Thoughts on Owning a PHEV

July 6, 2022 at 10:00 pm (Transportation) (, )

I’ve been driving a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) for over a year now, here are my thoughts on it.

I have a Toyota RAV4 Prime, which has 40 miles of electric range. During the first year I didn’t commute to work but now I go in once a week. A round trip to work and back fits comfortably in my all electric range. I didn’t hit 10,000 miles until I had had it for a year and a quarter. I keep the car in EV-only mode, which makes it not accelerate as quickly but keeps the gas engine from coming on. I haven’t had any issues with acceleration, even when merging on to the highway.

I drive conservatively, without rapid acceleration, and slowing down early to maximize the regeneration during braking. I also drive most of my miles on low-speed roads. Because of this, I usually get 50-60 miles of electric range, well above the estimated 40 miles.

On the highway, the electric range is below 40 miles. I notice the electric range drops quite rapidly as you go faster. Going 75mph gives a significantly lower range than driving at 60mph. Staying in the right lane and drafting helps, also, the highways near me are usually crowded so driving at 60 or less is not hard. When I go on trips where the roads are 70mph, I just have to live with lower range.

I find that about 80% of my miles driven are on electric. Even though almost all my trips are full electric, the occasional road trip puts a bunch of hybrid mode miles on the car. If I went in to the office every day then I’d have a higher percent of electric miles (at a correspondingly higher total miles driven).

I generally charge overnight. I plug it in to a normal 120 volt outlet. The car charges at about 4 miles of range added an hour. A full charge takes about 11.5 hours (the last hour charges slower as it gets close to 100%). If I had a 240 volt 32 amp Level 2 charger at home I could charge it twice as fast, but it would require getting an electrician to install it and I haven’t done that. Most of the time the slower charging isn’t an issue.

Most days I drive less than 40 miles, so if I charge over night, I generally don’t need to charge during the day. If I’m going to drive more miles than my range allows I try and charge during the day, but it is hard to get a useful amount of charge during the day. At 4 miles of range added per hour, if I have two hours during the day that is only 8 miles of extra range, which isn’t all that far. If I had a level 2 charger at home I could charge twice as fast, which would help in these cases. Charging at a public charger goes at about 10 miles of range added an hour (4.5 hours for a full charge), but that means I have to find something to do near the charger for an hour or two, so I don’t do that very often.

My car has a 3.3 KW charger, most public chargers support at least 6 KW so I can use them but won’t get as quick a charge. There was an option on the car for a 6.6 KW charger but it was expensive and I didn’t get it. It also doesn’t support DC Fast Charging, so I can’t use those chargers at all. I would like it much better if the default option for PHEV was 6.6 KW AC charging and DC Fast Charging supported (even if it was relatively slow)

When I go on long trips charging is really hard and generally not worth it. It is hard to find a hotel with charging (although I keep looking and hope more hotels add charging) and other public chargers aren’t usually where I want to be. I do try to charge when I can, but often I really can’t. This means that after the first 40 miles I am in hybrid mode. That still gets me 38 MPG which is good, but I’d rather be using electric. A couple of times I have gone out of my way to charge and it generally isn’t worth the hassle, for example if I want to take a 20 minute break to grab lunch, that will only get me a little over 3 miles of range at a public charger. If I have to drive a mile and a half out of my way to get to the charger (then a mile and a half back) then I haven’t gained anything. I’ve also tried bringing a book and stretching the break out to an hour, but that is still only 10 miles of range (minus however miles out of the way I had to go to get to it). It is rare that it makes sense to do this. This is another case where having a 6.6KW onboard charger would make a difference.

Electricity at home costs me about 14 cents a kilowatt hour, a full charge costs about $1.75 and works out to the equivalent of gas costing $1.50, this is much cheaper than the current $4+ a gallon gas is going for. I only go to the gas station every couple of months. I don’t miss it at all. The convenience of charging at home and not going to a gas station is more important to me than I would have thought and I realize now that gas stations kind of suck.

In the summer, when the air conditioning is on, the electric range drops by a small amount. I generally don’t worry about it. In the winter, however, the hit for running the heater is much greater, 20%-30%. This is a significant and easily noticeable reduction in range. I’d like the car to have a more effective heat pump for winter use.

If you have the ability to plug in overnight, a PHEV is a great option, it saves a lot on gas, helps the environment, and is more convenient since you don’t have to go to a gas station as often.

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