Hybrid Cars Negative Environmental Impact

Hybrid Cars Negative Environmental Impact

If you take the total environmental cost of a vehicle as the point from when the car was first designed to when it is dismantled, or hopefully recycled, hybrid vehicles don’t quite match the hype they are currently getting.

A hybrid is a complicated vehicle, requiring lots of new technology and high tech components. A hybrid vehicle is harder to build because of its complexity, which means more energy is used in building the car. Some hybrids can charge their batteries from mains power, and this could be generated by ‘dirty’ technologies such as coal fired power stations or nuclear power. This is especially true for the pure electric cars on the market – it depends on how the electricity is produced as to what end effect your car is having on the environment.

While hybrids are considered clean technology by most people, any hybrid with an internal combustion engine will still produce pollutants. Catalytic converters handle most of the contamination, but there’s still that good old greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Even hybrids pump this out, they just pump lower amounts of it, and mostly because most hybrids have engines that stop when the vehicle comes to a halt.

Another thing to consider with hybrids is the battery that stores the electricity. Most hybrids use a nickel metal hydride system, which requires nickel mining, which is often done in open cast mines with all the attendant pollution that goes along with excavating large holes in the ground. Luckily, nickel metal hydride batteries are non toxic and they can be recycled, but at a cost.

A hybrid also requires plenty of copper wire for the electric motors, further increasing the actual cost and environmental effect of constructing the car. Hybrids are also commonly 10 percent heavier than a similarly sized car, which means more power has to be produced than usual to achieve comparable performance. This is why many hybrids these days are actually mild hybrids, with a generator that produces electricity as the vehicle slows down, taking weight off the alternator, allowing it to work less, and therefore save fuel. Not as much as a hybrid, but the system is much simpler and easier to produce.

Once the car is built and on the road, the popular perception is that you are ‘doing your thing for the environment’ and this is true to some extent because a hybrid will use less fossil fuel than a conventional car, regardless of the way you drive it. Remember that a hybrid will probably never match the listed fuel efficiency because of the way the efficiency test is done, and because unless you only ever drive on heavily congested streets you won’t be utilizing the hybrid system effectively. Drive on the highway, for instance, and the petrol engine will be working all the time, negating the effect of the hybrid system.

Above all, remember you are not saving the planet by driving a hybrid or even a fully electric car, you are merely minimizing your impact on the environment.

Note: This is however one side of the coin. Hybrid cars do have some negative environmental impact but it is far less then the the positive aspects of the car.

77 Comments

  1. Sheila says:

    Some people are really revealing their ignorance here when they say that the electricity used in a Prius causes environmental damage. What do you fools think, that you plug a Prius in to the electric grid? These are hybrids, not electric cars (perhaps there are some exceptions, but by and large, no). In a hybrid car, the electricity is made by the running of the gas engine. That means that while the car is using some gas, it is also storing up extra energy in the battery. It’s not taking away any of the usefulness of the gas, it’s just multitasking. Then, the car can partly run on the battery power. Get it?

    • s says:

      you are dumb
      how do you think the electricity is generated?
      it takes energy of the gasoline to exert force turning the drive shaft and, thus a turbine or alternator that generates electricity as you are coasting or whenever the gasoline engine is not in use
      you are correct that hybrids are a great step towards being greener, but energy is not just magically made, it is taken/sort of switched for the gas

    • The Phantom Scribbler says:

      1) If I remember high school science, isn’t there at least a small loss of energy just about every time there is a conversion from one type of energy to another? If so, wouldn’t that detract somewhat from the overall efficiency of an electric vehicle, especially one that needs to be plugged in? Since the energy created/used by a standard car come directly from burning gasoline, and the energy created/used by an electric car has to be converted back-and-forth through miles of wire?

      2) I also remember someone mentioning that around the manufacturing plants which create the batteries for electric cars, there are huge toxic zones where plants cannot grow. Does anyone have any idea if this is true?

    • Samuel Rhys Dorrington says:

      Dear Sheila
      That is impossible, a fuel can not multitask. Due to the laws of conservation of energy if the fuel was also powering the electric engine then to achieve the same output the car would need to consume more fuel. Thus the car would create the same ammount of emissions per a unit of fuel burnt. HOWEVER the electric engine is not only powered by burning fuel, it is powered by reverse gyroscopes in the engine. This means that the electric engine is powered by the wheels turning when the engines arent being used, i.e. slowing down, free wheeling, changing gear, braking, and engine braking (all of which normally waste energy as heat) charge the electric engine. Thus hybrids can achieve a higher mile per gallon.

