Over the past several years, new recommended practices for testing plug-in vehicles have been developed by SAE standards committees. At first only proprietary or prototype vehicles were available to validate new procedures. However, with the recent availability of Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, these test procedures were put to the test in Argonne�s National Laboratory�s dynamometer test facility. Procedures for the Volt were according to the SAE J1711 procedures. The Leaf was tested according to procedures still under development in the SAE J1634 task force. Identified were aspects of the tests that were successful and areas where more development is needed. As described in SAE J2841, the Volt results were analyzed using a �utility factor� to estimate in-use expectations of electric-only miles.
Research in plug in vehicles (PHEV and BEV) has of course been ongoing for decades, however now that these vehicles are finally being produced for a mass market an intense focus over the last few years has been given to proper evaluation techniques and standard information to effectively convey efficiency information to potential consumers. The first challenge is the development of suitable test procedures. Thanks to many contributions from SAE members, these test procedures have been developed for PHEVs (SAE J1711 now available) and are under development for BEVs (SAE J1634 available later this year). A bigger challenge, however, is taking the outputs of these test results and dealing with the issue of off-board electrical energy consumption in the context of decades-long consumer understanding of MPG as the chief figure of merit for vehicle efficiency.