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Tyres  /  Tyre NewsEV Tyre News  / Martin Millar Q&A Part 2

Exclusive Q&A: Are hybrids the gateway to mass EV adoption?

Volvo V60 PHEV

For part two of our Ask the Experts series, we delve into the public's apprehensions and resistance towards a fully electric future with Michelin’s resident tyre guru, Martin Millar.

In our recent discussion with Polestar Driver’s Club UK, we discovered why former petrolheads are converting to electric performance cars, not because they have to, but because they want to. So, if a group who were so impassioned about ICE vehicles are happy to make the switch of their own volition, what’s stopping the wider public for whom cars are simply a means of transport?  

Well, objectively, EVs appear to make complete sense for the average consumer. From lower running costs and reduced maintenance to a quieter and more effortless driving experience, electric cars are now more competent than their ICE counterparts in many areas. Perhaps, then, deeper more subjective forces are at play? As Michelin's Category Manager for the Northern European region, Martin Millar believes the widespread trepidation has truly multifaceted roots.

Mercedes GLC 400c
The 376-bhp Mercedes GLC 400e proves hybrids benefit from both performance and efficiency.
Image credit:  Mercedes

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Q. According to a report by World EV Day, 53% of people agree that switching to an EV would be a confusing process: what, in your opinion, are the biggest barriers to EV ownership?  

A: The main one that comes up for most people is range anxiety. Basically, the fear of running out of charge before you make it to your destination. Then, oftentimes, a lack of charging infrastructure and the time it takes to actually charge the battery are rolled in too.  

I would say the slightly higher purchase cost is another thing people are nervous about, and then on top of that you have considerations like the cost and feasibility of installing a home charger, as well as the high depreciation of used EVs we are seeing currently in the marketplace.  

So, I think some people join up the dots and think there are too many issues. But I think that's slowly resolving itself now — as we discussed in our last chat. 

Q. Are these apprehensions justified? 

A: I think they are partially justified — we won’t ever fully escape from range anxiety. It’s one of the drivers for Michelin’s continuing investment in developing lower rolling resistance tyres. But I think the issue with insufficient charging infrastructure will improve. We’re up to about 46,000 charging stations across the UK, and by 2030 the UK Government policy is to have 300,000 in place. This is backed by investment of £1.6 billion. If you compare this to the current 60,000 petrol pumps in the UK, there should be more than enough electric charging points to meet demand.  

As well as government investment, private companies are also spending heavily on EV charging points. BP Pulse has committed £1 billion by 2030 and Blackrock has invested $700 million in Ionity EV to expand the network by 600 charging stations and 5,500 charging points by 2025 across Europe, and that’s just to name a few. 

Hybridised cars come in an array of configurations: Mercedes C300 PHEV combines a 4-cylinder petrol engine with a 25.4kWh battery pack.
Image credit: Mercedes

An issue which is more likely to persist revolves around those who live in cities or who can’t park their car up at home and charge. Are we going to get to the point where we have communal charging areas? There is an additional £620 million in Government EV Transition funding to support local authorities aimed at addressing this, and for secure on-street residential charging in built up areas. Expect local authority car parks, street lighting, and bollards to be adapted to charging points. 

It’s likely the gap with resale values between ICE and EV will soon start to narrow as well. If the resale value of an EV is 40% of the purchase price after three years, an ICE car might be more like 60%, however this will soon change once people start getting home charging stations and become more used to the idea of owning an electric car. Car manufacturers are also looking to better address the need for economic replacement of batteries and battery recycling. My guess is there will be an inflection point where petrol and diesel vehicles start to become undesirable, apart from certain niche or premium applications. In a few years, it is likely, that no one will want an ICE version of a VW Passat.  

Q. Do you think hybrid vehicles could be key to bridging that gap in terms of consumer confidence?  

A: Yes, absolutely. I think hybrids are a gateway vehicle to full BEVs. In terms of the transition to EVs, I think we have already crossed the tipping point with respect to vehicle manufacturers and European governments, but public perception isn’t there yet.  

Hybrids could allay fears over range anxiety and get people used to electrification without having to jump straight in the deep end. It could also be a solution for those people we mentioned who don’t have easy access to home charging.  

That said, there’s still a misunderstanding around the different types of hybrids (PHEV plug-in and MHEV mild). For some hybrid drivers, they recognise they’re driving something more sustainable, but might not appreciate the bigger picture. While PHEVs make sense for some — I think mild hybrids are a bit of a gimmick really. The jury is still out whether you get the extra cost of MHEV back with any improved efficiency — but with 2035 mandate fast approaching I’m not convinced they’re a long-term solution.

Hyundai Tucson PHEV
The Michelin-shod Hyundai Tucson PHEV was Europe's fourth best-selling hybird car in 2022. 
Image credit: Hyundai


While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for improving EV adoption — especially for those whom owning a BEV is untenable due to a lack of home charging access — Millar argues that EV ownership is gaining momentum in the UK, and that electrified ICE cars could well be a catalyst for driving further EV uptake going forward. 

Have you already made the move to an electric or hybrid vehicle? Let us know how you’ve fared so far. 

Hero image credit: Volvo

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