Are Hybrid Cars Becoming Safer or More Harmful to the Environment?

Last Updated: 02 Jul 2020
Essay type: Process
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Hybrid cars have a very special technology because they boast two power sources: a regular gasoline engine and an electric motor powered by a huge battery unlike conventional cars which have only regular gasoline engine. These components generally work in tandem, though the exact mechanism varies depending on the car. When the car is at stop, the engine shuts off. While you push the accelerator, the electric motor turns on to drive the car forward. When you need the power such as for climbing a hill, the gas engine gets a boost from the electric motor.

The electric motor normally recharges itself by censoring the heat energy generated as you brake (Brown, 2008). Hybrid cars also help to reduce the amount of smog emission because of less working of gasoline engine. This does not mean that hybrid cars help the environment because they still have the issue of their batteries about being extremely harmful to the environment. Nowadays, there are more than 5 million hybrid cars around the world but this means that there will be also 5 million batteries from these hybrid cars. What would happen in the next few years if these batteries end up in landfills?

According to environmental researchers, 90% of 1 million metric tons of lead which is produced every year is used for vehicle batteries (“Hybrid Battery Toxicity”, 2006). These batteries still have issues even though they are more environmentally friendly than the standard batteries. Nickel may cause cancer in human body because it is considered as a human carcinogen (Olberding, 2010). Therefore, many people are concerned about nickel mining as one kind of misuse of natural resources. According to the Environmental Defense, there are three main battery types such as lead, nickel, and lithium.

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The worst thing that harmful to the environment is lead battery, followed by nickel, and lithium (Banas, 2010). By the way, the rechargeable hybrid cars can force power plants to produce excessive amounts of electricity; therefore, power plant emissions can be just as harmful as exhaust pipe emissions. Running hybrid cars on the street can also contribute the amounts of greenhouse gases as same as running normal vehicles because hybrid system works effectively only on heavily congested streets ("Hybrid Cars Negative Environmental Impact", 2007).

Even though hybrid cars help the environment, they are still harmful to the environment due to battery use, use of natural resources, and ineffective use of motor systems. II. Opposing Arguments A. Batteries The batteries in hybrid cars give a better choice for the fuel economy and environment that have been becoming to the next generation of car’s technology. They provide the electricity for electric motor; hence, the motor uses less gasoline when they are working in an urban area. Hybrid cars are able to provide more than 35% in fuel economy (“Facts on Hybrid Cars”, 2012).

The nickel metal hydride batteries have been using in every hybrid car since the first hybrid car was produced. Both lead battery and nickel hydride batteries are rechargeable batteries, but the environment impact of nickel is much lower than lead acid which are used in conventional vehicles. According to the article “Nickel-Metal Hydride” (2006), the nickel-Metal Hydride is a solid battery; more energy can be given for the amount of space. Density is an essential concern, as weight is a severe wall to efficiency.

Hybrid cars are still sold in lowered numbers; therefore, the negative effects of hybrid batteries are not instant. B. Natural resources Today's hybrid cars are shown up by many benefits; increasing fuel economy, and saving the fuel. Even though it is true that hybrid cars can save lots of gasoline, and we can get our tax back from them, the best thing of these benefits is the very less produced amount of gas emissions. Hybrid cars emit 80% less greenhouse gases than conventional cars (“Hybrid Cars Emissions Information”, 2012).

This translates to less airborne pollutants and a cleaner earth. The important factor of negative effects of vehicles on the environment is greenhouse gasses. As a result, most of greenhouse gasses are from human activities and cause the temperature in the air and ocean to rise (Hybrid Cars and Pollution, 2012). In fact, the temperatures are increasing. The changes have observed over the last few decades are mainly because of human activities, but we cannot refuse that the important part of these changes is also a mirror of natural changeableness (Hybrid Cars and Pollution, 2012).

Large metropolitan areas around the world are widely covered by this smog while many millions of cars are concentrated. This smog is made of nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and many evaporating organic compounds. Hybrid cars produce a much lower these gases than conventional vehicles. However, the size of the car can be a great different in emissions between the hybrid and conventional vehicles. According to Banas (2010), the average of compact hybrid cars emits 10% lower smog than their conventional counterparts.

