Next to Tesla, Plug-In Hybrids Are an Illusion of Eco-Consciousness
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Next to Tesla, Plug-In Hybrids Are an Illusion of Eco-Consciousness

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles often have short electric ranges and do little to improve overall fuel efficiency.

By Dan Neil
Tue, Sep 7, 2021 12:08pmGrey Clock 4 min

AS I WAS RAGING NORTH toward Switzerland in the 735kW Ferrari SF90 Stradale in July, I was feeling pretty good about myself. After all, I was saving the Earth.

The Stradale is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)—powered by a twin-turbo V8 (about 581kW) assisted by three electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack. The idea is that Juan-Philippe Cliente, or his manservant, will plug in the Ferrari at night so that it may provide electric-only driving range in the morning. Notionally, the Stradale’s hybrid design will allow it to operate in European cities’ low-emission zones.

With its battery fully charged (7.9 kWH), the Stradale can achieve admirable efficiency of 4.6l per 100km, according to the EPA. But penny-pinchers need to check the fine print. That applies only to the first 13km. Practically within sight of my hotel in Maranello, Italy, the Stradale had devolved into its baser, grumbling, petrol-powered nature—albeit with a kind of Prius-of-the-gods electric torque assist.

Thirteen kilometres.

The Stradale has plenty of company in Crazytown. The PHEV version of the Bentley Bentayga can waft silently only about 29km, officially; the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, 33. Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, 27. These short electric legs—combined with powerful internal combustion (IC) engines—do almost nothing to improve overall fuel efficiency. Why do manufacturers even bother?

Like most PHEVs—only slightly more so—the Stradale is a compliance baby, with a powertrain designed to meet soaring vehicle emissions/consumption requirements in major vehicle markets, using de minimis electrical systems added to IC powertrains. In some respects PHEVs are a technical echo of a time not long ago—2010—when such machines were being showered with public money and held to wildly unrigorous standards.

To cite but one notorious example: The Stradale (US$663,623, as tested) qualifies for $3,501 in public money meant to encourage reduced consumption. Thirteen kilometres.

That party is about to be over. Under the Biden administration, new federal PHEV standards are expected to be more “robust,” in the gentle lingo of policy makers.

How robust? In many respects the California Air Resources Board (CARB)—with authority to set its own vehicle emission standards and penalize offending automakers—is already there. For example, the state has a price cap of $60,000 for qualifying vehicles in the state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. As of April 6, 2021, qualifying PHEVs must also achieve a minimum 48km of EPA-measured electric range to qualify for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project tax credit. By dint of this one rule change, California buyers of more than a dozen new PHEV vehicles, from Bentleys to Volvos, no longer qualify.

Sacramento is now drafting the state’s Advanced Clean Car II language, applying to model-year vehicles beyond 2025. Qualifying PHEVs might then need to deliver a proposed 80km of all-electric range. The state may also put a 15% cap on what are called “historical” PHEV credits claimed by a manufacturer.

What comes next is a fight over standards and timetables, credits and penalties. Mercedes-Benz, GM, Toyota and Stellantis NV, to name four big pickup/SUV players in the U.S., need PHEVs to contribute to their bottom-line Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and other emissions targets for the balance of the decade. They will also need consumer-facing tax credits because, with two power systems aboard, PHEVs typically cost several thousand dollars more than a conventional vehicle.

You might be wondering how it all could have gone so wrong for PHEV, a powertrain architecture that once seemed so logical as to be inevitable? In brief, there are two kinds of PHEVs: short-range and long-range. PHEVs with more than about 37 miles of EV range—like the Chevrolet Volt (2011-2019)—do meaningfully displace petrol-driven kilometres, reduce emissions and save consumers money, according to a 2019 report by UC Davis International EV Policy Council.

But short-range PHEVs—the vast preponderance on the market—don’t, except in limited conditions. Why? It’s behavioural. Studies show that the shorter a vehicle’s all-EV range, the less likely owners are to bother charging overnight. And, when owners don’t charge overnight, PHEVs calculations of efficiency go upside down in the morning. Actually, a short-range PHEV with a flat battery is lugging around a lot of useless weight.

Charging PHEVS on the go can also be comically difficult since few are capable of fast-charging.

PHEVs may yet have a bigger problem: NOX, or nitrous oxide, a hazardous smog-forming product of combustion. At a workshop in May, CARB officials raised concerns about PHEVs’ excessive NOX emissions during full-power cold starts, as when an IC engine kicks on after a period of electric driving. One probable explanation: Emission-scrubbing catalytic converters in exhaust systems only work after they are well heated by the exhaust stream, typically requiring 20 seconds or so. It’s most cars’ dirtiest seconds; PHEVs often spend them with wide-open throttles.

In November the environmental pressure group Transport & Environment published a study of the emissions of the popular BMW X5, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Volvo XC60 plugins. The study observed that, even with a fully charged battery and in optimal conditions, the emissions of these vehicles were 28-89% higher than the official value. In cases when the battery went flat, emissions jumped three to eight times higher than listed. And, as when a PHEV runs the petrol engine hard to charge the battery, the report says emissions were up to 12 times higher.

In a preamble to the report, Julia Poliscanova, senior director for vehicles and e-mobility at T&E, blasted the EU’s incentives for PHEVs and raised the spectre of emissions scandals past. “Plug-in hybrids are fake electric cars, built for lab tests and tax breaks, not real driving.”

Wait. Me first. PHEV-ilgate? That’s not right. PHEVigate? Pffffevul-gate?

The dangers of misrepresentation and misunderstanding are real. Consumers unclear on the difference between a fuel-electric hybrid (like a Toyota Prius) and a plug-in electric vehicle, might not even know to plug their cars in. Imagine the Stradale owner when it dawns on him it’s not 4.6l/100km all the time.

The manservant better have some answers.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: September 3, 2021



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Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

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