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In Defense Of PHEVs (Probably Part One)

Within two weeks in June, I read two articles on CleanTechnica that somehow made me blush a little. The first one openly said the era of PHEVs must end (something I have said a few times myself, to be honest) and the second one was on SUVs being responsible for growing transport emissions in the EU. The reason I blushed was that a few days before the first of the two articles came out, I had decided to buy (or, to be precise, long-term hire/rent) a PHEV SUV, the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4.

Within two weeks in June, I read two articles on CleanTechnica that somehow made me blush a little. The first one openly said the era of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) must end (something I have said a few times myself, to be honest) and the second one was on SUVs being responsible for growing transport emissions in the EU. The reason I blushed was that a few days before the first of the two articles came out, I had decided to buy (or, to be precise, long-term hire/rent) a PHEV SUV, the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4.

Isn’t it ironic that after years of preaching about EVs and looking down when asked about my own car (I was driving a diesel Volvo S60), the moment I made the change I received two blows from my brothers in arms, other CleanTechnica writers? Well, here I am, fighting my case since I have nothing else to lose.

My first private unveiling. (Photo courtesy of Nordynski – Dealer Peugeot.)

First of all, let’s get it straight from the very beginning – yes, I’d rather have a Tesla Model 3. I still hope my next car will be a Tesla (can’t say Model 3, maybe Model Y or something else Elon cooks up), but you simply can’t beat math and the numbers didn’t add up for me (yet). Having said that, I can now focus on my wonderful new friend, the Peugeot 3008 Plug-In Hybrid.

I think you may all be surprised when I say that the number one reason I have this car today is … the dealer. Many a times have I complained about poor dealer skills in selling EVs and plug-in hybrids, and Adam from Peugeot could also be in this group. What made him different was his openness to learning about EVs, which was why he approached me and the most famous EV pioneer in Poland, Tomek Gać (you may remember him from crazy EV trips in Europe to Macedonia and Sicily, just a few that he has made). Adam wanted to talk with us about electric vehicles.

What a start it was! The next thing I knew, we were test driving the Peugeot e-208 (a cute one I will write about soon) and we started to build a bond. It wasn’t hard to notice I was in need of a new car, and Adam simply worked on my fire to get me to go with the Peugeot 3008 PHEV. Forgive me for this lengthy intro, but I felt this background was necessary to understand the decision, and Adam deserved credit for his excellent work towards selling more EVs in Poland (and that is not easy, trust me).

Adam busy making sure I know what the buttons are for! (Photo courtesy Nordynski – Dealer Peugeot.)

Now, back to the car. I’ve had it for three weeks today, and I’m learning to love it. 4 days after I got it, I packed my family of four plus our Labrador dog and we set off to Denmark. We did 3400 km (2112 miles) in total, with about 2500 km (1553 miles) there and back plus 900 km (559 miles) driving around Denmark.

Did I charge on the way? No. Kind of obvious, as the gain of charging for an hour and a half would be about 45–50 km (the onboard charger is 7.3 kW and the battery 13.2 kWh). Spending an hour and a half on the road for 45–50 km out of 1200 km is a bit discouraging. That could be an argument for Daryl Elliott’s argument to get rid of PHEVs. However, PHEVs are not for long-distance electric journeys, are they? They are for going electric to work, the shopping center, the cinema, etc., while also allowing the convenience of no-hassle long-distance trips as needed.

In the 900 km of driving around Denmark, about 50% was pure electric. I charged everywhere I could overnight — my sister’s, my mother’s, one petrol station. Each e-kilometer simply made me happy and it made my kids happy, as they are EV-educated, of course (let alone my wife, who was happy that I was happy). Still, it must be openly admitted: we burnt petrol driving there and back. With four people (not very heavy), my Labrador dog (a little too heavy), and luggage (including Danish salted butter), the average fuel use was 7.3 l per 100 km. Not bad at all, I’d say.

Looks good, doesn’t it? (Photo courtesy of Nordynski – Dealer Peugeot.)

The interesting part is happening now — back at home — as I haven’t filled up my tank for 8 days and counting (very unusual for me). So far, 90% of my trips are electric (my record on one charge so far is 56 km), and 100% of my electricity comes from PV panels on my roof. Can that get any better? (I know it could with a Tesla, but I already explained that.)

I honestly can’t imagine having a PHEV and not charging it to drive electric. It’s so much better, smoother, and cleaner. All that we know here at CleanTechnica, while many others don’t — until they experience it. Maybe, then, instead of throwing away the PHEVs, we should just make more effort to teach people how to use them, to show them the benefits, not only for themselves but also globally.

There is hope that good car dealers can do their job and sell more than just a car, also teaching users the value of plug-in hybrids as they get the opportunity. It seems obvious, but it’s not. Even large companies don’t understand PHEVs. (Large rental companies have only “hybrid” under “fuel” options without differentiating silly hybrids from plug-in hybrids.) I believe many users buy PHEVs not fully comprehending their worth, many of them believing in Toyota’s “self-charging” hybrids. (Yikes!) However, if taught about the benefits of driving electric and the ease of charging at home, it is logical many more may charge as much as possible.

As good as it gets — sun energy straight into my plug-in vehicle. (Photo by Marta Fior.)

Pleas don’t get me wrong. My intention is not to defend “my” car and excuse myself. I agree with the arguments Daryl provided and I really didn’t need the UK study to know that many PHEV drivers don’t charge their cars. I have spoken about it for years, sometimes calling it a rotten compromise.

I found myself in this trap, though, when my target family EV was still beyond our reach and I could no longer look in the mirror driving a diesel vehicle. Doing 35,000–40,000 kilometers (21,747–24,855 miles) a year, you are left with very few options.

I promise to be back with more data on our Peugeot 3008 Hybrid and my experiences with it, and you can be sure I will be honest with you and reveal all the pros and cons, even if the truth will be painful (for the user). Till then, let’s give this baby a chance.

 
 
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Written By

Jacek is an entrepreneurial type who sees opportunities all around. He engages in numerous climate related projects, including a magazine in Polish and English called ClimateNow!. One of his many passions, besides card tricks and mixology, is electric cars and their introduction on the market. Professionally, he works as a sales manager and moves freely on various product markets.

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