This means that the models of hybrid cars such as mid-size cars, mid-size sport-utility vehicles, and full-size SUVs help to reduce smog-producing gas emissions by 15%, 19% and 21%, respectively, more than their conventional counterparts. Hybrid cars are esteemed as being fuel efficient, and good for the environment. C. The efficiency of hybrid cars Nowadays, hybrid cars have been building to be more efficient than conventional cars; as we known, small cars could be run more efficient than big cars.

According to the article “An Introduction to Efficiency” (2006), one of the easiest ways to show efficiency is to get your amount of work with regard to how much energy was taken in the initial place. The efficiency of conventional cars can be described as how much the power of the engine is producing and divide by the amount of energy that was produced by gasoline when it was consuming. The energy of one gallon in gasoline is 115,000 British Thermal Units (Btu), and one Btu can increase the temperature of one cubic foot of air 55 degrees F (“An Introduction to Efficiency”, 2006).

Therefore, if a hybrid car’s engine had a 100 percent of efficiency about burning gasoline, then every single Btu worth of energy carried inside the gasoline would be used only to move the car onward. However, today, the best using of efficient gasoline engines is 30 to 35 percent. This is almost the same kind as the efficiency of a common light bulb, which uses the energy to produce light but gains more heat. If you touch the dense fluorescent bulb by your hand, you can feel why it is so effective: it produces abundance of light and less wasted heat.

Conventional cars are comparatively inefficient at using the all amount of energy which stored in gasoline, and it is because of the engine’s mistake. Automatic transmissions can be infamously inefficient component in a car’s power train. Conventional cars are inefficient using of gasoline. Both aerodynamic and the engines utilize use very little of the energy contained in all gallon of gas when they are burning because they are too heavy. So, hybrid cars can rip out the less using of gasoline than conventional cars; as a result, they have designed to help increase the using amount of energy efficiency.

Hybrid cars use electric motors to provide some portion of their driving force. Unlike gasoline engines, electric motors can be greater than 90 percent efficient at using electrical energy (“An Introduction to Efficiency”, 2006). As a result, if an electric motor consumed 100 kW/hrs of energy from the battery, 90 kW/hrs of energy would be turned into beneficial work. Some hybrid cars use manual transmissions, which they are much more efficient than automatic transmissions. As a result, hybrid cars do not have big electric motors and small conventional engines because electric motors are so much more efficient than conventional engines.

This means that gasoline engines are the strongest point because they are completely developed and presently cost of efficient energy alternation device from a manufacturer’s standard system. However, big electric motors require huge energy storage like batteries. Big batteries are extremely expensive but that could be lower price if hybrid batteries are widespread to the world’s market, and being used by consumers as common as hybrid cars in today (“An Introduction to Efficiency”, 2006). The efficiency of hybrid cars is much more than conventional car due to the use of batteries and the transmission systems.

On the other hand, hybrid cars are not good for all aspects of the environment. III. Why They Are Wrong The chemical material, which uses in whether hybrid car batteries or conventional cars’ batteries, is toxicity. There are three main battery types that many hybrid car’ companies are using or considering for using in hybrid cars such as lead-acid, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion (Li-ion). However, lead-acid is the worst toxic of the three, and it's very bad to the environment (Fuller, 2012; Banas, 2010; Olberding, 2010).

Nickel is better than lead, but it still have a big problem because it is potentially carcinogenic and the mining process is considered hazardous (Fuller, 2012). We should be concerned about the environmental impacts of nickel mining, and decomposition of the batteries. The types of power plants are the most serious cause of the environmental impact of hybrid cars that depend on where they are charged. California, for example, obtains 80% of electric power in its cities from pure sources, such as hydroelectric plants.

Charging a plug-in hybrid vehicle in California cannot be good for the environment, since both the cars and the power plants produce harmful emissions (Banas, 2010). However, most states use coal burning power plants to generate electricity; therefore, charging a plug-in hybrid vehicle produces power-plant emissions that can be just as harmful as tailpipe emissions, according to an Ohio State University study (Banas, 2010). Not only hybrid cars but also the power plants are bad for the environment.

