When is a hybrid car worthwhile?

Plug-in hybrid: models, consumption, technology, costs, ecological balance

Plug-in hybrids are becoming increasingly popular. But for which drivers are hybrids with external charging really useful? The most important information about the drive concept - with all models and realistic ADAC consumption measurements.

• No local emissions in all-electric driving mode
• ADAC Ecotest: Not all plug-in hybrids are economical and low in pollutants

• State subsidies for new and used cars

Compact cars, sports cars or SUVs: More and more manufacturers are electrifying their combustion models in order to be able to comply with the stricter CO₂ limits with their vehicle fleets. In addition to the increasing supply of purely electrically powered cars, the number of so-called cars is also increasing PHEV vehicles (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) steadily increasing - that is, hybrid cars whose batteries can be charged externally.

But does a plug-in hybrid really have advantages in terms of consumption and emissions compared to a comparable conventional combustion engine?

Plug-in hybrid: what is the difference to the hybrid?

How does a plug-in hybrid work in practice? Hybrid cars are generally powered by a gasoline engine (some manufacturers also offer diesel hybrid versions) and also by one or more electric motors. At Hybrid vehicles without a plug-in function the battery for operating the electric motor while driving is charged with the combustion engine through recuperation when braking or the kinetic energy of the rolling vehicle.

However, a "normal" hybrid vehicle can only travel a few kilometers in the lower speed range on a purely electric basis. With stronger accelerations supports the electric motor the internal combustion engine and can let the vehicle "coast" at higher speeds while the internal combustion engine is switched off.

A Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) on the other hand has a larger drive battery on board that in addition can be charged externally using a power cable with significantly more energy. This works at home at a suitable socket or at a public charging station. For example, commuters can drive to work in the morning with a fully electric battery.

Relevant for purchasing one PHEV - and its state funding - is pure electric range of the plug-in hybrid car. Most plug-in vehicles manage in practice between 40 and 60 kilometers without the combustion engine.

These plug-in hybrid models are available

According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, 200,469 (2019: 45,348) cars with plug-in hybrid drives were registered in 2020 - 6.9 percent of all newly registered vehicles. These models can currently be ordered:

ADAC Ecotest: How high is the consumption?

But are plug-in hybrids any more environmentally friendly than pure combustion engines? The ADAC has numerous current PHEV models on theirs based on its Ecotest measurements consumption examined and assessed.

Three scenarios were tested: Consumption over 100 kilometers in mixed operation, i.e. with a full battery charge, in which the combustion engine then takes over (relevant for the Ecotest assessment), consumption in pure electric mode (i.e. with recharging the battery and completely without combustion) and consumption in the hybrid -Burner mode (i.e. with a non-charged drive battery). Here are the results:

The balance sheet is very mixedThere are definitely plug-in hybrids in the ADAC test that do well with four out of five stars in the Ecotest in mixed operation and are therefore recommended. But that only applies to two of the models tested: the Hyundai Ioniq and the Volvo V60. The vehicles achieve the result in different ways. The Hyundai is very energy efficient and therefore gets more points in the CO₂ component of the Ecotest. The Volvo on the other hand, it consumes more energy and emits more carbon dioxide as a result, yes its exhaust gases are cleaner - That's why it scores with pollutants.

The test result leaves no doubt that big and heavy cars how the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE, even as plug-in hybrids, consume a lot of energy and therefore cannot be counted as eco-vehicles. Ergo: only one star each in the ADAC Ecotest. One more time comes to the conclusion that when it comes to environmental compatibility, a car should basically be as small and as light as possible and only as big as necessary.

The general accusation that the manufacturer's information on the fuel consumption of the plug-in hybrids is unreachable or even fraudulent is not true. The Everyday consumption depends very much on the use of the part-time electric vehicles. Frequent charging of the battery is important so that the potential of the additional electric drive can be used effectively. A however, regular long-distance use does not make sense.

