What is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle?
Schematic of a Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) can be charged with electricity like pure electric vehicles and run under engine power like hybrid electric vehicles. The combination offers increased driving range with potentially large fuel and cost savings, emissions reductions, and other benefits.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles currently do not qualify as alternative fuel vehicles under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. However, they do qualify for incentives.
Like hybrid electric vehicles, PHEVs are powered by two energy sources—an energy conversion unit (such as an internal combustion engine or fuel cell) and an energy storage device (usually batteries). The energy conversion unit can be powered by gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, or other fuels. The batteries can be charged by plugging into a standard 110-volt electrical outlet—a capability conventional hybrid electric vehicles do not have—in addition to being charged by the energy conversion unit when needed. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have a larger battery pack than conventional hybrid electric vehicles.
Electricity typically costs much less than gasoline or diesel fuels. Because PHEVs use electric power much of the time, and the batteries are recharged by plugging into the electrical grid, they can significantly reduce fuel use and costs.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are highly efficient—requiring little petroleum-based fuel to drive—and can use electricity derived from domestic fossil fuel, nuclear, and renewable sources. PHEVs also could be designed to use renewable and domestically produced alternative fuels instead of gasoline or diesel, further reducing U.S. reliance on imported petroleum.
Protecting Public Health and the Environment
Drivers can achieve 100+ MPG in a with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). A PHEV is essentially a regular hybrid with an extension cord. You can fill it up at the gas station, and you can plug it in to any 120-volt outlet. It's like having a second fuel tank that you always use first -- only you fill up at home, from a regular outlet, at an equivalent cost of under $1/gallon.
You don't have to plug it in. But when you do, your car essentially becomes an electric vehicle with a gas-tank backup. So you'll have a cleaner, cheaper, quieter car for your local travel, and the gas tank is always there should you need to drive longer distances.
* If your driving is mostly local, you'd almost never need to gas-up.
* Lifetime service costs are lower for a vehicle that is mainly electric.
* A PHEV can provide power to an entire home in the case of an outage; A fleet of PHEVs could power critical systems during emergencies.
Only PHEVs and battery EVs get cleaner as they get older - because the electric grid gets cleaner every decade.
PHEVs Are Cheaper to Run and Cheaper to Maintain .With a PHEV, your electric local travel drops to as little as 2-4 cents/mile.
We say above that you can fill up your "electric tank" for less than $1/gallon.
PHEVs are meant to plug-in at night. In many areas of the country, overnight power is available at a lower cost. PHEVs will generally recharge at night using excess power from plants that can't shut down completely -- so they don't add to the peak load.
Plug-ins cost more mainly because batteries are expensive. But battery technology is improving steadily (especially lithium-ion, with nano-technology versions also looking promising), and in large quantities current options are acceptable.
EERE-Us Department of Energy