Moderator: Peter Buscombe

Panellists: Christine and Ron Levers, David Rossiter, Peter Campbell and Peter Wilson.

The monthly meeting of AEVA ACT on 18 October 2021 featured a panel with owners of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).  The aim was to inform AEVA ACT members about the capabilities of five different PHEVs, and the experiences of their drivers.

The moderator reminded the meeting that:

  • A BEV’ (battery electric vehicle) is electrically powered exclusively from its on-board battery. Generally the only way to charge the battery is by plugging in to an external source.
  • In a typical ‘hybrid’ there is an on-board petrol or diesel Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), which is the only energy source for a battery that powers an electric motor. Most hybrids power the wheels by a combination of ICE and electric motor but some use the ICE only as a generator.
  • A ‘Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle’ (PHEV) can charge its battery from both its own ICE (acting as a generator), and from the electricity grid. It typically has a larger battery than a non-plug-in hybrid but a smaller battery than a BEV.

He summarised the pro’s and con’s of PHEVs as follows.


  • Vastly less reliance on public charging infrastructure (eliminates ‘pure EV’ range anxiety);
  • Low L/100 km’s = pretty low carbon footprint (town running and commuting mostly electric).

Con’s compared to ‘pure EV’:

  • Typically a fairly small battery = limited ‘electric-only’ range;
  • In some brands, rather pronounced electric range deterioration with age. (This may also apply to certain BEVs.)


The following table summarises the PHEVs available on the market in Australia.




PORSCHE Cayenne E-Hybrid, Panamera Hybrid and Panamera Turbo-S Hybrid

FORD Escape ST-Line PHEV

MINI Countryman PHEV

BMW 330e, 530e, X5 xDrive 45e and 745e

MERCEDES BENZ A250e, C300e, GLC300e & E300e

VOLVO XC40-Recharge, XC60-T8 Polestar, XC90-T8 R-Design

In Australia there are 20 PHEV models available for purchase – in the UK there are about 130.


[1] How did you come to own a PHEV?

Christine and Ron Levers (Hyundai Ioniq PHEV)

We have been environmentally conscious since we were in the scouting movement in our youth, and for several years we had wanted an EV.  We were holding off because of the upfront cost and concerns about range, but the hailstorm in January 2020 forced our hand.  Our previous car, a Hyundai i30 diesel, had excellent torque and was fun to drive, but after the hailstorm it was uninsurable.  We chose the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV, and had to wait more than 6 months for it to be delivered.

Hyundai Ioniq $52,500

 David Rossiter (Mitsubishi Outlander)

In 2019 we were looking for a replacement vehicle for our Subaru Forester which we had owned for nearly 20 years.  We were alerted to the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV by a neighbour in Royalla. It was the only SUV, four-wheel drive PHEV on the market at that time and it did not look as if it would “ruin our weekends” since it had a range of over 650km and a pure EV capability up to 50km, plus 1.5 tonne towing capacity.  It appeared to be a durable design based on the experience of many other users over the previous six or so years in Australia and was at that time the highest selling PHEV in Australia and several other countries.

We plan to keep the car for 20 years, like its predecessors, so the initial cost premium will be offset by cheaper annual running costs. Our fuel savings alone are over $1000 per year, so we will recover the extra capital cost of the car in about six years.

The car met our criteria of being good for the environment too.  We already had rooftop solar designed to cover the estimated EV car needs, about 5kWh/day on average.  The appeal of generating our own urban fuel with zero emissions at an estimated cost of around 3 cents per kWh was a strong incentive.  The national fuel security benefit was another factor.

Mitsubishi Outlander: $52,500 - $60,000 

Peter Campbell (2014 Holden Volt)

Our previous petrol car was sold to our daughter when she left home in 2018. We decided to also sell our converted Daihatsu Charade and buy one long-range car, but it had to have a plug. There was no way I was buying another petrol-only car! Long range BEV options were limited and expensive in early 2018.  A used 2014 Holden Volt PHEV was a stop-gap until we could find the long-range BEV we wanted and could afford.  We kept the Volt for almost 2 years before selling it in late 2019 along with our other local-range BEV (2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV). By late 2019, we were confident that DC fast charging networks were rolling out sufficiently quickly that we could move on to a pure BEV for all our driving.


