Do Hybrid Cars Really Help the Environment

We all have heard how electric and hybrid vehicles and are going to save the planet. Emissions from these vehicles are not going to enter into the environment and life will be perfect.  Will hybrid cars really end up saving the environment from inevitable doom and gloom?

Do Hybrids really help the environment? Hybrids do reduce greatly the use of gas which creates emissions that are harmful to the environment.  Over the lifetime of a hybrid, you will be saving lots of money, and the impact on the environment is minimal compared to a regular vehicle.  Nevertheless, some argue that these benefits are negated because the use of fossil fuels to produce a hybrid, especially with respect to its oversized battery. 

There is no clearcut answer.  You really have to look into the impact that hybrid production has on the environment instead of being blinded by the fact that they use less gas than a conventional vehicle.  I will go into the pluses and the minuses of hybrids regarding how they affect the environment overall.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Vehicles With Respect to the Environment

There are numerous reasons as to why hybrids are great for the environment, I will explain the top reasons:

They are not gas happy, but you will need to change your gas usage habits nevertheless

It is evident that a hybrid is not going to use up a lot of fuel.  If you were to drive almost exclusively within a city, you could theoretically use almost zero gas for the lifetime of your hybrid if it is the type that is a plugin.  I am one of those people.

A lot of people buy a hybrid because they do not wish to get stuck on a busy highway without a way to charge up if they had a fully electric car.

You need to be careful that you do not start to use the bad habits that you had developed through the use of a gas car.  For instance, driving for hours on end because you know that the next gas station is just miles away.  If you keep this mentality, you will be using your hybrid like it is a gas-only vehicle because your hybrid will switch over to the gas motor once the battery pack’s power is too low, which is not great for the environment and for your wallet.

Hybrids are Quiet which is a blessing for the Environment

Driving your hybrid will reduce the stress of constant vibration and noise that can be created by a gas motor.  You do not realize how well you have adapted and are able to block out these factors until you start to drive around in a city in a hybrid.   Just imagine, how calm a city would feel if we all drove around in electric or hybrid vehicles.

You might not think that noise is polluting the environment, but I feel that it is.  Animals that are forced to live close to highways are being stressed out not only because of the constant interaction with construction in cities but because of noise from thousands of vehicles that zipping by them on the crowded motorways.

Even within a city, the noise is overwhelming.  Try walking on city streets daily and monitor your stress level.  When you driving around in your noise isolated vehicle with the satellite radio at a high level of volume, you are not aware that you are potentially stressing out city dwellers.

People that live in cities, might have kids.  Kids that deal with tons of noise pollution from gas cars are finding it hard to focus and to concentrate at school.  Perhaps that is why doctors prescribe numerous drugs to our children as an attempt to calm them down and to get them to chill out.

Driving Habits of Hybrid Owners Dictates Less Speed, Great for the Environment

Once you start to drive in a hybrid, you will start to change your driving habits.  You might feel that you drive in the same fashion, but you probably will become enticed into turning the goal of staying in the electric mode into a game.  That is what happened to me.

I wanted to try to use regenerative braking as much as possible so that I could extend the range using electric.

By using regenerative braking, I am able to increase the driving range by as much as 30 percent during a typical day.  The habit of reducing your need to accelerate as fast as possible will be carried over to the highway.  You will be a calmer driver that is not going to be caught up with the attitudes of the speed demons that are on most highways.

If several hybrids are driving closely together, they will actually succeed in reducing the speed of others.  I have noticed that if numerous people are speeding, that others will follow suit.  They will not even realize their speed is creeping up.

In other words, as the number of hybrid cars increases on highways, the overall speed of the gas cars is going to be reduced.  Reduction in the speed of these normal cars is going to have a positive effect on the environment.  When you press too often on the accelerator, you are emitted more emissions into the environment.

I read somewhere that one gallon of gas weighs 6 pounds, but it can produce as much 22 pounds of carbon dioxide. That is super scary!

