Plug-in hybrids are often seen as a ‘stepping stone’ on the way to EVs, introducing the public to the world of cars that are able to run on electricity as well as the joys – and sometimes pitfalls – of charging, whether that be at home or using public points.
That’s certainly something I’ve found with ‘my’ long-term Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 already. As, though I’ve had EVs and hybrids for very brief spells in the past, this is the first time I’ve lived with a plug-in model for any period of time.
It’s certainly making me adjust to the ways of charging and running it to maximise the Volvo’s electric range once its 10.7kWh battery is topped up, which it should be said is proving quite underwhelming.
Though Volvo says you can expect 28-miles of EV range – and even the ever-optimistic range predictor always says 25 miles – so far I’ve yet to be able to travel for more than 20 miles at a time before the engine needs to kick in. Living in rural North Yorkshire, it means hardly any full journeys can ever be completed purely on electricity, which – to me at least – is the point of a plug-in hybrid.
But in a strange way, that limited electric range is actually making me even more in-tune with the ways of running an EV, mainly because I’ve become obsessed with plugging in the car at any given opportunity.
Like many PHEV owners, I’m fortunate to be able to charge at home and though I don’t have a dedicated wallbox, even using a three-pin plug the battery can be fully topped up in five hours, meaning that nearly all journeys from home are started with a full charge.
Yet, because of my quest to use as little fuel as possible – us tight northerners don’t like spending more money than we need to, after all – it means that just about any destination I go to will involve charging in some way.
Even up in the ‘sticks’, all the local towns around here already have at least a couple of public chargers and it means I’ll now always park in the places that have these EV points. With electrified vehicle take-up still pretty low around here, it also means I’m yet to get to a point and find someone already charging – an issue sometimes seen in other parts of the country.
It also means I’ll now only shop at the supermarkets where I can plug the car in, which might seem an unusual approach, but I’m in the mindset that whenever my Volvo is parked up, it might as well be charging. It’s safe to say Tesco has already become my favourite shop, mainly because its Pod Point 7kW chargers are even free to use.
Though I’m already quite familiar with where all the local chargers are, should I be driving a bit further afield, the useful Zap-Map app easily lets you find where chargers are, while Google Maps also makes it simple to search for nearby points.
But despite my quest to charge the XC40 as often as physically possible, so far the results are proving quite underwhelming from an efficiency point of view. Though Volvo claims it will return between 117.7mpg and 134.5mpg, so far my average over 2,500 miles is 47mpg. That’s far from bad – especially from an SUV of this size – but just one journey without any charge can quickly see the fuel economy plummet like a rock.
It sounds rather excessive to be this addicted to charging the car but it definitely feels like my XC40 is fulfilling that role of being a ‘stepping stone’, as it’s certainly getting me accustomed to the ways of charging and the benefits of running a car on electricity. It wouldn’t surprise me if many plug-in hybrid XC40 owners upgrade to Volvo’s fully-electric XC40 P8 the next time around…
Model: Volvo XC40
Base price: £25,855
Model as tested: Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in hybrid T5 FWD Inscription Pro
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid
Max speed: 112 mph
0-60mph: 7.0 seconds
Emissions: 47-57g/km CO2