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How Do Plug-In Hybrids Work? What Does PHEV Mean?

Updated: Feb 14


phev meaning

By 2030, it’s projected that there will be more than 26 million electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S., according to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). However, many potential EV drivers have range anxiety and are concerned about being limited by the range of an electric vehicle and insufficient EV charging infrastructure. For this reason, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are a popular alternative because they offer some of the same advantages as electric vehicles without the same range of issues.


Because this is a major automotive industry trend, it is essential for solar and EV charging station installers to know the PHEV meaning and how plug-in hybrids work to help educate potential customers.


What Is A PHEV?

A plug-in hybrid is a type of hybrid vehicle that combines an internal combustion engine with an electric propulsion system. What sets PHEVs apart from traditional hybrids is their ability to be plugged into an external power source to charge their electric battery.


Key characteristics of PHEVs include:

Dual Power Sources: PHEVs have both an internal combustion engine (typically fueled by gasoline or diesel) and an electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery.


Electric-Only Range: PHEVs can operate on electric power alone for a certain distance, depending on the capacity of their battery. This electric-only range allows for zero-emission driving during short trips.


Plug-In Battery Charging: PHEVs can be charged by connecting to an external power source, such as a standard electrical outlet or an EV charging station. This allows drivers to charge the battery and use electric power for a portion of their driving.


Regenerative Braking: Like other electric vehicles, PHEVs often utilize regenerative braking, where energy generated during braking is captured and used to recharge the battery.


How Do Plug-In Hybrids Work?

Typically, PHEVs can travel a certain distance with just electric power. However, when the electric motor depletes the batteries, the vehicle can use the gas engine. For drivers who tend to stay relatively close to home or have the ability to charge on the go, they might be able to run primarily from electricity.


Often, plug-in hybrid vehicle owners appreciate the ability to charge at home. The most popular options are a Level I charger using a standard wall outlet or upgrading to a Level II charger with 240 volts. Also, drivers may charge their PHEVs using commercial EV charging stations at shopping centers, gas stations, or parking lots. These public charging stations will continue to gain popularity as PHEV adoption increases.


What's The Difference Between Plug-In Hybrids And Other Electric Cars?

Not all EVs are created equal. Let’s cover the difference between BEVs, HEVs, and PHEVs.


BEV Vs. PHEV

Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) run exclusively on electricity and do not have gas tanks or internal combustion engines. Popular models include the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model 3, Ford Mustang Mach-E, VW ID.4, Kia EV6, Rivian R1T, and the Ford F-150 Lightning.


The most obvious difference between BEVs and PHEVs is that PHEVs offer a gasoline engine as backup when the battery’s electric charge is depleted. This could help quell some range anxiety and offer a more predictable driving experience. However, PHEVs usually have smaller batteries and a shorter all-electric range.


Hybrids Vs. Plug-in Hybrids

HEVs, also called “conventional hybrids” and PHEVs are very similar, except the PHEVs typically have higher capacity batteries and charging capabilities. This enables the car to have an electric range that requires no gasoline or fuel. A standard hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) without plug-in abilities doesn’t run for significant amounts of time with only electricity, except at very low speeds or when stopped. This hurts the fuel economy of conventional hybrids and causes the car to consume more fuel.


Pros & Cons Of Plug-In Hybrids

PHEVs certainly have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore both.


Pros Of Owning A PHEV

For drivers who charge regularly, hybrid plug-ins can significantly reduce their tailpipe emissions and fuel costs. Typically, the more the hybrid runs in electric mode, the greater the fuel savings. Households with solar energy systems can charge their PHEVs with solar electricity.


Many people are concerned about the environment and the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. The more the car runs on electric mode, the less air pollution. Also, some PHEVs qualify for a federal tax credit of $3,750 to $7,500, making them more affordable to car shoppers.


Cons For PHEVs

Some drivers may not have convenient access to an EV charger or find it inconvenient to charge. This is especially problematic for people who live in multi-unit buildings. If a PHEV isn’t charged, the driver will miss out on the advantages, and the car will get similar gas mileage as a typical hybrid vehicle.


PHEVs also typically have a larger battery than HEVs, resulting in higher-cost vehicles. This means some of the capacity of the battery is going to waste if it does not run on electricity regularly.


What PHEVs Are On The Market in 2024?

As of December 2023, there were 33 plug-in hybrids on the market, including models from BMW, Audi, Volvo, Porsche, Volkswagen, Kia, Land Rover, Chrysler, Toyota, Hyundai, Ferrari, Bentley, and Ford/Lincoln.