Advantages and disadvantagesof the models in the test you can read in this PDF:

Profile: advantages and disadvantages of the tested plug-in hybrids
View PDF

The engine is crucial for CO₂ emissions

And how does it look in comparison to the corresponding model with a combustion engine? Do plug-in vehicles have advantages here? ADAC measurement results show: Some plug-in hybrids like the Volvo XC40 and the Peugeot 508 are always more economical and lower emissions on the way than comparable combustion models - regardless of the operating mode. As a rule, this is always the case when a PHEV is compared with a combustion engine of the same type of fuel and a similar performance class. Why? The PHEV then drives as "normal" hybrid and saves valuable through energy recovery by means of recuperation Fuel

But if you compare a gasoline plug-in with an ordinary diesel (Kia Optima, VW Passat or BMW 7 series), so it dependselectric driving partwhether more or less CO₂ emissions are generated than the comparable diesel variants. The following applies: The more frequently these PHEVs are electrically charged, the sooner they can achieve an advantage in terms of CO₂ emissions. When does PHEV start Emission advantage can work out depends on the respective efficiency of the PEHV drive or the internal combustion engine. A BMW X5 plug-in, for example, has because of that high consumption for fuel and electricity an advantage only very late compared to a diesel engine.

Environmental bonus for plug-in hybrids

In order to compensate for the price disadvantage compared to comparable combustion engines and to make the switch to a PHEV more attractive, a higher one has been in effect since February 2020 "Environmental bonus" when buying such a vehicle. With a net list price of up to 40,000 euros, buyers can take part 6750 euros funding (net) (4500 euros federal and 2250 euros manufacturer share), at a price between 40,000 and 65,000 euros 5625 euros (3750 euros federal and 1875 euros manufacturer share).

The federal share of 3750 euros can also be used when buying one Used can be applied for if no funding has yet been paid for the car (no more than one year old and 15,000 kilometers).

To be eligible, plug-in hybrids must currently be purely electric Minimum range of 40 kilometers (from 2022: 60 kilometers) or at most 50 grams of CO₂ per kilometer emit. Under these conditions, a plug-in can also receive the E-license plate, which can bring further advantages when parking or using the bus lane.

Also for Company car driver a plug-in can be interesting. With flat-rate taxation, the tax authorities only add half a percent of the gross list price to the monthly salary - instead of one percent for cars with internal combustion engines. This reduces the tax burden. Here you will find further important information on promoting electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

ADAC tips on plug-in hybrids

  • A PHEV should be charged to one as often as possible the highest possible proportion of electric driving to reach. Charging options at home and / or at work are essential for this.

  • What is fundamentally true also applies to plug-in hybrids: the car should as small as possible and only as big as necessary be.

  • With frequent long range a diesel engine is usually still the more efficient and low-emission drive. Therefore, pay close attention to your driving profile.

  • On the Highway it makes more sense on longer journeys to drive in hybrid mode and then use the saved electrical energy Country roads and urban areas to use. This is also against the background of a reduction in emissions in Cities recommendable.

  • Use the intelligent automatic selection of the driving mode through targeted use of the on-board Navigation device.

  • Private buyers and fleet operators should ensure that when purchasing a PHEV, the charging options are also provided by a Charging card for public charging and / or ensure your own charging infrastructure. The use of regeneratively generated electricity reduces CO₂ emissions.

ADAC: Manufacturers must indicate real consumption

The plug-in hybrids receive one as a bridging technology to electromobility state environmental bonus as Tax benefits when used as a company car. However, they are plug-in hybrid vehicles not automatically and generally more environmentally friendly as pure burners. Depending on the engine and driving style, a PHEV can even have higher CO₂ emissions or consume more fuel than its combustion counterpart.

When it comes to consumption information, the manufacturers of plug-in hybrids generally only state the combined consumption for fuel and electricity in the WLTP process. The private buyers or fleet operators is missing with it a overview aboutreal consumption values for the respective operating mode and thus the realistic comparison with the corresponding combustion engines.

