A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid electric vehicle whose battery can be recharged by plugging it into an external source of electric power, as well by its on-board engine and generator. Most PHEVs are passenger cars, but there are also PHEV versions of commercial vehicles and vans, utility trucks, buses, trains, motorcycles, scooters, and military vehicles.
Similarly to all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids displace emissions from the car tailpipe to the generators powering the electricity grid. These generators may be renewable, or may have lower emission than an internal combustion engine. Charging the battery from the grid can cost less than using the on-board engine, helping to reduce operating cost.
Mass-produced plug-in hybrids were available to the public in China and the United States in 2010. By the end of 2016, there were over 30 models of series-production highway legal plug-in hybrids for retail sales. Plug-in hybrid cars are available mainly in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and China. Top-selling models were the Chevrolet Volt family, the Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV, and the Toyota Prius PHV.
As of December 2016, the global stock of plug-in hybrid cars totaled almost 800,000 units, out of over two million light-duty plug-in electric cars on the world roads at the end of 2016. As of December 2015, the United States ranked as the world’s largest plug-in hybrid car market with a stock of 193,770 units, followed by China with 86,580 vehicles, the Netherlands with 78,160, Japan with 55,470 units, and the UK with 28,250.
A plug-in hybrid’s all-electric range is designated by PHEV-[miles] or PHEV[kilometers]km in which the number represents the distance the vehicle can travel on battery power alone. For example, a PHEV-20 can travel twenty miles (32 km) without using its combustion engine, so it may also be designated as a PHEV32km.
For these cars to be battery operated, they go through charging processes that use different currents. These currents are known as Alternating Current (AC) used for on board chargers and Direct Current (DC) used for external charging.
Other popular terms sometimes used for plug-in hybrids are “grid-connected hybrids”, “Gas-Optional Hybrid Electric Vehicle” (GO-HEV) or simply “gas-optional hybrids”. GM calls its Chevrolet Volt series plug-in hybrid an “Extended-Range Electric Vehicle”.
PHEVs are based on the same three basic powertrain architectures of conventional hybrids; a series hybrid is propelled by electric motors only, a parallel hybrid is propelled both by its engine and by electric motors operating concurrently, and a series-parallel hybrid operates in either mode. While a plain hybrid vehicle charges its battery from its engine only, a plug-in hybrid can obtain a significant amount of the energy required to recharge its battery from external sources.
The battery charger can be on-board or external to the vehicle. The process for an on-board charger is best explained as AC power being converted into DC power, resulting in the battery being charged. On-board chargers are limited in capacity by their weight and size, and by the limited capacity of general-purpose AC outlets. Dedicated off-board chargers can be as large and powerful as the user can afford, but require returning to the charger; high-speed chargers may be shared by multiple vehicles.
Using the electric motor’s inverter allows the motor windings to act as the transformer coils, and the existing high-power inverter as the AC-to-DC charger. As these components are already required on the car, and are designed to handle any practical power capability, they can be used to create a very powerful form of on-board charger with no significant additional weight or size. AC Propulsion uses this charging method, referred to as “reductive charging”.
Modes of operation
A plug-in hybrid operates in charge-depleting and charge-sustaining modes. Combinations of these two modes are termed blended mode or mixed-mode. These vehicles can be designed to drive for an extended range in all-electric mode, either at low speeds only or at all speeds. These modes manage the vehicle’s battery discharge strategy, and their use has a direct effect on the size and type of battery required:
Charge-depleting mode allows a fully charged PHEV to operate exclusively (or depending on the vehicle, almost exclusively, except during hard acceleration) on electric power until its battery state of charge is depleted to a predetermined level, at which time the vehicle’s internal combustion engine or fuel cell will be engaged. This period is the vehicle’s all-electric range. This is the only mode that a battery electric vehicle can operate in, hence their limited range.
Mixed mode describes a trip using a combination of multiple modes. For example, a car may begin a trip in low speed charge-depleting mode, then enter onto a freeway and operate in blended mode. The driver might exit the freeway and drive without the internal combustion engine until all-electric range is exhausted. The vehicle can revert to a charge sustaining-mode until the final destination is reached. This contrasts with a charge-depleting trip which would be driven within the limits of a PHEV’s all-electric range.
