The size and shape of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) battery pack may seem strange to the government. But as those high-voltage batteries wear out, being able to replace them will be critical to the continued efficiency of used PHEVs. Additionally, future advances in battery technology could allow you to convert a PHEV into a long-range EV if you can upgrade it with a standard-sized aftermarket battery.
The future of used PHEVs
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Many plug-in hybrid electric vehicles offer 20 miles of all-electric range — or more. That’s enough range for the average commuter to crank up the ICE on just one car trip.
The electric drive train of a PHEV not only saves fuel, but also often saves wear and tear compared to its conventional drive train. Because its electric motor/generator accelerates, the petrol engine doesn’t have to. The electric drivetrain also brakes, so the stock service brakes do less work.
Automakers are trying to build battery packs for modern hybrids and PHEVs that will last as long as the rest of the vehicle’s powertrain. But PHEV high-voltage batteries wear out over time. In this case, their all-electric range is reduced. Also, their MPG increases while under combustion engine power. Because they weigh more than their non-hybrid counterparts, PHEVs in ICE mode can have worse MPG than comparable conventional vehicles.
If the automotive industry were to standardize PHEV batteries to a few possible sizes and shapes, it would allow the aftermarket industry to offer a range of replacement packs for high-mileage PHEVs.
Can you turn a PHEV into an electric vehicle?
Advances in battery technology are already enabling higher kWh batteries that are the same size as older, lower kWh batteries. One day you may be able to upgrade the battery in a PHEV and give it as much electric range as some current EVs. This would make buying PHEV more attractive – according to Auto Evolution.
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Automakers and private companies are spending billions of dollars on advanced battery technology. New battery chemistries – more power in a smaller space at a lower price – are on the horizon. A startup managed to put a 750-mile battery in a Tesla Model S. Putting a 200-mile battery in a PHEV doesn’t seem far-fetched by comparison.
But when aftermarket companies have to develop a different battery upgrade for each make and model of plug-in hybrid, it could take a long time. This will significantly push back the era of upgrading your PHEV to an electric vehicle. The standardization of PHEVs will make it much easier to convert them to EVs after their batteries wear out.
Would the government be able to standardize PHEV batteries?
The traditional automotive industry will likely fight against the standardization of PHEV batteries so that they can be upgraded in the future. Anything that keeps today’s vehicles on the road longer is seen as a threat to future vehicle sales.
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Additionally, the dense packing of PHEV batteries makes these vehicles more efficient when new. If an automaker is limited to a standard battery tray even with a low kWh battery pack, it can waste a lot of space in a new car.
However, standardizing the size and shape of PHEV battery packs could help automakers in the long run. When EV and PHEV buyers know that it will be relatively easy to upgrade their batteries — and their range — in the future, they will experience less range anxiety. The high entry costs of a modern EV or PHEV may also be easier to bear.
When drivers finally upgrade their PHEVs to EVs, many will prefer batteries with original manufacturer warranties. With PHEVs and EVs lasting longer than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, this would be a great way for automakers to continue making money from these durable vehicles. And they will find this much easier if they now standardize the size and shape of their battery packs.
Next, find out how much it costs to replace a PHEV battery.
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