Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are an effective intermediate vehicle technology option in the long-term transition pathway towards light-duty vehicle electrification. Their net environmental impact is evaluated using the performance metric Utility Factor (UF), which quantifies the fraction of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on electricity. There are concerns about the gap between Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sticker label and real-world UF due to the inability of test cycles to represent actual driving conditions and assumptions about their driving and charging differing from their actual usage patterns. Using multi-year longitudinal data from 153 PHEVs (11–53 miles all-electric range) in California, this paper systematically evaluates how observed driving and charging, energy consumption, and UF differs from sticker label expectations. Principal Components Analysis and regression model results indicated that UF of short-range PHEVs (less than 20-mile range) was lower than label expectations mainly due to higher annual VMT and high-speed driving. Long-distance travel and high-speed driving were the major reasons for the lower UF of longer-range PHEVs (at least 35-mile range) compared to label values. Enhancing charging infrastructure access at both home and away locations, and increasing the frequency of home charging, improves the UF of short-range and longer-range PHEVs respectively.
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