The reasons that people buy a hybrid varies. Some like the idea of protecting the environment by putting less carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Others feel they can save a considerable amount of money, in the long run, by getting better fuel mileage. Depending on individual driving habits, owning a hybrid vehicle may not help the environment or save on fuel consumption as much as some people believe.
Hybrid Vehicle Technology
Hybrid vehicles run on an electric motor as well as a gasoline powered internal combustion engine. The electric motor gets its electricity from a powerful multi-celled battery. This powerful battery is charged by excess energy from the gasoline engine, electric motor or vehicles brakes. The excess energy from the vehicles brakes is called regenerative braking.
Generally at lower speeds, the car runs on electricity supplied by the powerful battery. When the electric motor is powering the vehicle at lower speeds, the gasoline engine may take over when accelerating. The onboard computer decides when the electric motor or gasoline engine should power the vehicle.
Hybrid Miles Per Gallon Fuel Savings
The real savings in MPG fuel consumption comes for those owners that do a lot of city, stop and go type driving.
To illustrate the difference, let’s look at some hybrid cars and their non-hybrid equivalents. The MPG listed is an EPA estimate and mileage will vary. The starting suggested retail price is for base model vehicles in all categories. The Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Toyota Camry Hybrid illustrated are considered mid-size sedans.
As evident by the listed MPG, there is not much difference in the highway mileage of the hybrid and non-hybrid equivalent model. The Ford Fusion gets 2 miles per gallon and the Toyota gets only 1 mile per gallon better fuel economy. There is however a significant difference in the city fuel economy. In fact the Ford Fusion actually gets better fuel economy in the city then it does on the highway.
Hybrid Cars and Environmental Affects
The main environmental advantage for hybrid vehicles is the reduced amount of carbon into the atmosphere while the car is in electric mode. If the car is consistently driven at highway speeds, the advantage to the environment is minuscule. If a hybrid vehicle is driven consistently at lower speeds, the environmental effects are much more positive.
If a car owner drives a lot of highway miles, a hybrid purchase would not be a good investment. The Ford Fusion Hybrid for example would have a fuel savings of about 163 gallons in 100,000 miles, assuming all miles driven where highway. At $2.50 for a gallon of gasoline, that’s a savings of $407.50.
On the other extreme, if the Ford Fusion Hybrid were driven 100,000 miles in city traffic, the fuels savings would be about 3,443 gallons. At $2.50 a gallon, the fuel savings would equal $8,607.50. Before purchasing a hybrid, the new car purchaser should calculate the percentage of city driving versus highway driving that they would expect to drive in the future. Do the math and see if spending $6,000 plus for a hybrid is worth the investment.
Dangers of CO2 from Vehicles
The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased 35% since the industrial revolution according to the EPA website (epa.gov). This suggests the development of industries have been a major contributor to CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. And the automotive industry is one of the biggest contributors those emissions which is accelerating global warming.
Increased Fuel Efficiency Standards
There is a lot of pressure from the government on the automotive industry to deliver cleaner vehicles with fewer emissions. President Barack Obama has stated that he plans to make the U.S. a leader in climate change. He is increasing fuel efficiency standards on vehicles beginning in 2011. Certain states are also pushing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2016 – which would mean increasing fuel efficiency standards up to 36.8 mpg.
The automotive industry has been working towards reducing emissions but unfortunately the way to reduce CO2 emission from carbon-based fuels is to drive more fuel efficient vehicles which emit less CO2. This means driving vehicles with smaller engines or using other sources of power.
Technology That Reduces CO2
One avenue being pursued is hybrid vehicles. Simply put, hybrid vehicles use both an electric motor and a gasoline engine to propel the vehicle. Different designs and systems exist. Some rely solely on electric power to drive the vehicle — the engine is only used to turn a generator which creates electricity to charge the battery pack.
Although the transportation industry is not solely responsible for the increased levels of carbon dioxide, it is important that steps are taken to reduce global climate change. Other potential involves Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles – these create electricity to propel the vehicle by removing the electrons from hydrogen and combining the ionized hydrogen with oxygen to form water vapor – the only tailpipe emission.
Investing and developing cleaner energy and technology in the Automotive Industry will reduce fuel consumption and decrease the CO2 emissions. This will minimize the effect that we have on the environment.