After Losing Favor to Electric Cars, Plug-In Hybrids Gain Ground | Big Indy News
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After Losing Favor to Electric Cars, Plug-In Hybrids Gain Ground



In late 2010, General Motors sought to seize the high ground from Toyota’s successful Prius hybrid with the Volt plug-in hybrid — a car that could drive short distances on only electricity and fire up a gasoline engine for long trips.

But the Volt and other cars like it struggled to win over drivers as many early adopters opted for fully electric cars like Tesla’s Model S and the Nissan Leaf. G.M. quietly did away with the Volt in 2019 as it trained its sights on all-electric cars.

But a funny thing happened on the way to obsolescence: Plug-in hybrid sales are climbing in the United States, in part because of the recent surge in gasoline prices. Automakers sold a record 176,000 such cars last year, according to Wards Intelligence, up from 69,000 in 2020. This year, sales of plug-in hybrids could reach 180,000, analysts said, even as the overall new-car market drops to 14.4 million from 15.3 million a year earlier, according to Cox Automotive.

All-electric cars have seized around 5 percent of the new-car market, and most analysts and industry executives expect them to eventually surpass hybrids as automakers commit to eliminating tailpipe emissions, a major contributor to climate change. But hybrids — led by a growing selection of plug-ins — still make up about 7 percent of sales, and that number could grow for at least a few years.

Automakers are struggling to ramp up electric-vehicle production because the supply of batteries is not growing fast enough. Partly as a result, the average cost of a new electric car is now a steep $66,000. That provides an opening for plug-in hybrids.

Unlike conventional hybrids, which can be refueled only with gasoline and are dependent on engines, plug-in varieties can operate entirely on battery propulsion. And because these cars have smaller batteries than all-electric vehicles, they can be more affordable. The cars are also appealing because they do not have to be plugged in for many hours to be fully charged. On road trips, they can be refueled with gasoline, eliminating the range anxiety that keeps many people from buying electric cars.

“I think some automakers, including G.M., have been far too quick to cast P.H.E.V.s aside in the face of all-electric vehicles,” said Karl Brauer, executive director of research at, a car research firm. “And I’m wondering if they are regretting that decision, given the supply-chain issues and price hikes we’re now experiencing.”

Mr. Bauer and others also note that many car buyers are not ready to buy electric vehicles. A J.D. Power survey found that one of the biggest reasons people cite for not buying one is that there aren’t enough public charging stations in the United States. And charging an electric car at public stations for roughly 30 to 60 minutes — a typical rate for even the fastest chargers — or overnight at home is an inconvenience that many drivers are unwilling to tolerate.

Plug-in hybrids were designed as transitional technology that introduced people to the advantages of electric driving while easing their concerns about the technology. But when gasoline cost around $3 a gallon, the savings that these cars provided didn’t always add up.

Now, when gas fill-ups can cost $100 or more, some people are giving these cars a second look. It helps that buyers of some of the leading models, like the Toyota RAV4 Prime, Jeep Wrangler 4xe, BMW 330e and Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in, can claim a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500.

The Wrangler 4xe has become a surprise hit and America’s most-popular plug-in hybrid, nearly doubling its sales to more than 19,000 in the first half of the year from a year earlier. The RAV4 Prime is so popular that dealers cannot keep it in stock and buyers have to wait months for one, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst of Cox Automotive.

Starting at $41,515, the RAV4 Prime officially travels 42 miles on electricity alone. Keep going and the Prime drives like a familiar Toyota hybrid, with more oomph: The Prime is the fastest and most powerful RAV4, with three electric motors and 302 horsepower. In gas-electric hybrid mode, it sips fuel at 38 miles per gallon. With a total range of about 600 miles, it can travel twice as far as many electric vehicles before needing to refuel.

The average American drives 29 miles a day, which the Prime can easily handle on electricity alone. Over a week of daily charges — the Prime’s battery can be replenished in about two and a half hours on a home charger — the car can cover more than 280 miles without using a thimble of gasoline, at the equivalent of 94 m.p.g. The typical new car gets 27 m.p.g.

Some owners of plug-in hybrids like the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, which has been around since 2017, claim that they have gone many weeks without visiting a gas station. According to the Energy Department, charging a RAV4 Prime costs about $1.07 for 25 miles’ worth of driving.

