There are many theories as to why plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have sold like hotcakes (schnitzel? shepherd’s pie?) in Europe but have yet to catch true fire in the U.S. Some say low gas prices allowed Americans to forget about plugging in cars and prodded them to live the dream in gigantic, gas-powered SUVs.
Another theory points to the lack of products on the U.S. market. You have the Ford Fusion Energi, the Chevy Volt, the Volvo XC90 T8, and even a few Bimmers with plugs as of 2016, but there is neither an affordable SUV nor a compact plug-in offering drivers electric range plus a gasoline engine to hit the road when the mood strikes.
Overseas, consumers have more choices, and we wager they’d be popular on this side of the Atlantic if they were available. Here are five plug-in hybrid cars (PHEVs) you probably want but can’t have in America.
1. Volvo V60 PHEV
Any plug-in hybrid wagon by Volvo gets folks showing up at the dealership, but the diesel-electric powertrain of the V60 D5 Twin Engine would make it one of a kind in America. It runs “up to 50 kilometers” (31 miles) on electric power and cranks 230 horsepower at its peak. It has outsold the BMW i3 in some European markets and returned with a 2016 edition to keep the train moving. Despite rumors it would come to America, that never happened, and the diesel factor makes it a long shot.
2. Volkswagen Golf GTE
Americans have the Volkswagen e-Golf at dealerships but are not exactly snatching up the compact EV. We imagine it would be a different story were the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid available on this side of the Atlantic. This version of the popular VW gets up to 31 miles of electric range and (per the automaker) is capable of a spectacular 157 miles per gallon. Consumers in Germany have been certainly convinced. In its first years on sale, the GTE was one of the best-selling plug-in hybrid cars among German drivers.
3. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Mitsubishi dealers and plug-in consumers in the U.S. were clamoring for the Outlander PHEV for years, and the anticipation reached a fever pitch following the NYIAS debut in March 2016. Even with another mini-delay cooked into the reveal (naturally), at least folks could expect it at some point in 2016. Between its EV range and coveted utility vehicle profile, it didn’t take an MBA to see how it would sell big on the U.S. market.
Not so fast, Mitsubishi announced just weeks before it was expected to arrive following more delays than anyone could count. The automaker did the most Mitsubishi thing imaginable by delaying the Outlander PHEV’s arrival another year until summer 2017. At four years late and counting, we suggest it’s time to cross this one off the list.
4. BYD Qin
It may not be flashy, but the BYD Qin gets the job done with 44 miles of electric range and the ability to hit 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds. Chinese manufacturer BYD’s star green car was the top-selling EV in China and No. 7 plug-in car around the globe in 2014. In 2015, it didn’t lose much momentum and took top honors in China despite the trend toward plug-in SUVs. If it were available in the U.S., it would offer the top range of any PHEV outside of the redesigned Chevy Volt.
5. Volkswagen Passat GTE
If you think plug-in hybrids don’t work in America, you haven’t seen the Ford Fusion Energi and C-MAX that have been powerhouses on U.S. sales charts since the latter debuted in 2012. All these years later, the two still rank in the top six and have tens of thousands of sales to boast. So despite the style disadvantage a Passat plug-in hybrid might have, we have to think it would be a strong seller in America.
This hypothesis will have to remain just that, as there are no plans for Volkswagen to bring its midsize plug-in to dealerships on this side of the Atlantic. In Europe, it routinely cracked the top 10 as the go-to choice for eco-conscious car services and businesses touting corporate sustainability.
Sales data courtesy of EV Sales
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