Peter Wilson (BMW 330e and Prius Prime)

My previous car (a 2003 Renault) was totalled by the January 2020 hailstorm. I had already been thinking about updating my car.

I have been progressively moving my domestic energy consumption to solar with house renovations (in-floor hydronics heated from rooftop pool heating blanket plus PV panels and a house battery) so was thinking about getting an EV.  However, I need to undertake country trips where there are no highway rapid chargers, so a PHEV was the obvious solution. I settled on a new BMW 330e with all the bells and whistles.

BMW 330e: approx $100,000 and up

As my wife’s Prius was 15 years old and had done over 220,000 km I decided to upgrade hers as well. She loved that Prius, so I went looking for a Prius Prime PHEV and was astonished to find that they didn’t sell them in Australia. Toyota makes them in their thousands for the rest of the world but have decided not to bring them here. The perception is that we wouldn’t want them and wouldn’t buy them.

I realised that I could privately import one from New Zealand.  It took from April 2021, when I paid Toyota NZ for it, to September to get it into our driveway, but we are delighted with it.

Toyota Prius Prime: NZ $49,790.


[2] In general, what was the PHEV driving and charging (and fuelling) experience like?  And … to what extent were you able to rely on the electric motor when driving around town?

Christine and Ron Levers (Hyundai Ioniq PHEV)

The driving experience is “competent and benign”. We like the regenerative braking, and we use the regen paddles constantly.  The inability to tow a trailer is a drawback.

Most of our local driving uses the electric motor, although the petrol motor can take over in cold weather, and very occasionally there have been long local trips where the return distance exceeded the battery limit.

We plug the car into our domestic power supply to charge. It takes about 4 hours to fully recharge.  We boosted our solar system before purchasing the car.  We haven’t used fast charging.

We appreciate the heated steering wheel and seats!  But the mapping software needs work.

We found that the transmission lurches when we are braking at low speed, such as when parking.  This may be a problem with our car only, but Hyundai technicians haven’t been able to discover the cause.

David Rossiter (Mitsubishi Outlander)

We have found that PHEV driving is easy. You don’t need to know the car is any different from normal – in its default mode it will decide how it can help you and do it smoothly, silently and with no fuss.

Most of our driving around town is done on battery.  Many of our local journeys use battery only and most would be 90% or more EV mode.  We often travel more than 1500 km after purchasing 15 to 20 litres of petrol.  Average fuel consumption is around 1 litre per 100 km.

Range varies depending on terrain and temperature from around 25km at worst to 50km at best. Because EVs are so energy efficient relative to their petrol cousins – ours travels about 2.5 times further per unit of energy input on electricity than on petrol – EVs are more sensitive to the terrain they operate in and their road speed.

We have rooftop solar and use an ordinary 10-amp AC power point in the carport to keep the car charged.  We have occasionally used the Woden Westfield free AC charger but have never used a DC fast charger.

When we travel interstate (roughly a third of our usage), we generally recharge the car overnight from any available 10-amp power point, and access to petrol is the same as any other car when required.  We have done several interstate trips to Brisbane, Sydney and Merimbula. We sometimes travel for several weeks and use the car in urban and local environments at our destination again charging the battery as convenient through 10-amp ordinary power points.

Our overall fuel consumption to date is about 3 litres/100km for 25,000km over two and a half years of faultless ownership.

Peter Campbell (Holden Volt)

Driving the Volt was an easy experience. The Volt is a proper plug-in battery full-power EV with a petrol range extender generator. The petrol comes on seamlessly as required once the battery is depleted to a set minimum. Most charging was on 10 amp power points. Charging is type 1 AC-only. I had an adapter to allow the occasional use of public type 2 AC outlets.  

