Three of the most popular plug-in hybrids in 2020 all emitted more CO2 than advertised when tested in the real world, according to tests commissioned by European environmental NGO Transport & Environment (T&E). T&E said governments should therefore end the purchase subsidies and tax breaks for plug-in hybrids.
T&E has commissioned Emissions Analytics to test three of the most popular PHEVs sold in 2019: a BMW X5 (longest EV range PHEV available), a Volvo XC60 and the Mitsubishi Outlander. Among the findings:
The BMW X5, Volvo XC60 and Mitsubishi Outlander emitted 28-89% more CO2 than claimed when tested by Emissions Analytics on a fully charged battery in optimal conditions.
On an empty battery, they emitted three to eight times more than official values.
When driven in battery-charging mode, which could become more common as motorists charge up ahead of using electric mode in low-emissions zones, the PHEVs emitted three to 12 times more.
Plug-in hybrids are fake electric cars, built for lab tests and tax breaks, not real driving. Our tests show that even in optimal conditions, with a full battery, the cars pollute more than advertised. Unless you drive them softly, carbon emissions can go off the charts. Governments should stop subsidising these cars with billions in taxpayers’ money.—Julia Poliscanova, senior director for clean vehicles at T&E
Once the battery is flat, the three plug-in hybrids can only drive 11-23km in engine mode before they overshoot their official CO2 emissions per km, T&E estimates. This is contrary to the misleading carmaker narrative that PHEVs on sale today are suited for long journeys, T&E said.
While carmakers blame customers for using the engine too much, the PHEV models on sale today often lack the necessary EV power, range or charging speed, T&E argued. For example, two of the three cars tested, the BMW X5 and Volvo XC60, cannot fast charge. Even the Outlander’s manual states that the engine may start if the PHEV system is too hot or too cold, if quick acceleration is applied, or if the air conditioning is operating.
Selling plug-in hybrids makes it easier for carmakers to meet their EU car CO2 standards as PHEVs are currently given additional credits. T&E said the EU should end this weakening of the regulation when it reviews the targets for 2025 and 2030 next year.
Transport & Environment (2020). A new Dieselgate in the making.