Why are plug-in hybrid cars no longer attractive?


-13%. This is the report on sales of plug-in hybrid cars over the first nine months of 2022 in France. With 88,555 vehicles sold, the figures are not good.

During the first three quarters of the year, consumers turned to 100% electric models (140,000 units sold, +31%) or conventional hybrids (131,000 units, +27%). This trend does not only affect France but Europe.

The plug-in hybrid ultimately more polluting

“Heavier, less efficient and more polluting, plug-in hybrids are a false solution and have no relevance for decarbonizing the automobile”. This is how Marie Chéron, automotive specialist at the European NGO Transport & Environment, defines plug-in hybrid cars to Le Monde.

To draw these conclusions, it is based on a study by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCCT) – the organization behind “dieselgate” – on the behavior of plug-in hybrid drivers. Carried out in June 2022, its conclusions are final: a plug-in hybrid car emits “between three and five times more CO2” than the level chosen for their approval.

Why such dislike? The plug-in hybrid, however, promised to bring together the best of both worlds: “zero emission” electric for urban journeys, thermal for long journeys. Yes but here it is: the plug-in hybrid is mainly purchased by companies (72% are company vehicles).

According to experts, its main advantage (driving electric in the city) is not exploited at all. As a result, the very essence of the plug-in hybrid is called into question.

Bad pass ?

If European policies and manufacturers’ strategies favor the switch to all-electric, doesn’t the plug-in hybrid still have a card to play? While the cost of electricity is rising and the prices of 100% electric are soaring, could it not experience a favorable wind to participate in the energy transition in the world of transport?

Some still believe it. Firstly because the infrastructures for 100% electric are not yet ready. “With the current level of charging infrastructure, freedom of movement by electric car remains limited and there is a risk of riots at charging stations” explains to Le Monde Jean-Philippe Delaire, project manager for sports hybrid models at Stellantis.

For Philippe Brunet, director of mechanical engineering at Renault, the plug-in hybrid remains “a very effective solution if used correctly”. As proof, data from Renault Captur plug-in hybrid owners show that private consumers use this technology better than companies.

By recharging their vehicle, they consume 3.5 liters per 100 kilometres. It is certainly half as good as the 1.4 liters displayed on the brochures, but it is still much better than a thermal model.

So yes, the plug-in hybrid is set to disappear since new thermal vehicles will be banned in Europe by 2035. But until then, the plug-in hybrid, provided it is used properly, can allow a smooth transition for the general public. Waiting for the infrastructures to expand and the autonomy of electric vehicles to improve.

Because for now, the 100% electric experience remains interesting for daily journeys, but not for long distances. This is in any case what emerges from the car tests in real conditions. We were even able to experience it at Presse-citron during our test of the Mégane e-Tech.

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