Plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) are continuing to evolve and are now gaining a foothold in the fleet segment as companies attempt to achieve greater fuel savings and reduce emissions.
Three automakers currently offer PHEVs that are ideal for stop-and-go, urban environments. New for the 2013-MY and 2014-MY are the Ford C-MAX Energi hatchback, Ford Fusion Energi sedan, Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid sedan, and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid sedan.
Other PHEVs coming soon to the commercial market that are ideal for fleets in stop-and-go, urban environments include the 2014 Volvo V60 PHEV, the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV crossover, and the 2015 Audi A3 e-tron PHEV hatchback.
Lastly, two automakers are producing sports/luxury PHEVs: the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid and the 2015 BMW i8 PHEV.
While the Argonne National Laboratory estimates that PHEVs are expected to use from 40- to 60-percent less gasoline than conventional vehicles and lower maintenance costs, they come at a higher price: MSRPs average approximately $1,000 to $7,000 more than the conventional gasoline models, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Fleet incentives and tax credits are also available to offset the higher up-front cost of these energy-saving vehicles.
Reducing Fuel Costs
Idling and starting from a stop are the most taxing on a vehicle’s fuel use, according to the DOE. And, as long as the battery is charged, PHEVs will:
- Start from a stop using 100-percent electric power.
- Maintain electric-only driving during light cruising and acceleration.
- Transition to electric-only mode when the vehicle begins to brake.
Each PHEV is installed with an electric-only mode button, which allows drivers the option of selecting electric only driving. If electric-only is not selected, the PHEV will automatically measure the most fuel-efficient driving mode between gasoline and electricity.
Hybrid mode is generally active when the vehicle is accelerating and changing speeds regularly — the electric motor produces steady acceleration, while the gasoline engine produces bursts of energy needed for variable road conditions such as climbing hills or passing freights.
Ford Embraces PHEV Market
Ford offers two PHEVs: the C-MAX Energi and the Fusion Energi.
The 2013 C-MAX Energi is a front-wheel drive, five-door, five-seat hatchback with 19.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity. With a 7.6 kWh lithium ion (Li-ion) battery, the vehicle has an electric-only range of 21 miles and is capable of driving up to 85 mph in electric-only mode. The combined EPA-estimated gasoline-electric driving range is 620 miles. Additionally, the EPA estimates a fuel economy of 44 city/41 highway/43 combined mpg and a rating of 108 city/92 highway/100 combined miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe).
Using the standard 120v (Level 1) outlet, the vehicle reaches a full charge in seven hours, while using the more powerful 240v (Level 2) outlet charges the vehicle in two and a half hours. The MSRP begins at $32,950 (plus a destination charge of $795).
The the 2014 Fusion Energi is available in two trim levels: the Fusion Energi SE and the fully-loaded Fusion Energi Titanium. The Fusion Energi is a front-wheel drive, five-seat sedan that features the same electric motor and gasoline engine as the C-MAX Energi; therefore the EPA-estimated ratings are the same as the C-MAX Energi, but the Fusion Energi offers more passenger and cargo space. The 2014 Fusion Energi SE’s MSRP is $38,700. The Fusion Energi Titanium’s MSRP is $40,500 (plus a destination charge of $795).[PAGEBREAK]
Honda Meets Strictest Emissions Standards with PHEV
The 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid is a front-wheel drive, five-seat sedan with a cargo volume of 8.6 cubic feet. The Accord PHEV is the manufacturer’s first vehicle to meet California’s new emissions standard, the Super-Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle (SULEV20) model, which requires vehicles to produce only 20 milligrams of combined smog-forming emissions per mile.
With a 6.7kWh Li-ion battery, the vehicle has an electric-only range of 13 miles and a top speed of about 80 mph while in electric-only mode. The EPA estimates a fuel economy of a combined 115 MPGe and 47 city/46 highway/46 combined mpg. The EPA-estimated combined gasoline-electric driving range is 570 miles. The vehicle has an approximate charging time of three hours with a Level 1 outlet and one hour with a Level 2 outlet. The starting MSRP is $39,780 (plus a destination charge of $790).
Toyota Prius Produces Second-Generation PHEV
The 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is a front-wheel drive, five-seater sedan with 21.6 cubic feet of cargo volume. With a 4.4 kWh Li-ion battery, the vehicle has an electric-only driving range of 11 miles and has a top speed of 62 mph in electric-only mode. After the first 11 miles of electric-only propulsion, the vehicle functions as a regular hybrid. The EPA-estimated combined gasoline-electric driving range is 540 miles.
During electric-only driving, the vehicle has an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 95 MPGe. Once the vehicle runs out of electric charge, the Prius PHEV will automatically shift into hybrid mode, interchanging between both gasoline and electricity, to offer a combined EPA-estimated rating of 50 mpg. The vehicle charges in three hours with a Level 1 outlet and charges in one and a half hours with a Level 2 outlet.
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid has two trim levels: the standard Prius Plug-in has an MSRP of $29,990 and the fully loaded Prius Plug-in Advanced has an MSRP of $34,905 (plus a destination charge of $810).