Dirtier than expected: plug-in hybrids | Telepolis

Image undeservedly clean? A plug-in hybrid truck. Photo: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Hybrid drive cars are designed to protect the environment. A new study challenges this goal. How are politicians and the auto industry reacting?

Not all that glitters is gold. This was once again demonstrated by a study on the fuel consumption of so-called plug-in hybrids. These are motor vehicles that have both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, as well as a larger battery that can be charged from the mains.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, together with the research organization International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), examined data on the real use of around 9,000 such vehicles from all over Europe. The most important result: on average, fuel consumption is significantly higher than the manufacturer’s specifications, which are usually determined under laboratory conditions.

On average, the real fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions of plug-in hybrid vehicles for private owners in Germany and other European countries are around three times higher than the official test cycle, while the values ​​for cars companies are even about five times higher.

Patrick Ploetz, Head of the Energy Management Business Area at Fraunhofer ISI and lead author of the study

The manufacturer’s information on consumption and related CO₂ emissions would therefore be much higher for plug-in hybrids than for conventional vehicles. Privately used plug-in hybrids would have an average consumption of around 4-4.4 liters per 100 kilometers in everyday life. With company cars it is even from 7.6 to 8.4 liters. According to the official test procedure, the average consumption is only about 1.6 or 1.7 liters per 100 kilometers.

This is also important to the extent that plug-in hybrids are given preferential taxes and purchase premiums due to their allegedly low greenhouse gas emissions and are therefore particularly popular as official and company cars. The study authors propose that proof that at least 80 percent of the distance traveled is powered by electricity or that actual consumption does not exceed two liters per 100 kilometers should be required as a prerequisite for future funding.

According to the Federal Motor Vehicle Office, 24.2 percent of all 806,218 newly registered cars had an electric drive (battery-electric, plug-in hybrid or fuel cell) in the first four months of the year. This is a 10.5% increase over the same period last year.

Just over a tenth of all new cars had a purely electric drive, with this share increasing 31% within a year. So there is a lot to suggest that the inevitable end of the combustion engine will already be started through purchasing decisions.

It would be all the more important, in the first place, to expand public transport so that 40 million or more cars are not simply replaced by electric cars. And secondly, the wrong path of plug-in hybrids should be stopped as soon as possible. There really is no longer any rational reason for further funding, aside from distributing the tax money to the auto industry and the wealthy middle class.

By the way: according to statistics from the Federal Office, only just under 35 percent of new cars were registered by private individuals in 2021. This means that authorities and companies have a special responsibility when it comes to clean units.
(Wolfgang Pomrehn)

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