Hybrid Requires Less Oil Changes, Saves on Fossil Fuels

You may feel that oil changes are not affecting the environment.  They do not have as large as an effect on the environment as gas emissions. If you take into consideration the number of oil changes that are completed in the States over a year due to gas motor cars, you would see the negative impact on the environment.

Hybrids have a smaller gas motor.  They require fewer oil changes because the electric motor is also used, which reduces the need for oil in the components of the gas motor.  The electric motor does not require oil to work properly.

The need for car oil is something that we are all used to presently.  Most people just assume that oil is easy to recycle and that we are not creating a dependence on fossil fuels nowadays because of our recycling technology.

I did some research and I discovered that only 11 percent of the oil that is refined from cars is reused.  The remaining components in the oil are not stored underground in some secret location, luckily.  The refineries tend to use the left away substance to power their operations.  However, I feel that this usage is adding carbon dioxide to the environment.

Also, we will have to use fossil fuels even further to supply the other 79 percent that was lost during the refining process.  I am not saying that the refineries are being sloppy, they do use fiction modifieds, detergents to do the best job that they can do for refining car oil, but is it enough?

If more of us were to drive hybrids, we would reduce the usage of car oil by at least half of what it is now.

As a Gas Car Ages, it Can Emit More Poisons into the Air, Hybrids Can Safely Age

There are less moving parts in a hybrid, which means that wear and tear will not be as much of a problem when compared to a gas vehicle.  Combustion engines, over time, will not improve.

Some people feel that they actually will become more efficient and use less gas because as bearings wear down, there is reduced friction which equates to savings in fuel.  That is a stretch.  It is like saying that an older person will have more flexibility in their joints because of the wearing down of cartilage over the years.

There is a lot that can go wrong with an older gas vehicle as it ages.  For instance, the bands in the transmission can lose tension.  Or perhaps the thermostat becomes faulty which never permits the engine to stay close to its optimal temperature.  Another situation that could arise is the suspension starts to sag and rubs on the tires.  Worn down tires will cause you to use more gasoline in order to maintain your typical speeds.

The wearing down of parts is not going to happen at the same rate in a hybrid.  There are just a few moveable parts that can become worn down due to friction.  Also, hybrids do not vibrate as much as a typical car.  A gas car that is vibrating is going to reduce the life span of its engine.

Now let us get into the cons for Hybrids with respect to the environment.  They are not perfect or else governments would ban gas vehicles and demand that we all use hybrids or electric vehicles.  There are less negative points, but to get a clearer picture of how hybrids are good or bad, we need to see both sides of the argument.

Production of Nickel-Based Batteries for Hybrids is Harmful to the Environment

There is not a big difference in the production of a gas car and a hybrid for items such as the following:

  1. Tires
  2. Paint
  3. Windows

When you produce such items, the environment is impacted because of the production process that is using up fossil fuels. This impact is created by both hybrids and normal cars.

Where there is a big difference, is the battery.  A gas car needs a lead-based battery and some hybrids require a nickel-based battery for its electric engine.

Since the normal sized battery for a gas car is relatively small, its production causes carbon dioxide emission equal to 9 kilograms.  This is for all stages of productions, starting from the raw materials.

For a battery pack for a hybrid car that requires nickel, the carbon dioxide produced can be as high as 215 kilograms. The atmosphere is going to definitely be more affected when nickel batteries are produced versus lead-based batteries.

You may feel that my numbers are not 100 percent correct because I am stating the carbon dioxide amounts based on starting with raw materials.  If a company were to use 100 percent recycled nickel or lead, they would actually cause more damage to the atmosphere because even higher quantities of carbon dioxide would be released during the recyclable stages.

Not only is the refinery dangerous to the air, but mining nickel-ore causes problems.