More than 99% of our local driving used the electric motor. Were it not for the occasional 10 minute switch to petrol after 6 weeks to keep the ICE lubricated, all our local driving would have been 100% electric. The electric-only range is 55km (winter) to 75km (summer). You can use all the electric range without anxiety because the petrol will come on if needed. We would hardly ever drive more than 55km locally without being home and plugged in.

The Volt has some clever features to manage the petrol that could otherwise remain unused for a long time. The tank is sealed and pressurised. The car will run its petrol engine for 10 minutes every 6 weeks if it has not been used. If the average age of the petrol gets to 1 year, it will run the engine until you put fresh petrol in and reduce the average age (we never saw that happen).

Peter Wilson (BMW 330e and Prius Prime)

It is an easy experience.  Around town both cars are plug-in battery full power EVs in all respects. We recharge at home from our solar system and do all our normal driving on sunshine.

We do almost all our city driving on electric alone. Very occasionally we have so much running around to do that we exceed the battery range (about 50kms for the Prius and 35kms for the BMW).  Also, if the petrol is getting old, I will elect to burn some when its age exceeds 3 months. Our goal is to consume the petrol within 6 months, but we only ever add $20 a time unless we have a long trip to do.

For longer distance driving, the petrol engines will operate as full power units to either take over all power delivery or work together with the electric motor. The petrol comes on seamlessly as required either:

  • when you deliberately select it, or
  • if you use your right foot to command full power, or
  • once the battery is depleted to a set minimum. 

Both cars offer the ability to charge the battery while driving on petrol (although that would have to be the worst, least efficient, way to consume petrol in my opinion).

My preferred long distance driving setup is with the “battery charge maintenance” mode selected. This holds the battery to a predetermined level while still using it for starting off or operating in conventional hybrid mode, using any surplus in preference to petrol and using regen braking in preference to hydraulic brakes. If you add enough charge through regen braking or on downhill sections, the BMW 330e and the Prius Prime will automatically switch back to EV mode until the battery level falls back to the pre-determined level.

Charging at commercial AC chargers is possible if you can find one, but neither car supports DC fast charging.  It is easier to just plug in when you get to your destination.

I have installed a couple of dedicated 32 amp charge outlets in my garage which gives us 7kW charging. That’s enough to fully charge the batteries in a couple of hours. We also have the supplied charging adapters to charge from a normal 10 amp wall socket, which adds a couple more hours to the charging time.

Both cars manage the petrol in an effort to limit the time it can sit in the tank unused. The tank is sealed and pressurised. The car will select to run on petrol periodically if you don’t override it. I monitor the age of the petrol and usually maintain manual control of the override.


[3] Did you take it on long trips and if so what benefit was added by the electric motor?  What was the combined range?

Christine and Ron Levers (Hyundai Ioniq PHEV)

We haven’t taken a long trip recently, due to the Covid lockdowns.  Before that, we had travelled to the south coast and were able to charge the battery overnight at our accommodation.  We found that the electric motor would extend our available range.

Our battery-only range is 59km fully charged.  The Ioniq can deliver a maximum range of over 900km when fully charged and fueled.

Our fuel consumption has averaged 1.1L per 100 km.  We have had the car now for 14 months, have travelled almost 18,000 Kms, and have refilled it with petrol 6 times.

David Rossiter (Mitsubishi Outlander)

We have regularly travelled to Merimbula, Sydney and Brisbane.  Our longest trip to date in the Outlander was 3,000km. The car can operate in three modes, in pure EV mode, pure petrol mode or hybrid mode.

We normally leave the car in pure EV mode around town, maximising the zero emissions performance and the very cheap electricity cost.  Performance is more than adequate in EV mode, with 250 Nm of torque from zero revs, but if extra power/torque is needed the petrol engine will automatically start and boost performance.

