Continued from an earlier post on gas stations.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) like the Chevy Volt and Volvo XC90 may have a greater impact on the demise of gas stations than pure electric BEVs. PHEVs will play a transitional role as they are not as big of a mental leap for car buyers as BEVs since they can function just like older internal combustion engine (ICE) cars–fill them with gas and drive. They have the added benefit though of being able to be driven under electric power and of being able to recharge the battery from an electrical outlet.
Unlike traditional hybrids, most PHEVs use the gas engine only once the battery is drained. This has an outsized benefit relative to their battery size as most people only drive 20 to 30 miles per day. Someone who drives 15 miles round-trip to work and then maybe another five miles for errands may not purchase any gas for months.
While PHEV sales are growing quickly in Europe and Asia, we’re not seeing the same here. This is largely due to lack of available cars as manufacturers are supply constrained and for now are focusing on just Europe and Asia where the cars are very popular. Mercedes, Tesla, and others are rapidly building massive battery factories to meet demand so we’ll see this change in the near future.
Here’s a very quick rundown of a few PHEVs:
Mercedes and Volvo have said that they will offer PHEV drivetrains for all of their vehicles, most by the end of 2017. They have hinted that this will then become the standard with ICE-only cars largely phased out. Audi, GM, Porsche, and Hyundai have hinted at a similar future. Parsing words in their statements can be dangerous so we’ll have to see what really unfolds.
BMW has their iPerformance PHEVs that include the 330e, X5, X5 xDrive40e and 740e as well as the range extended version of the i3.
Chrysler has shown the Pacifica Hybrid, their first PHEV and the first PHEV mini-van. It has 30 miles of electric range and will be available in in the U.S. this August.
The top two selling PHEVs in the world are not yet available in the U.S., the Mitsubishi Outlander (left) and BYD Qin. The Outlander has been very popular in Europe and Asia for three years and will be available here in November.
Toyota announced their updated Prius Prime last week. While its 22 miles of electric range is a big improvement over the previous Prius plug-in it falls short of the competition. From laggard to meh–is Toyota becoming a has been? Not likely. Both the Toyota and Prius badges carry a lot of value for consumers. And besides, it’s got a huge touchscreen.
McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, Fiat, and Honda have considerable experience with hybrids in Formula One and production cars like the McLaren P1 and Ferrari LeFerrari. They are also involved in the new Formula-E electric GP series. More to come? Likely. They can’t continue to lose sales to Tesla so may have to skip PHEVs and focus on full battery electric vehicles.
Does VW matter? I don’t know anyone who would purchase a car from a company that so overtly lied to it’s customers and governments around the world. Will they redeem themselves with electric vehicles?
The first wave of electric vehicle purchasers, the early adopters, have been an interesting mix of folks who are more environmentally conscious (or want to appear so), techy geeky, and those who are into high performance cars (yes, Ferrari and Lamborghini have lost sales to Tesla).
Electric vehicles are now moving from the early adopter stage into the early majority stage as average people begin buy them for benefits such as their being quieter and smoother, not having to pump gas or take time to do so, less maintenance, lower operating costs, and concerns about the resale values of ICE cars.
For operating costs an electric mile costs about $0.12 less than a gas mile. Assuming a PHEV owner drives 12,000 miles per year on electric and the rest on gas this is about $1,500 savings just in fuel and oil. Add in maintenance savings and we’re talking real money.
Tomorrow, a look at the change over from ICE to EV and a stab at some predictions.
 There are three PHEV architectures; Series where the drive system is all electric and the gas engine is used to recharge the batteries, Parallel where the electric motor and gas engine both provide propulsion, and Series/Parallel that has a bit of both.
 Cadillac (GM) and Toyota (and Lexus) have stated that they believe that Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) vehicles are the future and that variations of electric are only an interim step to that. HFC have a steep road ahead though as costs and risks are still considerable.
 An electric mile is about $0.03 for electricity. A gas mile at $1.76 per gallon is $0.12 to $0.22 for fuel and oil. This assumes that tires, maintenance, and insurance will be about the same for each. Realistically maintenance is expected to be considerably less for electric.
Cover Photo: RoadsideArchitecture.com