The Plug-in Hybrid Invasion Is Already Underway

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Source: Audi

You may have noticed there is no car too pricey when it comes to plug-in vehicles. A BMW i8 ($140,000) crushes the Ford Focus Electric ($29,000) on the sales charts. The best-selling EV in America starts at $75,000. So while we paused to wonder if luxury plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) would do damage on the U.S. market, some early arrivers are providing an answer: yes. The plug-in invasion we believed was imminent has already begun, and things look ready to ramp up fast.

Granted, there has only been a few months to notice the early returns for the new PHEV class. InsideEVs reports that three new plug-in models that debuted late in the year set much higher bars with their December performances. Whether factors like low inventory or bad marketing played a role here doesn’t concern us. We’re strictly focusing on results, and they varied from encouraging to mind-boggling for the four vehicles in question.

Take the Volvo XC90 T8 ($68,100), an elegant blend of subdued style, massive engine power, and utility. While only a few copies had rolled out in the months leading up to December, 74 sales were logged in December. Given the lust for fashionable luxury SUVs, we see this model fit for takeoff on the U.S. market. The BMW X5 xDrive40e ($62,100) showed an even more pronounced jump, posting 607 sales in December after a combined 275 in the two months prior.

Even a boring old midsize sedan showed up at the end of the year. The Hyundai Sonata PHEV ($34,600) that had posted just 15 sales in November vaulted to 145 sales in its second month. With the Audi A3 e-tron entering dealerships and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV coming later in 2016, plug-in hybrids are having their moment.

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Source: Volvo

The Audi A3 plug-in hybrid starting price ($37,900) becomes not much more extravagant than that of the standard gasoline model after tax credits, which gives that car a head-start on the U.S. market. Its 16 miles of electric range makes it comparable to the 19 available in the Ford Fusion Energi ($33,900).

Meanwhile, everyone is curious to see how Mitsubishi prices the plug-in Outlander that came out for a sneak peak in Detroit early in January. Despite original plans for a spring arrival, the automaker has pushed the date back to August. If this model stays below $50,000 in America, it could be a smash hit. It has been Europe’s best-selling plug-in model for an impressive run.

Motives for buying a plug-in hybrid are various these days. Naturally, a BMW i8 buyer might care little about the environment and much more about power and style. Buyers of the Volvo XC90 T8 will also be attracted to the demonic power specs: 400 horsepower, 472 pounds-feet of torque. Both numbers blow away the max power in a gasoline XC90 ($49,800). For its part, BMW wisely matched the power in its standard X5 with the plug-in while keeping the price in the same ballpark.

Later in the year, Hyundai will bring its Ioniq series to America with the list including a plug-in hybrid. By then, many more models will have arrived. There should be a lot of excitement for PHEVs in 2016, but the invasion is already well underway.

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