a reality that we deal with today. Given that context, then, I think there’s a place for PHEVs.

There’s a lesson here, too, for the critics of plug-in hybrids who clutch at their pearls when they learn that most PHEV buyers (gasp) don’t actually plug in their cars, and that’s the fact that plug-in hybrids are making a compelling case for EV technology by showcasing a number of benefits that matter to people right now, for the way they live and work and play today, and not in that utopian future where we’ve shut down the Top 100 Polluting Companies and the choice between a Prius and a LEAF actually makes a difference.

PHEVs are meeting people where they are, and (as others have said) the fact that someone is able to choose a PHEV and drive it around burning less gas, and maybe even making a few all-electric trips around the neighborhood, without changing their driving or fueling behavior in any other way, should be a compelling case in and of itself. What’s more, if my electrified pickup can actually serve my needs better than my old V8 truck? All the more reason to check out an F-150 Lightning EV the next time around … maybe when my lease is up.

[Images: Chrysler, Ford, Matt Teske]

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109 Comments on “Plug-in Hybrid – Transitional Tech, or Pointless Pursuit?...”


  • avatar
    jack4x

    As in so many cases with cars, it depends on what your options are.

    If you need it to be an only car, a PHEV probably makes a lot of sense for a lot of people.

    If you can specialize, you’re almost always better off buying two vehicles and doing so. Otherwise you’re lugging a useless engine around town or useless batteries around on road trips.

    • 0 avatar

      I mean, this is the case being made by Arcimoto and Elio and, before them, Corbin with the Sparrow. If you spend 90% of your in-car time commuting by yourself, get a single-seater “specialist” vehicle and save on gas. I bought into that thinking, myself, but I went the two-wheeled route. Scooter when it’s just me, XC90 when the wife and kids are involved. It works.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        That’s a bit too compromised (and my commute much too far, in weather much too unpredictable) to go to that extreme. Cool idea for those that can swing it though.

        My examples are more like buying a minivan and a truck instead of a Suburban. Or a Mustang and a Corolla instead of a GTI. Or a 200 mile EV and a plain old gas car instead of a PHEV.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          That’s about my situation: 2010 F-150 for snow and 2007 CTS-V for no snow. Also, a 2001 4Runner and a 2003 Volvo C70 ragtop for The Herself. Oh, and a 2000 Sierra 4X4 for The Kid.

          Not very electric around these Southern Alberta parts, it would seem.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Not necessarily “useless.” We have two cars, both last-gen Fords. The hybrid clocks 38 mpg overall in mixed suburban use. The PHEV Energi version, otherwise identical, has a two-year average of 60 mpg, despite several 200-mile drives I take every month. On today’s roundtrip from Denver to Colorado Springs, the plugged-in electricity was spent within the first 20 miles. For the next 150 miles, the PHEV battery was doing something – I can’t explain it technically — but the car spent much more time in EV mode than the hybrid ever would. There’s more watts created enroute, by regeneration and by careful banking of ICE energy. Although the PHEV portion of the battery shows zero range, I find the car still ran on EV on mile downhills and even level ground. It’s a different experience from the hybrid version.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @jack4x : Batteries are not useless on road trips.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Speaking of off-road, it’s getting harder and harder to take internal combustion vehicles off-road at all, thanks to increasingly common fire restrictions and some states’ outright ban on off-road combustion engines”

    Uh, what?

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      That stood out to me too.

      Anecdotes are not data of course but when I was out West last month, even in a historic drought, the rental SxS business was gangbusters.

    • 0 avatar

      California has passed a ban on the sale of off-road internal combustion engines soon, and an outright ban on off-road ICEs that’s currently set to take effect in 2035. Other states are following, and some NW states limit internal combustion vehicles’ access to off-road trails under certain dry weather conditions. EVs are excepted in both cases.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        More and more I think its time for those SS-18s to fly. Either that or Robespierre needs to make an appearance.

        • 0 avatar

          Ah, yes– 28-Cars-Later experiences a mild inconvenience and decides it’s time to nuke the planet. It wouldn’t be a comments section without this level of discourse, let me tell you.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This is not new, when certain lunkheads would sound off about how crazy President Trump would be my response was I hope he would wake up in a cold sweat to telephone President Putin and Secy Xi to organize a coordinated WMD strike on the excess population of the Third World – the actual threat to the planet. Curious the real problems are ***never*** discussed by US State Media and the dystopian biowarfare is aimed at the ***West*** who despite being very destructive are one of the blocs propelling humanity forward.

      • 0 avatar
        NigelShiftright

        I’m old enough to remember when it was the Bible Belt states that were known for banning stuff. Guess that’s pretty ancient now-a-days, sonny.

