It seems almost every automaker has a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), ranging from the affordable Hyundai Ioniq PHEV ($24,950 base MSRP) all the way up to the Bentley Bentayga Plug-In Hybrid (a cool $190,000). More than just a regular gas-electric hybrid like the Toyota Prius, PHEVs promise short-range electric-only efficiency that aims to cover commute distances for most drivers. The problem is no one's buying them. So, what's going on? Aren't these vehicles a glimpse of the future? Let's take a closer look at what the problem(s) could be. 

ct6 phev
Was anyone surprised by the fact that the Caddy CT6 PHEV didn't sell much at all?

The point of a PHEV is to provide an added level of efficiency and convenience. Rather than running to the pump each week, you can opt for electric-only usage, which averages around 30 miles of range. This covers the average commuting distance to and from work for most drivers, so the idea is for owners to use electric only and plug in at home or the office and then use a little gas on the weekends for longer range driving. The idea should work, right?

Well, it seems that the range anxiety once experienced by early adopters of purely electric cars (like who bought the first Nissan LEAF) are history. No longer are EVs plagued by sub-par ranges. The fact that you can buy an EV and drive it all week without plugging it in make short-range electric-only PHEV ranges seem paltry by comparison.

phev graph

Take the Chevy Volt for example (a moment of silence out of respect for its recent death, please). It gets 53 miles of electric-only range and goes 420 miles when you factor in the gas engine. That's quite good. But the Tesla Model S EV standard range gets 220 miles of range, and the Long Range version delivers a seriously impressive 325 miles. And there's never any gas needed, ever, nor do you have to plug it in every day. People are generally lazy, and a PHEV just seems like too much work. Plus, with an EV that gets good range, you may never even need to own a charger. Just drive it to the office during the week, and charge it when you need to. 

tesla model 3 blue driving rain
The all-electric Tesla Model 3 is the PHEV killer extraordinaire.

Sales of fully electric vehicles have essentially eclipsed those of PHEVs, and EVs are expected to completely overtake regular gas-electric hybrids that you don't even have to plug in. But you don't even have to spend premium dollars to get a Tesla. Instead, you can opt for a Nissan LEAF or a Chevy Bolt, and you'll have enough range to plug in once or twice all week, as well as never go to a gas station again unless you want a pack of gum or need diapers in a pinch.

The EV provides an even greater level of convenience and eliminates the inconvenience of plugging in every day. Plus, EVs deliver astounding levels of performance you don't have to pay through the nose for. The low center of gravity due the battery coupled with near-instant torque from the electric motors make EVs fun to drive, far more than your average tepid plug-in hybrid. Push the PHEV hard in EV mode, and it'll kick in the gas engine. That's not nearly as fun, unless you've plunked down for the Bentley Bentayga plug-in hybrid that costs as much as a condo.

vw id crozz
The upcoming Volkswagen I.D. Crozz will get 300 miles of range and power all four wheels.

Since range anxiety is essentially a thing of the past, so too will be the PHEV. The benefits they provide will no longer be viewed as such, and they'll be chalked up as stop-gap vehicles that bridged the way from gas to long-range electric cars. The fact that EVs have surpassed them so quickly is proof that PHEVs were a fad. Furthermore, PHEVs are too complicated for the general public to understand. How do you use EV only mode? At what point does the gas engine kick in? Why do I need to know all this?

kona ev grey
The Hyundai Kona EV imparts a more interesting flavor than the basic plug-in hybrid.

The sad part is plug-in hybrids have become quite good to drive and have spread across models like wildfire. Carmakers were hoping they would take off, but it never really happened and looks like it never will. EVs provide all of the benefits a PHEV does and then one-ups it by removing the gas part altogether.

Plus, if gas prices increase (more like when, not if), there's a chance they may gain a longer lease on life, and since they're generally less expensive than EVs, some customers will still want them. But the end is coming, for sure, and don't expect a great resale value on that Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is five years from now, even though you might think it's pretty cool now.