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Are Plug-in Hybrids Really Better for the Environment?

Plug-in hybrids promised to solve one of the most pressing problems with electric vehicles — what do you do when you run out of charge and there’s nowhere to juice up? By combining a traditional gas engine with the ability to run on battery power alone, manufacturers of such vehicles intended for them to use fossil fuels only when necessary, thus reducing overall emissions. 

plug-in hybrids

However, reality may not live up to the hype. Are plug-in hybrids really better for the environment? Here’s what the data shows.

Are Plug-in Hybrids Truly Environmentally Friendly?

The basic premise of a plug-in hybrid is these vehicles run primarily on lower emission electric power whenever possible, switching to another fuel only when the charge depletes. The idea sounds terrific in theory, easing the fears many have about switching to all-electric vehicles — namely, what happens when your battery dies and there’s no charger in sight? 

However, several issues arise. One is while the traditional motor is smaller on a hybrid, it’s to make space for a separate electric battery and engine. Electric vehicles are already heavier than conventional cars on average and hybrids may tip the scales even more. Weight decreases gas mileage — it’s like comparing a Beetle to a Hummer. 

Another issue is buyer behavior. Although plug-in hybrids mean you can run them as an electric car, doing so means charging them nightly. Installing a Level 2 or 3 charger in your home costs money, a step not all owners take. As a result, they may unwittingly produce more emissions, as they now need gasoline to drive their heavier vehicles. Walking or biking to work or the store once a week might have a more positive impact on their carbon footprint than a pricey vehicle investment. ‘

While it’s true plug-in hybrids could considerably slash emissions, if everyone used them as intended, that isn’t reflective of present reality. Furthermore, a plug-in hybrid still produces more emissions than a fully electric car. It falls on you, the individual consumer, to determine if such a ride will decrease your carbon footprint based on how you use it. 

Possible Downsides of Plug-in Hybrids

The factors above do the most to raise questions as to whether plug-in hybrids are truly better for the environment than traditional cars or fully electric vehicles. However, there are several other considerations you should keep in mind when deciding whether investing in such a car is right for you. 

1. Battery Life 

Electric vehicle batteries pose several environmental problems, beginning with their creation. Mining for cobalt and copper has forced evictions of indigenous peoples, collapsing their villages. Furthermore, mining operations create enormous emissions and waste, often destroying the nearby environment for untold years to come. 

Disposing of batteries also leads to environmental problems. Exposure to temperature extremes and dirt can disintegrate a battery’s effective life, raising questions about the life span of plug-in hybrids and the emissions created from their disposal and replacement. Electric vehicle batteries that aren’t recycled back into their component parts may leak hazardous chemicals into the earth and groundwater supply. 

2. Not As Green as EVs

If going green is your primary motivation behind your new car purchase, you may do better with a fully electric ride. Although an EV might cost more initially, you get the equivalent of 91.9 miles per gallon, compared to only 62.96 for a plug-in hybrid. Additionally, the big draw of full electric is zero tailpipe emissions — ever. Please do keep in mind, however, electric vehicles still have an impact on the environment

3. Don’t Last as Long as EVs

One way electric vehicle manufacturers attempt to limit the environmental damage done as a result of battery production is by extending the vehicle’s useful life. Many of today’s electric car models can last up to 500,000 miles. Plug-in hybrids, comparatively, only last approximately 200,000, after which they require disposal and replacement. 

4. Still Depend on Fossil Fuels

Finally, plug-in hybrids continue to rely on fossil fuels. Currently, full EVs do, too, as they draw power from the grid to recharge. However, the grid is evolving, as wind and solar power play a larger role in it. As it goes greener, so will EVs — but plug-in hybrid drivers who rely on gasoline won’t reap the same sustainability perks. 

Health Issues and Emissions

While any current form of transportation outside of foot or pedal power involves some environmental damage, it’s important to understand the unique risks vehicle emissions pose, especially in congested urban areas. High pollution levels from tailpipes increase free radical production in your body, and you can’t consume enough antioxidants to counter the effects. These invaders increase your risk of everything from premature wrinkles to cancer. 

You may or may not notice the subtle signs of poor air quality if you live in an urban area and struggle to ascribe your symptoms to a specific cause, like always feeling worse in a certain building. While wearing a mask may filter out particulates and some germs, it could increase the level of carbon dioxide you inhale instead of reducing it — although you can still wear one to protect the immunocompromised people you love.  

Plug-in Hybrids — Better for the Environment?

Many people opt for plug-in hybrids, believing they are better for the environment. While a mass adoption might improve air quality, if everyone drove them as intended, a fully electric car generates less harmful emissions (especially on a day-to-day basis). 

That said, plug-in hybrids can reduce emissions when used as intended. Be an informed consumer and know the facts before deciding if a plug-in hybrid is right for you. 

The post Are Plug-in Hybrids Really Better for the Environment? appeared first on Biofriendly Planet | For a Cooler Environment.

By: Beth Rush
Title: Are Plug-in Hybrids Really Better for the Environment?
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Published Date: Thu, 02 May 2024 13:22:03 +0000

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