        • 0 avatar
          Snooder

          @NigelShiftright

          I wish. Living in Texas is like some dystopian vision these days. I guess they all decided they’ll lose the next election so they might as well go out with a bang, but it’s still irritating as all get out.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      In BC we haven’t banned off-road gas vehicles but recently they did make it law that motorcycles and ATV’s are required to have approved spark arresters on their exhaust. A car or truck with a modified exhaust that is proven to have started a wildfire or a bike/quad can face serious fines and even be on the hook for firefighting costs.
      I can’t see them banning gasoline powered off-road vehicles in BC because the distances are too great and they are used extensively in industrial and farm applications. I have a 240 km range and that isn’t enough for many places I travel.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “A car or truck with a modified exhaust that is proven to have started a wildfire or a bike/quad can face serious fines and even be on the hook for firefighting costs.”

        Will they fine the EV owner when it burns itself up and then starts a wildfire?

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @28-Cars-Later – Good question. It isn’t unusual to find vehicles in the back country that were the victims of financial combustion.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          EV fires tend to happen at the charger, which is rarely in the wilderness.

          Brush fires from car exhaust are a thing, and I can forgive BC for being zealous when they’ve had several cataclysmic fire seasons in a row and lost entire towns to fire.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I know wildfires have become a very serious problem out west, but has a cause been proven or reasonably suspected?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @dal20402

            We had one fire south of me a few years ago that was proven to be a dirt bike without a spark arrestor. Logging does gets shut down when it’s too hot.

            The wildfire that burnt down Lillooet BC in the south central interior was caused by a passing freight train.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The cause is a much longer and drier fire season, almost certainly due to climate change. Lightning and man-made sparks have always caused fires, but now they can do so during six months of the year (roughly from late April to early November) and there is much less room for error.

  • avatar
    JMII

    My brother had a hybrid Porsche Cayenne. Perfect for commuting. Slow crawling in endless traffic netted around 70 MPG since most of the journey could be conducted on battery power alone. Charging up at home and work kept trips to the local Get-N-Go to a minimum. The other Porsche it his garage is a Cayman that sees track time so saving the earth is clearly not his priority.

    Forget green washing – plug in hybrids just make sense given how most people drive. In the city you can run on pure electric with a charge at the mall if needed, but on the open highway you have your traditional gas power and quick refills.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. And, in the grand scheme of things, he’s not hurting too many people with his track car. Good for him enjoying it as it should be enjoyed.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Yes.

      I think electric cars are basically bullshit for my needs – and most people that aren’t pure city commuters or ever go places.

      But I’d happily have a hybrid version of either my XC70 or SuperDuty, if they kept the performance level and improved my fuel economy.

      I’d even be perfectly happy to Not Use Gasoline going to get groceries, though I’m never going to be a fetishist about My Electrons.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @Sigivald: “I think electric cars are basically bullshit for my needs…”

        — What, exactly, are your needs that you would so blanketly avoid an EV? Especially when an EV can be so much LESS EXPENSIVE to operate?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      I’m surprised the Chevy Volt (not Bolt) wasn’t more successful. I have an 18-mi round-trip daily commute, which the Volt could do on electric only. But no range anxiety on road trips – just gas it up and go, like any normal ICE vehicle. Spend the night at a Motel 6* with no charging station? No problem.

      *Beastie Boys reference. Can you complete the rhyme?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I was too, I see the Bolt as inferior in comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        I was a little surprised at the cancellation of the Volt, as well, but I guess GM sees the PHEV road as a dead end. With the continued success of Tesla, I really can’t say I blame them.

        It’s kind of a shame, though, because it wouldn’t have taken that much to make the Volt truly competitive with other, more modern PHEVs. I’m speaking, of course, of the lame 3.6kWh onboard charger GM saddled nearly all of the 2nd generation Volts. It made for long 0-100% charging times (~3.5 hours) where the typical time for other PHEVs with a 6.6kWh charger closer to 2 hours.

        And GM’s cheaping-out on EV charging equipment carries over to the Bolt, too. For example, DCFC was an extra cost option on 1G Bolts when it was standard on all other BEVs (it’s finally standard on the latest Bolt).

      • 0 avatar
        stodge

        Personally I really liked the Volt but the interior was too tight (especially the rear seats) and the drivers seat was horribly uncomfortable. Oh and I seem to recall that the driver’s foot rest wasn’t level with the pedals so I felt like my body was twisted.

      • 0 avatar

        The problem with the Volt wasn’t the engineering, it was the packaging. A 4-passenger compact sedan with a premium price tag was never going to sell in huge numbers. A small, upscale Buick-badged crossover? That might have done better, IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          The secret was to buy them used. I got my 2013 for dirt and the beauty was it had every single option you could put on it that year including the white metallic Cadillac paint. It MSRP’d for 46K and as much as I love the car, no way… even with all kinds of discounts, would I have been willing to fork over anywhere near that kind of money for it. But $16K, after 3 years & 35K miles on it, sign me up!!!!

