The market for plug-in hybrid vehicles is set for transformational growth, according to a report released last week by Frost and Sullivan. “Plug-in hybrids have a better market than battery-electric vehicles, due to uncertainty in charging infrastructure,” said Pooja Bethi, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan. He pointed to the powerful combination of internal combustion, which grants long range and quick fill-ups, and the efficiency and environmental advantages of electric power. “The plug-in hybrid market is set for high demand and growth,” he said. The firm forecasts that 100 new plug-in hybrid models would be launched by 2021.
While Frost & Sullivan believes that the compact segment will see the most activity, with more than 35 new small plug-in hybrid launches by 2025, the group of plug-in hybrids arriving this year are mostly bigger and more luxurious—from brands such as BMW, Cadillac and Volvo. Upcoming high-performance plug-in hybrids models also include the Bentley Bentayga and Maserati Levante.
More affordable plug-in hybrid variants from Honda and Hyundai will be offered in vehicles with multiple electric powertrain options: respectively the Clarity and Ioniq. The 17-kWh Honda Clarity plug-in will produce 181 horsepower and could cover as much as 42 miles purely on electricity. It goes on sale later this year, about the same time that the 8.9-kWh Ioniq plug-in hybrid—perhaps offering 20 miles of all-electric range—hits showrooms. The pure electric version of the Ioniq went on sale in March.
Let’s not forget that incumbent plug-in hybrid models from Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford will likely remain the best-sellers for the coming years.
More Luxury Plug-in Hybrids
In April, BMW added the 530e to the showroom, to sit alongside the 330e and 740e plug-in hybrids. The BMW 530e, which starts at $51,400, tucks a 9.2 kilowatt-hour battery under the rear seat. That’s good for about 30 miles of all-electric range. BMW believes that the 530e can easily provide a daily commute that is emissions-free for most drivers.
The 530e’s gas engine is a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 180 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. When combined with two electric motors, the car generates 248 horsepower—good for zero to 60-mph performance in less than six seconds. Similar systems are already offered in plug-in variants of the 3-Series and 7-Series.
Cadillac also starting selling the CT6 plug-in hybrid in April. It uses a system that’s similar to what’s found in the Chevy Volt. Yet, the $75,000 CT6—with its 18.4 kilowatt-hour battery pack—is rated to provide only 31 miles of all-electric range, compared the Volt’s 53 miles on electrons. The plug-in Caddy’s engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, that when married to two 120-horsepower electric motors, puts out a total 335 hp.
Volvo will start selling its second plug-in hybrid in the fall. The 400-horsepower 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 sport utility vehicle joins the larger plug-in XC90 SUV. Like its bigger sibling, the XC60 plug-in hybrid uses a turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine to drive the front wheels and an electric motor that powers the rear wheels. Total system output for the 2018 XC60 plug-in hybrid is rated at 400 horsepower, the same as in the larger XC90. While the XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid has an EPA all-electric range of just 14 miles, the more compact plug-in hybrid SUV is expected to exceed about 20 miles of electric range. It employs sportier styling and a lower stance than its XC60 predecessor.
Meanwhile, by the end of 2017—or perhaps early 2018—Maserati will use the plug-in hybrid system designed for the Chrysler Pacifica minivan to power its Levante midsize SUV. It’s expected to represent less than 10 percent of Levante sales but could signal future plug-in versions of other Maserati models—providing more evidence that plug-in hybrid options will become commonplace.