BEV or PHEV: which should you choose?
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In a crucial step towards making New Zealand carbon neutral by 2050, the government favoured two types of vehicles that could be operated without producing tailpipe emissions when it introduced the Clean Car Discount scheme on July 1. Under the scheme, those who register either a new or secondhand Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) for the first time in this country can apply to receive substantial rebates. So, what’s the difference between a BEV and a PHEV and which of these game-changing automotive technologies best suits you?
A BEV is a vehicle that relies solely on battery power alone to get from A to B, whereas a PHEV has a smaller battery backed up by a full-emission internal combustion powertrain and can only be operated as an zero-emission vehicle over short journeys such as the daily commute from home to work. There’s little argument over which of these motive technologies is the most environmentally benign, especially when operated in New Zealand where more than 80 per cent of electricity is generated from renewable sources. If you’re committed to making a vehicle choice that’ll do the maximum to reduce your personal transport emissions, choose the BEV. Your planet will love you for it.
The allocation of the rebates under the Clean Car Discount scheme recognizes that BEVs have more potential to improve our air quality than PHEVs. Those who register a new BEV for the first time can apply for a cash-back of $8625 whereas the first owner of a new PHEV will receive $5750. There’s a similar difference in the first registrations of secondhand imports, with those registering a BEV getting a $3450 discount, $1150 more than the $2300 received by the first New Zealand owner of a secondhand PHEV.
The difference the discounts also takes account of the extra purchase cost of a BEV over a PHEV. The larger-capacity batteries of the fully electric vehicle currently cost more than the combination of a smaller-capacity battery and the many mechanical combustion powertrain components required to build a PHEV. Some of our motor distributors, such those importing new Kia and Hyundai models, offer the opportunity to directly compare the purchase costs of both technologies in their Niro and Ioniq model ranges. In the former, the BEV version of the Kia Niro costs approximately $22,000 more than the identical-looking PHEV version. In the Hyundai Ioniq sedan range, the difference is approximately $18,000.
Buyers of new PHEV models will therefore find that their dollar goes further in terms of affordability and the extra equipment that their budget can access. Given that the discounts only apply to vehicles costing less than $80,000 (including on-road costs and GST), it may be easier to find a discount-eligible PHEV that suits your needs in terms of vehicle size and the number of seats than its BEV equivalent at present.
Then there’s the range factor: for a PHEV is no longer wedded to a recharging network whenever the power in its battery becomes depleted. The combustion engine starts up and takes over, and some PHEVs are capable of 500-600km of travel before they completely run out of both sources of energy. Got to tow something? The drag of the trailer on a BEV will drain its battery faster, whereas the PHEV has the extra endurance of petrol power to shoulder the burden. Range and towing are two factors that will encourage rural buyers to favour PHEVs over BEVs.
The pendulum swings back in favour of the BEV when running costs are accounted for. A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US showed that a BEV could save between $US4000 and $US12,000 per annum in refueling/recharging costs when compared to a petrol-powered car, the larger number being cited for states with higher fuel taxes. Then there’s maintenance; a recent audit of the vehicles used by the city of New York, showed that the city’s BEVs cost an annual average of $US300 to maintain compared to $US1600 for the municipal petrol-powered vehicles. Given that PHEVs will still require similar maintenance schedule to a petrol vehicle, and that their owners will still have to visit refueling stations periodically, it’s clear that a BEV will claw back some of the extra purchase price premium over any reasonable period of ownership.
Another factor is reliability as BEVs generally come with a longer warranty. Most BEV manufacturers offer a ten-year warranty on the battery, whereas the powertrains used in PHEVs, with all their moving parts, are likely to be covered by a maximum warranty period of five years.
Will the BEV eventually kill off the PHEV? That’s highly likely according to the predictions of futurists. For we’re about to witness a dramatic increase in global BEV production that will drive vastly increased access to recharging infrastructure. This year, around four million BEVs will be made globally. By 2025, that number will have increased five-fold to 20 million BEVs annually. With that increase will come a dramatic reduction in the cost of BEV batteries that’ll see the present purchase price advantage of the PHEV melt away.
To find out more, visit the Clean Car website.
Next week: What should you look for in an Electric Vehicle?