What is a PHEV? [Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle]

The PHEV is a hybrid vehicle with both an electric motor and a gasoline engine and is mostly found in passenger cars, but trucks and vans also use this configuration.

1️⃣ PHEV can only be recharged using mains and can use level 2 chargers.
2️⃣ They have a short range using an electric motor.
3️⃣ PHEVs offer excellent combined fuel efficiency.
4️⃣ They can be pricey compared to regular combustion cars and close to BEV prices.

Definition Of A Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

PHEV is the acronym for Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. It is a vehicle with a fuel-powered internal combustion engine and an onboard electric motor powered by a large rechargeable battery. 

How Do Plug-In Hybrid Cars Work?

The PHEV is powered using two sources- the electric motor and the fuel engine, and unlike other hybrids, it can only be charged by being plugged into an external mains power source.

Conventional hybrids have an onboard generator driven by the engine during operation, allowing the battery to be recharged while driving. 

The PHEV has a much larger battery and uses a different recharging system than other electric cars.

The battery on a PHEV will only deliver short-range mileage with an average of 10-30 miles of electric power before the engine takes over.

Let’s look at the parts of a PHEV and the role of each component in the PHEVs operation.

  • The PHEV has two batteries: the traction battery that drives the traction motor and the auxiliary battery, which is used to start the car and run the vehicle’s electronics and accessories, as in conventional cars.
  • The onboard charger takes the incoming AC and converts it to DC to charge the traction battery. The DC/DC converter takes high-voltage DC from the traction battery and feeds it back to the auxiliary battery.
  • The fuel-powered internal combustion engine is the main propulsion source for the PHEV and is used for long-distance driving.
  • The power electronics control system manages the electricity from the traction battery and the current flow to the traction motor, thereby controlling the motor’s speed and the amount of torque produced.
  • The transmission manages the power from the engine or traction motor delivered to the drive train and the wheels.
  • The 3-way catalyst exhaust system reduces engine emissions using the internal combustion engine.

Advantages Of PHEVs

The PHEV is a great option for motorists seeking better fuel economy with two power sources. It produces significantly lower emissions than gasoline or diesel cars.

Consider that a PHEV like Hyundai’s Ioniq Plug-In can deliver up to 32 miles on its battery And has a combined fuel economy of 119 MPGe.

While only contributing 41.6g of CO2 per mile. This performance far outweighs that of any existing diesel or petrol vehicle.

Compared to the Ioniq Hybrid, which only provides around 59mpg and produces around 164g per mile.

You can see how much more efficient the PHEV is, which bodes well for fleet owners and motorists in general.

A BEV is a  Battery Electric Vehicle with no combustion engine. In that case, these vehicles have zero emissions and can achieve around 300-500 miles per charge, depending on which car you buy.

An HEV or Hybrid Electric Vehicle is gasoline powered only, but they have an electric motor to assist the engine.

The battery power is partially charged using regenerative braking, which recovers energy usually lost in braking.

PHEVs are fantastic for motorists that only do short commutes like school runs or where work is close to home as the PHEV could use the battery for those trips.

Further savings are available if the vehicle can be charged at home and if the owner has an existing solar PV System.

Charging And Range Of PHEVs

Compared to pure EVs, PHEVs don’t have anywhere close to the same range on their battery, as they are designed for short trips using the electric traction motor.

Typically, the PHEV will get between 30 and 50 miles before the engine takes over, while EVs could manage 300-500 miles or more.

PHEVs can be charged using Level 1 (120V) and Level 2(240V) settings, and the battery would be fully charged in around 5-6 hours at Level 1 and about 1-2 hours using Level 2.

📖 Related article: Level 1 vs level 2 charging

PHEVs are not compatible with DCFC chargers which are only designed to fast-charge fully electric vehicles.

A PHEVs range will depend on the weight and energy consumption of the car, and remember that the battery is quite large and heavy.

Plus, it has the engine’s importance to contend with, as well as any additional load like people or baggage.

You will get far less mileage on the battery if you have a full load of people and luggage, and your route is steep with plenty of climbing vs. a single driver with no luggage on a relatively flat route.

For the most part, PHEVs operate simultaneously using the battery and gas as the electric motors support the engine to make it more efficient. When stopped, PHEVs will often shut off the engine in ‘idle’ mode and then use the electric motor to drive the car when the gas pedal is pushed.

The PHEV will switch to gas when the battery is depleted or engage the engine if above a certain speed.

Electric motors work better at lower rates, while the engine would kick in where the accelerator is pressed harder.

The faster you drive, the more your range reduces, and to maintain power and speed, the gas engine would kick in, even if only for a short time.

The Future Of PHEVs

In November of 2022, there were around 34 PHEVs on the market, including vehicles like the Mitsubishi Outlander, the KIA Sorento, Hyundai’s Ioniq, Toyota Prius Prime, Honda Clarity, and Ford’s Escape and based on the growing sales and number of models being offers, the EV market is expanding annually.

According to Statista, the US EV market is projected to reach more than $61Bn in 2023, with annual growth rates of 22.79% per annum, reaching around $131Bn by 2027 with more than 2 million unit sales. 

The government is implementing the charging infrastructure bill to develop more than 500 000 public charging stations is congruent with the expected growth and demand for Evs over the next decade.

And the federal tax credit for home charging stations is another incentive to boost the interest and uptake of PHEVs and EVs in general.

Key Takeaway

The PHEV is the perfect vehicle for people who want to drastically reduce their carbon footprint and fuel costs while still having all the power, convenience, and features of an internal combustion car.

With the projected growth, government support, and new models and technology. Plug-in hybrids will become more affordable and efficient over the next 5-10 years.

💡 Read next: BEV vs PHEV | What’s your best choice?