chevy volt on the road

Fleet owners in the Netherlands are finding out that you can overshoot the mark by 80 percent in fuel consumption with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Leasing company Arval (which is known in the US as major fleet management and leasing company PHH Arval) surveyed fleets leasing the Opel Ampera, Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and found that they're using, on average, 80 percent more fuel than the fuel economy estimates found in the manufacturers' specifications.

This is happening because fleet managers are tapping into the benefits of local rebates for plug-in vehicles but then not, you know, actually plugging in. Government incentives include no purchase tax, zero percent additional tax liability and no road tax until 2016. Some municipalities are offering thousands of dollars in subsidies for the purchase of a plug-in hybrid. They don't appear to be interested in paying for charging stations to tap into the extended range and fuel consumption cost savings.

If they really wanted to reduce fuel consumption, these fleets could do better by purchasing more fuel efficient internal combustion engine cars. Arval investigated more than 60 Amperas, Volts, and Prius Plug-ins to see how fleets have been using these plug-in hybrids. While the factory standards are promising – the Prius can consume as low as 2.2 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers driven (the equivalent of 107 MPGe, per UK testing) and the Ampera and Volt 1.6 liters per 100 kilometers (147 MPGe), according to the automakers, they're not being utilized as plug-ins to get to these results.

One Ampera owner in the study was at the other end of the scale, getting 7.9 liters per 100 kilometers driven using gasoline only (so, 30 mpg). Another Ampera driver had a very good experience with the plug-in, and has been able to score 0.4 (one liter per 250 kilometers driven) by charging up the battery at work and home.

These cars are starting to see growing sales numbers in the Dutch market. Opel sold 2,500 Amperas and 500 Chevrolet Volts and expects to continue selling 300 per month. Toyota is meeting its schedule and expects to sell 1,500 Prius Plug-in Hybrids this year. Whatever the energy source, these plug-in hybrids are appealing enough to find buyers.