When you mine nickel-ore, it has to be crushed and pull along in a conveyor belt.  This crushing releases dust into the environment.  The dust contains harmful components that are poisonous to the air:

  1. toxic metals
  2. copper
  3. cobalt
  4. chromium
  5. and even toxic nickel particles

All countries need to be careful about how they mine nickel.  As the popularity of hybrids increases, the demand for nickel is going to increase.

I read a case on how one mining company, Norilsk, was accused of allowing oxidized nickel to enter into the Daldykan.  The river actually turned red.

Regulating the mining practices for nickel is progressive, but there are other materials that hybrid that create tons of carbon dioxide when they are produced. For instance, the use of aluminum.

Hybrid Manufacturers Use Aluminum to lighten cars, but the Environment Suffers

In order to reduce the need to use the gas motor in a hybrid, manufacturers focus on ways to lighten the cars so the range possible on an electric charge is increased.

I personally have noticed that my Sonata hybrid has more of plastic like feel to it, versus my last car.  I am not saying that the quality is not there, just that is easy to sense that a hybrid weighs less than a regular car.

The biggest way car companies have managed to reduce the overall weight of a hybrid is by using aluminum.  Aluminum weighs a lot less than steel?

Aluminum requires ten times more energy to be produced than steel. It is fine if hybrid manufacturers try to decrease the weight of their vehicles, but at what cost to the environment?

Are Electric Cars Better for the Environment When Compared to Hybrid?

I agree that both electric and hybrid vehicles are good for the environment, it is hard to argue that point.  But which type is more beneficial?  We need to know the true answer to determine if the government should be pushing the production of one type over the other.

First, I will explain the benefits of a plugin in hybrids since they can be charged and it would be the best option to compare to an electric vehicle to see which type comes out on top regarding environmental factors.

The battery production is important to consider.  For the typical hybrid electric motor battery pack, it takes 1700 MJ to produce it.  One MJ is equivalent to the kinetic energy to move a one-tonne vehicle moving at a speed of 161 km/h.

The usage of 1700 MJ is going to produce greenhouse gases (GHG) that affect the environment.

Also, the Li-ion battery that is found in many hybrids, has a useful life of around 10 years.  After 10 years, the owner will need to replace that battery.  That production of the next battery, adds even more GHG.

Even though the battery pack allows the hybrid to use less gas which reduces emissions, the electricity used does indirectly have an effect on the environment because the power plants that produce the electricity release CO2 into the environment.  That might sound nitpicky, but it is true and you need to take that into consideration.

The amount of CO2 at the electricity power plants needs to be added to the CO2 effects created by hybrids.  Some owners will be using the hybrids on the highways long distances which means that the car will switch over to use gasoline, causing emissions into the atmosphere.  It all depends on the driver, if they are not the type of consumer that will try to stay in electric mode, they are going to use relatively more fuel.

Electric Car Have a Larger Battery than a Hybrid

The electric car over the long run is great for the environment. Nevertheless, you need to consider the cost to the environment during the manufacturing process.  An electric car uses a battery that is much larger than the electric motor battery found in a hybrid because it only has an electric motor.  A hybrid can use its gas motor if the battery power in the electric motor battery pack is too low.

Are Nanomaterials the Solution?

Not only does the manufacturing of batteries for electric cars cause emissions at the plants, but the landscape is impacted because of the mining of metals to make the batteries.  Car manufacturers are of course aware of this negative consequence and they have been trying to come up with solutions in the manufacturing process.  I have read that they have been trying to replace some of the components in the lithium-ion batteries with nanomaterials.  This reduces the need for mining, but the GHG released during the processing of the battery will be slightly more than before.

Hybrids are Less Harmful to the Environment than Regular Vehicles

The environmental impact of hybrids is greater than that of electric vehicles when you are considering solely after the car has been manufactured.  Hybrids are still a good option, they use a lot less gas than a conventional vehicle.  For instance, a standard hybrid, non-pluggable, uses around 30 less gas than a normal vehicle. A plugin type uses as much as 60 percent less.


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