When travelling interstate, we leave the car in hybrid mode.  It will use up the battery to start with and then settle automatically into hybrid mode. When cruising in the country the petrol engine will seamlessly and almost imperceptibly cut in and out, perhaps running for 2km driving the front wheels directly and simultaneously recharging the battery at the same time.  The petrol motor will then automatically cut out and the car will travel in EV mode for perhaps 2 more km and then revert to petrol driving and recharging.  This optimises fuel economy.  If more power is needed (when overtaking, for example) both power sources will be used giving more acceleration on demand rather like a kickdown in a normal auto car.

It is rare that the percentage of EV power on a journey is less than 50% unless the distance travelled in a day is over 350km.  Our long distance journey times with the PHEV would be identical to those of our other fossil fuelled SUV.

On electricity only we have had up to 50km and the fuel tank would add around 750km at 6 litres/100km on the open road.  The practical range, leaving some fuel in the 45-litre tank, is about 650km.

The fuel consumption curve of a PHEV is an interesting shape.  Fuel consumption for shorter journeys (up to 50km in our case) depending on terrain is zero.  For longer journeys up to about 350km, it will increase to about 5 to 7 litres/100km again depending on terrain and also speed.

For example, we regularly drive to Merimbula from Canberra which involves a net descent of 1.1km in a 250km distance and a similar net ascent on the return journey.  Descent trips use around 5.9 litres/100km and ascents use 7.3 litres/100km.

Peter Campbell (Holden Volt)

We charged it when we could at accommodation while away to reduce petrol consumption but out-of-town trips were mostly on petrol. Performance did not change since the wheels were driven by the electric motor just the same, whether the generator was running or not.

Our combined range was about 650km with a fully charged battery and a full tank of petrol. When running on petrol, the consumption was about 5.5L/100km, which was not as good as our last non-hybrid car, a 2014 VW petrol manual Mk7 Golf that would do under 5L/100km on most highway trips. If only driven locally, the Volt would have used almost no petrol. For our mix of local fully electric driving and petrol-dependent longer trips, we averaged 2.2L/100km.

Peter Wilson (BMW 330e and Prius Prime)

We’ve done several long trips in each car.  The main benefit of the electric sub-system is operation in “high performance hybrid” mode.

The BMW is nearly 2 tonnes in weight and is designed for speed and acceleration more than economy.  Despite that, I reliably get 5.5 Ltr/100km at 110 km/h once the battery is depleted. My old car was smaller and lighter and I couldn’t do any better than about 7.5 Ltr/100km. The Prius is the real star in this area. It will reliably return under 3 Ltr/100km.  If you add in the electric only kms then the consumption figures come down accordingly.

Both cars have 40 litre petrol tanks.  In the BMW I start looking for a petrol station at around 650 kms but for normal highway cruising it should exceed 700kms. If you add in another 40 kms or so from a fully charged battery at the beginning then I would expect to get a combined range of around 750 kms. I have done several Canberra/Sydney round trips (about 600 kms with running around at each end) and I always had some petrol left at the end.

The Prius will do much more but we’ve never done a trip long enough without stopping and recharging to get a good reading on the petrol only total. It’s in the order of 1,000 kms or more though.


[4] Would you buy another one?

Christine and Ron Levers (Hyundai Ioniq PHEV)

No.  Our next car will be a Tesla!

David Rossiter (Mitsubishi Outlander)

Yes - but the choice is growing for SUV 4WD and towing. If we keep our Outlander for twenty years like our Subaru, we will be about 90.  At that time I would be hope that cars will work on the basis that they drive themselves and we just instruct a destination!

Peter Campbell (2014 Holden Volt)

No, not for us. We no longer want or feel we need a car even partially dependent on petrol. The Volt was a useful stop-gap but we replaced it in 2019 with a long-range Hyundai Kona BEV. The Kona has ample range for most of our trips (450km) without needing recharging en route and the availability of fast DC charging is sufficient to extend its range to cover the longest trips we ever do in a day (up to 800km).

