Your Plug-In Hybrid SUV Won’t Save the Planet

Back when the electric vehicles revolution appeared unshakable and Tesla Inc. was valued at more than $1 trillion, few of us gave much thought to hybrids. But amid consumer wariness about EVs’ driving range and insufficient public recharging infrastructure, vehicles that combine a combustion engine and electric motor are back in fashion, at least for now.

General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. are among those talking up the potential of hybrids, and US regulators see a bigger role for them in helping meet vehicle-emission targets. I’m all for consumers picking hybrids over regular gas guzzlers. But governments should keep an eye on a subset of these cars, known as Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles, because they often pollute more than manufacturers claim.

Plug-in Hybrids Advance

Unlike regular hybrids, which can only drive very short distances using just the battery and don’t come with a plug, PHEVs typically offer 25-50 miles of purely battery-powered motoring before the combustion engine kicks in.

Until now these cars haven’t been all that popular in the US, but I expect demand to increase in the coming years as they’re a decent option for those still unwilling to make the leap to full electric. Stellantis NV, by far the largest seller of this type of vehicle in the US, reported an 82% increase in PHEV sales there in the first quarter; half of its Jeep Wrangler sales in the US came with a plug.