But critics of plug-in hybrids argue that these numbers and calculations are based on a presumption that the people who own them will plug them in regularly, taking full advantage of the environmental benefits of their electric motors and batteries. Some plug-in hybrid owners may never or rarely charge their cars, using them as they would a gasoline-powered vehicle. Plug-in hybrids used in this way tend to achieve middling fuel economy and do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In Europe, plug-in hybrid cars are driven in all-electric mode between 45 percent and 49 percent of the time, according to a study published in June by the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research organization.

Some plug-in hybrids can go only around 20 miles on electric power before needing to fire up the gas engine. Skeptical engineers and analysts see needless complexity in marrying two forms of propulsion in one vehicle for such paltry gains.

Some auto executives, including at G.M., have argued that plug-in hybrids are not worth investing in because it is imperative to work on cars that have no tailpipe emissions. G.M. has said it aims to sell only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.

Tim Grewe, G.M.’s director of electrification, said that as electric vehicles improved and charging infrastructure expanded, plug-in hybrids would become obsolete.

“E.V.s are just better,” Mr. Grewe said. “The battery tech has gotten to the point that you don’t need the range-extending engine.”

European countries, which are further along in the switch to electric cars than the United States, are also encouraging people to go fully electric. Partly as a result, sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles in Europe in the second quarter fell 12.5 percent from a year earlier while purchases of all-electric cars jumped 11.1 percent.

Yet many automakers, like Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jaguar Land Rover, continue to introduce new plug-in hybrids. These companies argue that it could take a decade or more before electric cars are affordable and convenient enough for most people.

Some luxury-car companies say they have come up with an improved breed of plug-in hybrids to bridge the gap as they develop all-electric cars. These cars, executives argue, will draw more buyers into the electric age by being nearly as convenient to use as gasoline models while being more fun and powerful.

The $104,900 Range Rover plug-in drips with London-boutique luxury and 443 horsepower. It can travel 48 miles on just electricity. The BMW 330e sedan has a button called Xtraboost, which sends 40-horsepower electric jolts to goose acceleration when pushed, akin to shots of nitrous oxide in “Fast and Furious” movies. The 330e costs $43,495, on a par with standard versions of the same car, even before tax credits.

Even the makers of supercars like Ferrari and McLaren have embraced plug-in hybrids as a way to squeeze the last Dionysian drops from internal-combustion engines. Ferrari has said its 818-horsepower 296 GTB plug-in hybrid, which starts at $323,000, is faster on its benchmark test track than any V-8 model it has produced.

Those flashy models aside, plug-in hybrids have an important role to play, some analysts said, by getting more people into electrified cars sooner than would be the case if the industry relied solely on all-electric vehicles. Mr. Brauer of points out that nine in 10 car buyers in the United States still buy a conventional car.

“If a P.H.E.V. can serve as a purely electric vehicle even part time, and as a hybrid still use less fuel than a traditional vehicle,” he said, “that’s still a huge reduction in CO2, at a cost that makes them more viable to consumers.”

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ElonJet is (sort of) back on Twitter



The college student who ran the now-banned @ElonJet Twitter account that used public information to track Elon Musk’s private jet has resumed his activities on Twitter under a new username. As noted by Insider, Jack Sweeney, 20, has created a new account called @ElonJetNextDay — which now tracks Musk’s private jet with a 24-hour delay to circumvent Twitter policy restrictions.

Sweeney’s original ElonJet account was suspended from the platform last week following accusations from Musk that it violated Twitter rules by revealing his live location. Twitter updated its policy to forbid publishing a person’s real-time location on the same day it suspended ElonJet. Sweeney said in an interview with Insider that he will be “posting manually” for now while he works on the framework to fully automate the account.

Musk tweeted on December 15th that “Posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn’t a safety problem, so is ok.” Twitter also explicitly states that “sharing publicly available location information after a reasonable time has elapsed, so that the individual is no longer at risk for physical harm” is not a violation of platform rules. Elsewhere in the policy, it notes that its definition of “live” location data means someone’s real-time or same-day whereabouts.

