The Top 5 Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles for Fleets

 In Green Fleet

When the conditions are right, all-electric cars make great sense for municipal, utility, and business fleets. Purchase incentives bring down acquisition costs, HOV lane access helps drivers avoid traffic jams, and the quiet, clean operation makes them friendly to residents in congested urban areas.

However, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) might not be the best option for every situation – especially when routes are unpredictable or the vehicle is heavily utilized.

In such scenarios, plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) offer a number of benefits to fleet owners. While incentives are less valuable, electric range is minimal in most cases, and emissions are still a factor due to the gas engines, they still offer:

  • More total range – over five times more in the best cases
  • Impressive EV and hybrid fuel economy
  • Utility vehicle options
  • High-end performance

The trick is matching the right vehicle to your fleet needs and managing daily operation to maximize the benefits of a PHEV. Here are some of the best available options and a look at their common fleet uses.

1) Chevrolet Volt

2017 Chevrolet VoltIf pure EV range is your fleet’s top priority, the Chevy Volt is the best option for vehicles below the $35,000 price point. This model delivers 53 miles electric range and 420 miles total range in the 2016 and 2017 editions ($33,200 before incentives) along with economy rated at 106 MPGe/42 mpg.

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First-generation Volt drivers covered over 80% of driving in EV mode, so this car can help a fleet phase out gasoline costs and serve as a hedge against future spikes in oil prices. However, reports about fleet usage of first-gen models reveal poor economy due to incentivized gas use.

Fleets seeking economy upgrades can easily avoid this fate through regular charging and matching the Volt to round trips of 50 miles or less. Because of the somewhat compact (106-inch) wheelbase, it serves best as a company car for hauling employees between short distances or as a field vehicle for utilities.

2) Ford Fusion Energi

Ford Fusion Energi HybridThe midsize sedan class is relatively bare in the PHEV segment, but the Ford Fusion Energi is a strong offering for fleets to consider. Electric range is set at 21 miles, total range is a best-in-class 610 miles, and economy is rate at 97 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) in electric mode and 42 miles per gallon (mpg) in hybrid mode.

Since compact cars are the norm in the EV segment where efficiency rules, the Fusion’s 112-inch wheelbase makes it an excellent choice for taxi and executive fleets. This car’s striking exterior plays at a higher price point than its sticker price ($31,120 before incentives).

Prior to the upgraded 2017 edition, Fusion Energi featured the Aston Martin-inspired grille and 19 miles of range. In either iteration, regenerative braking helps add charge to the battery when managed correctly by drivers. Ideally, drivers would continuously charge this model to push the percentage of EV-only miles, but its hybrid operation is economical enough to handle any itinerary.

Fleet owners who like a midsize sedan’s spaciousness but want to maximize EV mileage could also opt for the Hyundai Sonata PHEV offering 27 miles of range at $34,600 before incentives. Economy is rated at 99 MPGe/40 mpg.

3) BMW i3 REX

BMW i3 REXThe BMW i3 REX is a unique plug-in hybrid in that it offers nearly equal mileage as an EV (72 miles) as a gasoline-powered car (78 miles). This uniqueness comes with a higher sticker price ($46,250 before incentives) but there is no tradeoff in economy (117 MPGe/39 mpg).

With an exceptionally sustainable production system and 25% renewable materials in the interior, the i3 is the plug-in hybrid for businesses who want to make a pronounced point about greening fleets. The coach or “suicide” doors and instantly identifiable profile mark it as a one-of-a-kind BMW.

For this reason, the i3 has become a key element in BMW’s ReachNow car-sharing fleet that has become popular in Seattle and has expanded to Portland.

4) Volvo XC90 T8

Volvo XC90 T8As trends in executive transportation vehicles shift toward sport-utility models like Tahoe and Suburban, fleets looking to emphasize sustainability and save on fueling might consider the Volvo XC90 T8, a sport utility vehicle offering 14 miles of EV range and 350 miles total range.

The plug-in XC90 hits all the right notes in comfort and elegance while keeping economy remarkable for a vehicle of its size (54 MPGe/25 mpg). Compared to a Chevrolet Tahoe (16 mpg in city driving), this Volvo’s exceptional economy stands out, even at a sticker price of $71,800 before incentives.

5) BMW 330e

BMW 330eThe “Big 3” German luxury automakers have also entered the fray with plug-in hybrid models. While the BMW X5 xDrive40e was the first to debut across North America, the Mercedes-Benz S550e PHEV has been available in limited numbers in California and the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron has also become a factor on sales charts.

BMW 330e is the latest model to make its debut and fits the bill for luxury car services and boutique firms hoping to project a more modern, sustainable profile in the community. EV range is set at 14 miles (same as the X5 plug-in) and economy comes in at 72 MPGe/31 mpg. Pricing starts at $43,700 before incentives.

In an ad airing during 2016 Olympics for the 330e, BMW took a swipe at Tesla with its pitch to those who put down $1,000 to reserve a spot in line for the Model 3 expected to debut in 2017. You don’t have to play the waiting game if you opt for the 330e, according to the ad’s logic.

While there is no comparison in terms of range or sustainability, BMW does have a point about overall economy in the premium sedan segment.

How Fleets Can Get More from Plug-in Hybrids

The plug-in hybrid proposition for fleets can get somewhat complicated, but there are ways to maximize the technology’s cost and emissions savings. Fleet managers can do the following to get more:

  • Schedule trips to accommodate more plug time
  • Know charging options in the area
  • Avoid battery-draining routes
  • Train operators in optimal EV-driving technique

As in every other aspect of fleet planning, knowledge is a fleet manager’s best weapon in combating waste with daily vehicle runs. Using fleet telematics to know exactly how plug-ins are performing is the place to begin.

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