Renault Group

All there is to know about the plug-in hybrid car

10 June 2021
4 min
Combining a combustion engine with electric motor(s), the plug-in hybrid car is changing the way we look at the automobile. More environmentally-friendly and versatile, this category of vehicles benefits from the latest motor and battery charging technologies.
by Renault Group

What is a plug-in hybrid car?

Sometimes shortened to PHEV, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles combine combustion power from an engine and electric power from a rechargeable battery. These two parts function either together or alternatively: motorists can choose between driving using 100 % electric, 100 % combustion power or a combination of the two. Renault vehicles of this type switch between their engine and motor(s), but always start using electric power. Specific to the E-TECH Renault range, this 100% electric start is explained by the presence of a dedicated motor (an alternator-starter) which generates the first rotations of the wheels.

The plug-in hybrid vehicle is therefore able to charge on the electrical grid. The range recovered by charging the battery enables the car to run on 100 % electric energy for several dozen kilometers. This recharge can be carried out at home (on a standard outlet, a secure socket like Green’upTM or a Wallbox) or on a public charging station of up to 22 kW.

How does a plug-in hybrid work?

In keeping with the principle of the hybrid car, a plug-in hybrid car combines the modus operandi of a combustion-powered automobile with that of an electric vehicle. Two kinds of motor co-exist. One, a combustion engine, uses a fuel tank to store its energy. The other, an electric motor, is fed by a traction battery (different to the battery used to power the vehicle’s accessories.)

A plug-in hybrid car is propelled by the electric motor at start-up and also when driving as long as the battery is sufficiently charged. If this isn’t the case, notably for long journeys without charging, the vehicle is powered by its gasoline engine.

The motors inside a plug-in hybrid car

Connected by a power distributor that selects the source of traction energy, a plug-in hybrid vehicle houses a combustion engine and one or two electric motors.
When supplied with fuel, the combustion engine can be used to drive the car: its energy powers a transmission shaft which turns and thus moves the car forward.
One or two electric motors also share the space. These are used when driving depending on the battery’s range, in other words as soon as it has been charged on the electrical grid and/or through energy recovery. Electric power is also used when starting up in all of Renault’s vehicles. It provides optimal torque and power, and is able to provide the vehicle’s traction on its own over several dozen kilometers.

How does a plug-in hybrid car recharge?

A plug-in hybrid car’s battery connects to an electricity source via an outlet on the side of the car opposite the fuel hatch. A charging cable is used to hook the vehicle up to a charging station, whether private or public.

A plug-in hybrid car can therefore recover its range at home on a standard outlet, a secure socket (like Green’upTM) or a Wallbox — a professionally installed device which provides high levels of recharging power. In public spaces, stations of up to 22 kW (whether in the city center, a parking lot or highway rest area) can also be used to charge plug-in hybrids. From 3.5 kW minimum, recharging time is halved compared to a conventional outlet. As with all-electric vehicles, the number of charging stations for restoring electric range are multiplying.

The plug-in hybrid car also recovers a few kilometers of range during deceleration and regenerative braking, as a complement to the energy restored from plug-in charging. When driving, the battery benefits from kinetic energy recovery, a technology integrated on all of the hybrid and electric vehicles from Renault Group. To optimize this energy recovery, the driver can activate the B mode, which increases deceleration — without braking — when the accelerator pedal is released. This provides a pleasant way to recover range, especially in cities, by modulating speed with a single pedal.

The range of a plug-in hybrid car

Its range depends on the size of its battery and fuel tank. Let’s take a closer look at the range of a plug-in hybrid vehicle in all-electric mode — when the car consumes zero fossil fuel and emits no greenhouses gases or pollutants from the exhaust. For a plug-in hybrid car like the Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-In, a lithium-ion battery offers 50 kilometers of range on a mixed WLTP* cycle, which is easily enough to cover everyday driving (the commute to and from work, for example) in all-electric mode, without having to stop off at the gas station.

Another value — total autonomy — gives the vehicle’s range with a full tank of gas and a completely charged battery. The fact that the tank of a plug-in hybrid is a little smaller than that of an equivalent combustion-powered model is compensated by its electric range.

How much does a plug-in hybrid cost?

The price depends on the model chosen and the trim package. For the time being, and bearing in mind that this technology is still in its early days, prices are higher than those of equivalent combustion power models (by around 19% for Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid, for example, excluding grants.) However, the cost of a PHEV is offset by the possible purchase bonuses provided in different countries (see below). The energy consumption of a plug-in hybrid vehicle also involves lower running costs, as there are fewer trips to the gas station thanks to regular electric recharging. The fuel consumption of the vehicles in the Renault E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid range is therefore reduced by 75% compared to combustion-powered vehicles, provided that the electric motor is used daily and, if necessary, charged once a day.

What is the difference between a hybrid and plug-in hybrid?

The principle of the plug-in hybrid car derives directly from hybrid technology. However, the ability to recharge the vehicle when stationary, at a home charging station or in public spaces, is where we find the difference between a hybrid car and a plug-in hybrid car. A plug-in hybrid has a larger battery and therefore greater capacity, giving it more range in all-electric mode.
Among the Renault models, there is a classic hybrid version of Clio, the Clio E-TECH hybrid, and plug-in hybrids like the Captur E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid and Megane E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid. Each offers a variety of uses to its drivers.

What are the advantages of the plug-in hybrid for the user?

With a rechargeable battery-powered electric motor, a plug-in hybrid car can carry out everyday trips in all-electric mode, providing an electric mobility solution that’s both environmentally-friendly and low in energy consumption.

With its onboard combustion engine, a plug-in hybrid car has access to a wide network of service stations and, when fully refueled and recharged, has the same range as a gasoline-powered car.

Combining the two types of motor therefore covers the most common uses of a car. In town, and for everyday trips combining urban, road and highway driving, the all-electric mode is selected. With a daily recharge, for example, the motorist is able to get around without exhaust emissions. The combustion engine takes over on long-distance journeys. Plug-in hybrid cars are therefore able to carry out weekly needs of several dozen kilometers in all-electric mode (50 kilometers WLTP* on a Renault E-TECH Plug-in model) and to travel further afield for a long weekend or on vacation, for example, using the combustion engine without the driver having to think about recharging.

What purchase bonuses exist for plug-in hybrid cars?

In France, plug-in hybrid cars benefit from a purchase subsidy on condition that the vehicle in question can cover at least 50 kilometers in all-electric mode. A conversion bonus and/or an electric car grant can further facilitate the purchase. Germany has introduced a purchase bonus and a reduction in driving tax for plug-in hybrids, as has the Netherlands. Norway has lifted taxes on the purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles, whether for personal or professional use, while Great Britain offers tax breaks to owners of company plug-in vehicles.
European countries are showing increasing interest in this technology and the replacement of the combustion-powered car with an electric fleet of vehicles due to the numerous policy incentives voted in over the past few years.

Practical and innovative, the plug-in hybrid car combines all the possibilities of electric with those of combustion power. Like 100 % electric and non-rechargeable hybrids, these models — such as Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-in hybrid and the Megane E-TECH Plug-in hybrid, embody the progressive electrification of mobility.


* WLTP: Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure. The standard WLTP cycle corresponds to 57% of city journeys, 25% of suburban journeys and 18% of motorway journeys.

Copyrights : HILL Dave, PLANIMONTEUR, Jean-Brice LEMAL

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