While the move to BEVs should be the focus of future EU legislation, it is unrealistic to expect the whole market to transition to BEV at a much quicker pace as the battery technology can still be more expensive compared with petrol and diesel vehicles in all car segments.
Therefore, PHEVs could play a role as a transitional technology, especially in those car segments where BEVs are still too expensive. The challenge is then: How do we get car manufacturers to reduce the actual emissions of PHEVs and people to drive using the electric part of a PHEV?
This challenge needs to be solved and it is possible. To do so I will adopt the carrot and stick metaphor. It seems obvious to make the ‘stick’ pointier and improve the WLTP cycle to reflect higher CO2 values. This would in turn make it harder for car manufacturers to lower their average CO2 through the sale of PHEVs. Which would make fines because of a too high average CO2 more likely. They would therefore need to improve the PHEV technology further to achieve actual lower CO2 values from the testing cycle.
Now for the ‘carrot’ part: The EU should focus legislation on promoting driving “electric” miles over “fuel” miles. For instance, instead of giving a purchasing bonus when buying a PHEV, governments could subsidize the first 4,000 kWh charged through the charge card. Besides getting people to drive electric in their PHEV and thus achieving real CO2 reduction, this will also help drivers to get familiar with charging. This “free-trail” approach is already widely adopted by tech companies, in the form of free food delivery, fare-rides, and ordering of products online. Proof that this approach works. The European Commission is currently working on the new 2025 emission standards for vehicles (called EURO 7), this would be a great opportunity to revise the standards for PHEVs as well.
PHEV technology could play a role in the EV transition of transportation. However, current legislation for PHEVs only leads to lower CO2 emissions on paper. It is up to governments to make sure the industry and car buyers are ‘driven’ in the right direction.