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There’s no shortage of conversation about electric cars in the world right now. More often than not, it’s folks that are either admittedly for or against them with the loudest opinions. Electric cars are fine, but they aren’t what they’re advertised to be. In the world of reduced overall emissions, hybrid cars are actually the answer to the equation.

Hybrid cars have a smaller carbon footprint in production that is less pollutant over time than EVs

Dr. Graham Conway is a Principal Engineer in the Automotive Division at Southwest Research Institute. He gave a TEDx talk in January 2020 wherein he outlines the contradictions of battery electric vehicles. Certainly, there is no denial of rising CO2 in our atmosphere here. There is, however, a denial of the claims that EVs are a net win for the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Ultimately, the point driven home by Dr. Conway’s presentation is that the production of batteries for electric vehicles gives them a monumental starting CO2 footprint. According to his data, a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle with 400 miles of range on a single tank of gas creates about five tons of CO2 throughout its production and continues on to produce over 30 tons by the time it has clocked 180,000 miles. On the other hand, though, an EV with the equivalent range starts its life, having required nearly 30 tons of CO2 just to get it to the dealership, thanks to the production process.

A black 2023 Tesla Model 3 drives past a snowy landscape.
Model 3 | Tesla

Ultimately, with current production methods for electric vehicle batteries (or, at least, present to the time of the presentation in 2020), the CO2 saved by an EV’s operation does not even out to the point that it’s better for the environment than an internal combustion engine vehicle until it has surpassed 450,000 miles according to Dr. Conway’s presentation. Of course, most modern vehicles are long gone before they get anywhere near that level of mileage.

Dr. Conway’s point, though, is that hybrid vehicles are a much better choice for the benefit of reducing CO2 emissions throughout the lifespan of a vehicle.

Hybrid technology is an immediate solution while EV technology continues to develop

A new 2023 Toyota Prius shows off its blue color as it cruises down a country road.
2023 Toyota Prius | Toyota

Smaller battery packs found in hybrid cars require much less initial CO2 for production. Dr. Conway’s presentation shows that the initial CO2 penalty is nearly identical to the production of a standard ICE vehicle.

So, the operation of a hybrid vehicle has an overall lesser CO2 output than a standard ICE vehicle without having the same monumental CO2 output during the vehicle’s production.

Overall, the point is that EVs are not as good for the environment as many tout them to be because of the additional emissions required for the production of battery packs. However, this could ultimately change in the future as countries invest in producing energy in more efficient and environmentally friendly ways.

For the immediate future, though, purchasing a hybrid vehicle is a less polluting option when it comes to initial production. Furthermore, a hybrid or plugin hybrid is a much more useful alternative for those who don’t have readily available charging access for a full-blown electric vehicle.


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