      Sincerely
      Samuel Rhys Dorrington
      Director of Environmental Reduction at Honda

  2. LOL says:

    yall need to take a chill pill =\

  3. Maylaunim says:

    I’m 19 and I don’t drive yet, I don’t want to untill I can find a good car that is compatable with the envirment and has great milage, untill then I think I’ll stick with my legs or a 2 weeler, no moter, bicycle. I’ll be doing my homework with cars before I consider buying or getting my drivers license.

  4. Sara says:

    I’m just thinking that the zero land fill subaru may be worth as much environmentally as the hybrid.

  5. Mike says:

    Less efficiency than a diesel, less performance than a petrol engined car. The amount of enviormental damage caused in the sourcing, production & disposal of lithion ion battieries far outweigh any claimed green credentials. Buy & maintain an old car, even a sports car. In the long run it does far less damage to the enviorment than building a brand new car & THEN sourcing lithion ion batteries for it. People who purchase hybrid cars do nothing more then advertise their own ignorance to the world.

  6. cam says:

    It is true that the dust-to-dust study was not done correctly, but if they did a study with a car in the same class size as a Prius it would likely conclude the conventional car is better for the environment. The d-t-d study said that Hummers were like $1.49 and the Prius was $3 something. If the difference was that great between a car with 50 mpg and 7 mpg I can only imagine that the gas car will beat the Prius

  7. anonymous says:

    Can you just accept the fact that nothing in this world is perfect? All things have certain limitations.

  8. Christopher says:

    I’m coming in late on this discussion. Something I think what is overlooked with hybrids is the fact that their entry price (Toyota and Honda)has been heavily subsidized by sales of less “environmenally friendly” vehicles (think Tacoma trucks). Without that subsidy the cost of a hybrid could easily rise 50%. So yes YOUR car is green, but it is probably just a dirty getting into your hands as the guy driving a non-hybrid.

    I think what also gets lost in these discussions is the financial stakes at hand. Typically “Big Oil” comes to mind, but there are groups on the “Green” side which have just as much to lose if hybrids don’t pan out. Some people (Al Gore ex) could lose or gain hundreds of millions of dollars. Make no bones about it folks this is about $$ first and the environment second.

    From a public policy perspective there are some serious problems regarding the taxation and overall cost of fuel. It’s something worth thinking about outside of the “green is good” mantra.

    What do I drive? I drive a clean diesel.

  9. Anonymous says:

    i cant believe i just read every single post

  10. lenora says:

    I have a question about hybrid SUV especially Fords.

    A friend recently purchased used 2008 Ford Hybrid. I think it is the Escape model but I am not sure. The one I looked at is again the 2008 Escape that does not have a mid step side bar to help people get in easier and my friend had that in his SUV. It could be another Ford Hybrid model. His is a 4 cylinder,automatic with a great built-in GIS, Satellite internet and all the bells and whistle! Again, I am not sure it is an Escape only because of the side step bar along the SUV. I only looked on-line..

    He paid 25,000 or more for the 2008 dark silver with the whole lot of options. I really like what he purchased and I am thinking of buying a hybrid too.

    Yah! Sorry for the jabber. MY QUESTION pertains to Ford Hybrids or maybe all Hybrids in general.

    My mechanic of 32 experience reacted negatively about Hybrids. When I told him I was thinking of purchasing one, he said it not worth it based on his personal reasons but more so, THE FACT that he tells me the Electric Engine has a life span of TEN years! To replace the Electric Engine, it would cost to date, SIX Thousands Dollars for a new electric engine!

    IS THIS TRUE? I mean you can sell it before it reaches 10 years but you will need to disclose the truth about the electric engine or be one of those jerks and not say anything and pray the victim does not find out. I am not like that so that is why I am asking.

    Again does the Hybrids Electric Engine have a life span of TEN YEARS? I am not savvy about car.so PLEASE, would someone confirm what my mechanic said. Have you heard of this and is there a warranty solution?

    Thanks
    Lenora

  11. Frush says:

    Hybrid and electric cars are MUCH MUCH WORSE for the environment than standard cars or trucks for a variety of reasons. First to consider is lifespan. Which has a greater environmental cost: a truck which has to be replaced after 15 or 20 years, a car which has to be replaced after ten, or a hybrid which loses most of its value after THREE YEARS???!!! That should be enough to convince you right there. I won’t even get into the environmental costs of strip mining for all the rare earth metals needed to make the batteries.

