Greenwashing through Plug-In Hybrids

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Plug-in hybrid vehicles can emit up to eight times more carbon dioxide than advertised, according to a study by the European NGO Transport&Environment (T&E). The study found that three of the most popular hybrid vehicles in Europe - the BMW X5, the Volvo XC60 and the Mitsubishi Outlander - all emit more CO2 than advertised when tested under real conditions.


The three models emitted 28-89 percent more CO2 than advertised when tested with a fully charged battery under optimal conditions. With an empty battery, they emitted three to eight times more than the official values. The results seem to confirm earlier findings of the International Council on Clean Transportation, which last year found that the real CO2 emissions of plug-in hybrid vehicles were two to four times higher than the measurements taken during the registration process.


Once the battery is depleted, the three plug-in hybrids can only drive 11-23 km in engine mode before exceeding their official CO2 emissions per km, T&E estimates. While automakers blame customers for using the engine too much, models offered today often lack the necessary EV power, range or charging speed. For example, two of the three cars tested, the BMW X5 and the Volvo XC60, cannot charge quickly. And even the Outlander's manual says that the engine can start when the system is too hot or too cold, when accelerating fast or when the air conditioning is on.


The main problem is that in many countries plugin hybrids have a green status and are subsidized by the government. In view of the results, the NGO T&E described hybrid vehicles as "fake electric cars". The sale of plug-in hybrids makes it easier for car manufacturers to meet their CO2 standards, as hybrids currently receive additional credits. T&E called for the EU to end this weakening of regulation when it reviews the 2025 and 2030 targets next year.

Related link: Press release of 23 November 2020, Transport & Environment.

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