It is not uncommon for the hybrid version of a particular model in the Netherlands to be more expensive or even cheaper than the often less powerful non-hybrid version. In the BMW In more casual segments, the advantage is the rather modest additional cost of the faster and often more luxurious plug-in versions. Sometimes the difference with less powerful petrol versions is so small that car brands choose to offer purely hybrid versions.
It is easy to guess what caused this situation: beats per minute. The tax on passenger cars and motorcycles is based on CO2 emissions, and is very low for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). In theory, such a BMW is blown away in the theoretical world.
Depending on the user
It was immediately proven how arbitrary the CO2 emissions of such a plug-in hybrid are. After all, the larger, much heavier and much faster X5 theoretically emits less CO2 than the compact Peugeot. As colleague Roy Kligwigt explained in 2020, the actual consumption of a hybrid car depends entirely on the user. In theory, CO2 emissions could reach 0 if the car is never driven for longer than the electric range allowed by a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). However, it can also be ten times the theoretical value (or more, x5!) if it is never connected. So anything is possible, and this makes it almost impossible to come up with reasonable official CO2 emissions for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).
But this is a problem, because all types of taxes also depend on CO2 emissions outside the Netherlands. In addition, there are increasingly stringent CO2 emissions standards around the world and car manufacturers must ensure that their total sales remain below a specified “fleet average”, which is often made possible in large part thanks to lower CO2 emissions from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).
Although no one denies that the exact CO2 emissions generated by plug-ins cannot be accurately determined, the EU considers that the current values do not correspond to average emissions in practice. Research suggests that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are less electric on average than assumed, so the rules will be tightened in about a year. Under the Euro 6e-bis and Euro 6e-bis-FCM categories, other parameters will be used from 1 January 2025 to calculate CO2 emissions, using the WLTP test method which itself remains unchanged.
This, like almost everything from Brussels, is unnecessarily complicated, but we will try to make the changes transparent. When measuring the CO2 emissions of a hybrid car, the entire battery is first discharged, and then a further distance is traveled with the empty battery under different conditions. The resulting CO2 emissions are then offset by a complex calculation using what is officially called a “utility factor.” The utility factor (UF) is based on the distance that can be traveled on electricity and reduces theoretical CO2 emissions. The more a car can drive on electricity, the higher the UF and the lower the specific CO2 emissions.
This UF can be captured in a chart. The resulting “UF curve” clearly shows how “CO2 discounting” works. Below you’ll find how far a PHEV can travel electrically, with the UF factor on the vertical axis. Since September 1, 2023, Euro 6e has been officially released, but no changes have been made to the UF curve. This will change when Euro 6e-bis comes on 1 January 2025. A certain electric range then results in a lower UF due to the higher theoretical reference test distance, thus reducing CO2 emissions. From 2027, this will be improved again and we will have Euro 6e-FCM. This stands for “Fuel and Energy Consumption Monitoring” and means that when calculating CO2 emissions, the data collected in the interval by the on-board fuel and energy consumption monitoring system is taken into account. Practical data, which is why the exact calculation will be adjusted before the introduction of Euro 6e-bis-FCM. However, the graph does give an indication, and this will inevitably lead to further policy “tightening” when determining the CO2 emissions of a hybrid vehicle.
But then, a practical example. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) offers a rather unfortunate example of the “old” BMW X1 xDrive25e. We’ll pretend the car still exists and note that this hybrid SUV has a theoretical CO2 emissions of around 45 grams per kilometre. According to the International Transport and Communications Technology Board, the first step under Euro 6e-bis is to double theoretical carbon dioxide emissions to 96 grams per kilometre. Euro 6e-bis-FCM takes an important step forward according to current assumptions, increasing CO2 emissions to 122 grams per kilometre.
For a ‘normal’ petrol car, this increase would result in a BPM of €4,580 in 2023 (instead of €1,885 at 45g/km), but plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are also taxed more heavily per gram of Carbon Dioxide. With the 2023 rules, the number of beats per minute in this case would amount to no less than 16,704 euros, but this is of course all theoretical. If theoretical CO2 emissions of PHEVs actually increased due to these factors, there would undoubtedly be a different BPM schedule. However, one thing seems clear: the plug-in hybrid’s significant BPM advantage will end as of 2025.
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