Plug-in hybrids may not be as advantageous to fleets as once thought


Plug-in hybrids may not be as advantageous to fleets as once thought

Source: FleetAnswers Hybrids have been heralded as the solution to rising fuel costs and damaging emissions, and plug-in hybrids, which in theory could run without relying on fuel for short distances and significantly increase fuel economy, are considered the wave of the future for modern fleets. However, before jumping on board with the plug in hybrid popularity, fleet managing professionals need to take a closer look at what the change really means, and whether or not those benefits are realistic for their specific fleet. While hybrids do have significant benefits, both for fleet costs and for the environment, they may be a little less beneficial than once thought.

  • Poor Access to Charging May Hinder Benefits

In order to get the most benefit out of a plug-in hybrid, it needs to use its full electric range. This means starting almost every longer trip with a full charge. However, sometimes drivers may not have access to hybrid charging stations, especially if they take their vehicles home. If they are relying entirely on charging their vehicles at the business location, but they need to drive their vehicles home at the end of the day, this could be a concern. When the hybrid vehicles use their backup fuel system, they lose many of the benefits that make them a better choice.

  • Drivers Will Need to Understand How to Drive Economically

Plug-in hybrids can be engineered so that they use the electric motor and the combustion engine to access greater power and performance during acceleration. In order to maximize the fuel efficiency of the vehicle in these situations, the driver must learn to drive in a different manner in order to avoid this scenario. Unfortunately, changing a seasoned professional driver's driving habits isn't always easy, especially when performance may suffer as a result. Thus, with these vehicles, the fuel savings desired may not come to fruition.

  • Long-Haul Drivers May Not Benefit

For fleets that send drivers on longer trips, a plug-in hybrid's benefits drop significantly. While many vehicles have a much larger range on a tank of fuel than their non-hybrid counterparts, they still must stop and charge every 500 to 600 miles. Charging takes longer than filling a gas tank, and this means greater planning to ensure the vehicle has the time and the facilities to properly charge. The electric-only range on most hybrids means that the vehicle will not run long on electric mode when on a longer trip. Because of this drawback, hybrid vehicles may make sense primarily for those fleets that operate within a smaller geographic area, such as utility and city fleets, and return to a central parking area that can have charging stations.

These potential drawbacks do not mean that hybrids aren't a solution for the future of fleet. They simply mean that there are hurdles that need to be overcome before a fleet can truly embrace the fuel savings and environmental benefits of plug-in hybrids. When these hurdles are fully overcome, it may be possible that hybrids will be the future of fleets, but only time will tell.