The plug-in hybrid has been assumed to be a “sham package” for years. But who made him this? The automakers who wanted to build a bridge? The politicians that want to reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles with all their might? Or is it the customer who lets himself be seduced by the purchase rewards?
After the diesel has gotten rid of its fat, the general climate discussion repeatedly assumes that the plug-in hybrid is a “sham”. This is because, in addition to a possible, admittedly relatively short, purely electric route, the long distance can be covered with a combustion engine. It is commonly said that the driver of a PHEV – the abbreviation for the English “plug-in hybrid vehicle” – does not use the electric drive anyway and gives the vehicle for sale again with an unused charging cable. What is true about this assessment may not be evaluated at this point. Rather, the question arises as to how such behavior can even come about?
The most obvious explanation is that of subsidizing plug-in hybrids. Which somehow turns the matter into a homemade problem for politicians who have been promoting millions of electric cars for years, including the PHEV. “We will achieve our goal of one million electric cars by 2020, which everyone considered unattainable, this July, with only six months delay,” said Federal Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) at the time in an interview with Tagesspiegel.
With the start of the environmental bonus in June 2016, more than 530,000 vehicles are said to have been funded and around 2.1 billion euros in funding. As part of the Corona economic stimulus program, this funding was topped up again. For electric vehicles that cost less than 40,000 euros net list price, the maximum funding amount is now 9,000 euros, for hybrid cars it is still 6750 euros. It is clear that the resulting bill arouses desires, especially since there is also a not inconsiderable tax benefit for electric cars and plug-in hybrids if they meet the respective requirements for electric range and CO2 emissions. For the coming year, this will be set at 60 kilometers and for CO2 emissions at 50 g / km. From 2025 it should be 80 kilometers.
The aim was to build a bridge
So who is to blame if the inclined car buyer now opts for a plug-in hybrid? Especially since the basic idea of this technology was to build a bridge between the traditional combustion engine and purely electric driving. Always with the idea that the short distance is covered with the electric drive and the long distance with the combustion engine, because purely statistically, the daily driving volume in Germany is an average of 65 kilometers. So if you can charge at home on a wallbox and, ideally, at work, you will also drive electrically because of the financial advantages. But what about company car users who find that their employer has prescribed a plug-in hybrid instead of a diesel for the financial benefits mentioned above? And what if these drivers are still at home in a rented apartment and have to reel off far more than the 65 kilometers a day? Will the plug-in hybrid really be a sham? Definitely!
Just like with those who simply want a new car and allow themselves to be seduced by the premium to buy a PHEV without even thinking about where to charge the vehicle’s battery. And there we come to the next problem: the charging infrastructure. In the best case scenario, such charging stations are located in urban areas within a radius of around 1.5 kilometers from where you live. Anyone who hangs their plug-in hybrid on the charging station at the motorway service station comes into conflict with pure electric car drivers. And not without good reason. If they are forced to fill up with electricity there, the PHEV driver can continue the journey with his combustion engine. Especially since the charging times of a plug-in hybrid are usually significantly longer than that of an electric car due to the low power. In addition, of course, there is the significantly higher consumption that the plug-in hybrid has when it is only powered by the relatively small gasoline engine. In addition to the work, he also has to carry around 150 kilograms more, which the battery and electric motor burden him with.
The PHEV may be even more attractive
And yet plug-in hybrids are currently more attractive than a pure electric car: The author likes to call it “the individual mobility learned over decades”. With the boom of the car in the 1950s and the associated freedom to move over hundreds of kilometers without long stops, something emerged that is still in the minds of people today: the possibility of individually over long and short distances, whenever you want it wants to be able to travel. And the stops to refuel? Are only a matter of minutes. This is an experience that you have to say goodbye to with the electric car – at least in the current development phase. Traveling becomes a search game for charging stations and a test of patience while you wait to be able to continue your journey.
So when we talk about a sham package in the course of the plug-in hybrid, the question arises, who made it so? The automotive industry, which has developed a technology as quickly as possible that keeps people mobile and, when used correctly, also reduces CO₂ emissions? Or is it politics that has demanded too much too quickly without considering that if you want one thing, you need the other? So if you want to drive an e-car or plug-in hybrid, you need a well-developed charging infrastructure. But that is not enough. Sustainable energy sources are also required in order not to emit hundreds of times the CO₂ saved in vehicles when generating electricity.
Politicians seem to want everything at once, fueled by climate activists, and both of them forget that a word is not only made up of A and Z, but that the local alphabet has 26 letters. Only those who use all of them will be able to communicate meaningfully. Or is it ultimately the users of the plug-in hybrids who let this technology degenerate into a sham because they are forced to operate the vehicles primarily with the combustion engine out of laziness and greed for money in the context of the circumstances described?
In the end, the answer to this question lies somewhere in the middle and it is actually pointless to demonize PHEV any further, because it is what it is: a bridging technology. No manufacturer will develop them further in the future. This is also not necessary for Mercedes and BMW, because their PHEVs can now cover 80 to 90 kilometers purely electrically. Only VW is hanging on the ropes here with almost 60 kilometers and should come up with something by 2025. But ultimately, the signals are clearly pointing to e-mobility anyway.
It remains to be seen whether this is ultimately the right decision for the climate, the environment and individual mobility. If e-mobility is to become the bringer of salvation, it will only work if everyone involved uses the entire alphabet for communication. Because in Germany alone, 48 million drivers have to be convinced that this type of transport is the better and that they lose nothing or only a little of their learned individual mobility. And with what they lose, you have to explain to them what they can gain. Trying to push everything through in the shortest possible time will not lead to the desired goal.