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The winter charging conundrum

Some owners don’t plug in their plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as much as they should, and others plug them in rarely, if at all.

By Michael Bettencourt Wheels.ca

Mar 5, 2022 2 min. read

Article was updated 3 months ago

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Some owners don’t plug in their plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as much as they should, and others plug them in rarely, if at all. This is judging from multiple posts on an owner social media group, and anecdotally from my daily dog walks. By not plugging them in, the whole point of having a battery is negated.

But why? Are owners tired of gas savings? Not likely, especially with the sky-high and still rising fuel prices we’ve seen across Canada. Do they no longer marvel at the smoother and more immediate performance offered by spinning magnet motors versus thousands of little gas explosions per minute? Again, not likely.

Perhaps some owners just never cared about reducing fossil fuel emissions and were just after government rebates? Possibly, although there is not currently an EV rebate in Ontario, and the max federal rebate for PHEVs is $5,000 (with most new models only eligible for half that).

The issue, I believe, is Canadian winters. With almost all plug-in hybrids, once you turn up the heat, the gas engine turns on to generate that heat. It may happen immediately in the driveway or a few minutes down the road after the car tries, but fails, to reach your desired temperature.

Most plug-in hybrids come with an “EV Only” mode that’s supposed to force the vehicle to keep using electricity. But with many models, the driver will often receive a message saying something to the effect of “Engine On for Climate Settings.” This means you can either drive in EV mode, or heat the vehicle, but not both.

To be fair, internal combustion engine vehicles also use more gas during winter. But, if I had to take an educated guess at why some owners don’t plug in as much in winter, it’s that sometimes there’s just no point doing it.

TAG: Michael Bettencourt bought his first EV in late 2011 and has followed the Canadian EV scene ever since. Follow him on Twitter @MCBet10court

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