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Can a PHEV work with a standard wall outlet?

One of the best ways to get the most out of a plug-in hybrid vehicle is to use its all-electric or EV mode frequently. That means only using the gas engine only when needed like driving on the highway, long distances, or hauling heavy loads. This allows you to maximize your time driving emissions-free but it will also mean charging more often at home. For those with a level 2 AC charger or a 240-volt outlet, that’s not a problem. But what if you only have access to a 120-volt household outlet? Can you make that work? Let’s find out.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles are able to operate in EV mode for longer periods versus a standard hybrid because they have larger batteries. While some also have the ability to charge the pack using the gas engine, some don’t, requiring you to plug in because the regenerative braking isn’t enough. The size of that battery usually depends on the vehicle; newer plug-in hybrid models like the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 Prime, and Audi Q5 PHEV all have packs that are over 10 kWh. Smaller models like the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV and Toyota Prius Prime use smaller battery packs.

You’ll be able to charge any plug-in vehicle, whether it’s a hybrid or battery-electric, using a standard 120-volt household outlet. The one thing that will determine how long you need to stay plugged in is the battery size. In the case of a plug-in hybrid, using a 120-volt outlet will require anywhere from four hours to over six. Some will even need to stay plugged in overnight or longer to get to 100 percent because their batteries are so large. One of those vehicles is the Karma GS-6; its 28-kWh pack is similar to early battery-electric vehicles, meaning you’re going to spend more than 12 hours charging if you use a 120-volt outlet to get it back to 100 percent. A plug-in hybrid crossover like the Toyota RAV4 Prime needs roughly 12 hours to get a full charge on a household outlet. Compact vehicles like the Toyota Prius Prime need 5 hours and 30 minutes to get a full charge using a 120-volt outlet because it has an 8.8-kWh battery, which is on the small side.

If you don’t have a level 2 charger at home and only use a 120-volt outlet, the battery size of the plug-in hybrid you’re looking at will determine if you can make it work or not. A Prius Prime, Ioniq PHEV, and a Kia Niro PHEV can work sufficiently if you charge overnight. Their batteries are small enough that they don’t take forever to get to 100 percent yet big enough that the cars are still able to travel nearly 30 miles on a single charge. Crossovers like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Volvo XC60 T8, on the other hand, will require you to plug in overnight when the battery is depleted, which is still relatively workable.

Using a level 1 or 120-volt outlet can work for a plug-in hybrid but you need to make sure the one you get doesn’t have an incredibly large battery. Hatchbacks like the Prius Prime, Niro PHEV, and Ioniq PHEV are all workable because their packs are modestly sized. Volvo’s T8 cars and crossovers, on the other hand, are at the top end of viability for those without access to more powerful charging capabilities. A level 2 AC charger allows you to get the most out of a PHEV while reducing the time you spend charging. If you have to make a 120-volt outlet viable at home, make sure you know how big the battery is and can make the charging times work around your life.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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