Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are an excellent choice for buyers who want to spend less time at the pump and enjoy the efficiency of an electric vehicle without betting on the technology. However, there are some things you should consider and don’t treat it like a normal electric vehicle.
Whether you just bought a PHEV or are planning to buy one, it’s important to remember that these vehicles don’t have the range of an all-electric car and there’s still a gas-powered engine to worry about must.
However, this hybrid technology makes them highly efficient, and some consider a PHEV to be the best of both worlds. Here’s what you should know to keep it as economical as possible through regular maintenance.
What is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle?
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) feature a full gas-powered system, an electric powertrain, and a battery. One or the other or both can be used. This system is very different from a “hybrid” vehicle.
In a regular hybrid, the car typically uses the EV aspect to help you accelerate, but switches to throttle-only when cruising around, or combines the two for improved mileage. You can’t connect a regular hybrid to charge the battery. The car does that for you, but that also means its main power source is still petrol, even if it’s more efficient than a regular car.
On the other hand, as the name suggests, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle has a similar electric/gas hybrid setup, but you can plug it in to charge the battery. More importantly, a PHEV can only run on electricity for short distances, often around 60 miles or less.
Many car buyers consider a plug-in hybrid to be the perfect vehicle for driving short distances, e.g. B. on the way to work. You never have to buy gas. Then there’s still a petrol engine for longer trips or if you forget to charge the battery.
If you switch to the internal combustion engine (ICE) and run your car on gas, the momentum of driving around can charge up the electric bits through regenerative braking. Technically, you’ll never need the petrol if you only drive short distances. However, it is important that you do not drive it like this and continue to use the ICE engine occasionally.
Use the gas engine frequently
We’re all familiar with standard gas car maintenance, but those who buy a PHEV may forget, and that’s a mistake. A PHEV still has a regular engine with oil, gasoline, coolant, and other fluids.
And just like you should never leave a regular petrol car sitting around for long periods of time, you should use your plug-in hybrid electric vehicle’s petrol engine at least once a week. Yes, even if it has enough electric range to cover 100% of your daily trips, leave the petrol engine running occasionally.
There are several reasons you might want to do this. Firstly, to ensure that all components remain fresh, lubricated and in good working order. It also helps you use the gasoline so it doesn’t sit for a long time and then go bad.
Running an internal combustion engine on gasoline that is several months old is not a good idea. So if you rarely use the gas engine in your PHEV, you might want to use a gas stabilizer to keep things fresh.
Another thing to keep an eye on are the brakes. Hybrids and PHEVs feature regenerative braking, in which the electric motors rotate in reverse to slow the vehicle without using the brakes. The vehicle’s momentum generates energy, and your car converts this into battery power. However, this also means you don’t use the brakes as often, and you could run into brake binding or other issues.
While your PHEV can run entirely on electricity for short trips, don’t forget about regular car maintenance as a PHEV still has the same components.
Your PHEV can help
Depending on the year, make or model of your plug-in hybrid vehicle, it will likely remind you to start the petrol engine frequently, or even do it for you. For example, the Chevy Volt has a sealed and pressurized gas tank, which is said to help extend the life of gasoline. However, if you are not going to use the engine for 4-6 months, a stabilizer is still a good idea.
Most PHEVs have built-in fuel and engine maintenance modes to ensure everything is running properly or being used often enough. Many PHEVs can track when the engine was last run and will initiate an “engine maintenance mode” to keep the engine running for 10-20 minutes while driving. You can override this if you know the journey will be short. In any case, don’t forget to run the normal engine from time to time.
Similarly, your PHEV likely has a gas maintenance system that tracks when you use the fuel tank. If the system detects that you haven’t used that gas fast enough, it will remind you to switch to ICE driving or add extra fuel to the mix.
These essential systems help keep your PHEV in optimal operating condition and ensure the electric and petrol engines are always operational.
Don’t forget about EV maintenance
Finally, we wanted to mention maintenance again. While it’s true that an electric vehicle requires less maintenance than a regular vehicle, there are still things to consider.
Even though electric vehicles don’t have nearly as many moving parts, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything. For example, you still need to keep up with engine and cab air filters, inverter coolant, brake pads and rotors, or the occasional tire change. You want to check all hybrid components, from the charge connector to the battery packs and inverter coolant, every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, much like regular oil changes.
You should also maintain the battery. Don’t forget the battery if you’re going on a long drive and plan to use your PHEV like a regular gasoline-powered car. Allowing the battery to run out is a bad idea, and you don’t want to store it at 100% charge for long periods of time either. Most manufacturers recommend keeping your PHEV battery between 20-80% for optimal health.
While driving a PHEV on gasoline, the electrical system can be charged through regenerative braking. But do not forget to charge the battery to an acceptable level. You never know when you’ll need it, and it’s better for overall system health.
Finally, just because you can do all your PHEV rides on the battery doesn’t mean you should. Use both systems frequently, monitor your battery, gas and oil levels, and cultivate good maintenance habits.
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