An important issue is the process of production as it could be a somber side of hybrid cars. One thing that many people don't usually think about consuming products is how much energy is expended to actually make them and move them around. For example, when people buy food from long distance, it requires burning lots of gasoline or diesel fuel to transport that food. If more people bought local food, it could reduce wasting fuel in progress (Fuller, 2012). This can ensure that, the process takes a lot of natural resources and energy to build a car and that include hybrid cars too.

Every material that were used or parts of the car have to be make up and forged; therefore, it uses a lot of amount of electricity and the natural resources to make it. The issue of hybrid cars has caught the interest of the media and the public in 2007, CNW Marketing Research, Inc. reported that Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles from Concept to Disposal. The article claimed that it is necessary to create the calculation of a dollar value for all energy, build the operation of a vehicle, and there is the surprising claim that the Toyota Prius costs more over the course of its lifetime than a Hummer H3 (Fuller, 2012).

This made the Prius drivers become discomposed, since Toyota marketed hybrid cars and accentuated fuel efficiency and economic friendly driving. After many media and internet newspapers started mentioning about the paper and disseminating the information, many publications speedily criticized the information from CNW for ambiguous information and lack of evidence. Most of the energy used by a vehicle came from its design and production, several other studies have found that 80 to 90 percent of a vehicle's energy is used during operation -- in other words, when you're driving it (Gleick, 2007).

The most important thing is; it probably uses 13 % of their lifetime energy to become a car. Even though hybrid cars save the environment, but before they become a car, they have to pass many processes which are harmful to the environment. How hybrid car motor could be work effectively; they depend on the driver behaviors and driving styles and geographic areas. If drivers drive very fast, busy driver that commute to and have to go to work every day on long distances of highway, this does not help anything about saving the fuel. The Hybrid car motors only work in the startup.

However, It is going to be fine even if you want to burn more fuel at times as when you are driving on the highway, the gas can be used to recharge your battery system (“All About Hybrid Cars”, 2012). This is a big concern about hybrid cars. If the drivers drive very long distances, they will not get the benefit from their hybrid cars. If they drive in the city; therefore, this process will be changed. Gasoline assisted hybrids are often started by the electric motor, so the stop or go of your commuting will largely depend on electric as opposed to gas.

You can even expect to save about 15% in gas this way. However, you must be mindful that typically the electric motor will only run up to about 15-25mph before the gas engine kicks in (“All About Hybrid Cars”, 2012). If the drivers decrease the speed of their cars many times or rapidly, the gas will kick inattentively. However, the function of electric motor will not be work better on the highway and up hills and down hills areas. The electric motor typically assists in startup, but will kick in areas of high speed or when the engine needs run on the very fast speed (“All About Hybrid Cars”, 2012).

Hybrid cars could be worked effectively in the urban area or city commuter. IV. Arguments for hybrid cars A. Batteries toxicity When these hybrid car batteries are dead, where will they end up? When batteries are disposed of improperly these metals can be detrimental to the environment. Lead and nickel sitting in a landfill can cause pollution to the groundwater causing acid rain and making it unsafe for drinking and also harmful to plant life (Bova, Goodwin, Marrs, Oliva, 2010). The effects of these toxicity batteries are human carcinogen, causing many diseases and reathing problem in humans. According to a study done by Environmental Defense, the more popular lithium-ion batteries found in most hybrids and electric vehicles are not as toxic as their lead and nickel counterparts, but still have negative effects on the environment (Bova, Marrs, Goodwin, Oliva, 2010). The big car companies such as General Motors and Toyota claim that hybrid car batteries can be 100% recyclable but the processes are too expensive. However, many companies are promoting the recycling of hybrid car batteries by motivating their customers.