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @Matt Foley: The Chevy Volt was over-engineered and only marginally capable; at least with the first version. I read of many instances when the Volt would simply run out of battery on a road trip and drop to ‘limp mode’ until the engine could recharge the battery (usually occurred on a long, uphill grade.)

        Second version got a bigger engine and timed the engine start for a little bit sooner. I think they also made the battery slightly larger as well.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          “I read of many instances when the Volt would simply run out of battery on a road trip and drop to ‘limp mode’ until the engine could recharge the battery (usually occurred on a long, uphill grade.)”

          No you didn’t, complete bull$hit statement.

          But hey what would I know, I only own one!……….LOL

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I see about 90-95 mpge on a 2018 Cadillac CT6 2.0E plug-in on a daily basis and also charge at work. We also have a Hummer H2 and a Saturn Sky Turbo when not commuting or covering long distances. The PHEV is the sweet spot for daily driving as we live 3-8 miles from shopping/dining and work is 12 miles away.

  • avatar
    Rboz

    Slightly off topic.
    My wife would like a jeep. Checked the lease rate on the 4xe.
    $545 / month! $6000 due at signing! 42 month lease
    Only 10k miles per year.
    That is NOT cheap.

    • 0 avatar

      $545 on a vehicle that starts at $51,225? That’s almost 8 years’ worth of payments at 0% … seems like a heck of a deal to me!

    • 0 avatar
      swester

      I have a 4xE on order that I’ll sign in a couple of weeks for around $470 month all-included for 36 months with only $500 due at signing.

      Do your research and don’t take a dealer’s advertised deal. You can get an awesome deal on these if you know where to look, especially since Chrysler Capital passes through the $7500 tax credit as a discount. Check over at Leasehackr for more info.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      I have a leased 4xe Rubicon. $60k sticker. Got 9% off a custom order, plus $7500 tax credit as a cap cost reduction. Payment is $420 for 3/36k, and I put down about $2300 which was first month’s payment, IL taxes, and a few bucks of dealer fees.

      For reference my last Jeep, a 2018 JLU Sport S with a sticker of $45k, leased for about $400 with maybe $4k down, 3/30k lease.

      $420/mo with taxes and first payment down is pretty fantastic for a $60k vehicle.

  • avatar
    ajla

    PHEV are going to get a second wind if the battery tech and infrastructure revolution doesn’t happen over the next 9 years. If those things do happen then they’ll be an interesting footnote like “digital” carburetors.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The tough part about reading the tea leaves is the ability to mass-produce in quantity the various battery technologies. We have great mind-blowing technologies coming out of the labs. It’s getting it into mass-production that is the big hump to get over. Like CATLs new sodium-ion batteries. It’s a great technology, but the density lags lithium-ion. They can make sodium-ion batteries with a density of current lithium-ions, but they need a material call janus graphene. Then, the question becomes, can janus graphene be mass-produced in huge quantities? If someone figures it out, then sodium-ion wins and we have dirt cheap eco-friendly batteries. But, that could take decades or just months. So it’s tough to predict. Same with any other battery tech. It’s that mass-producttion question and how long is it going to take. Then we also get the surprises like CATLs sodium-ion/lithium-ion hybrid packs going into production and Sila’s silicon anode technology suddenly available and going out the door in fitness bands to the public. It’s going to be a wild ride and tough to predict. But, the battery tech revolution is under way big time.

      https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsami.1c02892?goto=supporting-info

      • 0 avatar
        Imagefont

        Then with any new technology you need to test, test, test, and then do lore testing. Because once it gets out in the field if something goes wrong and you’re on the hook for it – like the Chevy Bolt catching fire – you’re screwed.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree. More likely that *doesn’t* happen and not much has changed but its difficult to say that with certainty.

    • 0 avatar
      NigelShiftright

      Just wait until the EV mandates kick in and we have a stretch of cloudy days with light winds. (Think it couldn’t happen? Check out electric bills in Germany.)

      Nothing a couple hundred nuc plants couldn’t fix, but do not hold yer breath.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @NigelShiftright: Weather and climate are two different things. Maybe in some places you might see the weather you described, but placement of solar farms and windmills tends more to be in places where the winds are steadiest over the long term and the sun shines brightest. In other words, you may see that kind of weather for a week or two but over the course of a year, they’re mostly strong and steady.

        The desert southwest is almost ideal for massive solar farms and even out in the Great Plains you can get good solar collection. But both are also noted for strong, steady winds for at least 2/3rds of the year and the temperature really isn’t all that important, as long as they are designed and lubricated correctly for the expected extremes (something Texas failed miserably to do by not regulating the energy companies to prepare for KNOWN extremes. What? You thought that cold snap was a one-off? Heck no! Blizzards used to be common in that state!)

