Plug-in Automobiles

Transitioning from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) to electric vehicles (EVs) and PHEVs is a critical move in the quest to reduce GHG emissions, enhance sustainability, and mitigate the economic, environmental, and social costs associated with automobile use.

The commercial fleet market is a key sector in this transition, considering its substantial contribution to total vehicle miles traveled. PHEVs, with their ability to operate using either gasoline or electricity, offer a practical solution for fleets looking to transition to low-emission options without the range anxiety associated with full EVs.

Recent Advancements in PHEVs

Recent advancements in PHEVs have enhanced their viability for the commercial fleet market. Significant improvements have been made in battery technology, powertrain efficiency, and charging infrastructure, among other areas. New materials and designs have led to lighter, more durable, and cost-effective batteries. This has increased the electric driving range of PHEVs, reduced charging times, and lowered their upfront costs.

Powertrain enhancements have improved the efficiency of energy usage, while new energy management strategies help optimize the switch between electric and gasoline modes for different driving conditions. Meanwhile, increased investment in charging infrastructure has facilitated greater convenience and charging speeds, reducing downtime for commercial fleets.

Quantifying GHG Emissions in GGE

To quantify the GHG emissions of PHEVs, we can use the GGE measure. This measure equates the energy content of alternative fuels to that of gasoline.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, one GGE is equal to 8.89 kilograms of CO2. For PHEVs, emissions depend on the mix of electricity and gasoline used. When operating in electric mode, the only GHG emissions come indirectly from the production of electricity, known as well-to-wheel emissions.

Assuming the U.S. national average for emissions from electricity generation, a PHEV could emit approximately 4,500 lbs of CO2 per year in gasoline mode, and around 1,950 lbs in electric mode, assuming an annual mileage of 12,000 miles. This translates to a reduction in emissions of around 57% when using electricity instead of gasoline.

Sustainability and Economic, Environmental, and Social Cost

The increased adoption of PHEVs within the commercial fleet market promises substantial benefits from sustainability and economic perspectives. By reducing the dependence on fossil fuels, PHEVs can contribute to energy security, reduce fuel costs, and increase resilience to fuel price volatility. The reduction in GHG emissions can mitigate the impacts of climate change and improve local air quality, benefiting public health.

Nevertheless, there are associated costs. The production of batteries for PHEVs requires significant energy and raw materials, some of which are scarce or associated with problematic extraction practices. Charging infrastructure needs substantial investment and careful planning to accommodate peak demand without stressing the grid.

From a social perspective, the transition may affect employment in sectors linked to the internal combustion engine. However, it could also create new jobs in sectors such as battery manufacturing and charging infrastructure installation and maintenance.

Forecast of Annual Production Units

The production of PHEVs in the commercial fleet market is expected to increase both in the United States and globally. This trend is driven by stricter emission standards, corporate sustainability goals, decreasing costs of PHEVs, and government incentives.

By 2030, PHEV production in the U.S. is projected to reach approximately 1.2 million units annually, up from around 400,000 units in 2023. Globally, production is expected to reach around 7 million units by 2030, up from approximately 2.2 million in 2023.

The growth trajectory may depend on factors such as the pace of improvement in battery technology, the expansion of charging infrastructure, fuel prices, and government policies. Potential challenges include supply chain disruptions, electricity grid constraints, and public acceptance of PHEVs.


PHEVs offer significant potential in advancing sustainability within the commercial fleet market. Their ability to reduce GHG emissions, while also offering flexibility and range, make them an attractive option. However, the transition to PHEVs must be managed carefully to mitigate economic, environmental, and social costs. Future production volumes are expected to increase, reflecting a positive trajectory for PHEVs in the context of a global move towards decarbonized transportation.