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How green is a hybrid, really?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I wonder what the full carbon/environmental footprint of a hybrid is. Save fuel, fewer emissions, great. But what are the total costs to the environment of making and maintaining a hybrid?

Factor in:

$10K premium to buy one- money has a footprint, the energy used in earning it.

Lead batteries- mining, manufacturing, replacing and disposing of them all impact the environment. Are the batteries recyclable? At what cost?

Additionally, if a hybrid owner feels greener, he/she may drive more, guilt free. Like a double helping of 1/2 fat ice cream, the benefits are erased. 

post #2 of 4

Hey Bil,

 

Definitely a question on a lot of minds in recent years. Several Huddlers collaborated on a wiki called "Are alternative Fuel Vehicles really green?" that's pretty solid. It covers lots of stuff other than hybrids, but it's great.

 

There is also a chart about well to wheel efficiency towards the bottom of the Tesla Roadster page...hope that helps!

 

 

post #3 of 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by BilHam:

I wonder what the full carbon/environmental footprint of a hybrid is. Save fuel, fewer emissions, great. But what are the total costs to the environment of making and maintaining a hybrid?

Factor in:

$10K premium to buy one- money has a footprint, the energy used in earning it.

Lead batteries- mining, manufacturing, replacing and disposing of them all impact the environment. Are the batteries recyclable? At what cost?

Additionally, if a hybrid owner feels greener, he/she may drive more, guilt free. Like a double helping of 1/2 fat ice cream, the benefits are erased. 


 

Well it depends what you're comparing it to, but comparing a new hybrid to a comparable new non-hybrid, the hybrid has a smaller footprint.

 

According to estimates, the energy required to produce a hybrid isn't a lot more than the energy required to produce a non-hybrid (about a 23% increase).  This includes the manufacturing of the battery.  The hybrid more than makes up for this extra production energy in gasoline savings over its lifetime.  As discussed on pages 3-4 here, 80-90% of a car's lifetime energy use comes during the operational phase, vs. 5-10% each for construction and disposal.  So basically whichever car is the most efficient during operation (i.e. more fuel efficient) will have the smaller carbon footprint.

 

As for the batteries, yes they are fully recyclable.

 

In fact, Toyota pays a bounty to dealers who recover them from damaged vehicles. Additionally, our engineers are studying the possibility of remanufacturing these batteries.

 

Lead is a common element, and the lead in the battery is pretty insignificant when compared to the rest of the metal in the car.

 

As for driving more, that seems illogical to me.  If a person is getting a more fuel efficient car, it's because they're conscious of their fuel consumption.  They're not going to drive more just because their car gets better mileage.

 

In fact, one of the arguments in the 'Dust to Dust' study which claimed the Hummer is greener than the Prius was that Prius owners would drive less than 10,000 miles per year.  However, as with most assumptions in that study, it wasn't based on any real data.  Studies have shown that Prius owners drive roughly the same distance as non-hybrid owners (roughly 15,000 miles per year on average - see page 3 here).

 

I think that covered just about all your questions.  If not, let me know.

post #4 of 4

===original quote===

I wonder what the full carbon/environmental footprint of a hybrid is. Save fuel, fewer emissions, great. But what are the total costs to the environment of making and maintaining a hybrid?

Factor in:

$10K premium to buy one- money has a footprint, the energy used in earning it.

Lead batteries- mining, manufacturing, replacing and disposing of them all impact the environment. Are the batteries recyclable? At what cost?

Additionally, if a hybrid owner feels greener, he/she may drive more, guilt free. Like a double helping of 1/2 fat ice cream, the benefits are erased. 

===end of quote===

 

$10K premium? Compared to what...a hummer? I paid less than a $2k premium for mine.

Lead batteries?!!? Are we talking this century? Hybrids don't use lead batteries! They use nickel-metal hydride batteries. Fully recycleable. Non-toxic. (Actually, the backup starter battery is lead-acid...just like your car...except half the size, so half the lead. So your car/truck battery has twice the total lead of my hybrid.)

 

Either you are reading and regurgitating popular/clueless/rationalizing press or are intentionally asking misleading questions. I get over 52mpg . Always. Over 60,000 miles in 5 years. Nothing broke. Nothing needed replaced. No lead, and very little ice cream. The automotive trolls need to get past the obvious fact that hybrids work and they work well. Totally guilt-free.

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