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Why you shouldn’t invest in a plug-in hybrid when buying a new car

Are you going to change your car? Skip the plug-in hybrid and go straight on a clean electric car. There are several reasons to skip the popular intermediate stage.

Since the beginning of the year 2021, I have been driving an electric car. It has made me think a lot about what will happen in the near future when more and more people will run on electricity.

Right now, in September 2021, there are about 266,000 rechargeable passenger cars in Sweden, of which 84,000 are electric cars, and the rest plug-in hybrids. Rechargeable cars make up five percent of the total passenger car fleet, which means that a little more than 1.5 percent are electric cars.

However, it seems that the proportion of electric cars versus plug-in hybrids is increasing, and some months more electric cars are now being sold than plug-in hybrids. The number of electric cars is increasing rapidly, and in April 2021, the best-selling car in Sweden was an electric car, namely the VW ID.4.

Plug-in hybrids have been around for quite a few years, and were probably a smart solution before pure electric cars started to arrive. But they are now increasingly being criticized for cheating on emissions. A lot depends on the type of operating mode you are using. If you choose the battery charger mode, i.e. that the car’s batteries are charged during operation, the emissions can be three to twelve times greater than those specified. In addition, there are a lot of people who own plug-in hybrids but never charge their car.

This has meant that the EU is now working on new rules that could apply as early as 2025. It is about tightening emission standards, but also about plug-in hybrids being considered sustainable investments for a longer time. And even the auto industry seems to have realized that plug-in hybrids are on their way out. In just a few years, there will be three times as many electric cars as plug-in hybrids if you look at what the car companies are planning.

Do you want to buy an electric car now? Will you not suffer from range anxiety, many people wonder.

But this concept is becoming overplayed. Most new electric cars have a range of 300 to 400 km, and that’s increasing all the time. The number of charging stations is growing week by week. In September 2021, there are more than 2,500 public charging stations in Sweden, with a total of about 14,000 charging points, of which about 1,500 are fast chargers. Today, it is rarely more than 50 km between charging stations.

However, as an electric car owner, you need to plan a lot. The range of batteries is tested by manufacturers in optimal conditions. Many factors can cause the battery to discharge faster than expected — such as AC at high power, long driving at high speeds, many fast accelerations, use of radio and so on. And in the cold in winter, the range drops perhaps 15 to 20 percent. But like I said, it’s rarely far to the next charging station. And the number of fast chargers is increasing at a rapid pace.

Another question that is often discussed is whether electricity is enough when more and more people buy electric cars. When all cars are powered by electricity, what happens?

A Swedish car drives an average of 1,2000 kilometers per year. And an electric car consumes an average of 0,2 kWh/km. That’s 2,400 kWh per car per year. And in Sweden we produce about 150 TWh per year, of which last year we exported 37 TWh and imported 12 TWh, which meant a surplus of 25 TWh.

What needs to be addressed is that the electricity grids are getting crowded. If everyone is going to charge at the same time, there will be problems, so the capacity needs to be expanded. But here smart charging boxes with load balancing, and cars with V2G (Vehicle to Grid) will mean a lot. The cars’ batteries will be able to receive electricity from the grid and store it if necessary, thus helping to even out the load in the grid.

So will electric cars solve the problem of climate emissions from our transport? No, unfortunately, is the answer, and that’s because the batteries won’t be enough, the researchers say.

In 2019, we produced 160 Gwh of lithium-ion batteries worldwide. That’s enough for about 3 million Tesla 3s. And with all battery factories being built all over the world right now, including Northvolt in Skellefteå, Sweden, the capacity will be enough for about 40 million vehicles in 2028.

In a normal year, about 100 million cars, buses and trucks are produced worldwide. There are currently about 1.4 billion cars in the world. It means it will take about 35 years to change the entire vehicle fleet.

We don’t have 35 years to reduce emissions. So other measures will also be needed, such as building a society that is less dependent on the car, using nudging to get people to ride more public transport, walk and bike to name some examples.

But what about hydrogen cars, don’t they solve the problems? Here there is research that points in different directions, most of it seems to depend on how hydrogen is produced. Most often it is based on fossil natural gas, and then it also depends on how clean the electricity used in the production is. So much more uncertain than the environmental impact of electric cars.

Finally, electric cars are connected in a way that increases both safety and comfort. The car tells you where it is just right to charge, and how many charging points are available there. New features are coming Over The Air, OTA. A few weeks ago, my car was updated so that it now records potholes in the road, and sends it into the system so other cars of the same brand are warned. And automation is becoming increasingly advanced — the car can park itself, change lanes, read speed signs, keep the speed, distance, brake and so on.

If you’re going to buy a new car now. Don’t think about a fossil car. Do not buy a plug-in hybrid, but invest in an electric car. Then things are moving in the right direction.

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