However, I would recommend the Volt (only available used) for someone who could otherwise only afford the earliest of used BEVs such as an early Leaf with declining battery capacity. For such a person, the Volt could be used as an urban BEV with almost no petrol use but also with no range anxiety so long as you leave a few litres of petrol in the tank. It has a longer pure EV range than most new PHEVs and excellent battery management that has given it great longevity with very little loss of range.

Peter Wilson (BMW 330e and Prius Prime)


The BMW is a high performance luxury car. It has better acceleration figures than the equivalent petrol only version but that’s not why you would buy such a car. I bought it because I could and because the time was right for that car. It’s an expensive extravagance that I would be unlikely to repeat (the full EV version, the I4, on the other hand ….?)

If all manufacturers at that time were supporting electric only or PHEVs I would most likely have bought something cheaper but BMW got my money because they had one on the showroom floor that I could drive as a test drive and all other car yards either didn’t want to know me or tried to convince me that I didn’t really want such a thing. Red rag to a bull in my case.

I also bought it because of claims that it would do about 60 kms on a charge. Spoiler alert: it won’t. Best I’ve achieved from full charge to completely flat was 47 kms of mixed driving but mostly at 80 km/h on flat country roads. Around town, you’re going to get about 30 kms, maybe 35kms.

Despite that, I love driving it and derive tremendous satisfaction of being able to drive such a car for months at a time on sunshine alone. The last time I put petrol in it was on a long trip in June. The surplus from that is still in the tank.

Prius Prime

The Prius on the other hand, I would definitely do again despite all the pain and trauma of:

  • buying something from an overseas dealer,
  • costs including importation duty, 2 x lots of GST, shipping, etc
  • all the difficulties of arranging international and domestic shipping during times of Covid lockdowns,
  • negotiating the bureaucracy to get it past Aus Design Rules, new registration, etc.
  • interminable delays whilst people procrastinated and wasted our time over a total period of nearly 6 months.

The vehicle we ended up with is everything we had hoped for. Being a fan of the Prius and its economy and technology in the first place means that we had nothing of a negative nature to get used to. Everything else about it that we have found has all been positive. Integrated driving assist package, automatic self dimming and lane following LED headlights, Satnav, DAB/FM/AM/CD/bluetooth radio, heated seats, etc, etc, and the ability to do 90% of our driving on sunshine alone!!

The only compromise with it is loss of some boot space, with the floor of the boot area about 50mm higher than the old one due to the bigger battery and no spare wheel, but if anyone is a fan of the Prius marque in the first place they would love this one. Even with the reduced space in the rear it is the one to go for if you have a fridge or small chest of drawers to move. It will take more than we could ever fit into the BMW. I know for sure because I have done it.

The battery is smaller at around 8.5 kWh (usable) but it does so much more with the available energy. Acceleration is not startling but I note that my wife regularly beats everyone else off at the lights because she can and because it has enough acceleration for any normal person driving in city traffic. It’s not a race or rally car and doesn’t pretend to be but it will out accelerate her old car and is no slouch overall. It will run up to about 120 km/hr on battery alone and still achieve good energy consumption.


For some owners, PHEV’s can provide a useful transition between the outgoing era of the internal combustion engine (ICE), and the incoming EV world. In the interim while the public charging network expands and a better range of more affordable EVs reach Australia, PHEVs provide a pragmatic solution to largely eliminating ‘range anxiety’ while reducing CO2 footprint to a very low level, especially for predominantly town driving.

And a couple of useful asides:

Peter Wilson’s Prius Prime was imported from New Zealand as the vehicle is not currently sold in Australia. Peter has provided some notes on the importation process, if of interest please contact the AEVA ACT Branch for a copy.

Peter Campbell also made a useful comment about the GM Volt. This vehicle has been discontinued in Australia, however there are generally two or three used Volt PHEVs listed on Carsales at prices typically ranging $18,000 to $23,000. For someone holding off on buying a ‘pure’ EV, in Peter’s experience the Volt PHEV carries its age better than most EVs of similar vintage, and a second hand example may provide a relatively low cost stopgap until new EV prices come down.