FAQ: Plug-in hybrid vehicles
NF Fleet makes sure that you are well equipped to make the right decision about your company’s car policy regarding plug-in hybrid vehicles. To provide you with a better understanding of plug-in-hybrids and a successful implementation and use of these, we have gathered the most frequently asked questions about plug-in hybrid cars below.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are the perfect solution in the transition from traditional petrol and diesel cars to electric cars. This is because PHEVs offer a great balance between TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), usability, and CO2 reduction. However, this only applies if the hybrid technology in the PHEV is utilized. It is important that you as a fleet manager possesses a good understanding of plug-in hybrids as it can make a big difference in the actual TCO and CO2 emission for the employees who drive PHEVs.
When are PHEVs appropriate and for which drivers?
The plug-in hybrid technology enables the vehicles to cover a distance from 30 to 50 kilometers on pure electric mode depending on the size of their battery. The PHEVs are then more appropriate for drivers who live in urban areas with short distances to cover, e.g., office-based employees. Giving a PHEV to an employee who on a daily basis covers many kilometers on the freeway can be very counterproductive due to the weight of the battery and the extra fuel consumption - and thereby greater CO2 emission - it will generate when the electric motor is not being used.
Identifying the different types of driver profiles is a key element in determining if PHEVs make sense for your fleet. Some basic questions should be asked to the drivers:
- What is the distance from your home to the office?
- What is your average daily mileage?
- Do you drive long or short distances, and do you have the option to charge between your trips?
- Do you mainly drive in the city, on highways, or on freeways?
- Is it possible for you to charge your car by your home or by the office?
How can I make sure my drivers will charge as expected?
Ensuring that the PHEVs will be used in an optimum way is you and your company’s responsibility. The best way for an employer to ensure that the drivers will use their PHEVs as they should, especially for professional use, is to provide the right access to a good charging infrastructure (i.e., installing office chargers, providing access to public network, help with the installation of home chargers) and cover all the expenses related to electricity consumption.
How can I educate my drivers?
We recommend that all drivers who want to order a PHEV sign some rules of engagement prior to the delivery. This document should highlight what is expected of them when driving a PHEV. Furthermore, both monitoring and reporting of the fuel and energy consumption is a key element as it enables you to help the drivers adjust their behavior during the lease term.
How can I select the right PHEVs for my company’s car policy?
And should I apply the same criteria for all PHEVs irrespective of their size?
Before introducing PHEVs in the fleet, the first milestone is to understand the real usages of the vehicles and the driver’s readiness to adapt. PHEVs will not fit all profiles and some models must be introduced in the car policy with lot of care as inappropriate usage could generate significant increases in the fleet costs. This is especially true for large and heavy SUVs whose fuel consumption can easily exceed 10 km per liter on an empty battery.
What are the benefits of choosing PHEVs versus a standard hybrid vehicle?
A PHEV can cover significant distances (40-50 km) on full electric mode, even at quite high speeds (120-130 km/h), which a standard hybrid will never be able to do. From an employer perspective, putting this technology in the hands of its drivers can be a nice opportunity to reduce the fuel spends and CO2 emissions – of course not until it has been ensured that these drivers fit the right profiles.
Nevertheless, standard hybrids can also be the right alternative for some usages and PHEVs should not discredit the benefits of standard hybrids.
I read everywhere that PHEVs are the new Dieselgate. Why should I choose them?
Once again, it is a matter of usage. All the articles we can find in the press which highlight the dark side of PHEVs describe the typical use case of companies who have chosen PHEVs for the tax benefits they bring without considering the negative impact it can have if used incorrectly.
This is the result of the recent adoption of the hybrid technology. All new technology has its own learning curve, and time was needed before understanding the scenarios when a PHEV brings real efficiency.
Today, we are dealing with a more complex environment as it is not just a matter of diesel versus petrol anymore. Therefore, please keep in mind that PHEVs can be the right answer to some specific usages, just like electric, hybrid, petrol, or even diesel vehicles may be, as well.
What is the ideal mileage scenario?
It really depends on the profile of the drivers, but our rule of thumb is that PHEVs are not a good fit for those drivers who are doing high daily mileages on high-speed roads. PHEVs are best suited for urban or peri-urban usages and are ideal for people who are using their company car for commuting purposes or short trips with the ability to charge while the vehicle is not being used.
Beyond this annual mileage, it is also important to identify how those kilometers are accumulated. The best professional use case is short distances (<50km) with the ability to charge while the car is not being used.
How can I estimate the real TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of PHEVs if they are implemented in the fleet?
Your advisors from NF Fleet can provide detailed TCO analyses on different powertrains and assess whether it makes sense for your fleet to switch for one or another alternative powertrain.
For PHEVs, it is important to identify the share of electric consumption in the energy mix between electricity and petrol/diesel. This share is linked to the mileage driven, because the more you drive, the more you will use the thermic engine. On fuel consumption, we also recommend an increase in the theoretical data.
What are the key Dos & Don’ts for a successful PHEV implementation?
- Assess driver readiness and define driver profiles (based on a driver survey).
- Ensure that drivers have access to the right charging infrastructure.
- Cover all electricity expenses of the drivers.
- Educate the drivers.
- Monitor and report on energy consumption regularly.
- Be dazzled by the low estimated fuel costs as these are theoretical.
- Consider PHEVs as a short cut for the drivers to save money on their taxes without keeping in mind that they will most likely have extra fuel costs.
- Make PHEVs eligible for all drivers.
- Provide PHEVs without charging solutions.
Can PHEVs be a helpful alternative for my fleet?
The short answer is yes. In the right hands, a PHEV can be much more efficient than a petrol or diesel car and more reassuring for drivers than an electric car - especially in this current transition period.
PHEVs can contribute to saving money on taxes and energy consumption and will therefore result in a significant positive impact on the TCO at the end of the month. Do not forget that in the meantime, the TCO on petrol and diesel vehicles will increase because of the increase in production costs and lower residual values due to the introduction of diesel bans or low emission zones in the big European cities. Here, the main objective is to find the right balance in the powertrain mix.
Certain vans are also offered in plug-in hybrid versions. Is that a good option?
As far as we hear from the market and the manufacturers, PHEVs are not really considered an alternative in this segment yet as the weight of the vehicle negatively impacts the electric range.
The manufacturers are currently investing a lot of time and money in electric vehicle technology and future hydrogen solutions. Vans have completely different usages than passenger cars, and plug-in hybrid vans should be used differently than diesel vans.
The best greener alternative for vans currently is the use of solar power. This can result in great savings on fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and time spent. At NF Fleet, we offer guidance on and professional installing of solar power solutions for vans. Read more here.
Common questions from company car drivers
Do I need to charge the PHEV and how often?
Yes! To be efficient, a PHEV must be plugged in as often as possible. It is by maximizing the number of electric kilometers that the PHEV becomes efficient and environmentally friendly. If it is possible, the most optimum solution is a charging point at the home address. If this is not possible for the driver, a subscription for the public charging network is a good option.
Do I need to drive differently?
Yes! To maximize the time spent using the electric engine and to lower fuel consumption as well as CO2 emissions, it is necessary to adopt a softer driving style. This will also become quite natural over time as electric vehicles tend to change one's driving style, bring less aggressiveness, and stimulate more anticipation.
Some behavior should also be avoided when driving a PHEV. For example, the Battery Charging Mode, which uses the thermic engine to charge the battery, should not be used. This mode consumes a lot of fuel and does not bring any specific benefit to the driver, except in the case of high necessity, e.g., when entering low emission zones.