Hybrid cars are promoted by their makers and environmental advocates for being cleaner, greener and better for the planet than traditional cars with internal combustion engines. But a closer look quickly reveals that hybrid cars, those that run primarily on electricity, may not be cleaner than any other kind of car. Listed below are some reasons why hybrid cars are not better for the environment.
First, consider that the electricity used to charge up a hybrid car is most likely being generated by fossil fuels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that 62.7% of electricity generated in America is sourced from oil, coal and natural gas. When you consider that 30% of that number is coal – the dirtiest of fuels – it’s clear that hybrid cars are not getting around scot-free, so to speak.
Of course, it is technically possible to source electricity for hybrids from 100% renewable sources, such as solar power or wind. That would make them cleaner. But the reality is that the vast majority of hybrid drivers cannot charge-up on 100% green energy because it’s simply not universally available.
Another major blow to the green reputation of hybrid cars the way they are manufactured and the fact they rely heavily on powerful batteries. A study completed by the Argonne National Laboratory proved that hybrid cars require much more energy to build than traditional cars. That means hybrids have already produced more carbon emissions than traditional cars even before they roll off the assembly line.
The heavy-duty batteries are a key problem. They require enormous amounts of energy to produce. They also generate higher levels of waste and pollutions in production. Furthermore, the heavy metals of high-tech batteries are often sourced by strip mining or other highly environmentally invasive methods.
Not only are the cars themselves more energy-intensive to build, but the factories, machinery, and materials that make up a hybrid factory assembly lines are far more carbon-intensive than are traditional auto plant infrastructures.
Consider that hybrid cars attempt to reduce fuel usage by being built from lightweight, higher grades of aluminum and other alloy metals. The problem is, manufacturing these more highly refined metals requires much higher energy input in the first place. Other hybrid materials, like glass and plastics, contribute heavily to greenhouse gas emission and air pollution.
To make a truly accurate assessment of the environmental benefits of hybrids versus traditional cars, the lifetime process of each car from production to years of use and total miles driven on the highway all must be taken into account.