The mess with new drives

A Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is a nearly five-metre-long off-road vehicle with which the well-off businessman can comfortably drive into the office. In the sprint he easily drives a Ferrari 360 Modena, although it weighs as much as four dairy cows (2.5 tons). And yet it is as economical as an economical VW Golf, which weighs only half. In addition to the gasoline engine, the Cayenne – as the name Hybrid reveals – also has an electric motor and a battery that can be charged at a charging station. Therefore, according to the manufacturer, it emits only 110 grams of C02. “The combination of sustainability and driving dynamics”, writes Porsche Marketing.

A sustainable Porsche SUV. To whom the crooked appears: it is crooked. It has long been known that the values determined for petrol and diesel cars in standardized test cycles have little to do with reality. Little has been known about emissions and consumption in Plug-in Hybrid vehicles (PHEV) such as the Cayenne. Now, a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for systems and Innovation Research (ISI) [evaluated](/static/downloads/PHEV-white paper-sept2020-0.pdf “REAL-WORLD USAGE OF PLUG-IN HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES FUEL CONSUMPTION, ELECTRIC DRIVING, AND CO2 EMISSIONS”) data from over 100,000 Plug-in Hybrid models and found that they consume much more fuel and emit much more CO2 than is measured on the test bench - the deviations are even significantly greater than in conventional gasoline and diesel cars.

Only 20 percent purely electric

In reality, normal gasoline and diesel cars consume about 40 percent more than in the test cycle. PHEV, on the other hand, consume twice to four times as much gasoline on the road as indicated by the manufacturer. In our example SUV from Zuffenhausen, Germany, that would be 10 to 20 liters per 100 kilometers. The reason for the difference between advertising and reality: PHEV drive much less electrically than assumed, private owners cover only 37 percent of the distance with the electric motor, drivers of company vehicles even drive only 20 percent purely electrically.

This is partly because the owners of Plugin hybrids charge their cars too rarely. According to the study, Private owners drive out of the Garage every fourth day without charging, company car drivers even drive out of the Garage every other day. Then the car only runs on petrol – but weighs more than a comparable petrol engine, because it still has an empty battery and a decommissioned electric motor in its luggage.

PHEV lead CO2 limit ad absurdum

This means: plugin hybrids are even more inefficient than previously assumed, also because they are driven by people who are as comfortable as people are. The findings are problematic, however, for two other reasons: hybrid cars, because they are considered a climate-friendly variant to a pure combustion engine, are state-sponsored by tax incentives (by how much is different depending on the model and Canton). Since this is done on the basis of completely unrealistically low emission data, a false incentive is created.

Secondly, hybrid cars play an important role in calculating the CO2 target that newly registered cars have been allowed to achieve on average since 1 January 2020. Since the beginning of the year, an average of only 95 grams of CO2 per Kilometer has been tolerated. There are now numerous mechanisms in the regulation on the reduction of CO2 emissions to keep the calculated average value artificially low, including so-called “Supercredits”.

According to this, cars with a CO2 emissions of less than 50 grams can be calculated twice – and this includes several PHEVs. So if a wholesale importer sells a Plug-in Hybrid whose emissions are 45 grams below the limit, he may sell two cars that exceed the limit by 45 grams of CO2 as a reward. The importer will now be rewarded for selling cars that exceed the limit by up to 100 percent. This leads the reduction efforts – to put it mildly – ad absurdum.

The Supercredits are a transitional provision, they are initially reduced and will no longer apply from 2023. Nevertheless, the study authors recommend that the European Union should immediately lower the CO2 thresholds for granting Supercredits. Either way, it is likely to take a very long time before the average fleet consumption actually drops to 95 grams of CO2 emissions per Kilometer.