The ADAC therefore calls on the manufacturers to also Consumption values for purely electric driving as well as purely hybrid operation with an empty drive battery specify.

A decisive factor for the environmental balance of plug-in hybrids is that individual use. If you drive your PHEV privately or as a company car mainly on the autobahn, you will consume more fuel than with a conventional combustion engine. Car owners who mainly use their car on short journeys and charge it regularly, on the other hand, can save fuel and drive mostly emission-free in the city in purely electric mode.

That's why they are Companies Asked: Anyone who makes plug-in hybrids available as company cars should ensure sufficient charging infrastructure at their own parking spaces and, if possible, support charging points at the employees' homes.

The most important questions and answers about plug-in technology

What are the benefits of plug-in hybrids?

A plug-in hybrid can drive purely electrically and with it locally emission-free and be quiet on the move. With this drive technology, it is possible to significantly reduce gasoline or diesel consumption by charging electricity. At the moment, this is the fastest option, depending on your individual driving profile Consumption reductions of 30 to 80 percent to reach.

The relatively powerful electric motor of a plug-in hybrid makes it possible, through recuperation, to collect significantly more energy when braking than a (mild hybrid) combustion car - similar to a purely electric car. By using the more efficient drive in each case overall more economical be driven. A sufficiently charged battery is required.

According to previous experience of the ADAC, plug-in hybrids are comparable reliable on the go like pure combustion cars. And: Plug-in hybrids are thanks to the current subsidy often competitive, the extra charge due to the additional technology is offset.

The complex technology brings you higher energy expenditure in manufacturing and a higher vehicle weight than with a pure combustion car. But: Many plug-in models are lighter than comparable electric cars with a long range.

Becomes a Gasoline plug-in hybrid not reliably charged, in many cases a comparable diesel car is more economical and has less CO₂ emissions. Diesel plug-in hybrids but are almost always at an advantage.

The regular and frequent load of the plug-in vehicle is for some users laborious, but for that you have efficiency advantages.

Compared to a purely electric car, they are Maintenance costs This is higher in the case of a plug-in car, as there is additional maintenance required on the combustion engine.

When does a plug-in hybrid make sense?

Who at least a third of its routes are purely electric can drive and has a socket available, for whom a plug-in hybrid will be interesting. In order to regularly charge plug-in hybrids, it should be possible to always charge at least at night - ideally also with the employer if the simple commute is more than half the pure electric range.

One is useful Fast charge capability - at the moment, CCS shops only offer Mercedes, Land Rover and Polestar, the CHAdeMO standard only Mitsubishi. Since with this technology a (largely) full charge is possible in half an hour, you can, for example, charge while shopping or on a longer distance during a break.

There is a to recharge your batteries uniform charging tariff makes sense, which is usually cheaper than paying directly. A manufacturer-independent charging card with a high level of acceptance throughout Europe is offered, for example, by the ADAC with its e-Charge range.

Choosing one is recommended for charging on the go Charging provider with a for every usable charging station uniform tariff. This keeps the costs transparent. This is usually cheaper than paying directly ("spontaneously") at the charging station. A manufacturer-independent charging card with a high level of acceptance across Europe is offered by the ADAC with his e-Charge offer - this can of course also be used with plug-in hybrids.

How do you drive plug-in hybrids economically?

As with any car, you should Drive proactively and defensively.The plug-in drive can moderate braking to a large extent with the electric motor (recuperation) - this means that as little energy as possible is lost in heat at the wheel brakes. There are also advantages in terms of brake wear and tear, which improves fine dust pollution.

The use of the Navigation system can further reduce consumption because the car then "knows" how to allocate its power supply most efficiently. Road courses, inclines and declines are optimally taken into account here. In addition, the required power supply for the route in the city can be "saved".