Electric power storage
The optimum battery size varies depending on whether the aim is to reduce fuel consumption, running costs, or emissions, but a recent study concluded that “The best choice of PHEV battery capacity depends critically on the distance that the vehicle will be driven between charges. Our results suggest that for urban driving conditions and frequent charges every 10 miles or less, a low-capacity PHEV sized with an AER (all electric range) of about 7 miles would be a robust choice for minimizing gasoline consumption, cost, and greenhouse gas emissions. For less frequent charging, every 20–100 miles, PHEVs release fewer GHGs, but HEVs are more cost effective. ”
PHEVs typically require deeper battery charging and discharging cycles than conventional hybrids. Because the number of full cycles influences battery life, this may be less than in traditional HEVs which do not deplete their batteries as fully. However, some authors argue that PHEVs will soon become standard in the automobile industry. Design issues and trade-offs against battery life, capacity, heat dissipation, weight, costs, and safety need to be solved. Advanced battery technology is under development, promising greater energy densities by both mass and volume, and battery life expectancy is expected to increase.
The cathodes of some early 2007 lithium-ion batteries are made from lithium-cobalt metal oxide. This material is expensive, and cells made with it can release oxygen if overcharged. If the cobalt is replaced with iron phosphates, the cells will not burn or release oxygen under any charge. At early 2007 gasoline and electricity prices, the a break-even point is reached after six to ten years of operation. The payback period may be longer for plug-in hybrids, because of their larger, more expensive batteries.
Nickel–metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries can be recycled; Toyota, for example, has a recycling program in place under which dealers are paid a US$200 credit for each battery returned. However, plug-in hybrids typically use larger battery packs than comparable conventional hybrids, and thus require more resources. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has suggested that utilities could purchase used batteries for backup and load leveling purposes. They state that while these used batteries may be no longer usable in vehicles, their residual capacity still has significant value. More recently, General Motors (GM) has said it has been “approached by utilities interested in using recycled Volt batteries as a power storage system, a secondary market that could bring down the cost of the Volt and other plug-in vehicles for consumers”.
Ultracapacitors (or “supercapacitors”) are used in some plug-in hybrids, such as AFS Trinity’s concept prototype, to store rapidly available energy with their high power density, in order to keep batteries within safe resistive heating limits and extend battery life. The CSIRO’s UltraBattery combines a supercapacitor and a lead acid battery in a single unit, creating a hybrid car battery that lasts longer, costs less and is more powerful than current technologies used in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).
Conversions of production vehicles
There are several companies that are converting fossil fuel non-hybrid vehicles to plug-in hybrids:
Aftermarket conversion of an existing production hybrid to a plug-in hybrid ) typically involves increasing the capacity of the vehicle’s battery pack and adding an on-board AC-to-DC charger. Ideally, the vehicle’s powertrain software would be reprogrammed to make full use of the battery pack’s additional energy storage capacity and power output.
Many early plug-in hybrid electric vehicle conversions have been based on the Toyota Prius. Some of the systems have involved replacement of the vehicle’s original NiMH battery pack and its electronic control unit. Others add an additional battery back onto the original battery pack.
Comparison to non-plug-in hybrids
Fuel efficiency and petroleum displacement
Plug-in hybrids have the potential to be even more efficient than conventional hybrids because a more limited use of the PHEV’s internal combustion engine may allow the engine to be used at closer to its maximum efficiency. While a Prius is likely to convert fuel to motive energy on average at about 30% efficiency (well below the engine’s 38% peak efficiency), the engine of a PHEV-70 would be likely to operate far more often near its peak efficiency because the batteries can serve the modest power needs at times when the combustion engine would be forced to run well below its peak efficiency. The actual efficiency achieved depends on losses from electricity generation, inversion, battery charging/discharging, the motor controller and motor itself, the way a vehicle is used (its duty cycle), and the opportunities to recharge by connecting to the electrical grid.
