BEVs with more range are making PHEVs irrelevant

BEVs with more range are making PHEVs irrelevant
GAC Aion S powered by CATL NCM 811 battery cells

For most electric car enthusiasts, PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles) always were only a stopgap until BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) finally got the range they needed. They were important for early adopters, but now, BEVs with more energy dense batteries are making them obsolete.


Let’s look at the 20 most sold electric car models in the world. The data is provided by José Pontes from EV-Sales.

In 2018, the World top 20 of electric car sales had 7 PHEV models and 13 BEV models.

  • Total: 1.021.690 (100 %)
  • BEVs: 736.591 (72 %)
  • PHEVs: 285.099 (28 %)
Top 20 electric car sales in 2018 by EV-Sales


Now, looking at the latest figures (May 2019 YTD) we have 5 PHEV models and 15 BEV models in the top 20.

  • Total: 454.789 (100 %)
  • BEVs: 369.827 (81 %)
  • PHEVs: 84.962 (19 %)
Top 20 electric car sales in May 2019 (YTD) by EV-Sales


Not long ago the Chinese auto giant BYD was the biggest supporter of PHEV technology, but since the introduction of high energy dense batteries, the automaker changed its focus to BEVs. This clearly shows the future ahead.

BEVs started to gain a clear advantage over PHEVs with the introduction of NCM 622 and NCM 523 battery cells back in 2017. Nonetheless, things will get even better for BEVs with the adoption of more energy dense battery cells.

This year marks the arrival of the long-awaited NCM 811 battery cells to electric cars. The NIO ES6 already had its first deliveries to customers and the GAC Aion S will soon follow.

While South Korean battery cell makers (LG Chem and SK Innovation) were the first to announce the arrival of NCM 811 batteries, it was a Chinese company that won the race.

CATL’s strategy of hiring South Korean battery experts paid off, now the Chinese company is the technological leader and South Korean battery cell makers are facing serious problems to keep up.

We’ll soon see CATL batteries in European electric cars, since the Chinese company is a supplier for some European automakers such as PSA and Volkswagen. In an internal document, CATL reveled that it will supply batteries to the VW ID.3, however I don’t know if it’ll be the sole supplier.


Anyway, what does high energy dense batteries mean to electric cars?

Mainly, two things. More range and lower costs. For example, a 60 kWh battery that thanks to a new technology can be made by using less raw materials not only makes possible a lighter battery, but also a lower cost per kWh.

Let’s see what Volkswagen expects to achieve with more advanced battery cells already in 2020.


Advances in battery technology will improve range, weight and costs by Volkswagen


A 420 km WLTP range for the Volkswagen ID.3 – achieved with a 58 kWh battery – would be enough to make electric cars mainstream if the price is right.


Battery costs roadmap by Volkswagen


We already know that the Volkswagen ID.3 will have 45, 58 and 77 kWh batteries. Let’s see how much they’ll cost to VW. We’ll consider 90 euros per kWh, since that’s the figure revealed in a VW internal document.

  • 45 kWh: 4.050 euros
  • 58 kWh: 5.220 euros
  • 77 kWh: 6.930 euros


As you can see NCM 811 batteries make possible affordable BEVs with decent range, rendering obsolete the complex PHEVs. I think that even Toyota realized it by now, if not, all its hybrids would already have a plug. When the automaker that already sells most of the hybrids doesn’t even bother to make them plug-in, is a clear sign that the technology is seen as transitory and not worth the effort.

However, even if the current battery technology is enough to make affordable electric cars with decent range, there is a big obstacle to electric car adoption. The “dinosaurs” in charge of legacy automakers still lie about battery costs – even when their own internal documents contradict it. This way they can use it as an excuse to convince politicians and public opinion that the electric car technology isn’t ready yet for mass adoption. That’s how automakers successfully delay the adoption of stricter emission regulations that would finally lead to electric cars taking over.

Curiously, it’s the reluctance of making electric cars that’ll bankrupt some legacy automakers, they are fighting regulations that would actually push them forward and prepare them for a not too distant future.



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Pedro Lima
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1 year ago

90 €/kwh is the price at battery level?
What means “cost” to VW (and other manufacturer)? Is this cells + battery production + labor cost, all WITHOUT margins?
I think the cell producers don’t talk about their production cost, and the automaker don’t talk about their cell purchaising price and netto battery cost (without margin). I guess the automakers talk about kwh prices at battery level including margins and maybe even ncluding taxes (customer prices).

1 year ago
Reply to  Dave

Yes, you can see it on the roadmap above. For 2020, 90 euros per kWh at the battery pack level and 80 euros at the cell level. Of course those costs are without margins, however automakers’ margins are actually quite low, Tesla is among the highest with 20 % on the Model 3.

1 year ago

Many phevs have been put on hold due to the translation to wltp from nedc. The vw Passat phev update and Mercedes and bmw are soon out with its updated phevs. We’ll see what happens then.

1 year ago
Reply to  Apkungen

Yes, PHEVs aren’t completely dead yet, they even can get the NCM 811 battery cells. The BMW X1 xDrive25Le will get a 24 kWh battery with NCM 811 cells from CATL. We’ll still see some old PHEVs getting battery updates, but new launches don’t make much sense now. I bet most of PHEV prototypes will be cancelled and get replaced by BEVs.

1 year ago

If the €90 per kWh is true, then the price of PHEVs is seriously gouged. E.g an Hyundai Ioniq HEV costs some 21.000. The PHEV starts at 28.000. So 7000 more for 9 more kWh of battery, an onboard charger and a slightly stronger electric motor. That’s outrageous

1 year ago

In 2020 a large number of PHEV models will be launched and, with this, there will be a significant price decrease.

1 year ago

El ioniq HEV acabado Tecno anda sobre los 25.000 euros y en PHEV unos 33.000 euros. Esta claro que el precio esta infradisimo 8.000 euros más por 7,4kwh más de batería y el cargador interno es un despropósito. Yo creo que los PHEV son vehiculos totalmente validos siempre y cuando estos esten equipados con un software que obligue al conductor a cargar la batería por cada X número de kilometros y por supuesto los fabricantes quieran venderlos a precios normales no a como lo están haciendo ahora……Confio que la nueva normativa europea que entra en 2020 y multa a las marcas por emisiones de más haga bajar de forma notable los precios de los PHEV y EV.

1 year ago

No way batteries cost 90 usd per kWh on pack level. Maybe they could cost that on cell level but with the pack with cooling it’s probably closer to 150 usd per kWh. Why else would a Bev version of a car still be about twice that if a cheap gas version?

1 year ago

I hope that the focus will change from maximum range to sufficient range. Many users would do fine with a 200km range, is there even going to be cars in that segment in the future? From a resource point of view this is and will be cruical!

1 year ago
Reply to  Anders

The new Hyundai IONIQ Electric and the VW triplets have relativity small batteries with enough range like you want.

11 months ago

Firing on one cylinder? I thought the article was about “BEVs with more range…”? Yet you fail to mention the technology in the vehicle with the longest range, even tho it tops your charts with the most sales. If this was submitted to my 7th grade class as a report, I would be hard pressed to give it a C-.