Our Cars: Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 Inscription Pro

10 August 2020: What happens if you don't charge a plug-in hybrid?

The Details

Current mileage 1409
Claimed economy 117.5-134.5mpg
Actual economy 75mpg

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) tend to perform rather badly for Real MPG, with some cars missing their advertised fuel economy figures by huge distances. Drivers tend to blame their cars, while some vehicle manufacturers shift the blame towards the owners who refuse to plug-in and charge their cars. Personally, I think both are to blame. 

Plug-in hybrid cars are not designed to be driven without a full battery charge. And if you can't be bothered to charge up the battery then you're setting yourself up for disappointment. However, that said, I think thousands of PHEV buyers are left out of pocket because they are simply not being given the full facts about the pros and cons of plug-in vehicles from the dealers and carmakers. 

PHEVs are heavy cars - due to the fact they have large battery packs. The XC40 Plug-in Hybrid tips the scales around 1.8 tonnes, and this means the 1.5-litre petrol engine has to work overtime to keep things moving at a decent pace. Last week I took it on a 100-mile run, without any battery charge, and it returned a Porsche-911-rivalling 33mpg. The following week I did the same journey with a full battery and got 86mpg.

This might read like I'm stating the bleeding obvious but it's a message that is lost on some drivers. In fact, last week, I was chatting to some friends at my local running club and one guy proudly declared that he had a PHEV as his company car for the past 12 months, and he'd never so much as taken the charging lead out of the plastic bag it came in. 

Volvo XC40 122

Clearly more needs to be done to educate car buyers and drivers about PHEVs. Personally, I think they are the perfect halfway house between internal combustion engine cars and EVs (electric vehicles). For example, living in central Cambridge, I charge up the XC40 at home and use it as a pure EV in town. When I need to visit the HJ office in London I run it as a hybrid, which uses the battery charge to help the engine and boost fuel economy. 

Flicking through the drive modes is easy via a button below the touchscreen. There is also a 'power' mode which combines the 180PS petrol engine and 82PS electric motor to give the XC40 262PS and a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.3 seconds. Few people will bother with this function though - it drains the battery and fuel tank at a rapid rate and totally undermines the whole point of the car

Charging up the XC40 is simple: just lift the flap on the nearside wing and plug in the cable. A full charge takes around six hours from a three-pin plug or 2.5 hours via a wallbox. However, for the wallbox, you'll need to pay an extra £50 for the Type two cable - which is a tad disappointing on what's already quite an expensive family crossover.

Comfort is an area where I can find no fault with the XC40. Even on 19-inch wheels - standard on Inscription models - the ride quality is wonderfully smooth and relaxing. The spacious interior and soft leather seats make the XC40 a great place to unwind after a long day at the office, too. Just don’t forget to charge it up before you go anywhere.

« Earlier: Plug and play - we're living with Volvo's XC40 electric hybrid crossover     Later: Pack your bags we're off to Scotland »

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