Even before a long journey, it is worth it To charge the battery and then drive with the navigation activated. The proportion of electric driving may be low on the long route, but a certain reduction in consumption is still possible - the shorter the route, the more.

How do the low consumption values ​​in the brochure come about?

Usually the low fuel consumption is advertised aggressively, while the associated power consumption is more in the background. To Manufacturer consumption information But the fuel liter per 100 kilometers as well as the kilowatt hours per 100 kilometers required at the same time belong to this.

The low fuel consumption in brochures can be seen with regular loading at the socket. Despite all the criticism, it is quite possible if not much more than the purely electric range is driven between charging processes. The WLTP process also corresponds to this usage profile.

The Admission cycle is no less impractical than for combustion or pure electric cars. However, it would be important that the manufacturers state the consumption values ​​determined in the cycle as transparently as possible. Then users can get a clearer picture of what consumption they can personally expect.

Why is consumption higher in the ADAC Ecotest?

The ADAC Ecotest checks the cars under the same general conditions - so the results can be reproduced and compared with one another. Having a plug-in car will initially driven purely electrically and thereby determining consumption and range. After that, the car will be in hybrid mode with dead battery moved in order to be able to indicate the consumption without reloading.

In the Ecotest, the ADAC summarizes the consumption values ​​for one mixed operation, assuming a charge every 100 kilometers. This distance is greater than in the approval cycle, the distance of which is set depending on the electrical range. In the Ecotest, the fuel consumption is therefore usually higher, but the power consumption is lower than the manufacturer's information.

Does the fuel consumption increase with an empty battery?

Yes, compared to fuel consumption with a charged battery. Nevertheless, the consumption is mostly below that of a comparable pure combustion engine, because many plug-in hybrids - especially those with clever efficiency adjustments (e.g. regulation of road routes and other road users) - can overcompensate for their weight disadvantage. However, the benefits are only marginal if the battery is not charged regularly. If you cannot charge or only charge a little, you should rather use a "normal" full hybrid. By the way, many plug-in hybrids can drive with less CO₂ than a comparable diesel car from around 30 percent electric driving.

Are the electrical ranges achievable?

The all-electric range is under optimal conditions determined - this is what the test cycle specifies. If you drive under these favorable conditions, i.e. comparable to the driving profile of the cycle, then the factory specifications can be reached.

As with purely electric cars, the electric range always depends heavily on the use from. When it's cold, the electric heater is running or you drive at higher speeds, the electric range melts away.

Is it worth the extra charge for plug-in?

Even if you don't achieve the low fuel consumption values ​​in the brochure, there is still one good savings potential. Example: With a charge of 10 kWh, consumption is reduced by 3.5 liters of super over 100 kilometers. The electricity costs of 3 euros are then offset by fuel cost savings of 4.50 to 5 euros; if the price of gas rises, the savings will be even greater. In any case, it makes sense to charge electricity regularly, also from a cost perspective.

Which plug-in do you recommend?

With plug-in hybrids, it is like any car - you should as small and as light as possible and only choose as large as necessary. A large SUV is not environmentally friendly even with a plug-in drive. On the other hand, compact cars and station wagons with the double drive did well in the ADAC test if you have a favorable application profile.

Anyone who is on the road for longer distances from time to time and still wants to take advantage of a plug-in drive can get a Diesel variant choose. At the moment they are only available from Mercedes in the C-, E- and GLE-Class.

Do you need special sockets?

In principle, one is sufficient Household socketto fully charge the battery overnight. Then you can cover around 50 kilometers a day, largely purely electrically. If you charge more often, for example in the garage, the Installation to be checked by an electricianso that safety is guaranteed.

The expert can also do a Wallbox to install. This makes regular charging more convenient and permanently safer. In addition, this usually reduces the charging losses. The ADAC has already tested such permanently installed charging stations.

Technical advice: Martin Ruhdorfer, Matthias Vogt (ADAC Technik Zentrum Landsberg)

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