Enough With the Hybrids Already

A.R. Broom, [email protected]

A whole host of words and terms may pop up when the phrase Hybrid Cars is mentioned, but if environmentally friendly is one of them for you, you may want to reconsider your position on them.

No one should hold that against you as for years many marketing departments have made the environmentally conscious their prime target.

It would also be fair to say that hybrid cars have primed both car buyers and manufacturers for the future, which is, to the dismay of many “gear heads”, electric.

While these cars have certainly found a place in the world, it should be made clear that hybrid cars are rife with compromise to satisfy the governmental standards for manufacturer’s total fuel economy. These compromises have led to less-than-favorable practices that should no longer go unnoticed by the general public.

To begin, hybrid cars share the bones of both fully electric and conventional internal combustion engine vehicles, but they are not all alike. There are two main categories of hybrid cars, conventional and plug-in.

Mechanically speaking, conventional and plug-in hybrids share the same technology. However, plug-in hybrids focus on providing longer distances of fully electric range. The longer range on electric power alone means that the owners of those cars may hardly ever need to fill up their cars.

A key issue with owning a plug-in hybrid and hardly filling up is the unnecessary mass of the fuel tank and engine of the car while driving in the car’s EV mode.

This extra mass causes the car to use much more energy under acceleration. Depending on driving conditions and driver patterns much of that car’s momentum will be wasted under braking.

Even if your car has a regenerative braking system, which turns excess momentum into electricity to be saved for later use, a portion of that lost energy will be lost to heat with the use of conventional brakes.

The same losses occur with conventional hybrids that may spend the majority of their life using their internal combustion engines while carrying the added weight of their electric motors and batteries. Unless the car coasts to a stop via its regenerative system similar losses will be experienced.

Those batteries are not exempt from ridicule either. The lithium-ion batteries create significant direct environmental damage during the strip mining processes required to produce them. In addition, these batteries have long lasting impact after they wear out due to the difficulties involved in recycling the numerous small cells within them.

While there is certainly a case to be made for using hybrid cars in both urban and suburban environments, these cars don’t make a lot of sense for those looking to reduce their overall ecological footprint.

Those who are looking to make a less negative impact on the planet through their vehicle should not consider these hybrid cars, which tend to have the worst of both worlds in favor of fuel economy. Instead, it would make much more sense to chose one or the other — internal combustion or fully electric.

Studies have shown that hybrid cars have worse CO2 equivalent life cycle impacts than both gasoline and electric vehicles. For the time being, if you cannot afford an electric vehicle and power it with clean energy, a gasoline-powered car may be your best bet for now.

Some of the best things drivers can do to lessen their impact on the Earth involve altering driving habits to reduce energy losses.

These methods are beneficial no matter what you drive and can be condensed to one simple statement: Reduce your pedal inputs. Don’t hit the go-pedal so hard, and only brake when necessary by leaving lots of space between you and the car in front of you so you can coast. You’ll take a little longer to get where you’re going, but the time effects are all but insignificant.

Not only can you “save the planet” this way, you’ll also be saving money.