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3rd April 2010, 10:08 AM

Are Hybrid Cars Really Green?: Environment May Be Better Off … (http://www.gogreentoolshed.com/are-hybrid-cars-really-green-environment-may-be-better-off)

A hybrid-electric car uses a battery and electric engine to increase gas mileage, lowering emissions and fuel consumption. At a very shallow level, it seems like these cars are better for the environment. however, if the cost of manufacturing is considered, hybrid cars may actually be worse for the environment than fuel-efficient cars without batteries.

Manufacturing Hybrid Cars

A key element of a hybrid car is its battery pack. Although many are made out of lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride, which are relatively safe for the environment, they can be hazardous when disposed. Toyota makes sure that every battery they manufacture will be recycled completely when it is no longer used, this goal realistically may not be attainable. in addition to this, the rare earth metals such as neodymium and all the extra wiring and electrical components required in a hybrid have to be considered. the cost and fuel expenditure of ore mining, of trucks shipping the ore, the pollution of separating the metal from the ore, and the fuel consumption of the large ships carrying the ore across the ocean (as 99% of rare earth metals come from China).

Environmental Cost

With all these factors considered, is a hybrid much greener? It is easy to locally look at the consumption and CO2 emissions of a normal, diesel, and hybrid car, but with a hybrid car, you have to consider the larger environmental impact of the usage of more rare earth and hazardous elements such as nickel that hybrids utilize more of. the mining of crucial rare earth metals such as dysprosium is “dirty, mildly radioactive, and expensive.” (http://www.evworld.com/currents.cfm?jid=24) Other things to consider are the lifespan of the car, or how long it can last before being retired to the scrapyard. some older normal cars, such as Subarus, can last 300,000 miles without any major repairs.

More On Rare Earth Metals

China has a near-monopoly on the rare earth metals that hybrid cars depend on. Rare earth metals going into the production of hybrid cars, which depend on them for components like the electric engine, may have already caused more damage to the environment than the vehicle could possibly offset. China is widely known for its disregard for environmentally-friendly mining techniques, especially when half of its rare earth metal mines are illegal. in fact, Wang Caifeng, the top rare-earths industry regulator at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in China, has said “[rare earth mining] has caused great harm to the ecology and environment.” (http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15493)

Alternatives to Hybrids

If hybrids offered a huge gain in fuel economy over any other cars, this may not be such a problem. however, diesel-powered cars such as the Volkswagen Jetta TDI are also very fuel-efficient. Although not as efficient as the new Toyota Prius, for a similar price they offer better performance and more features, and most importantly, little dependence on rare earth metals. Is the slight gain in gas mileage and air quality worth the significant damage to the land and environment of the extra materials a hybrid require?


Are Hybrid Cars really Green?: Environment may Be Better Off … (http://environmentalism.suite101.com/article.cfm/are-hybrid-cars-really-green)

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