Each kilowatt hour of battery capacity in use will displace up to 50 U.S. gallons (190 l; 42 imp gal) of petroleum fuels per year (gasoline or diesel fuels). Also, electricity is multi-sourced and, as a result, it gives the greatest degree of energy resilience.
The actual fuel economy for PHEVs depends on their powertrain operating modes, their all-electric range, and the amount of driving between charges. If no gasoline is used the miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPG-e) depends only on the efficiency of the electric system. The first mass production PHEV available in the U.S. market, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, with an EPA rated all-electric range of 35 miles (56 km), and an additional gasoline-only extended range of 344 miles (554 km) has an EPA combined city/highway fuel economy of 93 MPG-e in all-electric mode, and 37 mpg‑US (6.4 L/100 km; 44 mpg‑imp) in gasoline-only mode, for an overall combined gas-electric fuel economy rating of 60 mpg‑US (3.9 L/100 km; 72 mpg‑imp) equivalent (MPG-e). The EPA also included in the Volt’s fuel economy label a table showing fuel economy and electricity consumed for five different scenarios: 30, 45, 60 and 75 miles (121 km) driven between a full charge, and a never charge scenario. According to this table the fuel economy goes up to 168 mpg‑US (1.40 L/100 km; 202 mpg‑imp) equivalent (MPG-e) with 45 miles (72 km) driven between full charges.
For the more comprehensive fuel economy and environment label that will be mandatory in the U.S. beginning in model year 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two separate fuel economy labels for plug-in hybrids because of their design complexity, as PHEVS can operate in two or three operating modes: all-electric, blended, and gasoline-only. One label is for series hybrid or extended range electric vehicle (like the Chevy Volt), with all-electric and gasoline-only modes; and a second label for blended mode or series-parallel hybrid, that includes a combination of both gasoline and plug-in electric operation; and gasoline only, like a conventional hybrid vehicle.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) developed their recommended practice in 1999 for testing and reporting the fuel economy of hybrid vehicles and included language to address PHEVs. An SAE committee is currently working to review procedures for testing and reporting the fuel economy of PHEVs. The Toronto Atmospheric Fund tested ten retrofitted plug-in hybrid vehicles that achieved an average of 5.8 litres per 100 kilometre or 40.6 miles per gallon over six months in 2008, which was considered below the technology’s potential.
In real world testing using normal drivers, some Prius PHEV conversions may not achieve much better fuel economy than HEVs. For example, a plug-in Prius fleet, each with a 30 miles (48 km) all-electric range, averaged only 51 mpg‑US (4.6 L/100 km; 61 mpg‑imp) in a 17,000-mile (27,000 km) test in Seattle, and similar results with the same kind of conversion battery models at Google’s RechargeIT initiative. Moreover, the additional battery pack costs US$10,000–US$11,000.
A study published in 2014 by researchers from Lamar University, Iowa State University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory compared the operating costs of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) of various electric ranges (10, 20, 30, and 40 miles) with conventional gasoline vehicles and hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) for different payback periods, considering different charging infrastructure deployment levels and gasoline prices. The study concluded that:
PHEVs save around 60% or 40% in energy costs, compared with conventional gasoline vehicles and HEVs, respectively. However, for drivers with significant daily vehicle miles traveled (DVMT), hybrid vehicles may be even a better choice than plug-in hybrids with a range of 40 mi (64 km), particularly when there is lack of public charging infrastructure.
The incremental battery cost of large-battery plug-in hybrids is difficult to justify based on the incremental savings of PHEVs’ operating costs unless a subsidy is offered for large-battery PHEVs.
When the price of gasoline increases from US$4 per gallon to US$5 per gallon, the number of drivers who benefit from a larger battery increases significantly. If the gas price is US$3, a plug-in hybrid with a range of 10 mi (16 km) is the least costly option even if the battery cost is $200/kWh.
Although quick chargers can reduce charging time, they contribute little to energy cost savings for PHEVs, as opposed to Level-2 chargers.
