PHEV means plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. This is a stage on from the traditional hybrid petrol or diesel car with an integrated electric motor. These are marketed as self-charging hybrids, where the battery is charged by the forward and braking motions of the car and by the engine.
A PHEV can do that too, but to be most effective and economical its battery can be charged from mains electricity, giving a range of some 35 miles on electric power. Hence, no pollution. The normal hybrid has a very limited electric range, even on flat roads, and gets its economy and reduced emissions through a seamless mix of petrol and electric power. When your PHEV battery is fully primed (taking between two and four hours from empty depending on the charger used) the mpg can reach triple figures and CO2 well under 40g – usually the headline ratings in the billboards.
By recharging the battery before driving you get the best economy and emissions from your PHEV. In optimum conditions, viz, journeys so short that you can keep the battery full, you save lots of money, with important reductions of toxic gases and particles which inflate the planet and deflate our lungs and blood and hearts. Technology allows you to reserve power in the battery so the car can run cleanly in sensitive areas. You can also select hybrid, sport and 4x4 engagement.
These are all worthy details, but there is another fiscal lure. For the driver paying tax for the benefit of being able to use a company-owned car, the PHEV offers huge tax savings for BIK – benefit in kind tax. This is because of those low CO2 rates and high mpg. There can be similar fuel savings for the driver who can recharge on a daily drive. Vauxhall makes several claims or assumptions for its Grandland PHEV, including best-in-class BIK – even beating its kin, the Peugeot 3008 which has the identical PHEV system.
The Grandland hybrid is quite a car for your money. It offers 300 horse power and massive torque through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. There is a 1.6-turbo petrol engine at the front and electric motors front and rear driving respective wheels.
The car always sets off in electric power unless the motor battery is flat. Petrol power comes in when extra power is needed.
Normally it will run in front-wheel-drive. If you select the electric mode the rear motor takes over for normal driving. The front units engage if you floor the throttle.
Top speed is 146mph with a UK illegal 84mph claimed on electric power alone. The 0-60mph time is 5.9 seconds – which could give that Maserati a shock at the lights.
Vauxhall’s official ratings are 204mpg to 225mpg and just 34g per km of CO2. Yes, these are remarkable combinations: a very quick 4x4 SUV with unbelievable economy if you can keep it on electricity. Prices range from £36,790 for the Business Edition Nav to £46,650 for the Ultimate. The Business Edition looks the business, if you allow the quip. There is also a two-wheel-drive version with electric motor at the front, rated at 225hp and saving £4,400 on the Business Edition.
Driving in the conurbations can be challenging. A sometimes rapid variation in speed limits, roundabouts and town centres demands concentration on the route rather than evaluation of the car.
Consequently, we did notice that the speed sign reader did not flag up excess speed and even the Ultimate model does not have a head-up display of navigation and speed on the windscreen – which would have been useful.
A notable interior difference to the Peugeot is the instrument display. This is a conventional layout, with a relatively small central information screen and a view of the dials etc through the steering wheel. In the 3008 and other Peugeots the display is higher and you must look over the steering wheel at what is called the i-cockpit.