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Hybrid drivers prefer the internal combustion engine


NOTOur tests show that hybrid cars offer the best or the worst depending on how they are driven. A shame when they promise the moon on their approval form, and the best of both worlds to save the planet. However, many consumer defectors come down from the little cloud where they are perched when they are confronted with the bitter reality at the pump. And their contradictions born of a false naivety knowing that a car ballasted with 250 to 300 kg of hybridization cannot logically consume five times less than its thermal alter ego. Yet this is what certification tests are caught in the act of misinforming the consumer.

While the tests carried out on thermal cars have in the past been suspected of distorting reality, to the point of introducing a new measurement method closer to the user experience (WLTP), history repeats itself with hybridization , but with a drift bordering on the grotesque. The Swiss canton of Valais has quantified it by carrying out an experiment and, in view of the results, has just decided to stop all subsidies for rechargeable hybrids.

According to this study conducted by Impact Living, “quantitative results (measures of actual fuel consumption) show that plug-in hybrid vehicles fall far short of their promises and offer only very slight advantages (if any) over a conventional thermal car”. And to continue: “Hybrid vehicles are often advertised by manufacturers as vehicles with 1.5 to 2.5 liters per 100 kilometers, but in reality, they consume between 4 and 7 liters, like diesel vehicles”, denounces on the Swiss national radio RTS one of the reporters, Mr. Marc Muller, energy engineer.

Undeterminable variables

This is understandable insofar as the respective electrical and thermal stress can vary at any time and according to each driver. In the mountains of Valais, it seems much more complicated than in the plains and especially in town because of the elevations to be overcome. Where a thermal is quite readable according to three driving styles (economical, standard, sport), a hybrid can offer dozens of variables depending on the driving, but also on the geography of the route, the weather… and the weather. past. Because the demand on the electrical resource will vary enormously depending on the circumstances.

In this already difficult context of the topography is added the length of the journey. Modeled for rechargeable hybrids on an electric range of at least 50 kilometers to benefit from tax exemption, a combined mode will exhaust the small battery before 80 or 100 km at best. Small because it was designed for urban split weekday journeys, normally carried out in 100% electric.

In an ideal world, this requires almost daily recharging in order to maintain electrical efficiency for the following days. An architecture obviously modeled on a dominant city use while plug-in hybrids are, to absorb the additional cost of their technology, rather road and high-end vehicles.

However, the homologation cycle designed for all automotive technologies does not currently make it possible to verify exactly what happens when the hybrid battery is empty. Case of figure which, in theory, should not arise since the interest of the formula lies precisely in the availability of electric traction.

But who, in real life, agrees to reconnect their car every 60 or 80 kilometers in order to always find themselves in the best situation? Those who have a wallbox at home no doubt, although the almost daily handling and 4 seasons of cables to be plugged in then unplugged carefully will quickly appear to be a chore. And too bad if, in passing, we lose a good part of the power announced: in the journey of daily easements, we do not notice it.

Technology bears the hat

Those who apprehend these difficulties of use are the fleet managers who have taken up the challenge of replacing the hated diesel with hybrids. They quickly understood, seeing the explosion of fuel budgets, that their employees were not very zealous to recharge, whatever the reason. They prefer, with the battery exhausted, to continue to drive on the petrol engine alone rather than to bother with a recharging all the more hypothetical as it is carried out on the public highway with the vagaries of the available terminal. Apart from the very incentive tax advantage for companies, the purchase of a plug-in hybrid has, technically, no longer much interest for them.

The technology is not in question, simply the behavior of motorists. But we can also understand that they lose motivation quite quickly with this too repetitive constraint, even more frequent than on all-electric. The best demonstration is provided on a practical level by rental companies, some of whom have today reduced their fleet of plug-in hybrids to use…diesel. The rechargeable hybrid therefore presents a flaw – the user – while some green associations would like to blame the technology itself.

Noting also the deviations between the two phases of use, with or without battery, environmentalists are calling for a new standard that is more a reflection of reality. But what reality since, as we have seen, the variables are considerable and the results just as much? Manufacturers are beginning to be really alarmed by this idea since the plug-in hybrid, for lack of diesel, is essential for them to achieve the emission targets imposed by Brussels.

But the hardening is currently under examination and would lead, from 2024, to a tightening of measures before, a year later, to harden the emission rates. Changing the rule mid-game would seem like a low blow to an inherently inflexible industry. And it would not be the guarantor of a more honest result by running the risk of a market collapse which mobilized colossal investments.