When a buyer selects a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) over a traditional gas car, one expects that they will take full advantage of its electric capabilities. After all, PHEVs are both better for the environment and a great money-saving opportunity. Why then has a study from the International Council on Clean Transportation found that many owners simply aren’t plugging in their PHEVs?
Let’s start with the basics – what exactly is a PHEV? These plug-in hybrids are a combination of gasoline and electric vehicles. They have a battery, an electric motor, a gasoline tank and an internal combustion engine. Drivers, therefore, can take advantage of electric-only emissions-free driving, usually somewhere between 15 and 60 miles on a single charge. So while PHEVs cost more upfront, buyers are eligible for federal tax credits, save money on gas and do a favor for the environment. They’re a great choice for people who aren’t quite ready to make the leap to fully electric.
So why buy one and not bother to plug it in? According to the study, which uses figures from Fuelly.com and data collected by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, PHEV owners are driving 25-65% fewer electric miles than vehicles allow and consuming 42-67% more fuel than EPA estimates. The study doesn’t conclude why this is happening, so we can only guess that many PHEV owners don’t plug in at home or on the road simply because they don’t have to. Perhaps it’s more trouble than they realized – for example, the best-selling PHEV in the U.S., the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, takes 12 hours to charge with the included Level I charging cable.
Whatever the reason, these drivers are losing money, especially seeing as most PHEVs are also available as cheaper gas-only cars. Let’s hope with more education (and faster charging times as technology improves), people will take advantage of their PHEVs’ capabilities.