Perhaps it is also valuable to define what a strong PHEV is not (I’ll call those “weak PHEVs” for ease of reference). As I explained in a previous article, weak PHEVs can be defined as those with electric ranges less than the average daily driving distance of a large auto market or region (like the U.S.), or whose all electric mode is too easily overridden. Weak as an adjective may describe the majority of PHEVs currently on sale or that have ever been on sale in the U.S. if we go only by electric range. I will do exactly that for the sake of brevity and simplicity, but will call out other features that might make a PHEV more, or less, strong regardless of range. Otherwise, only a handful can, as the Strong PHEV coalition thoroughly describes on its website, cover a minimum 40 miles of all electric range among other qualities like delivering resilience to the electric grid or provide realistic solutions for towing.
Since there are not many new, strong PHEVs available in the U.S. I am going to broaden the scope of this piece to include all that have been sold in the U.S. since model year 2019, too. Here is the list, starting with new models currently on sale (only the 3 that top the list, sadly) and including older PHEVS from model years 2019 - 2022:
That is the whole list of strong PHEVs no older than 2019 that I could come up with, at least for U.S. consumers. I would argue that most of these may not truly be strong PHEVs since most will too easily turn on their gas engines if you apply too much pressure on the go pedal. But I would not have much of a list if I didn’t loosen the criteria a little. In fact, if we loosen it a little more to include PHEVs that are capable of getting 40 miles of range even if they aren’t rated for it, the list would be more than twice as long. It would include Kia’s Sorento PHEV, Sportage PHEV, and Niro PHEV, as well as Hyundai’s Santa Fe PHEV and Tucson PHEV, Ford’s Escape PHEV, Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV, Volvo’s other Recharge line models, and at least a few others as well (including perhaps Mazda’s forthcoming SUV PHEVs). These all have electric ranges in the low to upper 30’s and if driven gently enough or under the right conditions can surpass 40 miles of electric range as I have often done in my Sorento PHEV. So we might call these “strong-ish PHEVs”, but in my opinion that is being generous. We need PHEVs to help move us quickly toward our emissions reduction goals. They bridge the gaps that exist in our charging networks and charging times for EVs as well as give people a means of getting comfortable with (re)charging as a new habit and make better use of a still too scarce resource (batteries). But if we aren’t selling mostly strong PHEVs, we run the risk of both diluting the impact these plug-in hybrids can make in terms of emissions reductions and of turning people off the whole notion of going electric in the first place. Automakers also need to take into account people’s driving and shopping behaviors in the design of their PHEVs, making it easier for people to minimize their use of gasoline by adhering to the principles of strong PHEVs and by supporting the growth of car charging networks (especially 7 kW and higher level 2, 240V charging which would support more usable electric range delivered to PHEVs during one or more hour stops for shopping, dining, and the like).
What do you think? Would you prefer that automakers focus on strong PHEVs? Have I missed any U.S. market strong PHEVs? Please leave your comments or questions below.
Image courtesy of Justin Hart.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.