Plug-in hybrid vehicles are better than their reputation

December 6, 2017
Plug-in hybrid vehicles are better than their reputation
Both electric cars and plug-in hybrids can be run on electricity. Scientists involved in the Karlsruhe Priority Region for Mobility Systems have now compared their carbon dioxide emissions. Credit: KIT/L. Albrecht

Hybrid vehicles are often considered the fig leaf of electric mobility. However, plug-in hybrids with a real electric range of about 60 km drive the same number of kilometers electrically as battery electric vehicles. Hence, their carbon dioxide reduction potential also is the same. This is the result of a comparison of battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles in Germany and the US by scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Fraunhofer ISI (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research), which is now reported in Nature Scientific Reports.

Apart from approximately 50,000 purely electric cars, roughly 40,000 are presently being operated on German roads. These hybrids combine a conventional internal combustion engine with a battery. They are often regarded rather critically by environmental organizations and political decision-makers, as they are no "real" electric cars and are supposed to have a poorer environmental record. A systematic empirical comparison of the electric performances of battery vs. hybrid vehicles has been lacking so far.

This gap in research has now been closed by scientists of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT): They compared the performances of 49,000 battery electric cars and 73,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles in Germany and the US using data from fleet trials and automotive manufacturers as well as from websites for drivers to manage and monitor their vehicles.

Data evaluation revealed that plug-in hybrid vehicles with a real electric range of about 60 km drive the same number of kilometers electrically as battery electric vehicles, namely, up to 15,000 km per year. Consequently, their CO2 reduction potential is just as high as that of battery electric vehicles. This means that plug-in hybrids are a good addition to battery electric vehicles in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This particularly applies, if they are charged with power from renewable energy sources. "When taking into account that production of the far smaller batteries of is associated with less emissions than production of the larger batteries of electric vehicles, their carbon dioxide balance is even better," says Patrick Jochem of KIT's Institute for Industrial Production. "Moreover, hybrids can foster public confidence and prevalence of , as they have the same range than cars with internal combustion engines, contrary to battery electric vehicles."

Patrick Plötz, Fraunhofer ISI, emphasizes: "Plug-in vehicles represent a good addition to battery electric cars in order to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gases. In the past, they were often judged too critically due to lacking empirical data. However, it is important that they have a sufficiently large battery with a real electric range of more than 50 km and, in addition, that the decarbonization of the electricity system is further advanced." According to the study, the decreasing CO2 emissions during battery production and the increasing diffusion of rapid charging points will shift the advantage more and more in the direction of electric vehicles in the coming years.

Explore further: Most drivers could go electric within 10 years

More information: P. Plötz et al. CO2 Mitigation Potential of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles larger than expected, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-16684-9

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JoeReal
not rated yet Dec 06, 2017
In fact the plug-in Chevy Volt owners with only 35 miles (gen 1) - 53 miles (gen 2) of battery range have racked up more electric miles per car per year than the Tesla or Leaf owners. Many of the Tesla or Leaf owners will have to use gas cars, either their other car, rented, uber, lyft or taxi, to go out of range trips using gas and ended up using more gas per year than Chevy Volt owners.

I bought a 2017 Chevy Volt about 15 months ago and had logged 40,200 miles to date Dec 6, 2017. I only used less than 30 gallons of gas, supplied by the dealer (one fill up first time driven home, and a top off for its free follow up service) the entire trip, and that's 1,320 MPG. I have gone 600 miles on a single trip without recharging nor refueling and I do those trips about three to four times I've owned the car. My total electric commute is 38,900 miles, a reduction of 97% usage of gas, and I don't need to rent another car as there are no out of battery range trips for me.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Dec 06, 2017
Another good point of hybrids is that they don't lose range when the battery gets older, and they can still work without a battery if so desired, so you're not left with a lemon after 10 years. They just get fewer and fewer electric miles.

I have gone 600 miles on a single trip without recharging nor refueling


Surely you didn't mean to say it like that?
gkam
1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2017
"Many of the Tesla or Leaf owners will have to use gas cars, either their other car, rented, uber, lyft or taxi, to go out of range trips using gas and ended up using more gas per year than Chevy Volt owners."

That's ridiculous. My gas car just sits outside, and is the neighborhood loaner. We mostly use the VW e-Golf, but can go anywhere we care to drive in the Tesla.

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