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What If We Let Consumers Design PHEVs?

Consumers design different PHEVs than expert analysts assume. Experts almost uniformly assume PHEVs that offer true all-electric driving for 10 to 60 miles; consumers are more likely to design PHEVs that do not offer true all-electric driving and have short ranges over which they use grid-electricity. Thus consumers? PHEV designs are less expensive. These consumer PHEV designs do, or don?t, produce lower GHG emissions than experts? PHEVs over the next ten years. The devil is in the details, i.e., which powerplant emissions to assign to new electricity demand: marginal or average. If (based on marginal powerplant emissions) it makes almost no difference whether we sell consumer-designed or expert-assumed PHEVs over the next ten years, yet as the grid continues to de-carbonize all-electric PHEV designs emerge as clearly the better option, there is a trajectory we could be on from blended, ?short range? PHEVs to all-electric ?long range? PHEVs. We see evidence that such a trajectory is possible by comparing the PHEV designs of consumers who have not and have driven a PHEV. Such consumer insights would materially affect policy and standards design. For example, SAE J2841 favors longer charge-depleting (CD) range to increase utility factors, but consideration of distributions of consumer designs indicates that so many more consumers favor shorter CD range that collectively they would drive more CD miles than those few consumers who favor longer CD range. In addition to informing such technical standards, consumers provide us with insights into the messages, education, and social narratives that would support their transition to PHEVs?and by extension, to other plug-in vehicles.

Kenneth Kurani, Univ. of California-Davis

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