  12. Justin Bieber says:

    this is stupid the pros out weigh the cons sooo much

  13. bob bobrowske says:

    This could be right, it could be wrong. We will see in the future

    Why would you want to buy a hybrid. There is no power to haul things, and no leg room!!!

  14. Saracen says:

    Justin Bieber you sure know how to put up a convincing argument.

  15. Anonymous says:

    All this because someone decided to look at both sides of the coin on this issue. Wow.

  16. Hybrids Will Not Last Long says:

    In the end the argument for hybrids is not going to win. 500Ibs of battery in a Prius…where do you think this comes from…look up nickel mining. It is a process involving strip mining the earth you guys think you are saving. It leaves craters in the planet large enough to fit several football stadiums. I am sure you think “but you can recycle nickel.” Well that sounds nice but if the average conumption per person of nickel with a regular car is 50 Ibs…and suddenly 1/2 of the world…roughly 1 Billion families of 3-4 people think getting a hybrid would be a great idea…now 1 Billion families need to consume 500Ibs of nickel….consumption of nickel will be up by 450,000,000,000 Ibs……Thats a giant hole considering you have to move 5 Ibs of earth to get 1 Ib of nickel….so enjoy saving the planet.

  17. Adam says:

    perhaps if we developed an entirely solar powere/nuclear powered electrical grid and only used battery powered cars we wouldn’t relase any greenhouse gasses when driving, but since nickel mining straight rapes the earth that probably won’t happen. Until there is a viable solution I will continue to ride my motorcycle (80mpg) and drive my 2000 Jetta 1.8T (30mpg if driven normally) since they’re both older and it takes less money/resources to keep an old vehicle working than it does to buy a whole new car and It’s not like either of them are gas guzzlers.

  18. dogs dinner says:

    I think a good point was raised early in the thread where someone questions the logic of a hybrid being more damaging to the environment than a hummer.
    I think the point is being slightly missed. In my opinion, if we’re talking about buying a new car then, like for like (compact vs compact) a hybrid is more damaging due to the manufacturing processed and potentially the way it’s used minimizing the advantages.
    However, compact vs suv isn’t the same. Do you really need a hummer???
    The point i make is the best way to limit your impact on the environment through motoring is to keep your current car longer.
    Regardless if it’s a 10 year old V8, by keeping it and not buying a new car you WILL be reducing your impact.

  19. Alfred says:

    I wish that all cars and other devices (maybe everything including food and clothing) were labelled with a verified TEC (Total Environmental Cost) value, (like a nutritional value label) so that the manufacturing costs (including the administrative overhead) could be compared. In this way, better built cars and operated companies would have an advantage over poorly built and operated ones.

    It is my understanding that the environmental costs of building the car far outweigh the environmental impact of driving a 1970′s large automobile driving 1,000,000 miles. (I got this statistic at a local automotive museum) This would imply that if we could get a car that would last a lifetime, we would make a much greater impact environmentally than having solar powered cars… although, without the consumer renewal, we would all probably be without jobs… or be farming on organic farms within a bicycle’s distance from our homes… Please hand me that hoe and clippers…

  20. EVs suck says:

    Doesn’t recycling that stupid battery do even more environmental damage? And taking all of this into consideration, you’d be saving the planet more if you drove a supercharged Range Rover

  21. Joe says:

    Diesel earth movers to mine(all metal components).Diesel freighters to ship overseas.diesel trains,diesel trucks to ship to p.o.s. Including all toxicity created in manufacturing of “hi-tech” gadgetry!majority of profits retained overseas and what happens when your involved in an accident? Ever looked into what that “new car smell” really is?

  22. Bawb says:

    Nuclear is a dirty technology? Plus in order to make the batteries as it says you have to:
    1) Mine the nickle
    2) ship the nickle ore to europe for refining
    3) ship the refined nickle to china
    4)make the batteries
    5) ship those batteries to the plant to be put into cars

    The end result is a car that (usually) has two engines and two drive trains in it, making it crazy heavy on top of the extra weight of the batteries, making the car get the same highway mileage as a regular small car. If you do all your driving in the city then it makes sense, but if you are in a more rural area and do a lot of highway driving then you’re better off with a Camry or some other 4 cylinder.

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