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How the plug-in hybrid car works

How the plug-in hybrid car works

Hybrid vehicles, marketed for the first time at the end of the 1990s, were considered, and still are, as an eco-responsible alternative to 100% thermal vehicles . This solution has since confirmed its success, as evidenced by the figures from the Avere-France barometer for October 2022 which establishes the number of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) in circulation at almost 400,000.

This advanced technology has the dual advantage of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enabling long journeys without the constraints of battery life and recharging time.

If you have not yet chosen your car of tomorrow, we will explain how a plug-in hybrid car works and its many advantages.


What is a plug-in hybrid car?

Hybrids are cars equipped with two engines powered by different energies. There are several combinations. The electric engine can be coupled with gasoline-LPG, gasoline-natural gas, natural gas engines, etc. but the most common models combine a gasoline or diesel thermal engine with an electric engine (alternator-starter or electric motor).

There are also several types of hybridizations: micro-hybrids, mild-hybrids or mild hybrids (MHEV), full-hybrids or classic hybrids (HEV), and plug-in hybrids (PHEV). The rechargeable version is the compromise between the thermal car and the electric car, with real autonomy in zero-emission, all-electric mode. It is the most advanced solution in terms of comfort and performance . It offers the best of both energies, while the other non-rechargeable hybridization modes mainly offer assistance, with very limited autonomy in the classic version (full-hybrids).


How a plug-in hybrid car works

The operation of the plug-in hybrid car (PHEV for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) is based on the intervention of electrical and thermal energy in the different phases of circulation:

  • When the vehicle starts, the electric system comes into play, with a range of around fifty kilometers on average.
  • During acceleration phases, the electric and thermal engines work together.
  • When decelerating, the electric battery is recharged using kinetic energy.
  • At cruising speed, the thermal engine drives the car forward and recharges the electric battery.

The operation of the plug-in hybrid car in 100% electric mode for around fifty kilometers is ideal for short-distance daily trips , particularly in urban areas where mobility is more regulated with the proliferation of low-emission zones (ZFE). For all long distance journeys, the thermal takes over.


Charging the batteries of a plug-in hybrid car

The difference in operation of the plug-in hybrid car and the classic hybrid car is based on the method of recharging the battery . Recharging cars equipped with classic full-hybrid hybridization is exclusively ensured by the kinetic energy of the vehicle. Recharging the lithium-ion battery of a plug-in hybrid car is carried out via the kinetic energy of the car in motion but also by plugging it into the mains when parked. This allows it to recover a full charge, ensuring that the plug-in hybrid car operates with optimal, 100% electric autonomy.

This recharge can be carried out at home by plugging it into your domestic circuit with the cable provided by the manufacturer (slower and unsecured power supply) or onto a wall terminal provided for this purpose (circuit independent of the domestic circuit, more secure and faster) . It is also possible to recharge your rechargeable hybrid car battery on the network of electrical terminals installed in public places, gas stations and on major roads. These collective installations guarantee the availability of fast recharges. According to the Ministry of Energy Transition, the number of charging points open to the public at the end of November 2022 stood at 80,000 across the national territory.

Plug-in hybrid vehicle: what advantages and disadvantages?

The plug-in hybrid car is the most efficient alternative solution . The operation of the plug-in hybrid car combines both electric and thermal engines for more eco-responsible mobility. Most of your daily trips can be made in 100% electric mode, and your longer distance trips in thermal mode. Intelligent management of your energy guarantees you optimal comfort and secures your travels.


The advantages linked to the operation of the hybrid car are therefore numerous:

  • Sufficient autonomy for your daily journeys,
  • Lower fuel consumption,
  • The comfort and flexibility of driving an electric vehicle,
  • Possibility of choosing green electricity for recharging your plug-in hybrid car,
  • Purchase subsidies and reduction on the price of the registration document…

The inconvenients

The plug-in hybrid car also has some disadvantages, which are:

  • More expensive model to purchase,
  • Greater mechanical complexity due to the two on-board engines, which may have an impact on maintenance,
  • On long journeys in 100% thermal mode, the vehicle, weighed down due to the two engines, can consume more.


Is it profitable to buy a plug-in hybrid car?

Technically speaking, it is profitable to buy a car equipped with a plug-in hybrid engine. You thus reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, you reduce your fuel consumption and you benefit from the performance of a dual engine. 

Economically and fiscally speaking, it is also interesting to buy a new or used plug-in hybrid car. Even if the acquisition cost is higher, you benefit from subsidies : conversion bonus, ecological bonus, regional and local aid. 

When the operation of the newly purchased plug-in hybrid car ensures a range of more than 50 km on electric power, you benefit from total or partial exemption from regional tax upon registration.

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