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Energy-saving benefits from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: perspectives based on real-world measurements


Promoting plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) is one important option to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants for road transportation sector. In 2015, more than 220,000 new PHEVs were registered across the world, indicating a 25-fold growth during 2011–2015. However, more criticizes have been put forward against the current energy efficiency regulations for vehicles that are mostly depended on laboratory measurements. To better understand the real-world energy-saving and emission mitigation benefits from PHEVs, we conducted on-road testing experiments under various operating conditions for two in-use PHEVs in Beijing, China. Our results indicate that air condition usage, congested traffic conditions, and higher loading mass could significantly increase energy consumption and shorten actual all-electric distance for PHEVs. For example, the worst case (14.1 km) would occur under harshest usage conditions, which is lower by at least 35% than the claimed range over 20 km. In charge sustaining (CS) mode, real-world fuel consumption also presents a large range from 3.5 L/100 km to 6.3 L/100 km because of varying usage conditions. Furthermore, various vehicle users have significantly different travel profiles, which would lead to large heterogeneity of emission mitigation benefits among individual PHEV adopters. Therefore, this study suggests that the global policy makers should use real-world energy efficiency of emerging electrified powertrain techniques as criteria to formulate relevant regulations and supportive policies.

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This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China’s International Science and Technology Cooperation Program (2016YFE0106300), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (91544222 and 51378285), and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFC0212100). The authors thank Mr. Charles N. Freed, formerly of the US EPA, for his help in improving this paper, and Mr. Xiong Zhang and Mr. Hongbo Sun of Xiaoxiongyouhao for providing real-world fuel consumption data. Dr. Shaojun Zhang is supported by Cornell University’s David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. The contents of this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the sponsors.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ye Wu.


Appendix A CD mode energy consumption distribution of tested trips

Fig. 5

CD mode energy consumption distribution of tested trips; the EC represents the total charging amount from local power, including the EVSE and charging and discharging loss)

Appendix B Key parameters for the reference ICEV model

Table 4 Key parameters for the reference ICEV model, under the urban driving conditions

Appendix C On-road speed corrections of PHEV and the ICEV

Fig. 6

On-road speed corrections of PHEV and the ICEV counterpart for their urban travels, average speed lower than 45 km/h. The on-road fuel consumption for ICEV is estimated according to self-reported data by Toyota Corolla drivers (Xiaoxiongyouhao 2016) and the speed correction curve based on our previous PEMS measurement (Zhang et al. 2014d) (see Appendix B)

Fig. 7

On-road speed corrections of PHEV and the ICEV counterpart for their high-speed travels, average speed higher than 70 km/h. The on-road fuel consumption for ICEV is estimated by using the COPERT4 model (Ntziachristos and Samaras 2014) for the category of 1.6–2.0 L Euro 4 gasoline cars

Appendix D Calculation method of type-approval electricity and fuel consumption for PHEVs in China

$$ Gasoline\kern0.5em consumption(GC)\kern0.5em C=\frac{D_e\times {C}_1+{D}_{av}\times {C}_2}{D_e+{D}_{av}} $$
$$ Electricity\kern0.5em consumption(EC)\kern0.5em E=\frac{D_e\times {E}_1{D}_{av}\times {E}_4}{D_e+{D}_{av}} $$

where C is the type-approval GC value, L/100 km; C 1 and C 2 are tested GC values under CD (or CD blended) and CS modes over the NEDC, L/100 km; E is the type-approval electricity consumption value, kWh/100 km; E 1 and E 4 are tested electricity consumption values under CD (or CD blended) and CD modes, kWh/100 km; D e is the type-approval AER tested according to the regulation, km; and D av is the assumed distance of CS mode and is fixed at 25 km (GAQSIQ 2005).

It should be noted that currently China’s type-approval fuel economy for PHEVs only takes the GC (C) of PHEVs into account for evaluations of CAFC and NAFC.

Appendix E Second-by-second SoC conditions as well as the gasoline consumption of a PHEV in three consecutive NEDC certification driving cycles

Fig. 8

Second-by-second SoC conditions as well as the GC of a PHEV in three consecutive NEDC certification driving cycles; the second cycle is partially powered by CD mode and the equivalent EC is between the pure CD and pure CS mode EC

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Zhou, B., Zhang, S., Wu, Y. et al. Energy-saving benefits from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: perspectives based on real-world measurements. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 23, 735–756 (2018).

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  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle
  • On-road test
  • Energy consumption
  • Driving condition
  • Utility factor