Tackling the scandalous PHEVs emissions’ loophole

The climate ratings of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) are likely to become considerably more realistic after the EU agreed to assess their CO2 emissions depending on how much they actually produce on the road.

The Green group Transport & Environment (T&E), which has fought for years to draw attention to the true effects of “fake” electric vehicles, claimed the new approach will put an end to the emissions scandal that is deceiving consumers and enabling automakers to dramatically lower their CO2 objectives.

“Fake” electric cars? Really?

Regulators currently give PHEVs excessively low emissions ratings because they believe they are driven far more frequently in electric mode than is actually the case. Starting in 2025, the EU will drastically cut the so-called utility factors, or the percentage of electric driving that regulators use to determine the CO2 emissions of PHEVs.

According to recent data, privately owned PHEVs emit three times more CO2 – and thus consume three times more gasoline – than is legally acknowledged. Plug-in hybrids emit five times more than their official ratings, which is considerably worse for company cars. Although automakers have placed the burden for high emissions squarely on drivers, PHEVs are often poorly built, with small batteries, frail electric motors, powerful engines, and typically no quick charging capabilities.

The majority of PHEVs can qualify as “low emissions” vehicles under the EU’s clean car regulations thanks to the existing, inflated CO2 ratings. The rule rewards automakers for each zero- or low-emission vehicle they sell, encouraging producers to increase the production of plug-in hybrids in an effort to miss their fleet average emissions target.

Fixing the loophole

Based on information gathered from onboard fuel consumption metres, the EU also made the decision to reassess its new utility factors in 2024, which will provide a more thorough evaluation of the percentage of miles travelled electrically. This will present a chance to further modify the utility factors for 2025 and 2027 and fix the current loophole.