Plug-in Hybrid – Transition technology or unnecessary chase?


Hybrid consumer cars have been with us for over twenty years – at least since the first Toyota Prius hit the market in 1998 – and their image has evolved considerably. Upon arrival at the scene, for example, they were greeted as the car to see if you wanted to be seen saving the planet, and there were a lot of celebrities who wanted to be seen in things at the beginning of August. Over time, the vehicle of choice signaling virtue shifted from the Prius to the Tesla, but the Prius continued with considerable green credit, eventually spawning an entire line of Prius (Prii?) In the process. These days, however, the green crowd doesn’t want to talk about hybrids in a positive light, with some journalists calling the end of the ‘era’ of hybrids to come – now.

From climate advocate to internal combustion catalyst in just two decades, then. It’s pretty impressive, I think, but it made us think of plug-in hybrids. Was this really a transitional technology that could hold the hand of overly cautious consumers as they tiptoed away from internal combustion to battery power, or was it about flawed and compromised technology by definition – the worst of all possible worlds, combining pollution and internal combustion maintenance needs with the added weight and electrical complexity of the electric, with no advantage over one or the other?

Personally, I think the answer to that question depends on your definition of “profit”.


When Ford called me to get a preview of the new Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid truck for 2021, I made the same mistake a number of my fellow journalists / tree enthusiasts did: I approached it as a “green” vehicle whose goal was to make the F-150 more environmentally friendly.

If “going green” was the goal, it would be hard to call PowerBoost a success. Sure, it gets a better MPG than the EcoBoost or the 5.0L Coyote V8, but 25/26 MPG ratings won’t land the F-150 PowerBoost on the Sierra Club newsletter cover – especially in “How many cows do you think he died to line that interior?” King Ranch trim, you know? But, like I said, that was a mistake. Ford pickups equipped with PowerBoost didn’t were created to help green rural America. They were created to show all Ford truck buyers around the world that electricity is better by providing field capabilities that could not be matched by powered trucks alone. by internal combustion.

Just look at it all: 110 and 220 available straight from the bed of the truck, without the need for a secondary gas generator. Heck, you don’t need to keep your F-150 with PowerBoost running at all if there’s enough battery. In addition, the system is smart enough to restart the gasoline engine if the charge of the smaller battery (compared to a “pure” EV battery) becomes too low.

The benefits of having a rolling electrical outlet don’t stop on the job site, either. You can plug your motorhome into the bed of a Ford equipped with PowerBoost and glamp to your little heart’s content just about anywhere, without the sounds of a generator spoiling the scenery. If you’re a Starlink customer, you’ll even have Netflix or Peacock or whatever.

Ford is also not alone in making a practical rather than ideological argument for going electric. At Jeep, the Wrangler 4xe does such a good job of getting the general public to accept electrification that some of them don’t even realize it’s electrified to begin with!

This makes sense, of course, because the electrified Jeep Wrangler 4xe is by far the cheapest way to hire a new Jeep Wrangler.

Yes, part of this has to do with Chrysl – sorry, Stellantis is subsidizing the lease and part has to do with the $ 7,500 federal tax credit that most new 4xe buyers will be entitled to, but mostly it has to do with to do with the fact that the residue on the Jeep 4xe is a fantastic 74 percent after 3 years. Compare that to something like a Mercedes-Benz GLE, which is expected to lose over 40 percent of its value after just three years of ownership, and the Jeep’s very low cost of admission starts to make sense.

Additionally, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe offers some real off-road advantages over internal combustion Jeeps in its purely electric 4 Low setting, such as instant torque and ultra-predictable power with just one pedal that will make the 4xe trail run- rated much more accessible to off-road noobs.

Speaking of off-roading, it’s getting harder and harder to get out of internal combustion vehicles, thanks to increasingly common fire restrictions and the outright ban by some states of all-combustion engines. ground. In the 4xe, this is just not a problem. You can drive to Bentley Hills with your gasoline engine, then shut it off when you hit the trails and walk around with no fire.

In a way, anyway.


So, I guess I should answer that initial question about hybrid technology and whether it’s worth continuing. In an ideal world where consumers are educated and smart and everyone understands that electricity is electric fuel and you can get it almost anywhere? No of course not. Everyone should have an EV, because EVs are cleaner, quieter, and (most importantly) faster than a comparable internal combustion car in almost any real-world scenario that a typical American driver will face.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. Consumers mostly understand ‘regular and premium’, but even that is a little fuzzy, so getting them to understand CCS or CHAdeMO or fast charge or slow charge or kilowatt hours is going to be a big question. Even though they understood all of this, gasoline is marketed with 100-foot-high signs that light up at night and wave the American flag.

Matt Teske

That little tiny sign on the left? It’s also advertising fuel – in this case, electric fuel. Do you think the average consumer is also aware that they can get gasoline? and electric fuel at this location? What if they go 45 mph? 70?

I know, I know – there are some archaic laws preventing the for-profit sale of electricity at stake here that don’t make a business case for advertising electric fuel, but it’s a reality we are at. faced today. In this context, then, I think there is a place for PHEVs.

There’s also a lesson here for reviewers of plug-in hybrids that cling to their pearls when they learn that most PHEV buyers (gasp) don’t actually plug in their cars, and it’s the fact that plug-in hybrids are making the case for EV technology by presenting a number of benefits that matter to people right now, for the way they live, work and play today, and not in this utopian future where we have closed the 100 biggest polluting companies and where the choice between a Prius and a LEAF really makes the difference.

PHEVs meet people where they are and (as others have said) the fact that someone can pick a PHEV and drive it while burning less gasoline, and maybe even do a few all-electric trips. in the neighborhood, without changing their driving behavior or refueling in any other way, should be a compelling argument in itself. Also, what if my electrified pickup can meet my needs better than my old V8 truck? All the more reason to try an F-150 Lightning EV next time… maybe at the end of my lease.

[Images: Chrysler, Ford, Matt Teske]

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