An Essential Guide to Plug-In Hybrid Cars (PHEVs)

How they work, how to recharge and what advantages they offer compared to mild and full hybrids

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By Max Bender

plug-in hybrid cars

As the hybrid car market experiences growing success, propelled in part by government incentives, it becomes important to know the different types of hybrid vehicles. Rooted in innovative green technology, these vehicles integrate a heat engine with an electric motor.

Today’s article is dedicated to examining plug-in hybrid cars, providing comprehensive insights into their unique attributes.

Understanding Hybrid Cars and Their Functionality

Consider a vehicle equipped with two motors operating in tandem—an electric motor and a heat engine. These hybrids seamlessly transition between propulsion systems or run both concurrently, optimizing vehicle efficiency throughout all driving conditions.

It is essential to clarify that the term “hybrid car” encompasses a diverse range of technologies. Let’s explore these categories.

FOCUS: How hybrid cars work

Categories of Hybrid Cars

Hybrid cars can be divided into:

  • Mild-Hybrid Cars: This variant utilizes a small electric motor as an alternator/starter and motor-generator. While it supports the thermal powertrain during acceleration, it cannot propel the car solely through the electric motor.
  • Full-Hybrid Cars: Ideal for city driving, these hybrids depend on battery power, recharged through energy recovery during deceleration. If the battery and electric motor are robust, it allows for electric-only driving over short distances at moderate speeds.
  • Plug-in Hybrid Cars: These full-hybrid cars recharge their batteries via dedicated charging stations or household electrical outlets. With larger-capacity batteries, they can cover medium to long distances in electric mode, surpassing 50 km / 31 mi.

Identified as PHEV, hybrid plug-ins contribute to the ongoing electrification trend, offering a flexible driving experience by seamlessly switching between electric and traditional propulsion. With both a heat engine and an electric motor, their distinctive feature lies in the substantial battery capacity—larger than conventional hybrids yet smaller than pure electric cars.

Moreover, plug-in hybrids can be recharged through standard outlets or specialized Wall Box columns, liberating them from relying solely on regenerative braking for charging.

All about plug-in hybrid cars

Key Features of Plug-in Hybrid Cars

We can identify at least 4 important characteristics:

  • Plug-in hybrid cars can travel 50-65 km / 30-45 mi emission-free in all-electric mode.
  • The electric motor acts as a genuine substitute for the heat engine, not just an auxiliary component.
  • Recharging options include regular power outlets and Wall Box columns.
  • These cars combine economic benefits, reduced emissions, and – in several countries – fiscal advantages.

FOCUS: What are Diesel Hybrid Cars and where are they available?

Charging Infrastructure for Plug-in Hybrid Cars

Plug-ins can be recharged through a 3-prong outlet, a Wallbox with its charging cable, or public charging points. Home or workplace charging is recommended for optimal efficiency, considering factors like outdoor temperature and battery condition.

Understanding Recharge Times

Charging times vary based on factors such as temperature, battery conditions, and charging equipment. Typically, home charging occurs overnight, leveraging lower electricity rates. A 3-pin plug provides approximately 2.3 kW, requiring around 17 hours for a full 40 kWh battery charge. By connecting the same car to a 7 kW charging point, the time is reduced by more than 11 hours.

Calculating Power Requirements for Home Charging

For effective home charging, a minimum power of 6 kW is necessary, with options ranging from 3 kW to 22 kW. Considering the power of the meter is crucial, potentially requiring its replacement.

Cost of Recharging

The cost to recharge a plug-in hybrid car fluctuates with electricity prices and battery capacity, averaging around 3 dollars.

What happens when the battery is low?

When the battery’s capacity diminishes or recharging is insufficient, the heat engine activates automatically.

All about plug-in hybrid cars

The Advantages of Plug-In Hybrid Cars

Plug-in hybrids emerge as the pinnacle of efficiency within the hybrid category, standing as true electric vehicles. Their operational excellence does not solely rely on the electric motor; instead, the thermal engine seamlessly takes over when required. Let’s delve into the manifold advantages offered by this plug-in hybrid model:

  • Significant Cost Savings: Leveraging your electricity tariff translates into substantial financial savings.
  • Smooth and Silent Ride: Enjoy a serene driving experience marked by seamless transitions between power sources.
  • Additional Acceleration Power: Benefit from enhanced acceleration capabilities facilitated by the electric motor.
  • Electric Mode Flexibility: The potential to undertake most journeys in electric mode, particularly for distances under 50-60 kilometers.
  • Combustion Engine Support: In instances where charging or battery capacity falls short, the combustion engine steps in to provide crucial support.
  • Economic Incentives: Many countries still provide direct financial aid and subsidies for electric models contribute to overall cost-effectiveness. Reduced CO2 emissions translate into favorable tax benefits, acknowledging the environmentally conscious choice.
  • Zero Emissions in Urban Areas: Navigate urban centers and restricted traffic zones emission-free in electric mode.

Pricing Considerations

Plug-in hybrids may have higher initial costs compared to mild hybrids, attributed to larger engines. However, these costs are offset by fuel and maintenance savings due to reduced heat engine usage.

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