  • avatar
    Snooder

    While I agree that hybrids are still useful in certain applications, regardless of their use as a transitional point between Internal Combustion and Electric, I think that it’s not too short to think of 20 years as a meaningful time to make that transition.

    I mean, compare the cars of the 50s to the cars of the 70s. Twenty years can be a massive shift.

    What makes me scratch my head is actually the reverse. If you’d asked 20 years ago, I’d have said that by now most new vehicles would be at least hybrids. Or at least that your standard middle class family vehicle, the Camrys and Accords would be had in mostly hybrid guise. And yet here are twenty years later and the cars haven’t changed all THAT much. It’s a real puzzler, honestly.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Ford has figured out that the word “hybrid” has too many politicized connotations, so they’ve side-stepped that with PowerBoost. It doesn’t say “hybrid” anywhere on the truck, so only the most masculinity-insecure will object.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      The problem with hybrids, and even plug-in hybrids, is that fossil fuel prices are too low to offset the higher purchase price of the hybrids. Even at $5/gallon, recovery takes years and tens of thousands of miles. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me to see an increase in the federal gas tax of 50 cents every year for ten years provided all the extra money was spent on roads and bridges and not on public transportation boondoggles.

      • 0 avatar
        NigelShiftright

        “provided all the extra money was spent on roads and bridges”

        There are a lot of good articles on the web on the subject as to why it costs 2x-3x as much to build big infrastructure projects here as it does in Europe.

        Mostly it’s the long long line of palms to be greased between the day the bucks are appropriated and the day the ribbon is cut.

      • 0 avatar
        Snooder

        The part that’s the head scratcher for me is WHY the purchase price is still higher.

        I mean, sure batteries and motors cost money, but that is supposed to be offset by having a smaller engine. Not totally, maybe, but enough that it should be worth the mpg increase.

        Take Toyota’s lineup as an example of the wierdness. An avalon hybrid is 1000 more than the regular avalon. Not great, but not terrible. Too bad nobody buys Avalons. Meanwhile the corolla hybrid is a full 3600 more than the regular corolla. A price increase that stings, hard, on the lower priced vehicle. Is the Avalon hybrid motor somehow cheaper than the Corolla? That doesn’t make any sense. And if it is, why not put that one in the Corolla?

        And that’s on models you can even get a hybrid in. Why can you get a hybrid RAV4 but not a hybrid 4Runner?

        Toyota is not the offender here. All across the industry there are odd choices and weird things happening with hybrids that don’t really make sense. From pricing to packaging. It’s stuff that made sense 20 years ago when hybrids were new, but feels like should be different by now.

        • 0 avatar
          CoastieLenn

          @snooder- some of that price gap might have something to do with packaging of the hybrid vs. ICE vehicle like with the $5200 price gap between the CRV and it’s Hybrid offering. No such thing as an LX trim CRV Hybrid. The Corolla though, that does NOT make sense. I also feel like Toyota offered the Hybrid as AWD available, but I can’t find it now.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Price is based on what the market will bear, not on what it costs to produce. There are lots of factors into how cars are priced. With the Corolla it is an entry level car so a low base price is very important and they probably only make a couple of dollars on those. So to make the car and the Hybrid system profitable they make you bump up a trim level. The Avalon is not an entry level vehicle so they don’t bother with a price leader version.

          In other words there is a lot more profit baked into the Avalon so they don’t have to squeeze the options nearly as hard.

          The other factor is CAFE targets. With things now based on foot print each model has its own MPG target. Lowering the price of the Hybrid should push the ratio further in its favor giving a boost to the CAFE number.

          • 0 avatar
            Snooder

            Yeah, that’s supposed to be the point of CAFE, to incentivize manufacturers to stop using ICE vehicles as loss leaders. But they aren’t, really. Most manufacturers are just either eating the costs or playing silly games with start-stop instead.

            The pricing model doesn’t make sense to me, cause it just makes people who are gonna throw down $35k or $40k on a vehicle anyway dismiss the hybrid because they are comparing the msrp they see on the website. It just creates a feeling as if the manufacturers don’t really want to make hybrids standard and just want to keep them “premium” for whatever reason.

            Again, I get why hybrids cost a premium 20 or even 10 years ago, but it feels like they should have dropped in price by now. Unless there’s something I’m just radically missing.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          The Pacifica in the lead picture comes with a Pentastar with or without the batteries.

