Plug-in hybrids, the first victims of electric cars

It’s a small clap of thunder in the automotive industry. The sale of plug-in hybrid cars, a recent technology, is on the decline in Europe.

Is this the beginning of the end for PHEV cars? For the first time since the marketing of this technology, the sales figure for plug-in hybrid cars in Europe is down. From July to September, the plug-in hybrid represented 8.5% of registrations against 9% a year earlier. In concrete terms, in this third quarter, 184,000 PHEVs were sold, compared to 196,000 in the same period in 2021, a decline of 6%. In this European group, France is even more severe with the rechargeable hybrid since its sales there have fallen by 14% (25,000 registrations only).

Just a few months ago, plug-in hybrid cars were the rational solution in this automotive transition to electric. Still equipped with a combustion engine for long journeys, they allowed them to rely on an electric motor and a contained battery for their daily use. Indeed, with an average range of 50 to 60 km, plug-in hybrids could drive for months or even years without consuming a drop of fuel. But do not limit the autonomy of their owner if it were to switch over a journey of several hundred kilometers.

An epiphenomenon or a definitive shift?

How to interpret these numbers? Is this a temporary drop linked to the success of certain electric models such as the M├ęgane E-Tech EV60 or the Tesla Model Y? Is this the consequence of a deliberate choice by manufacturers who, due to the shortage of components, favor the production of the most profitable models? Or is it just the beginning of the end of a stillborn technology, caught in the vice of electrification? In this respect, one could easily think that Europe’s decision to ban non-electric cars, and therefore PHEVs by 2035, has undoubtedly played on the minds of some consumers. From there to precipitate the fall of the rechargeable hybrid? We will certainly have to analyze the next sales figures to see if the trend is confirmed or not.

What is certain, on the other hand, is that the plug-in hybrid appears less and less as a transitional solution, especially since its price is ultimately quite close to electric, which has the advantage to be more widely subsidized (6,000 euros in ecological bonus for 100% electric, 1,000 euros for PHEV). If the fall of the plug-in hybrid was undoubtedly possible, it’s a safe bet that the manufacturers who bet a lot on it were not expecting it so soon.

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