Cost of batteries
Disadvantages of plug-in hybrids include the additional cost, weight, and size of a larger battery pack. According to a 2010 study by the National Research Council, the cost of a lithium-ion battery pack is about US$1,700/kW•h of usable energy, and considering that a PHEV-10 requires about 2.0 kW•h and a PHEV-40 about 8 kW•h, the estimated manufacturer cost of the battery pack for a PHEV-10 is around US$3,000 and it goes up to US$14,000 for a PHEV-40. According to the same study, even though costs are expected to decline by 35% by 2020, market penetration is expected to be slow and therefore PHEVs are not expected to significantly impact oil consumption or carbon emissions before 2030, unless a fundamental breakthrough in battery technologies occurs.
According to the 2010 NRC study, although a mile driven on electricity is cheaper than one driven on gasoline, lifetime fuel savings are not enough to offset plug-ins’ high upfront costs, and it will take decades before the break even point is achieved. Furthermore, hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies and incentives are likely to be required to achieve a rapid plug-in market penetration in the U.S.
|Cost comparison between a PHEV-10 and a PHEV-40
(prices for 2010)
compared to conventional
of battery pack
upgrade at home
to a HEV
to a HEV(2)
|PHEV-10||Prius Plug-in(1)||Parallel||US$6,300||US$3,300||More than US$1,000||20%||70 gallons|
|PHEV-40||Chevy Volt||Series||US$18,100||US$14,000||More than US$1,000||55%||200 gallons|
|Notes: (1) Considers the HEV technology used in the Toyota Prius with a larger battery pack. The Prius Plug-in estimated all-electric range is 14.5 mi (23 km)
(2) Assuming 15,000 miles per year.
A 2013 study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy reported that battery costs came down from US$1,300 per kilowatt hour in 2007 to US$500 per kilowatt hour in 2012. The U.S. Department of Energy has set cost targets for its sponsored battery research of US$300 per kilowatt hour in 2015 and US$125 per kilowatt hour by 2022. Cost reductions through advances in battery technology and higher production volumes will allow plug-in electric vehicles to be more competitive with conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.
A study published in 2011 by the Belfer Center, Harvard University, found that the gasoline costs savings of plug-in electric cars over the vehicles’ lifetimes do not offset their higher purchase prices. This finding was estimated comparing their lifetime net present value at 2010 purchase and operating costs for the U.S. market, and assuming no government subidies. According to the study estimates, a PHEV-40 is US$5,377 more expensive than a conventional internal combustion engine, while a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is US$4,819 more expensive. The study also examined how this balance will change over the next 10 to 20 years, assuming that battery costs will decrease while gasoline prices increase. Under the future scenarios considered, the study found that BEVs will be significantly less expensive than conventional cars (US$1,155 to US$7,181 cheaper), while PHEVs, will be more expensive than BEVs in almost all comparison scenarios, and only less expensive than conventional cars in a scenario with very low battery costs and high gasoline prices. BEVs are simpler to build and do not use liquid fuel, while PHEVs have more complicated powertrains and still have gasoline-powered engines.
Emissions shifted to electric plants
Increased pollution is expected to occur in some areas with the adoption of PHEVs, but most areas will experience a decrease. A study by the ACEEE predicts that widespread PHEV use in heavily coal-dependent areas would result in an increase in local net sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions, given emissions levels from most coal plants currently supplying power to the grid. Although clean coal technologies could create power plants which supply grid power from coal without emitting significant amounts of such pollutants, the higher cost of the application of these technologies may increase the price of coal-generated electricity. The net effect on pollution is dependent on the fuel source of the electrical grid (fossil or renewable, for example) and the pollution profile of the power plants themselves. Identifying, regulating and upgrading single point pollution source such as a power plant—or replacing a plant altogether—may also be more practical. From a human health perspective, shifting pollution away from large urban areas may be considered a significant advantage.
