Transport & Environment (T&E) said on Wednesday that plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are a “distraction, not a climate solution,” and policymakers should stop subsidising their purchase, Kallanish reports.

Released test results carried out by Graz University of Technology on three PHEV models – the BMW 3 Series, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane - apparently show the vehicles pollute more than claimed.

Accordingly, on a typical commuter route (55 kilometres round-trip), the BMW model emitted three times its official WLTP CO2 rating. The Peugeot’s emissions were 20% higher and the Renault’s 70% higher than advertised by the companies.

The measurements started with a fully charged battery in the default mode selected by the PHEV.

In terms of electric range in city driving, the Peugeot had 53% of the advertised rate on a single charge, while the BMW had only 74%. The Renault was the only one to match its advertised range, T&E says.

“Plug-in hybrids are sold as the perfect combination of a battery for all your local needs and an engine for long distances. But real-world testing shows this is a myth,” comments Anna Krajinska, vehicle emissions manager at T&E. “Private car and company car taxes for PHEVs should be based on the actual CO2 reduction delivered. Governments should end all purchase subsidies for PHEVs in fleets and instead encourage companies to use battery electric cars, which are truly zero emissions.”

T&E claims that over €350 million ($375.63m) was spent in subsidies last year on the three brands analysed in the study. It also says it's more expensive to own a PHEV than a BEV, noting drivers who switch the aforementioned models to comparable all-electric models could save from €1,300 to €4,800 over four years. The group doesn’t explain how it arrived at this conclusion.

Among other recommendations to the EU, the group suggests that the option to charge the PHEV using the internal combustion engine “should be removed by carmakers,” as many PHEVs, especially company cars, “are rarely, if ever charged.”

In a response statement, Peugeot told Kallanish that its vehicles are fully compliant with all regulations and the conditions of tests that are required. The [T&E] report makes some conclusions based on non-regulated tests and data which lacks further information on the detailed conditions. The results depend heavily on driving style, type of route, traffic and even environmental factors, such as temperature and weather. Depending on these factors, the range achieved may increase or decrease, even considerably,” the carmaker says.

Kallanish also contacted BMW and Renault for comment.