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Hybrid vs Electric cars – What is the Environmental Impact?

Hybrid vs Electric cars - What is the Environmental Impact

In the race against global warming and climate change, humans are looking at better alternatives and solutions. The transport industry is one of the worst contributors to pollution, no wonder so many technologies and vehicle types are being innovated upon. 

Cars with Internal combustion engines make up for a lot of this pollution because of the number of cars running on the planet. This is why hybrid technologies, electric cars and even hydrogen fuel cell cars are becoming a thing of the present.

I am going to compare hybrid and electric cars below and list out the similarities and differences between 0them. Hybrid cars are like a middle ground between conventional gasoline-powered cars and electric cars. Let’s dive deeper: 

Electric CarsHybrid Cars
TechnologyBattery powered engineBattery and Internal Combustion Engine powered
Environmental ImpactMinimal impact if its produced and powered on clean, renewable sources of energy40-50% lower impact than ICE cars but not as good as electric cars
CostHard to produce, higher price of carsA bit higher than traditional ICE powered cars but a lot cheaper than electric cars
MaintenanceFew moving parts, lower maintenanceLots of moving part, requires higher maintenance and repairs are costlier.
Fuel Usage and Costs (Efficiency)No fuel required; very cheap to run because of the relatively cheaper prices of electricityUses petrol, more efficient and cheaper to run compared to traditional ICE-powered cars but costlier than electric cars

Hybrid vs Electric cars – What is the Environmental Impact?

Though Electric cars use batteries as their primary source of power, Hybrid cars use a combination of both gasoline and batteries as a source of power. While many consider Hybrid cars to be a cross between electric cars and gasoline cars, the damage done to the environment is not as bad as a stand-alone gasoline powered car.

Electric Cars on the other hand will utilize the energy stored within the battery to run, once this power supply has depleted you’d have to plug in the car to charge in order to use it again.

Hybrid Cars  

Hybrid vs Electric cars - What is the Environmental Impact

Hybrid cars use two types of technologies to run, electric and an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). Both help the car to run. The reason for using both together is to aid fuel efficiency and increase performance. There are different implementations of these technologies. These are: 

  • Parallel Hybrid: This is the most common method; both the electric motor and ICE help are connected to a common transmission. The power from works in tandem to help the car move. The transmission can be automatic, manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT).  
  • Series Hybrid: In this type, the electric motor does all the work of running. The gasoline engine is used only to recharge the battery. This makes the car run like a fully electric vehicle, smooth and mostly silent. The experience can be a little discomforting in some situations because the engine can rev at any time it needs to provide power to the battery so it can feel out of place. The BMW i3 is an example of this type of hybrid.
  • Plug-In Hybrid: Plug-in hybrid uses a battery of larger capacity which has to be charged using an external source. In this implementation, the battery allows all-electric drive for shorter range. This can help in fuel efficiency if the distances are low. The range of the battery is usually between 15 to 55 miles. The Chrysler Pacifica is an example of this type. 
  • Mild Hybrids: In the above cases, the electric motor is powerful enough to run the car on its own. In the case of mild hybrids, the electric motor can only aid the combustion engine which does most of the job. This helps in increasing efficiency and performance too.

Electric Cars 

Hybrid vs Electric cars - What is the Environmental Impact

These are cars that run on solely electricity. They use large batteries that store electricity and these run the motors connected to the wheels. They are the future of travel because they are very friendly to the environment if done right, like moving to cleaner greener sources of energy production and better manufacturing processes.

Comparison between Hybrid Cars and Electric Cars

Let’s get into the comparison between Hybrid Cars and Electric Cars right from their inception at the manufacturing plant to the disposal of their batteries to see which will result in lesser damage to the environment.

Production 

Hybrid vs Electric cars - What is the Environmental Impact

Production of hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles are different. They affect the environment and cost differently.

