About Plug-in Electric Vehicles

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are powered by an internal combustion engine and a high-voltage electric battery that can be charged from an electric outlet. PHEVs are similar to HEVs – like the Ford Fusion Hybrid – in that they are equipped with both an electric battery and a gas-powered engine. Unlike HEVs however, PHEVs are equipped with a high-capacity battery that can be charged from a private household or public electric outlet.

Overall plug-in hybrid vehicles offer several benefits including:
• Reduced dependence on petroleum fuels
• Reduced environmental impact through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as well as smog-forming tailpipe emissions
• Potential consumer savings on energy and fuel costs

While regular HEVs maintain a roughly constant battery charge, PHEVs discharge the battery while driving to provide additional fuel savings. PHEVs can be significantly less expensive for consumers to operate than gasoline-powered vehicles, particularly for consumers who frequently take short trips, allowing them to travel on electricity stored in the battery instead of more costly gasoline.

PHEVs have the potential to reduce tailpipe emissions to near zero when running on battery power. The vehicle’s overall life cycle emissions depend on the electrical power source and the usage characteristics of the vehicle.

The high-voltage battery is charged through regenerative breaking and discharged during acceleration to improve the overall fuel economy of the vehicle – similar to today’s conventional hybrids. When the battery is depleted, the vehicle can continue to operate on the gas-powered engine, providing significant benefits over battery electric vehicles in terms of driving range before refueling.

PHEV batteries can be charged at home or at other parking locations, so they might better suit customers who do the majority of their driving in the city and other urban environments, where electric battery power is the preferred powertrain alternative. In many areas, plug-in vehicle drivers also have access to public charging stations at libraries, shopping centers, hospitals, and businesses. Charging infrastructure is rapidly expanding, providing drivers with the convenience, range, and confidence to meet more of their transportation needs with plug-in vehicles.

Although PHEVs are generally more expensive than similar gasoline non-hybrid and hybrid vehicles, some costs can be recovered through fuel savings, a federal tax incentive and state incentives.

For more information on plug-in electric vehicles, visit the Department of Energy's new EV Everywhere page for consumers.