According to a 2009 study by The National Academy of Science, “Electric vehicles and grid-dependent (plug-in) hybrid vehicles showed somewhat higher nonclimate damages than many other technologies.” Efficiency of plug-in hybrids is also impacted by the overall efficiency of electric power transmission. Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 7.2% in 1995 and 6.5% in 2007. By life cycle analysis of air pollution emissions, natural gas vehicles are currently the lowest emitter.
Tiered rate structure for electric bills
The additional electrical consumption to recharge the plug-in vehicles could push many households in areas that do not have off-peak tariffs into the higher priced tier and negate financial benefits. Customers under such tariffs could see significant savings by being careful about when the vehicle was charged, for example, by using a timer to restrict charging to off-peak hours. Thus, an accurate comparison of the benefit requires each household to evaluate its current electrical usage tier and tariffs weighed against the cost of gasoline and the actual observed operational cost of electric mode vehicle operation.
Greenhouse gas emissions
The effect of PHEVs on greenhouse emissions is complex. Plug-in hybrid vehicles operating on all-electric mode do not emit harmful tailpipe pollutants from the onboard source of power. The clean air benefit is usually local because depending on the source of the electricity used to recharge the batteries, air pollutant emissions are shifted to the location of the generation plants. In the same way, PHEVs do not emit greenhouse gases from the onboard source of power, but from the point of view of a well-to-wheel assessment, the extent of the benefit also depends on the fuel and technology used for electricity generation. From the perspective of a full life cycle analysis, the electricity used to recharge the batteries must be generated from zero-emission sources such as renewable (e.g. wind power, solar energy or hydroelectricity) or nuclear power for PEVs to have almost none or zero well-to-wheel emissions. On the other hand, when PEVs are recharged from coal-fired plants, they usually produce slightly more greenhouse gas emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles. In the case of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle when operating in hybrid mode with assistance of the internal combustion engine, tailpipe and greenhouse emissions are lower in comparison to conventional cars because of their higher fuel economy.
Life cycle energy and emissions assessments
In 2009 researchers at Argonne National Laboratory adapted their GREET model to conduct a full well-to-wheels (WTW) analysis of energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for several scenarios, considering different on-board fuels and different sources of electricity generation for recharging the vehicle batteries. Three US regions were selected for the analysis, California, New York, and Illinois, as these regions include major metropolitan areas with significant variations in their energy generation mixes. The full cycle analysis results were also reported for the US generation mix and renewable electricity to examine cases of average and clean mixes, respectively This 2009 study showed a wide spread of petroleum use and GHG emissions among the different fuel production technologies and grid generation mixes. The following table summarizes the main results:
|PHEV well-to-wheels Petroleum energy use and greenhouse gas emissions
for an all-electric range between 10 and 40 miles (16 and 64 km) with different on-board fuels.(1)
(as a % relative to an internal combustion engine vehicle that uses fossil fuel gasoline)
and Ultra-low sulfur diesel
|E85 fuel from
corn and switchgrass
|Petroleum energy use reduction||40–60%||70–90%||more than 90%|
|GHG emissions reduction(2)||30–60%||40–80%||10–100%|
|Source: Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory (2009). See Table 1. Notes: (1) Simulations for year 2020
with PHEV model year 2015. (2) No direct or indirect land use changes included in the WTW analysis for bio-mass fuel feedstocks.
The Argonne study found that PHEVs offered reductions in petroleum energy use as compared with regular hybrid electric vehicles. More petroleum energy savings and also more GHG emissions reductions were realized as the all-electric range increased, except when electricity used to recharged was dominated by coal or oil-fired power generation. As expected, electricity from renewable sources realized the largest reductions in petroleum energy use and GHG emissions for all PHEVs as the all-electric range increased. The study also concluded that plug-in vehicles that employ biomass-based fuels (biomass-E85 and -hydrogen) may not realize GHG emissions benefits over regular hybrids if power generation is dominated by fossil sources.
