What is it?
Plug-in hybrids such as this new Volvo XC40 are a curious breed, but you can see why car makers keep churning them out.
The EU’s strict new CO2 targets come into effect this year, and PHEVs are a sure-fire way of reining in manufacturers’ fleet average emissions figures. And, of course, they make for a good stepping stone between regular internal combustion-engined cars and pure EVs. But if we’re to believe that every new car sold from 2035 (or perhaps 2032) will have to be emissions-free, it’s tricky to ignore the feeling that they’re being developed and promoted at great expense in the knowledge they’ll soon be obsolete.
Anyway, you can see why the concept might appeal in the here and now. With its 81bhp electric motor and 10.7kWh battery, this XC40 T5 Twin Engine can travel as far as 28 electric-only miles before its 178bhp three-cylinder engine fires up and takes over the task of driving the front wheels. So if you charge it regularly and use it mainly for short hops, it should theoretically cost very little to run – despite the fact that it’s actually a 1.75-tonne SUV.
This ability to run on electricity alone for short distances is also why PHEVs are currently so inexpensive on the company car tax front. As long as you get your spec right, this XC40’s WLTP-certified CO2 rating drops as low as 47g/km, equating to a massive benefit-in-kind tax saving when compared with a standard diesel or petrol XC40. This applies even if the owner then treats it as a regular car and runs it almost exclusively on petrol power, which doesn’t seem entirely sensible. But like it or not, it’s where we’re currently at in the world of new cars.