“While most hybrids on the road today combine gas engines with electric motors to save fuel, plug-in hybrids can drive primarily on batteries—with the engine as a backup—making them the closest thing to a full EV on the road,” according to the Journal.
Because they can run on gas, Toyota is rebranding its plug-ins as “practical electric vehicles.” Still, plug-in hybrids may be vulnerable to pressure from environmental groups and government agencies pushing for pure EVs. Regulators in places like California are moving to limit or exclude plug-in hybrids from rules mandating a transition to electric.
“There are regions that are moving speedily toward EVs and others that are taking more time,” Koji Sato, Toyota’s CEO, said Friday. Investing in plug-in hybrids “is a practical way in which we can shift toward electrified vehicles.”
Toyota’s goal, Sato said, is to increase the range of plug-in hybrid vehicles so that the resemblance to full EVs grows closer. The company said earlier this month that it plans to develop plug-in models capable of driving more than 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) in EV mode.
In the U.S., there are more than 30 plug-in hybrid models available. They account for about 4% of global light vehicle sales.
The Journal included an anecdote from Hanley Dawson III, whose family operates a group of car dealers in the Chicago area. He reported that a number of customers have returned EVs after underestimating the difficulties posed by limited range and charging problems. They then inquire about hybrids.