Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could see their best year yet in 2017 with several new price-competitive models rolling out.
According to an overview by the New York Times, automakers are seeing plug-in hybrids as an important stepping stone for car buyers to consider their first electrified vehicles. Making them more affordable is part of the strategy, with decreases in battery prices over the past six years helping that along.
Kia will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the Niro crossover later this with similar features and consumer friendly price.
“We want to be price-neutral for the consumer,” said Steve Kosowski, long-range strategy manager for Kia Motors America. “When you walk into the showroom, it should be, why wouldn’t you buy this one?”
Federal tax incentives and state rebates are helping sales. Some of the plug-in hybrids, such as the popular Chevy Volt, do qualify for the full $7,500 tax credit that all-electric vehicles receive.
Several states are offering rebates that include plug-in hybrids, along with battery electric and sometimes fuel cell vehicles. New York recently started a rebate that pays up to $2,000 for some plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel cell vehicle models.
Some automakers want to make plug-in hybrids just another option for consumers to consider as a powertrain option with great fuel economy and performance.
Mercedes-Benz, which will launch seven plug-in hybrid and all-electric models this year, is taking a similar marketing strategy for the flagship S-Class sedan with its S-550e plug-in hybrid variant. That luxury performance car starts at $100,000.
“The strategy is to make the latest S-550e plug-in the same price as the V8 counterpart,” said Paul La Penta, a supervisor in electromobility at Mercedes-Benz.
Selling performance is another angle Mercedes and other German automakers are taking with plug-in hybrid launches. At the New York International Auto Show, Mercedes showed off a GT Concept car that will be able to generate 800 horsepower coming from a V8 combustion engine combined with an electric module.
Porsche will be launching the 2018 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid this year, a plug-in hybrid four-door. It can go from 0 to 60 mph in a little over three seconds.
“The biggest benefit of these cars is the torque,” said Frank Wiesmann, a spokesman for Porsche. “With electric help, it’s faster to 60 mph and delivers a higher top speed.”
Hyundai and Honda are taking a broad approach to meeting consumer interest in alternative powertrains that includes plug-in hybrids.
The Hyundai Ioniq will be available in hybrid, all-electric, and plug-in hybrid variations.
The Honda Clarity is coming out primarily as a fuel cell vehicle with battery electric and plug-in hybrid options available to interested buyers. The all-electric and plug-in hybrid versions of the Clarity were introduced last month at the New York auto show.
“We want to demonstrate several different powertrains in the same market,” said Steve Center of Honda’s environmental business development office.
Automakers are hoping that plug-in hybrids prove to be the gateway to all-electric vehicles, according to the New York Times.
Improving electric only range on plug-in hybrids is part of getting consumers to buy in.
Mercedes’ S-Class plug-in hybrid can only go 13 miles on battery power.
The top-selling Chevy Volt had to clear that hurdle to see sales improve, with the original version launched in late 2010 going about 35 miles on battery power. The current model can go 53 miles on electric power.