  • avatar
    W.Minter

    Owning a PHEV (Europe), there are some rationales beyond grabbing stupid subsidies (which I did, of course [leased]):

    – Driving in EV is buttery smooth
    – Reducing local tailpipe, noise and heat emissions is a plus
    – Energy consumption is way better (think of 20-35 kWh per 100 km on electricity vs. 60-90 kWh per 100 km on gas) [HAR, METRIC!] [With electricity from lignite the comparison looks less stellar)
    – A PHEV (and a BEV) offers remote air condition.
    BUT:
    – Range of BEVs doesn’t fit my bill
    – I can’t charge at home, thus I am reliant on charging infrastructure [which I use, e.g. when city parking], which makes it – today – impossible to start a 400 miles trip fully charged; this might change in the future
    – Energy grids under pressure are not totally unlikely scenarios, thus charging stations might be remotely switched off by the lords of the grid, resulting in the inability to charge a BEV at peak times
    – PHEV complexity is an issue, depending on the manufacturer

    What will change the game for me:
    Larger battery packs.
    Next year 150 kWh packs [might] come, and more widespread 800V charging; then range parity [almost] kicks in.

    For others, it’s more simple, especially if you have a larger fleet and, best case, have own solar charging at home, making the [emotional and preparedness, not financial] case for a BEV runabout and/or a gas or PHEV truck or van in the fleet.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I don’t see the point of a PHEV vs a regular hybrid. If you use your car so little that you can stay on battery alone in your commute, you aren’t really accomplishing anything with a PHEV. You aren’t saving any money on gas really (factoring in the cost of buying the plug in model), and you aren’t really saving the environment either. Just get the regular hybrid, or one of those shorter range EVs like the Mini or Ioniq EV. It wouldn’t make much sense to install a charging station at your house for a little used PHEV, so then you’d be having to fuel up at 2 different places to keep your vehicle running as intended. Makes no sense.

    • 0 avatar

      You don’t need a charging station. You can plug an EV into a standard outlet.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The point is that you can do your local driving mostly on battery, which is both a better driving experience and over the long run, less expensive, and you can go on trips without having to charge. I’ve been driving a PHEV for the last 7.5 years/ 95,000 miles, and found it has met all my needs perfectly. There will come a day when the EVs available will make a PHEV unnecessary, but we’re not there yet. I had to go pick up my daughter at school once because her flight got canceled, which is a 1500 mile round trip that I did in 30 hours, including some sleep. With the charging infrastructure that is currently in place, no way could I have done it.

      As far as PHEV complexity goes, this car is by far the most reliable and has the lowest operating cost of any car any member of my family has ever owned.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Nobody is talking about how cars with batteries are changing the whole lifecycle ecosystem of the automobile.

    A fifteen year old Corolla still has a good bit of value if it’s in good condition. A Prius of the same age is worth nothing, unless the owner has replaced the battery pack, a $2000 proposition, and a questionable “investment” in an old car.

    Once all new cars involve large battery packs – hybrid or pure EV – cars have 15 years to live and then they’re nothing but recyclables.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Agreed. And no one is talking about what will happen to all those worn out batteries because right now they are not economical to recycle, despite claims that various companies are “working on” recycling programs. If it’s not economically viable, it’s not going to happen and there will be a special land fill full of toxic future super fund materials.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      But limited lifespan is “green” don’tcha know? Just ask the appliance mfgs.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Also, I just paid to rebuild the A/C on my 18 year old Honda with 240k miles that runs perfectly and uses no oil and passes inspection every year without a problem. That is my viable transportation, fully functional, providing the same value of use it provided on day one. That’s more environmentally friendly than an EV with a dead battery that will cost $15-20K to replace.

    • 0 avatar
      W.Minter

      Battery repairs [changing it entirely] on Toyota hybrids are a supereasy job and cost half of what you think [the part itself]. The rest of the car, in this case: Prius II, is a rather rock-solid lo-tech barge in a well-rustproofed shell.
      Keeping it on the road is fairly easy, because the car sold very well, providing [mostly] cheap junkyards parts [inverter, “transmission”, computers]. This will change entirely, when parts supply dries out.

      But, of course, the script changes when it comes to BEVs:
      – The prices for used, old Leafs are horribly low, having the usable range of riding a bicycle (sort of)
      – 50 kWh+ replacement battery packs are heavy and EXPENSIVE, and time will tell if a useful battery refurbishing industry will emerge
      – Cooling systems. Some PHEVs and BEVs have 3 cooling systems with lots of pumps, hoses and, above all, nasty fluids. Things break
      – Computers. Sensors. Firmwares. Degrading memory chips.
      – Remote / App extravaganza

    • 0 avatar
      orangefruitbat

      Prius hold their value better than virtually any other mainstream car, including Corollas and Civics. I literally just sold a 12-year old Prius with 220K on it for 20% of its MSRP within hours of listing it. Original battery pack. People are driving 500K on old battery packs with little loss of performance.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Does a Prius “shut down” when the battery is old and depleted or will it drive on the gas engine? And if it still runs, what is the penalty in fuel econ?

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    In a nutshell, Alex makes the case that the best use of limited battery supply, PHEV’s are the best way to reduce overall fleet fossil fuel consumption in the immediate future.

    https://alexonautos.com/ev-vs-plug-in-hybrid-pragmatic-vs-idealistic/

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    All Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) are Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV), but the engine resides in a separate vehicle.