Here is an overview of some of the most popular PHEVs on the market in 2024:

PHEV Model

Vehicle Type

PHEV Battery Capacity

All-Electric Range

PHEV Seating Capacity

Mitsubishi Outlander

Compact Crossover SUV

20 kWh

38 miles

7

Kia Sorento

Mid-sized SUV

13.8 kWh

32 miles

6

Hyundai Tucson

Compact SUV

13.8 kWh

33 miles

5

Hyundai Santa Fe

Compact Crossover SUV

13.8 kWh

37 miles

7

Lexus RX Plug-in Hybrid

Luxury SUV

18.1 kWh

37 miles

5

BMW 750e xDrive

Luxury Sedan

14.4 kWh

34 miles

5

Toyota Prius Prime

Sedan

13.6 kWh

44 miles

5

Honda CR-V Plug-in Hybrid

SUV

17.7 kWh

52 miles

5

Ford Escape

Compact SUV

14.4 kWh

37 miles

5


  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: a compact crossover SUV contains a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and up to a 38-mile pure electric range

  • Kia Sorento PHEV: a mid-sized SUV has a 13.8 kWh battery and up to 32 miles of all-electric range

  • Hyundai Tucson PHEV: a compact SUV with a 13.8 kWh battery pack and 33 miles of all-electric range

  • Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: a compact crossover SUV features a 13.8 kWh battery and a 36-mile pure electric range of 37 miles

  • Lexus RX Plug-in Hybrid: a luxury SUV that has an 18.1 kWh battery pack and an all-electric range of up to 37 miles

  • BMW 750e xDrive: a plug-in hybrid luxury sedan with a 14.4 kWh battery pack and 34-mile pure electric range

  • Toyota Prius Prime PHEV: a sedan with a 13.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 44-mile EV range

  • Honda CR-V Plug-in Hybrid: an SUV with a 17.7 kWh battery and an impressive 52-mile all-electric range

  • Ford Escape PHEV: a compact SUV with a 14.4 kWh battery pack and 37-mile pure electric range


There are now numerous PHEVs in various vehicle classes on the market. For example, the 2024 Toyota Prius Prime has an electric range of 44 miles in pure-electric mode and gets 48 miles per gallon. The Prius Prime plug-in hybrid has a battery capacity of around 8.8kWh.


The 2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime has an electric range of 42 miles and gets 38 mpg city/highway combined when running on gas. Its battery pack capacity is significant as well at around 13.6kWh.


Are There Tax Credits for a PHEV in 2024?

Yes, there are tax credits of $3,750 to $7,500 available for certain models of PHEVs for specific model years. Confirm that a given model year qualifies before purchasing a plug-in hybrid, as it can vary by vehicle, not model.


PHEV Make/Model

MSRP Limit

Value of Tax Credit

Chrysler Pacifica PHEV (2022 to 2024 models)

$80,000

$7,500

Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid

$80,000

$3,750

Jeep Wrangler 4xe Plug-In Hybrid SUV (2022 to 2024 models)

$80,000

$3,750

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Plug-In Hybrid (2022 to 2024 models)

$80,000

$3,750

Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring PHEV (2022 to 2024 models)

$80,000

$3,750

  • The Lincoln Aviator PHEV no longer qualifies for the federal tax credit.


How Long Does It Take To Charge a PHEV?

The charging time for a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle depends on several factors, including the battery pack capacity, how much charge the battery already has, and the charging infrastructure.


  1. Level 1 Charging (120V): This is the slowest charging method and typically uses a standard household outlet. Charging times can vary, but it may take around 8 to 12 hours to charge a fully depleted PHEV battery fully.

  2. Level 2 Charging (240V): This is a faster charging option, often found at public charging stations or installed at home. Charging times for Level 2 can range from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the PHEV's battery capacity and the current charge level.

  3. Level 3 Charging (DC Fast Charging): Many PHEVs do not support Level 3 charging, but for those that do, it can significantly reduce charging times. Level 3 charging can charge a PHEV in just minutes if it is compatible with the fast-charging infrastructure.

How Do PHEVs Protect The Environment?

Because PHEVs may often run from just the electric motor, they can significantly reduce tailpipe emissions. This means drivers won’t need to fill up as regularly either. However, the exact reduction in emissions depends on how frequently the car runs in electric mode.


If the driver never charges the car, it will emit a similar amount as an HEV without plug-in abilities. However, when charging regularly with clean electricity, PHEVs can result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.


Keep in mind that the environmental impact of the PHEV depends on the power source for the electricity. For example, if the electricity is generated from a coal power plant, the positive effect diminishes. On the other hand, charging a PHEV with wind or solar power significantly reduces carbon emissions. Also, to decrease the environmental impact of the vehicle at the end of its lifespan, it’s important to recycle as many components as possible, including lithium-ion car batteries.


What is the Meaning of PHEV?

PHEV stands for "Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle" and is sometimes referred to as a plug-in hybrid. A PHEV is a type of hybrid vehicle that can be plugged into an electrical outlet to charge its EV battery. It combines an internal combustion engine with a rechargeable battery and an electric motor. PHEVs can operate in electric-only mode for a certain distance before the gasoline engine kicks in, offering a balance between electric and gasoline power for increased efficiency and reduced emissions.


Is There a Standard Definition for PHEV Meaning, or Does it Vary?

The PHEV meaning refers to a type of hybrid vehicle with a rechargeable battery that can be plugged into an external power source for additional electric range. While the general concept is standardized, variations in specific features and capabilities among different models may exist, contributing to nuanced interpretations of PHEV meaning in the automotive industry.


PHEVs Are More Convenient Than All-Electric Vehicles For Most Drivers

PHEVs are an excellent way for drivers to transition to electric vehicles without the same issues as pure electric models. As the market for plug-in hybrids increases, so will the demand for charging infrastructure. This creates excellent opportunities for EV charging station installers to rise to the challenge.


GreenLancer EV offers charging installers a catalog of on-demand services, including permit plan sets, engineering stamps, underground surveys, and more. Our platform was designed to make it easy to request and fulfill services so you can focus on installs.






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