This article investigates charging strategies for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) as part of the energy system. The objective was to increase the combined all-electric mileage (total distance driven using only the traction batteries in each PHEV) when the total charging power at each workplace is subject to severe limitations imposed by the energy system. In order to allocate this power optimally, different input variables, such as state-of-charge, battery size, travel distance, and parking time, were considered. The required vehicle mobility was generated using a novel agent-based model that describes the spatiotemporal movement of individual PHEVs. The results show that, in the case of Helsinki (Finland), smart control strategies could lead to an increase of over 5% in the all-electric mileage compared to a no-control strategy. With a high prediction error, or with a particularly small or large battery, the benefits of smart charging fade off. Smart PHEV charging strategies, when applied to the optimal allocation of limited charging power between the cars of a vehicle fleet, seem counterintuitively to provide only a modest increase in the all-electric mileage. A simple charging strategy based on allocating power to PHEVs equally could thus perform sufficiently well. This finding may be important for the future planning of smart grids as limiting the charging power of larger PHEV fleets will sometimes be necessary as a result of grid restrictions. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.