Plug-in hybrids: These are the advantages and disadvantages of part-time electricity users

Kemit exhaust gases and have a long range? Modern e-cars can now travel up to 700 kilometers on one battery charge. However: the electric vehicles with the giant batteries are still very expensive. Some plug-in hybrids – half combustion, half electric – are cheaper to buy.

They also drive purely electrically on shorter journeys, and long journeys are not a problem for them either – even if they do burn fuel.

In plug-in hybrids, a battery feeds the electric drive – it can be charged via the socket. Depending on the driving situation and the charge level of the battery, the combustion engine starts up, usually a gasoline engine, more rarely a diesel one.

More plug-in hybrids than ever before

There is a subsidy of up to 6,750 euros for plug-in hybrids as part of the environmental bonus, which is less than for e-cars (9,000 euros). But the bottom line is that many of the dual-drive models are cheap – at least when compared to powerful electric cars.

An incentive that ignites: According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), four times as many cars with plug-in hybrid drives were registered last year – around 200,000 compared to almost 50,000 in 2019.

Accordingly, the variety of models has exploded: just a few years ago, the plug-ins could be counted on one hand, now the list of brands reads like an entire car catalog: from Audi to Ford and Hyundai to Mitsubishi and VW, more than two dozen brands are involved .

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According to the ADAC, the consumption of gasoline or diesel can be reduced by 30 to 80 percent with plug-ins, depending on the individual driving profile. However, this depends heavily on the driving profile, which requires regular charging.

Constantin Hack from the Auto Club Europa (ACE) adds: “For those who regularly only drive short distances, but also regularly long distances well over 200 kilometers, such as weekend commuters, a plug-in hybrid can make sense.”

Electric ranges of up to 100 kilometers

Even Tom Hinsken from development at Mercedes-Benz says: “If owners of plug-in models cannot charge their vehicle at home or at work, the technology makes little sense.”

If this option exists, however, with a purely electric range of 100 kilometers, as with the Mercedes C 300e, you can commute to and from work of 50 kilometers emission-free.

At BMW, too, individual types will soon be able to drive up to 100 kilometers purely on electric power. In general, plug-in hybrids have larger batteries than conventional hybrids, which can often only drive a few kilometers purely electrically. Before car buyers decide, they should keep their daily mileage in mind.

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With the plug-ins, however, there is no need to charge electricity on long journeys, such as going on vacation, because they use the internal combustion engine. That means more flexibility compared to the electric car.

Families take a break when it suits best – and not when the range in connection with a still poor charging network forces them to do so.

Plug-in hybrids – driving without fear of range

In any case, the range fear that often drives a pure electric car does not arise in the plug-in. Only the combustion engine is of course the less ecological mode of transport. The climatic advantages of plug-in hybrids are therefore limited, says ACE spokesman Hack.

Frequent drivers who cover 30,000 kilometers or more on the autobahn a year would still be better off choosing a diesel, says Wieland Bruch, press spokesman for electromobility at BMW.

Always recharge nicely: advantages and disadvantages of plug-in hybrids

BMW specifies the electric range for the 520e according to WLTP at 53 to 61 kilometers. The consumption of 1.8 to 1.3 liters · but only as a standard consumption value

Source: dpa-tmn / Daniel Kraus

According to ADAC, diesel is often still the more efficient and low-emission drive on frequent long journeys. Another problem with company car drivers is that those who do not receive a charge card from their company to fill up with electricity, but only a fuel card, have one less incentive to drive electrically.

Seldom quick charge option

After all, Mercedes has now dispensed with the driving mode in which the combustion engine charges the battery while driving.

“This charge mode is energetically inefficient. Plug-in models should charge at the socket, ”says Tom Hinsken. With an integrated fast charging system, the battery of the Mercedes models charges completely in around 30 minutes.

However, many plug-in models do not offer such a fast charging system, so that the battery has to be plugged into the socket for several hours. According to ADAC, only the batteries from Mercedes, Polestar, Land Rover and Mitsubishi can fully recharge during short stops, such as a typical shopping trip.

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A VW ID.3 stands in a car tower as part of a press tour of the Volkswagen Transparent Factory.  35 fully electric vehicles are manufactured at the Dresden site every day.  +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

In general, plug-in hybrids, like pure e-cars, can receive the e-license plate. If the emissions do not exceed 50 grams of CO2 per kilometer or the minimum electrical range is 40 kilometers, from 2022 it will be 60 kilometers.

According to ADAC, these are also some of the eligibility criteria for the environmental bonus. Any entry restrictions do not apply and there are advantages when parking, in some cases the bus lane can be used.

Do not be irritated by WLTP consumption

Prospective buyers should not be confused by the WLTP consumption, which is often given around two liters per 100 kilometers, depending on the electric range. According to Bruch, the legal measurement procedure serves to compare different models. The consumption values ​​in everyday life, however, are usually much higher.

But it depends on the use. In the test cycle of the “Auto Motor und Sport” magazine, most plug-in hybrids are close to the synthetic WLTP average consumption, according to Jens Dralle, Head of Test and Technology.

The cycle assumes 15,000 kilometers per year, of which 10,000 kilometers are short distances on which the electric motor works. “Plug-ins do not consume more fuel per se, it depends very much on the route,” says Dralle.

The electric car boom is above all a plug-in hybrid boom

The sale of electric cars in Germany is getting a strong tailwind from the coalition’s economic stimulus package. The coalition has doubled the purchase subsidies for e-cars to 6,000 euros by the end of 2021. However, not all electric cars are the same.

“In addition, a hybrid usually drives more efficiently than a pure combustion engine, even with an empty battery, since there is always some energy left in the battery, so that it can at least be used as a normal hybrid,” says Dralle. Not when accelerating, but for example on a leisurely motorway drive.

The disadvantages of many vehicles are not only a smaller trunk, but also, depending on the model, up to 400 kilograms more weight than the combustion engine.

“When the battery is empty, the combustion engine has to drag along the weight, which costs fuel when accelerating,” says Dralle. When purchasing a car with this technology, the decisive factor for him is, in addition to the driving profile, his own charging infrastructure, either at home or at work.

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