Should I Buy A Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Or An All-Electric Vehicle

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Always Choose A Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) Over a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), If The Circumstances Are Appropriate.  Avoid Buying An Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Vehicle!

Let me set the scene.  It is Sunday afternoon and I am sitting on a rather luxurious sofa, surrounded by beautifully decorated walls, that scream ‘wealth’.  No, I am not sitting at home!  But ironically, at a rather upmarket ‘members only’ private club in the heart of London, called Home House.  

No, I am not a member.  The only ‘private’ membership I can lay claim to is my prestigious ‘Waitrose’  card that gets me my ‘free’ daily dose of ‘better than instant coffee’!  However, a friend, who is a member, was kind enough to organise Sunday lunch, at this ‘better than my home’ venue! 

My eyes were busy ‘photographing’ every inch of the plush walls and the ornate fireplace, when one of my friends asked the question ‘should I buy an electric car?’.  Before I could unglue my eyeballs from the mock Roman columns, another friend interjected faster than a lightning bolt ‘do not buy an all-electric vehicle, only buy a plug-in hybrid vehicle’.  I understand her enthusiasm to ‘plug’ a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), after all she drives one herself.  But I do not agree with her.  Let me explain.

The ‘death’ of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles is as certain as that of polluting diesel internal combustion engines. There is no doubt, in that,  PHEV’s have performed a vital role over the past few years, as consumer migrated from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to zero-emission pure electric vehicles.  To some extent, PHEVs still pay that role, however, not as vital a role as before.  

Though there are a number of reasons why PHEVs have become less vital to the transition to zero-emission transportation, the key reasons would be the increased performance and range of the latest generation of battery electric vehicles (BEVs).  So that you are not confused, BEVs, all-electric cars and pure electric cars are the same thing i.e. these vehicles only run on battery.   

2019 has witnessed a record number of announcements of new pure electric cars, as mainstream automotive manufacturers play ‘catch up’ with Mr. Musk and his ubiquitous portfolio of Tesla electric cars!  Hardly a week goes by, that another new all-electric model is announced.  Some of these new model announcements include:

The above list is not exhaustive, but you get the point!  The availability of pure EV models is much larger today than a few years ago.  Moreover, automotive manufacturers have listened to concerns about range, more commonly referred to as ‘range anxiety’.  And they have responded with the enthusiasm of students working hard to impress their teacher on the first day of school i.e.  the automotive manufacturers have left no stone unturned to improve battery performance and range. 

Honda e electric car
The Honda e All-Electric Car (credit: Honda)

Let me put this in perspective.  The ‘real world’ range of the early EVs was closer to 50 miles.  The real world range of the latest generation of pure electric cars is well over 100 miles and in many cases over 200 miles.  

Moreover, ‘range anxiety’ though a valid concern, has been blown out of context.  As an example, the average commute in the U.K. is a mere 12 miles.  Honestly, ask yourself the question ‘on how many occasions a year, do I need to drive more than 200 miles’.  The response will surprise you.  

And on that one occasion you grudgingly drive to visit your mother-in-law across the country, just use public transportation.  She will not be offended! 

Top Five Reasons To Buy A Pure Electric Car And Not A Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle

  • A substantial increase in choice of all-electric vehicles 
  • Pure electric cars are approved for the government £3,500 plug-in car grant.  PHEVs are not! 
  • A significant increase in range and performance of pure electric cars 
  • Potentially higher residual values for all-electric cars compared to PHEVs 
  • Improved public charging infrastructure in the U.K. (in fact, there are more charging points than fuelling stations)
  • Most new models capable of rapid charging (up to 80% charge in 40 minutes).  So just enough time to make that long overdue call to your lovely parents!
  • Zero-emission with all-electric cars.  No point in claiming you love your children, when you have them standing a millimeter from the exhaust of a polluting car!
  • Lower maintenance costs. A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle has two powertrains i.e. higher maintenance costs!
Mini Electric Car Cooper S
Mini Electric Car Cooper S (credit: Mini)

I am not the only one with this view.  According to recent data (September 2019) from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), sale of BEVs have increased by 122% over the past year, while PHEVs have dropped by nearly 30%. Now, in the event, you live in a city which has limited on street charging infrastructure and you do not have access to a private garage for overnight charging or workplace charging, maybe then, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle could be considered.  Also keep in mind, that most EV owners do not charge their electric car everyday. My sister who owns a BMWi3 EV, charges her car once a week.

However, most families have access to some form of charging infrastructure.  If you are still unsure, then I would strongly encourage you to first rent an electric car for a few days.  Try it out in the ‘real world’ in the context of your everyday needs and practicalities.  This way you will certainly be able to assess if a pure electric zero-emission lifestyle is achievable for you!  

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Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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