While hybrid cars have been on the motor vehicle market from the late 1990s, before you think of placing a hybrid on the shopping list, there are still several peculiarities worth considering. The motivations why you would want to own and drive a hybrid car are quite numerous.
- Those fewer gas station stops
- The feel good thing about being green
- Saving the environment
- Being trendy
However, in the long run, not all the above reasons will hold out. While Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) continue to gain popularity as greener and more efficient alternatives, several points need to be brought to the fore:
- First off, hybrid cars basically remain internal-combustion; they are still gasoline powered vehicles and they still contribute to emissions as you drive them around.
- Most of the Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) still tap into the national grids. In the US for example, much of the existing power grid comes from coal with its well known environmental impact.
1. More Heavy Metals Mined
Besides the nickel used in the batteries, most HEVs and PHEVs utilize huge quantities of copper in their extensive wiring and electric drive motors. Similar to nickel, these have to be mined, either from underground mines or from open pits. This has the potential of degrading the environment further.
When using the strip mining method, miners are known to clear everything from the earth surface as they seek the heavy metals, rather than dig deep. This has a huge negative impact on the environment that can last for many decades to come.
In addition, this method of mining contributes to significant amount of air pollution, besides destroying grass and plants as well as drying up streams. The impact of what goes into producing that perceived eco-friendly hybrid car may, in fact be triggering untold environmental havoc elsewhere.
2. Promoting Usage of Unclean Energy
If electricity productions sources that are environmentally friendly are at full capacity, then extra needed power would need to come from sources that are less clean such as coal. This increases our consumption of energy sources known to have negative environmental impact, despite using Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).
Particularly when the extra electric power is being generated from coal sources, the impact is greater; the net carbon footprint is bigger. Toxic waste will find its way into our water systems and when these gets combined with careless disposal of the toxic batteries materials, the net contribution of PHEVs could be negative in terms of environmental impact.
3. Production of Batteries Harms the Environment
Conventional motor vehicles utilize lead-acid batteries. This has for a long time been a major source of contention within the auto industry. This is because lead is a known toxic chemical which when released into our environment, can cause long-term damage.
The majority of Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) use lithium-ion and nickel-hydride batteries which are deemed to be better for their environmental impact, although that may not necessarily be true.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) point out that nickel is likely to be a human carcinogen, and when improperly disposed, the nickel-hydride batteries could pose a potential human and environmental hazard.
- In addition, the production of nickel batteries requires much more energy in production compared to lead batteries.
- The minerals used in hybrid cars batteries depend on mined materials such as cobalt and lithium. The mining process for these minerals can be extremely destructive. In its wake, it has been known to leave entire mountains leveled.
4. Electric Cars are not that Eco-friendly
Simply because your car is getting plugged into a power source, it doesn’t necessarily mean that automatically you’re utilizing clean energy. Different states, cities and nations produce electric power via a diversity of energy sources.
If where you are located is tapping into hydroelectricity grid of your city, then perhaps you are contributing positively into conservation of the environmental with your PHEV. However, if the source of your states electricity is fossil energy based, then your electric car may not really be that eco-friendly.
This is because the electricity to charge your PHEV must have an energy source which probably is:
- Often burning coal or oil
- Using chemical-laden batteries which cannot be said to be particularly eco-friendly.
Essentially, electric vehicles could merely be shifting environmental problems to other areas away from the road, where they are contributing to significant increases in levels of human toxicity due to their manufacturing process.
5. Hybrids Aren’t Totally Emission-Free
It’s a fact that most hybrid cars do contribute towards the reduction of smog-forming emissions, although that might not be as high as many assume. When contrasting a conventional compact car to the hybrid counterpart, it can be expected that the emissions could come down by about 10%.
More smog-forming emissions reductions can be witnessed in hybrid SUVs, although the total effect in terms of reductions in emissions ranges between 10 to 15%. Though helpful and significant, but don’t however assume that because you’re acquiring a HEV you are not contributing to the pollution of the air.
If widely accepted, Hybrid electric vehicles and Hybrid Electric Vehicles do have a huge potential of improving the total environmental impact, although that doesn’t necessarily mean their technology can be said to be 100% green. Nevertheless, understanding the known facts regarding the potential negative environmental impacts of hybrid cars will help you towards making a decision that is more informed as you plan for your next car. Before you buy your next car read our new car buying tip sheet here.