Most commercial and private aircraft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology (ADS-B) that transmits a unique code (tied to the airplane’s tail number) containing information such as altitude and GPS location. This information is publicly available and aircraft flying in the USA and Europe are required to broadcast it in order to prevent midair collisions.

In a statement back in November, Musk said he would not ban the original ElonJet account as part of his “commitment to free speech” despite claiming it was a “direct personal safety risk.” The automated ElonJet account posted publicly available information regarding the location of Musk’s 2015 Gulfstream G650ER, and had amassed over 540,000 followers before it was permanently banned on December 14th. Musk previously offered Sweeney $5,000 to have the account taken down.

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She Worked for Twitter. Then She Tweeted at Elon Musk.



Early in November, Twitter’s roughly 7,500 employees received a terse email from a generic address: “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global work force.” The note was signed “Twitter.” On Nov. 3, some people at the company received emails indicating they would be laid off the next day.

That night, Ms. Solomon, her husband and a few colleagues headed to Dots Cafe Portland, a lounge on Clinton Street. Phones were on the table, face up, she said. As the work friends talked, they tapped away at their phones, taking part in chats on the Signal app with colleagues in London, Seattle and San Francisco. Messages like “I got hit” were flying across screens, Ms. Solomon recalled. “You were seeing your co-workers drop like flies,” she said.

By the next afternoon her team of about 10 engineers was reduced to four. Ms. Solomon and her husband had survived the round of layoffs. The next week, she recalled, she awaited further direction from Mr. Musk or the new executive team. Nothing came, she said, except for an email alerting employees that remote work would no longer be permitted, with few exceptions.

Many employees learned of Mr. Musk’s priorities by watching his Twitter feed, where he posted frequently about company business to his more than 100 million followers. On Nov. 5, he complained about the platform’s search function: “Search within Twitter reminds me of Infoseek in ’98! That will also get a lot better pronto,” he wrote. That same day, he tweeted: “Twitter will soon add ability to attach long-form text to tweets, ending absurdity of notepad screenshots.”

That was more than Ms. Solomon and many of her colleagues had heard internally. “Radio silence,” she said. She began to vent her frustration on Twitter.

One of her first tweets in this vein came on Nov. 6, shortly after Mr. Musk announced a new rule for Twitter users in a tweet: “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark,” he wrote. He had posted that message after many people on Twitter had changed their names to variations on Mr. Musk’s name, most of them mocking.

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The new iOS 16.2 Home app architecture upgrade has disappeared



Apple has removed the option to upgrade to the new HomeKit architecture on devices running iOS 16.2. The change follows multiple reports of issues and problems with the Home app after the upgrade was installed.

Apple spokesperson Emily Ewing confirmed the change in a statement provided to The Verge:

“We are aware of an issue that may impact the ability for users to share the Home within the Home app. A fix will be available soon. In the meantime, we’ve temporarily removed the option to upgrade to the new Home architecture. Users who have already upgraded will not be impacted.“

The new Home app architecture was one of the key features of iOS 16.2, with Apple claiming that the upgrade would be “more reliable and efficient.” MacRumors first discovered this week that the Home app in iOS 16.2 no longer offers the option to upgrade to the new architecture within the Home app settings. Several reporters at The Verge have also confirmed that the upgrade option is unavailable on their devices.

The new architecture was first introduced in the iOS 16.2 beta back in October as an optional upgrade before the iOS 16.2 public release on December 13th. Both the beta and public release required Apple devices logged into iCloud to be running the latest versions of iOS, macOS, and tvOS. The upgrade does not happen automatically when iOS 16.2 is installed on a phone, instead requiring a manual process through the Home app.

The update has caused issues with missing devices and adding multiple users for some

Reddit users who downloaded the optional upgrade prior to its removal have reported issues such as the app booting other members from a Home account and being unable to re-add them. Users on the MacRumors forum have reported being unable to invite users to share the Home, HomeKit‌ devices being stuck displaying an “updating” status, and some accessories vanishing from the Home app entirely. Users who have already upgraded are unable to revert to the previous version of the app.

Update, December 23rd, 2022, 2:15PM ET: Added confirmation and statement from Apple spokesperson. Added links to Apple’s updated support pages.

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