  • Hybrid cars are easier on the environment because they don’t have huge batteries. Manufacturing electric cars have a worse effect on the environment compared to hybrid or gasoline cars. This is mostly because of the battery. 
  • The batteries use rare earth materials and manufacturing them requires a lot of energy and in turn a lot of emissions.
  • This is similar when it comes to the cost too. Hybrid cars are generally more expensive than gasoline cars but are cheaper than fully electric cars.
  • The reason hybrid cars are more expensive than gasoline cars are because of the technology. And they are cheaper than electric cars because they use relatively smaller batteries.
  • Electric cars are the costliest mostly because of the sheer size of the battery in them. 

Environmental impact 

Hybrid vs Electric cars - What is the Environmental Impact

Hybrids emits greenhouse gases because of the combustion engine. But since they have an electric engine too, the fuel used is less and so it the emission. In general, the carbon footprint of a running hybrid car is 50-60% lower.  

  • Electric cars produce no emission when running making the cars emission-free. The only caveat is the source of electricity.
  • The cleaner the source, the less the overall emission from an electric car. It the source of electricity is not clean, electric cars are responsible for the emission from producing electricity.  
  • Another type of pollution car notoriously cause is noise pollution. The conventional car equipped with an Internal combustion engine is a source of the noise. In crowded places, with a lot of traffic, this can be hectic for people walking by or on bikes.
  • Electric cars run almost silent, and hybrid cars are not as noisy as fully ICE cars. Sometimes too good can be too bad, and electric cars are an example of that in this case.

Driving Conditions 

Hybrid vs Electric cars - What is the Environmental Impact

Fuel powered cars can almost run in any part of the world with ease. Electric cars, on the other hand are powered by batteries and these rely on the surrounding conditions to work optimally.

  • Electric cars have an ideal operating temperature of 25 degrees. This is because of the lithium-ion batteries in them. If the temperature gets too high, it can have an effect on the life of battery requiring for a replacement sooner. And in colder regions, the batteries fall to a lower capacity reducing the range of the cars.  
  • Hybrid vehicles have the kind of batteries but they are not as dependent on the battery for optimal performance because if the combustion engine in them. 
  • Speed and mileage/range are different between the two types of vehicles. Hybrid cars have a mileage whereas electric cars have a range that they can cover in a single charge.

To draw parallels, I am comparing hybrid cars to gasoline-based cars. Hybrid cars more fuel-efficient than gasoline-based cars because of the electrical engine aiding the conventional engine. Therefore, hybrid cars have higher mileage. 

  • Electric cars are in a league of their own because they run extremely efficiently because therefore way less energy is wasted. The moving parts of hybrid and conventional cars are waste energy trying to run.
  • Electric cars don’t have transmissions or moving parts except for the motor connected to the wheels and the battery. Cost-wise electric cars are cheapest to run with hybrids coming in the second place and gasoline cars lagging way behind. 
  • Performance of hybrid cars are better than that of electric cars, this is evident with the fact that even F1 cars use hybrid technologies. Electric cars are surprisingly quick and can get from 0-60 miles per hour faster in most cases.
  • But hybrid cars using both an electric and gasoline engine, they can adjust to the performance demand. They are better suited, using electric for better acceleration and the combustion engine to its higher speeds. 

Battery Disposal 

Hybrid vs Electric cars - What is the Environmental Impact

The common between both a hybrid and an electric car is the use of batteries in both of them.

  • Batteries are hard to dispose of and contain harmful chemicals. If they are not disposed of are recycled properly, they can be an environmental hazard.
  • Most hybrid and electric cars use Lithium-ion batteries. They are harmful for the environment but they can be recycled or even reused to get the best out of them. They are better than lead-acid batteries.

Still, battery disposal is an important aspect of hybrid or electric cars, the only difference being electric cars having larger batteries compared to hybrid cars. 


Conclusion 

The battle between hybrid and electric cars is a close one, both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Personally, I would choose a hybrid car in the present and think about an electric car in the future. The reasons being lower costs compared to electric, better efficiency and better for the environment when compared to gasoline cars. But I can see electric cars getting better and cheaper and in the near future, I can fancy myself driving one.  

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