    To enable this feature, purchase an “Adjustable Tow Bar” (initial purchase price roughly $100; no recurring subscription fees).

    When your state of charge is say 30% or less, hook up to the tow vehicle and flat-tow your vehicle until the state of charge reaches say 70% (your vehicle will be charged using the Regenerative Braking feature, the level of which should be easily adjustable if your OEM followed my advice of a few years ago, which they likely did not).

    On interstate journeys, I highly recommend utilizing an 18-wheeler as the tow vehicle. You will find that there is a price which more than compensates the driver for additional fuel cost, while being very fair to you from a convenience perspective.

    [The Emergency Method of sending dad’s pickup truck to rescue the stranded teenager who ran out of charge is less convenient but just as effective.]

    My plan is simple and works (probably). If you prefer more complexity and waiting around for future technological innovations, here is another plan [from the global leader in electric vehicles]:
    https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1132912_evs-could-be-charged-when-towed-ford-patent-suggests-some-creative-uses

  • avatar
    Professional Lurker

    Of all the PHEVs I’ve seen the Chrysler Pacifica is the most appealing.

    Our current family truckster is a 2014 Odyssey. It’s great on the highway, but with short trips around town it’s an absolute hog with gas. Even with the 20 or so miles it allows on a full charge, we could burn next to no gas with the Pacifica but still make family trips on the regular with no sweat.

    I’m rather hoping they continue to refine and offer it several years from now. Of course by then the youngest should be out of his booster seat and we can consider something smaller and without sliding doors.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      @Professional Lurker: you’ve nailed it.

      I went from 20 years of Honda Odyssey (and glass transmissions and 14mpg and $1500 timing belt changes) to a Pacifica Hybrid this past April.

      Immediately, we went on a beach vacation for two weeks. Through the mountains and over to the beach towns, and plugging in was never in the cards during those two weeks. We couldn’t have used this car if we had to plug it in. So we didn’t–and even then, got 30mpg for those two weeks.

      Brought it home June 5, and on June 6 filled it with gas.

      August 10, we were down to 3/8 of a tank. WTH, we filled it up.

      Here we are a month later, and it’s down not even a quarter of a tank. It has three quarters plus of a tank of gas left, a month later.

      My wife doesn’t work, and so no commute. She piddles around in a way that in summer weather she stays well within that 39 mile range.

      PHEV all the way.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Chevy Volt was a plug-in hybrid and died after 9 model years and 157k cars delivered in the US. It was never replaced. Its cousin, the Cadillac ELR, was a total dud.

    My argument against plug-in hybrids is the need to manage a duel-fuel vehicle, the complexity and space sacrifice of having two drivetrains, and the fact that BEV range is ever-increasing.

    To me, a conventional hybrid makes more sense – one fuel, little sacrifice in space, and proven reliability.

    The worst combination is a range-extended BEV, such as the BMW i3.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      I’d suggest that the Volt died because of poor packaging. The Volt was innovative when it first came out, but other plug in hybrids quickly followed that had a fully usable back seat, which even the 2nd gen Volt did not.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      Can you consider the Volt a PHEV without then considering the i3 also a PHEV? The i3 (when equipped with REX) is the exact same setup as the original Volt, a BEV with a small gasoline engine as a generator- not physically connected to the driveline. It’s an interesting proposition and I wonder what the take rate is on the i3 REX option since it sort of goes against what the BEV movement is now.

      If the REX is a high take rate option on that, then (at least in that small sample size), the PHEV still has a chance of existence and offers a nice transition from ICE to BEV for those with range anxiety.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The Volt’s engine is connected to the driveline in certain operating conditions.

        • 0 avatar
          CoastieLenn

          The engine in no way directly connects to the tires. The engine turns a small generator that then turns the tires.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “The engine in no way directly connects to the tires. The engine turns a small generator that then turns the tires.”

            I own a 2013 Volt, with a fully depleted battery and under hard acceleration the motor will couple with the drive wheels & assist in propelling the car. And trust me you can definitely feel when the car is operating as a parallel hybrid. Under most circumstances it runs as a series hybrid in gas mode. It never ever needs the gas engine when the battery has juice. The Volt operates as an EV, Series and Parallel hybrid.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @CoastieLenn:

        The i3 REX proved to be dangerous when its 650 cc range extender kicked in on mountain passes with a dead EV battery, and the driver found they were suddenly piloting a 33 HP car.

        IIRC, the Volt had pretty similar performance in either electric or gas mode.

        • 0 avatar
          dwford

          I’ve had personal experience with the i3 REX, and yes, once the battery was depleted the range extender couldn’t produce enough juice to propel the car at highway speeds. Dangerous

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      But if BEV range is ever-increasing, so is hybrid range, meaning the hybrid can get better range, or maintain the same range with smaller space sacrifices. Maybe someday a PHEV battery will fit in the same space that a typical 12V battery does now.

