A PHEV is an acronym for Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. A PHEV vehicle has all the advantages of an electric car and a conventional car in one package. Local travel is electric but with a gas tank backup for long distance trips. PHEV vehicles are essentially dual fuel vehicles. Imagine if you had two fuel tanks in your car: one that you can fill with regular gasoline at the station and one that can fill up with electric power at home or from any wall socket.
PHEVs don't require plugging in if an electrical outlet is not available, as the gasoline engine is always available. This eliminates one of the major disadvantages of electric cars. When plugged-in, the result is a cleaner, cheaper and quieter car for local travel. If most car travel is local, as is often the case for city dwellers, gas fueling become superfluous (yet the tank is always available should the need arise.)
Driving a PHEV cuts your fuel costs by 1/4 or more because filling a PHEV “gas tank” (actually a battery) with electricity costs the equivalent of less than $1 a gallon for fuel, so over the lifetime of a car the fuel savings are considerable. In addition, because electric motors are much more robust and suffer less wear than gasoline engines, the lifetime maintenance costs are significantly reduced if travel is predominantly done using the electric motor.
PHEVs in electric mode reduce CO2 emissions significantly, in the USA, 44% of all carbon emissions are produced from the transportation sector. When powered by a conventional electricity source, such as the PG&E grid, for example, CO2 emissions are 25% of what they would be using a standard hybrid car. That’s with today’s grid; the PG&E grid is getting cleaner every year so in the future driving on electricity will have an even greater impact. Anyone with a rooftop solar energy system can drive their PHEV carbon free. PG&E is now offering a program that allows for carbon free electricity to be purchased. Under this program a PHEV in electric mode reduces carbon emissions to near zero.
Another major advantage of PHEV is that while driving in electric mode a PHEV produces zero tailpipe emissions and therefore does not contribute to the smog, increased asthma rates and cancer causing particulates that plague most western cities.
Other alternative energy technologies, such as wind energy, solar power and geothermal energy can do little to reduce our dependence on oil because only 2% of our oil consumption is used to produce electricity. Plug-In vehicle technology is therefore one of the few technologies available today to reduce our use of petroleum.
In short, the Plug in Hybrid is a perfect example of a market-based solution that can save money while at the same time reducing oil consumption, clean the air we breathe and help fight climate change.