It's honestly no surprise that people are buying plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and then not charging them. Heck, they work as a gas car that saves fuel, so you don't actually need to plug them in, but it would arguably be nice if it were somehow required.
A PHEV is essentially a traditional hybrid, aside from the fact that you can plug it in to charge its battery pack and take advantage of some miles of electric-only emissions-free driving. Not only does using a PHEV as an electric car save you money, but it's also better for the environment.
Like fully electric cars, PHEVs cost more upfront than gas cars. There's really no point in spending the extra money on a vehicle with a plug-in powertrain unless you plan to use it. We really couldn't care less if people are throwing their money away by spending more upfront and then being too lazy to take advantage of the savings. However, we do care that people will be getting federal tax credits for these vehicles and then using them as dirty gas burners.
According to a new study from the International Council on Clean Transportation, which was shared by Green Car Reports, many people aren't using their PHEVs as advertised. The self-reported fuel economy figures used in the study come from Fuelly.com, and other important data was collected by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair.
Based on the study, real-world electric miles driven in PHEVs could be 25 to 65 percent lower than the vehicle allows. Moreover, PHEV drivers are consuming 42 to 67 more fuel than the EPA estimates.
Keep in mind, nearly every PHEV on the market today is also available as a gas-only car or a traditional hybrid with no plug. For example, you could spend a good chunk of change on the Toyota RAV4 Prime (PHEV), and save money driving it. However, if you don't want to deal with plugging it in, you can just buy the RAV4 Hybrid or standard RAV4. The same is true of vehicles like the Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe, Kia Sportage and Sorento, and many more.
Why then would people even buy a PHEV if they don't plan to plug it in? Perhaps they thought it would work out differently at the time of purchase, or they just stopped dealing with the plug. However, now with the full $7,500 US federal EV tax credit available for PHEVs even with the slightest electric range, more people will likely buy them. Hopefully, with more education, more people will actually charge them.