Hybrid Cars Only Greener During City Driving

Greener_fuel_hybridAn engineering professor from Carnegie Mellon University recently conducted a study to determine the potential cost and greenhouse gas savings resulting from the use of hybrid and electric vehicles during various driving conditions.

The study received its funding from the National Science Foundation as well as Ford and Toyota. The results were published in the journal “Energy Policy.”

Some of the results from the study showed that people who regularly use the highway for their driving would pay more for using a hybrid and plug-in vehicle without much benefit to the environment. Others who deal with city traffic and all of the idling, stop-and-go experience while using a hybrid, could potentially save the 20 percent over the lifetime of the vehicle and cut their greenhouse gas emissions by half.

Driving conditions also were a factor for cost and emissions. People who engaged in aggressive driving cut down their vehicle’s range by at least 40 percent or more. This type of driving behavior could impact a pure electric vehicle’s usefulness since it has a limited range and requires a long time to recharge.

When a hybrid operator used the vehicle’s electricity for short trips and then switched over to gasoline for longer trips, the results were much more positive.

In a June 17, 2013 press release Jeremy Michalek, a professor of mechanical engineering and engineering and public policy at CMU is quoted as saying “No single test can capture all kinds of driving. Hybrid and plug-in vehicles will do the most good at the lowest cost if adopted by drivers who spend a lot of time in traffic. For these drivers, hybrids are a win-win, and the benefits may be much more than the labels suggest. The fuel economy standards are still based on old lab tests that make vehicles appear to be more efficient than they really are. This has always been an issue, but it is simplified with today’s vehicle technologies. These tests may be underestimating the relative real-world benefits of hybrid and plug-in vehicles. The bottom line is: before you buy, consider how you drive.”

Hybrid Cars Are Not Worth the Money

But They’re Worth the Environment


To buy a hybrid or not? With all the makes and models now on the market, it is a question everyone buying a new car should ask. The answer is not the same for everyone, but you can make an educated decision based on the four often named reasons to avoid a hybrid: handling, battery pollution, low highway mileage and increased cost.


Claim: When driving in snow, rain or emergency braking is needed, a hybrid has poor handling and takes longer to stop than a traditional car.

Fact: A hybrid’s goal is mileage. The entire car is designed to increase mileage. The tire used on the hybrid is made of a harder compound and harder tread pattern than a standard tire. The harder tire results in poor wet performance rating and poor braking traction and straight line stability versus a standard tire.

Battery Pollution

Claim: Disposal of hybrid car batteries cause more harm than any benefits.

Fact: Hybrid cars have two batteries, the standard 12 volt found in most cars and the hybrid battery. The 12V battery contains toxic materials (lead). The hybrid battery (nickel metal hydride), although less toxic, is still toxic. The 12V batteries are highly recyclable. The hybrid battery can be sold back to the car maker and is in demand on EBay because of the valuable nickel. The hybrid still has two batteries.


Highway Mileage

Claim: Gas savings using a hybrid are only substantial when driving in the city.

Fact: A review of the top hybrid cars reveals substantial gas mileage in both city and highway driving. Results of one recent study can be found at Cars.com. The same website reveals that, at best, the Honda Prius gets eight more miles per gallon than the Ford Focus in highway miles.

Increased Cost

Claim: A hybrid car costs substantially more money than a traditional car of the same model.

Fact: There are very few manufacturers that do not have a hybrid car. The hybrid is substantially more expensive. A review of any car site will provide an exact dollar difference. 

Bottom Line

The real reason to drive a hybrid is to decrease fuel emissions, which is better for the environment. Cities such as the D.C. metro area also give hybrid drivers access to certain parking lots and HOV lanes without a passenger.

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