Plug-in hybrid cars emit more CO2 than advertised; Tests find

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
Plug-in Hybrid Cars
Representational Image

According to tests conducted by the European campaign group Transport and Environment (T&E), the plug-in hybrid cars emit far more CO2 (Carbon-dioxide) than advertised, leading to calls for ending subsidies and tax breaks for such models.

Emissions Analytics evaluated three plug-in hybrid SUV models including BMW’s X5, Volvo’s XC60 and Mitsubishi Motor Corp’s Outlander and found that they released much more CO2 than advertised, even under optimal conditions.

Julia Poliscanova, T&E’s senior director for clean vehicles said, “Plug-in hybrids are fake electric cars, built for lab tests and tax breaks, not real driving. Governments should stop subsidizing these cars with billions in taxpayers’ money.”

A Volvo spokesperson said in response that all Volvo cars are accredited and completely comply with current emissions legislation.

Mitsubishi spokeswoman Amanda Gibson said that independent tests can generate inaccurate or variable figures that depending on circumstances and “we naturally contest any findings where we have no oversight of the testing or methodology.” BMW did not offer any comments.

The announcement by T&E came shortly after the release of the proposed EU rules that were revealed which laid out tight emission limits for carmakers to attain for their activities to be classed as a sustainable investment.

Under those rules, hybrid vehicles from 2026 onwards would lose their “green label”.

Plug-in Hybrids

Plug-in hybrids are a combination of conventional combustion engines and electric vehicles, bringing together a smaller engine with an electric motor and battery.

These hybrids have often been referred to as a “gateway technology” designed to make electric vehicle (EV) technology comfortable for consumers particularly as nervousness about the driving range of fully electric vehicles has been an obstacle to mass adoption.

It has also allowed carmakers to stretch the return on their investments in technologies for combustion engines.

Sales of plug-in hybrids accounted for close to half of all-electric or partially electric vehicles in the European Union in the first three quarters of 2020, as a rising number of customers took advantage of government discounts or tax cuts to purchase them.

But climate groups like T&E have been critical of plug-in hybrids because they produce CO2 while depending on their fossil-fuel engine instead of the battery, unlike fully-electric versions.

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