BMW 3 Series, Peugeot 308, Renault Mégane… plug-in hybrids pollute 3 times more than advertised

Maxence Glineur

February 09, 2023 at 2:45 p.m.


Peugeot 308 PHEV © Peugeot

© Peugeot

Tests carried out on these three models reveal that they have a greater than measured impact on the environment, which is reminiscent of the Dieselgate affair in 2015.

Hybrid vehicles are a medium-term solution to reduce CO₂ emissions from vehicle fleets. As their motorization integrates more easily into existing chassis than an all-electric motorization, they are the subject of numerous government subsidies. But the reality on the ground calls into question the main advantages attributed to them.

Measures below reality

The Belgian NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) commissioned a study of three popular plug-in hybrid models: the BMW 3 Series, the Peugeot 308 and the Renault Megane. They have been tested both in the city, in all-electric mode, but also on long journeys around Graz, Austria. The results are clear: their 100% electric range does not meet the needs of drivers and the promises of manufacturers, and their fuel consumption can increase significantly.

Indeed, many of these vehicles incorporate a battery backup function, allowing you to have a full charge once in town using only the combustion engine. The advantage is to be able to drive exclusively in electric mode in urban areas where gasoline vehicles are gradually being banned. However, the study reveals that battery capacities are often too low to guarantee emission-free driving. She points in particular to the BMW model, which had to turn on its engine several times during tests in the city.

In addition, the possibility of recharging the batteries with the engine while driving means that fuel consumption is higher compared to more conventional use. Since this particularity is not considered in the official measurements displayed by the manufacturers, the vehicles emit more CO₂ than expected, thus only shifting the problem of pollution outside of city centres.

WLTP hybrid cars 2023 © © Transport & Environment

© Transportation & Environment

Many subsidies that shouldn’t be for hybrids

These unrealistic measures allow car manufacturers to benefit from the financial advantages offered by governments. T&E estimates that these amount to thousands of euros per plug-in hybrid sold. This would represent 6,900 euros for Renault, 8,200 euros for BMW, and up to 9,300 euros for Stellantis, parent company of Peugeot. In addition, European states have subsidized these vehicles to the tune of 350 million euros for the year 2022 alone, with Germany being the main contributor.

The NGO goes on to say that if the actual emissions of these vehicles were taken into account, manufacturers would be forced to sell 247,000 100% electric vehicles in order to reduce emissions from their fleet and thus avoid paying heavy fines. pollution. Moreover, plug-in hybrids would limit the sale of electric vehicles, and would divert these subsidies from other less polluting alternatives, or even from the development of public transport networks.

In 2020, T&E had already commissioned a similar study for models from Volvo and Mitsubishi, and the conclusions were the same. It has established a series of recommendations for governments to alleviate this problem. Overall, it calls for hybrid vehicles to no longer be considered emissions-free, even pure electric, while limiting the subsidies allocated to them. It also points the finger at companies which, to benefit from tax advantages, have increased the share of hybrids in their fleets, without ever resorting to integrated electric motors which do not have sufficient autonomy.

This study echoes a statement by the CEO of Toyota that encourages hybridization rather than immediate electrification. Moreover, this case is reminiscent of Dieselgate, which brought to light the underestimated emissions of Volkswagen brand vehicles. The trend seems to persist among several car manufacturers, thus diverting funds supposed to help the energy transition.

Source : Electrek

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