  • avatar
    mdoore

    I replaced my ’17 Pacifica with a ’21 Pacifica PHEV. This vehicle is a perfect fit for me. I would say most of my weekly driving mileage is powered by the batteries. So I get to enjoy the benefits of electric propulsion without worry of range during extended trips. The instant Torque and smooth quietness rivals the powertrain in my previous vehicle. The performance of the AC is outstanding and you do not have to be cooling the heat gain generated from the engine compartment. When on trips the engine runs intermittently of course, but I get about 32 MPG. Charging bumps my electric bill but it is still cheaper to run PHEV than it was to drive my previous vehicle. Plus I rarely visit the gas station now.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    I’ve been considering a BMW 330e. The range can get me to work. If a charger is free there I can juice up before going home, if not use the gas motor. Electricity here is almost 100% hydro so its clean.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    PHEVs are a transitional and specialty tech, in general. They are complex, heavy, hard to package, and require gas-car maintenance. For exactly the right application (a person with a short commute but who frequently, like every couple weeks, takes long non-commute trips) they will probably be the right thing for some time to come. But, as batteries get cheaper, they will be uncompetitive with BEVs on cost for the majority of applications. The infrequent road tripper will just use a BEV with stops for L3 charging, because it will be cheaper and more compelling in daily service for packaging and maintenance reasons. The second or third car will always be better as a BEV.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “a person with a short commute but who frequently, like every couple weeks, takes long non-commute trips”

      tinyurl.com/s32w9pvr

      I’ve driven a 330e, it was fine (and RWD even!) but outside of whimsy I couldn’t see much point versus other 3-Series trims. I’m also very sure something terminally expensive would break.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I’m looking for a replacement for the Infiniti G37S coupe I’ve owned for nearly fourteen years. What I’m looking for is a car that is substantially better, as a medium size luxury performance automobile, than the Infiniti. My search isn’t easy because the Infiniti is already so good. It’s able to run away and hide from the first generation RX-7 it replaced. Its replacement has to be able to run away and hide from it.

    Two models which appear to meet these criteria are the Tesla Model 3 Long Range and the VW Golf R. Understand that I’m evaluating them strictly as automobiles. The Tesla’s BEV system offers both advantages and disadvantages compared to the VW’s ICE system. That the Tesla may be better for the environment is a fringe benefit of secondary importance.

    Personally, I like the concept of Elon’s Tesla Solar Roof combined with his Powerwall for distributed generation and storage with existing utilities maintaining the grid and providing backup generating capacity when solar isn’t enough. But I don’t feel strongly enough about it to tolerate a mediocre automobile just to go electric.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      I forgot to say that I consider PHEV to be a transitional technology. At the price of substantial added complexity, it solves the problem of range beyond short trips on the battery. PHEVs take advantage of the existing infrastructure of ubiquitous gas stations instead of forcing their owners to plan trips around the locations of relatively rare, high current, recharging stations. This is more of a problem in fly over country than in the crowded east and on the southwest coast.

      In time, I expect level 2 or better chargers will become more common than gas stations but distributed everywhere. Homes will come standard with chargers in the garage like they come standard with a clothes dryer outlet in the laundry. If apartment complexes expect to be competitive, they will have to provide a charger at every parking space. Good jobs will include free chargers in the employee parking lot. Once this infrastructure is built, there will no more need for PHEVs.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The new Maverick comes with a standard hybrid and it says hybrid on the tailgate. Hybrids are a good compromise for those who want a more efficient vehicle but are not ready for an EV. I ordered a new hybrid Maverick XLT on July 22 mainly because it is a compact pickup and it gets 40 mpgs in city driving and 34 mpgs on the highway. Most of my driving is stop and go so that is perfect for me. True hybrids are a stop gap and eventually EVs will be the dominate vehicle but it is a very good vehicle. I doubt I would keep the Maverick beyond 15 years so I am not too worried about the battery life or the residual value. At the price it is the cheapest new truck currently on the market. I didn’t order a Maverick to be green as much as it offers a lot of value and is efficient.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I would consider a PHEV because I do a lot of short trips that could be performed on electric only.

    One thing I’ve wondered though–does the engine have an “hour meter” or some other way to monitor wear for maintenance purposes? I would imagine luxury vehicles like an X3 or X5 would monitor that for you, but I’m not sure about the cheaper ones.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I drive a Fusion PHEV. The oil life monitor typically asks for an oil change every 20,000 miles. Depending on how much engine powered driving you do, I would double or triple the routine maintenance intervals for engine related items.

      Also, my car has 95,000 miles, and the brake pads have many tens of thousands of miles left on them.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Wonder if the hybrid Maverick would have extended miles on the oil change?

