Seeing untapped success in plug-in hybrid market, Volvo plans to invest big in the often misunderstood powertrain technology.
Plug-in hybrids — the sometimes-EV, sometimes gas-powered vehicles often referred to by the acronym PHEV — have been a tough vehicle type for automakers to sell in the U.S. This, despite being essentially the best of both EV and internal-combustion worlds. It’s an EV most of the time, but with an onboard gas engine for when you need to drive long distances.
Despite American buyers’ lack of enthusiasm for PHEVs, European buyers are virtually scooping them up — at least Volvo’s PHEVs. Last year alone, Volvo sold 26,800 PHEVs in Europe. By comparison, the Swedish brand moved fewer than 4,100 PHEVs in the States.
Volvo is keen to capitalize on the European lust for PHEVs. Accordingly, it plans to increase PHEV production by 20 to 25 percent by the end of the year.
The Market Demands More Supply
“We are not happy because we could sell more [plug-in hybrids] … We underestimated the demand,” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Automotive News. “We are tripling the capacity from what we had about a year ago to where we will be at the end of this year.”
Specifically, buyers are clamoring for Volvo’s plug-in hybrid variants of its crossovers and wagons. PHEV trims of the brand’s XC90, XC60, V90, and V60 models represent 10 to 15 percent of its global sales.
Plug-in hybrids make sense. Automakers can produce a lot more of them using the same number batteries that it would take to produce one full-electric vehicle. That’s important because they still offer the same benefits of an EV while requiring fewer resources. Plus, when the electrons run out, drivers can still keep rolling on gas.
Hopefully, other automakers follow Volvo’s example and push more PHEVs.