A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (also called PHEV) is a car that has batteries that can be recharged through a conventional outlet. PHEVs have both traditional internal combustion engines and batteries that can fully power the car by themselves. The advantage of PHEVs is that when they run on their electric charge only it is estimated they cost about 20-30% of what they would running on gas. Not only does this benefit the consumer, it is also great news for the environment, as these cars reduce air pollution and the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
The future is bright for plug in hybrids. The first PHEVs by large commercial carmakers will be produced in 2009, with even more companies entering the market in a large way in 2010. Even today its possible to have a PHEV if you already have a conventional hybrid vehicle through the use of easily obtained conversion kits. In fact, the Prius you saw today may be a converted PHEV!
Plug-in hybrids are often driven in what is called charge-depleting mode at first, exclusively running from cheaper and cleaner battery power. At a certain level of the battery’s depletion, the internal combustion engine kicks in. More advanced PHEVs may be able to use what is called blended mode, driving in different modes depending on the maximum energy efficiency that can be achieved on a long trip. As of now it is unclear what the all electric range will be for new PHEVs, but it will be easy to tell: It is likely that PHEVs will come in denominations such as a “PHEV-50” indicating a 50 mile all-electric range.
In parts of Europe recharging spots in parking areas are being installed. These are pay-per use outlets for use by people who drive PHEVs and want to get a full charge for their ride home or to their next destination. In fact, a major car maker has plans to install an electric recahrging spot infastructure in parts of Europe for its fleet of PHEVs. It is possible that as PHEVs get more mainsteam, many hotels and places of business may have recharging stations in their parking lots as well
Despite the fact that carbon emissions are produced when electricity is created, PHEVs are still much less polluting than conventional cars and even regular hybrids. If clean coal, nuclear, or other clean means of producing electricity become more widespead, this difference will be even more pronounced. In addition, PHEVs help create a more efficient and distributed use of electricity production, because they are often recharged during off peak periods (e.g. at night). Finally, a little known but powerful potential use of PHEVs is as a source of emergency power for the home.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are soon to become available in the mass commercial market, and could be a significant means for the reduction of our dependence of fossil fuel, our contribution to global warming, and the financial stress on people who have to fill their tanks with gas. For these reasons we can all hope that PHEVs develop into a preferred and widespread means of transportation.