  • avatar
    mcw

    I am on my third PHEV. The first was a Ford Fusion that I was happy to turn in as it was a POS. Limited trunk space. Did have pretty incredible range however and got me a carpool sticker in California, which was the prime motivation.

    My second PHEV is a Volvo XC60 T8. Really nice car. Again, purchased for the carpool sticker access. Sticker is about to expire.

    In January, purchased an XC90 T8 for my wife, again, for the carpool sticker access through 2025. Very happy with it so far. Given her local driving, rarely needs to fill up.

    I would never consider fully electric at this point as I have to travel (at least until Covid hit) all over Northern California for work and range anxiety is too much for me. Or if the power goes out in my house, which happens from time to time, and I can’t charge it. Not an option for me simply to not show up for a meeting. I like having the benefits of electric for trips around town and the range for longer trips when needed without worrying about charging.

    All that said, without the sticker and tax rebate, I would not be driving one.

  • avatar
    dbs

    I’ve been driving hybrids for 20 years. My latest is a Prius Prime, which is a a normal sized sedan. It’s amazing how much of my daily driving falls within the 28 mile per charge range. I literally drove it daily in 2020 without the engine ever firing up. A few things make this design very practical:
    a) Most people (~85%)drive less than 30 miles in a day and most errands are less than 15 miles each way.
    b) A battery with 28 mile range will recharge quickly after a 10 mile trip. If you charge every time you get home, more than 80 miles in a day is realistic on battery.
    c) Unlike the Volt, the Prius Prime gets better than 50 MPG when the engine is used. The Volt got terrible gas mileage and that was part of the reason that it was abandoned.
    d) The combination of the engine + electric drive train (in the Toyota design) weighs less than your typical BEV’s.
    e) When I make my monthly 1000 mile trip to support aging parents, the Prius PHEV happily cruises all day with no hickups. The 650 mile range is plenty for my uses and gas is still plentiful. :)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “c) Unlike the Volt, the Prius Prime gets better than 50 MPG when the engine is used. The Volt got terrible gas mileage and that was part of the reason that it was abandoned.”

      I seem to recall the Volt getting 99MPG on battery, and its ICE was only suppose to spin up to charge the battery. Are you saying while the ICE was charging the battery it affected the battery’s performance?

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        ” I seem to recall the Volt getting 99MPG on battery, and its ICE was only suppose to spin up to charge the battery. Are you saying while the ICE was charging the battery it affected the battery’s performance?”

        Real world, my 2013 Volt gets 44-46 miles on the battery and at least 40 MPG on gas. If I’m on the highway I’ll see 42-44 MPG.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      ” I literally drove it daily in 2020 without the engine ever firing up”

      That’s because you drove it with a tender foot. Drive it like a regular car and it’s burning gas all the time, even with a fully charged battery.. The Prius Prime is nothing more than a standard Prius with a bigger battery and if I remember correctly they never sold all that well because it wasn’t all that great of a design.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Isn’t it better to drive with a “tender foot” not only for optimum fuel economy but to make your vehicle last longer with less problems. A Prius and most hybrids are not meant to drive aggressively with but yes most people in normal driving are not going to get the optimum fuel economy. My Buick Lacrosse E-Assist is not nearly as efficient as a Prius but driving it with a tender foot gives me much better mpgs in the range of over 25 in the city and 36 highway which doesn’t sound like much but in a luxury car that is excellent. The Maverick I ordered is suppose to get 40 in the city and 34 highway again not as much as a Prius but good for a compact truck. I don’t drive my vehicles very aggressively but I do go about 5 miles an hour over the speed limit on the interstate otherwise it is the speed limit and easy on the accelerator. Might not keep these vehicles as long as my 99 S-10 which was almost 21 years but the S-10 was still like new with only typical maintenance and it did not burn or leak oil. The S-10 (5 speed manual and 2.2 I-4) is still going strong with my nephew and with proper maintenance which it is still getting it will go on for many more years.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’m going to mark it as “Transitional Tech”, though there may be SOME niches where it may be more permanent (such as certain first-responder vehicles and other special purpose vehicles.) Anything larger than a Class 4 vehicle can probably get along with HFC under the hood, supported by a battery but anything smaller will likely be underpowered by an HFC but might need some form of range extender (again, only in niche cases.)

  • avatar
    tobiasfunkemd

    We bought a 2021 Pacifica Limited PHEV in early 2021 before the “Great 2021 Microchip Gougefest” really took off. My wife’s commute is about 18 miles round trip, so it’s been perfect for us. We got the level 2 charger installed, and we take advantage of the late-night super off peak electric rates to charge it in about 90 minutes. We will go weeks/months between fill ups. I can totally see people not using the plug in due to the really good deals they had going on it, but my wife wanted to go electric and it’s been awesome thus far.

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