Potential of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles to Reduce Petroleum Use: Issues Involved in Developing Reliable Estimates

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - vehicle


Vehicle miles of travel, United States, Plug in hybrid electric vehicles, Market share, Hybrid vehicles, Hybrid automobiles, Fuel consumption, Electric vehicles, Dual fuel vehicles, Battery powered vehicles, At home vehicle battery charging, American Housing Survey, 2001 National Household Travel Survey


This paper delineates the various issues involved in developing reliable estimates of the petroleum use reduction that would result from the widespread introduction of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Travel day data from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) were analyzed to identify the share of vehicle miles of travel (VMT) that could be transferred to grid electricity. Various PHEV charge-depleting (CD) ranges were evaluated, and 100% CD mode and potential blended modes were analyzed. The NHTS data were also examined to evaluate the potential for PHEV battery charging multiple times a day. Data from the 2005 American Housing Survey (AHS) were analyzed to evaluate the availability of garages and carports for at-home charging of the PHEV battery. The AHS data were also reviewed by census region and household location within or outside metropolitan statistical areas. To illustrate the lag times involved, the historical new vehicle market share increases for the diesel power train in France (a highly successful case) and the emerging hybrid electric vehicles in the United States were examined. A new vehicle technology substitution model is applied to illustrate a historically plausible successful new PHEV market share expansion. The trends in U.S. light-duty vehicle sales and light-duty vehicle stock were evaluated to estimate the time required for hypothetical successful new PHEVs to achieve the ultimately attainable share of the existing vehicle stock. Only when such steps have been accomplished will the full oil savings potential for the nation be achieved.