A 2008 study by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory analyzed oil use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of plug-in hybrids relative to hybrid electric vehicles under several scenarios for years 2020 and 2030. The study considered the mix of power sources for 13 U.S. regions that would be used during recharging of vehicles, generally a combination of coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, and to a lesser extend renewable energy. A 2010 study conducted at Argonne National Laboratory reached similar findings, concluding that PHEVs will reduce oil consumption but could produce very different greenhouse gas emissions for each region depending on the energy mix used to generate the electricity to recharge the plug-in hybrids.
Environmental Protection Agency
In October 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published the 2014 edition of its annual report “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends”. For the first time, the report presents an analysis of the impact of alternative fuel vehicles, with emphasis in plug-in electric vehicles because as their market share is approaching 1%, PEVs began to have a measurable impact on the U.S. overall new vehicle fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
EPA’s report included the analysis of 12 all-electric passengers cars and 10 plug-in hybrids available in the market as model year 2014. For purposes of an accurate estimation of emissions, the analysis took into consideration the differences in operation between those PHEVs like the Chevrolet Volt that can operate in all-electric mode without using gasoline, and those that operate in a blended mode like the Toyota Prius PHV, which uses both energy stored in the battery and energy from the gasoline tank to propel the vehicle, but that can deliver substantial all-electric driving in blended mode. In addition, since the all-electric range of plug-in hybrids depends on the size of the battery pack, the analysis introduced a utility factor as a projection, on average, of the percentage of miles that will be driven using electricity (in electric only and blended modes) by an average driver. The following table shows the overall EV/hybrid fuel economy expressed in terms of miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (mpg-e) and the utility factor for the ten MY2014 plug-in hybrids available in the U.S. market. The study used the utility factor (since in pure EV mode there are no tailpipe emissions) and the EPA best estimate of the CO2 tailpipe emissions produced by these vehicles in real world city and highway operation based on the EPA 5-cycle label methodology, using a weighted 55% city/45% highway driving. The results are shown in the following table.
In addition, the EPA accounted for the upstream CO2 emissions associated with the production and distribution of electricity required to charge the PHEVs. Since electricity production in the United States varies significantly from region to region, the EPA considered three scenarios/ranges with the low end of the range corresponding to the California powerplant emissions factor, the middle of the range represented by the national average powerplant emissions factor, and the upper end of the range corresponding to the powerplant emissions factor for the Rockies. The EPA estimates that the electricity GHG emission factors for various regions of the country vary from 346 g CO2/kW-hr in California to 986 g CO2/kW-hr in the Rockies, with a national average of 648 g CO2/kW-hr. The following table shows the tailpipe emissions and the combined tailpipe and upstream emissions for each of the 10 MY 2014 PHEVs available in the U.S. market.
National Bureau of Economic Research
Most emission analysis use average emissions rates across regions instead of marginal generation at different times of the day. The former approach does not take into account the generation mix within interconnected electricity markets and shifting load profiles throughout the day. An analysis by three economist affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), published in November 2014, developed a methodology to estimate marginal emissions of electricity demand that vary by location and time of day across the United States. The study used emissions and consumption data for 2007 through 2009, and used the specifications for the Chevrolet Volt (all-electric range of 35 mi (56 km)). The analysis found that marginal emission rates are more than three times as large in the Upper Midwest compared to the Western U.S., and within regions, rates for some hours of the day are more than twice those for others. Applying the results of the marginal analysis to plug-in electric vehicles, the NBER researchers found that the emissions of charging PEVs vary by region and hours of the day. In some regions, such as the Western U.S. and Texas, CO2 emissions per mile from driving PEVs are less than those from driving a hybrid car. However, in other regions, such as the Upper Midwest, charging during the recommended hours of midnight to 4 a.m. implies that PEVs generate more emissions per mile than the average car currently on the road. The results show a fundamental tension between electricity load management and environmental goals as the hours when electricity is the least expensive to produce tend to be the hours with the greatest emissions. This occurs because coal-fired units, which have higher emission rates, are most commonly used to meet base-level and off-peak electricity demand; while natural gas units, which have relatively low emissions rates, are often brought online to meet peak demand. This pattern of fuel shifting explains why emission rates tend to be higher at night and lower during periods of peak demand in the morning and evening.
Source from Wikipedia