For example Toyota offers a $200 stipend and even provides a number to call printed on the battery itself. Even with these incentives there is no way to guarantee that owners will in fact recycle the batteries; leaving the window open for batteries to end up in the landfills causing further destruction of the environment (Bova, Goodwin, Marrs, Oliva, 2010). However, nowadays the numbers of hybrid cars around the world is still lower than conventional cars. If the number of hybrid cars is increasing over the year, landfills all around the world will be full of toxicity batteries, corrosive materials, and carcinogenic

B. Overconsumption of natural resources Nowadays, the most essential problems in the world are global warming and rising oil prices; therefore, we should concern about the alternative energy, and especially friendly environment, which focus on hybrid car designs. The most accessible of these designs was the hybrid car, with working models already on the road. With their highly fuel efficient design, they deliver much of what they promise, but the hybrid picture is not entirely problem free (“Hybrid Cars Negative Environmental Impact”, 2007).

Many hybrid car companies did a big problem because before they were going to be batteries and electric motors, they are very rare elements and don’t exist that much around the world, which go a long way to explaining their expense. Most of these elements currently come from China, and the supply as it exists today is not expected to last more than several years under even the most generous estimates (“Hybrid Cars Negative Environmental Impact”, 2007). Many efforts are going to find a new resource for these rare elements, but they will not be produced that much until they are becoming less and cause a shortage.

Hybrid cars are complex vehicles and full of new technologies and high end technology; therefore, these make hybrid cars to be hard to build which use lots of energy to build hybrid cars. Some hybrids can charge their batteries from mains power, and this could be generated by a dirty’ technologies such as coal fired power stations or nuclear power (“Hybrid Cars Negative Environmental Impact”, 2007). This is the fact about hybrid cars on the market, and it means that different types of hybrid cars can use different types of power to produce electricity which affects the environment. C.

Inefficiency of hybrid cars Once hybrid cars are built and spreading everywhere on the road, the important thing that will come up on drivers mind is, they are doing good for the environment. This is the fact because hybrid cars use less fuel than conventional cars but it depends on how they drive. Remember that a hybrid will probably never match the listed fuel efficiency because of the way the efficiency test is done, and because unless you only ever drive on heavily congested streets you won’t be utilizing the hybrid system effectively (“Hybrid Cars Negative Environmental Impact”, 2007).

If hybrid cars are running on the high way, there will be only the gasoline’s engines that are working on the time and neglecting the effective of hybrid system. Even though hybrid cars regard as green environmental cars, hybrid cars with an internal combustion engine will still emit smog. Catalytic converters handle most of the contamination, but there’s still that good old greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Even hybrids pump this out, they just pump lower amounts of it, and mostly because most hybrids have engines that stop when the vehicle comes to a halt (“Hybrid Cars Negative Environmental Impact”, 2007).

However, driving hybrid cars is not saving the world but you have just been retarding your harmful to the environment. V. Conclusion Hybrid cars are not good for the environment at all. They are still bad to the environment. Even though hybrid car batteries are good for the environment right now but what if they end up in the landfills when they are expired in the future; therefore, our landfills will be full of toxicity. Many people think that hybrid cars are green environmental cars but they didn’t think about the process of building hybrid cars.

Every process of making hybrid cars is bad for the environment due to the use of natural resources. However, when hybrid cars are shown up on the road, hybrid car motors sometimes cannot work effectively because they are working well only on the congested areas. The effective of hybrid car motors are also due to the behavior of drivers because if they always step on the accelerator, they will negate the efficiency on hybrid system. The price difference of a hybrid might not always benefit the gas deductions. Depending on how you drive, hybrids might not always be a match for your lifestyle.

There is always the issue of the toxicity of the battery, even though they are not as harmful as standard car batteries to the environment. It is also beneficial to keep in mind that today’s EPA standards are slightly outdated. They will normally be on the lower end of what EPA estimates are, due to differing factors such as driver lifestyle, location, and the type of car it is. I strongly believe that hybrid cars are not that save the environment at all but they have just slowed down the impact on the environmental; therefore, do your researches before you buy a hybrid car.

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Are Hybrid Cars Becoming Safer or More Harmful to the Environment?. (2017, May 20). Retrieved from

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