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Do Hybrid Cars Help Minimize Pollution, Provide Convenience, Economy, And Performance?

By Edited Mar 22, 2016 1 2

The development of modern car industry is heavily influenced by concerns about fuel efficiency, environmental sensitivity and general higher performance. While the continuing economic crisis has had a severe impact on global and U.S. automotive industry, it should be noted that the development of new car models addressing the aforementioned concerns has not ceased. Among these models, it is hybrid cars that seem to be especially promising, given their positive showing with regard to both technical efficiency and environmental impact. Taking this factor into consideration, it is advisable to review and analyze general benefits of hybrid cars, both extant and  in development, so as to make a definite conclusion with respect to practicality of their further introduction into daily life.

This article shall be centered on the several points that should be addressed in order to substantiate the thesis offered above. Therefore it is the following arguments that will be reviewed and supported in the course of the article:

  • Hybrid cars have generally positive environmental impact. By economizing fuel consumption and relying on electric energy, their designs allow for minimizing gas emissions and, consequently, decreasing the pressure exerted by automotive transport on the environment;
  • The changes included in the designs of the hybrids proved to greatly enhance driver convenience during day-to-day car trips;
  • Hybrid cars are shown to enable greater fuel economy than their conventional competitors;
  • Technological performance of the hybrids is greatly boosted by alterations and supplements included in their overall design.

Hybrid Car Components

The Hybrid Cars Environmental Impact

According to Romm & Frank (2006), problems of negative impact of the petroleum-run vehicles on the state of the environment have become a significant issue shaping the U.S. federal transportation policy. For instance, in 2002 the Californian legislature passed a bill  providing for a curtailment of vehicular carbon emissions by 30% until 2016 (Romm & Frank, 2006, p.78). At the same time, in 2002 tax deduction scheme for the hybrid cars owners had been implemented, which was in effect until 2007 (Block, 2002). These and other measures were clearly motivated by environmental concerns, so that it is necessary to look at real impact of the hybrids on the environment.

According to the data presented by U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2010), carbon footprint of the majority of hybrid cars is significantly lower than that of conventional models. For instance, while carbon footprint of the 2010 Toyota Prius model amounts to mere 3.7 ton/yr of CO2, the same indicator for a conventional Ford Fusion AWD car is approximately 9.8 tons/yr. Given the comparable size category of the two cars (a mid-size car), it is evident that a hybrid is more efficient with regard to carbon emission decrease than its conventional competitor. The comparison between the other popular hybrid and conventional car models (of the mid-size car class) may be found in the following table. 

Table 1

The Environmental Pollution Data for Comparable Types of Hybrid and Conventional Cars



Carbon footprint (ton/yr of CO2)

EPA Air Pollution Score

Ford Fusion Hybrid FWD (4 cyl.)




Ford Fusion FWD (4 cyl.)




Lexus GS Hybrid 600h




Lexus LS 460 L AWD




Toyota Camry (2010)




Bentley Continental Flying Spur




Sources: U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2010). Find and Compare Cars. FuelEconomy.gov. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm (search for 2010-2011 models)

Given the aforementioned data, it should be concluded that in general hybrid cars are characterized by lower carbon footprint and higher EPA air pollution score. This means that hybrid cars are closer to achieving the mandatory environmental standards that are generally demanded from modern automotive industry. Therefore general conclusion as regards gas emission decreases attained by the introduction of hybrid cars should be overwhelmingly positive. 

With respect to another important factor influencing the state of environment, i.e. waste energy, it should be noted that the hybrids seem to be more efficient in this field as well. While conventional cars usually emit significant levels of kinetic energy, which is then dispersed in the environment, contributing to the relative increase in heat levels, a hybrid car is able to avoid such outcome by utilizing regenerative braking (see Michaels, 2010). The hybrid car's electric motor is used to recapture the kinetic energy spent to refuel a car’s batteries. On the contrary, the use of mechanical brakes in conventional cars prevents secondary utilization of kinetic energy and leads to its escape.

Considering that waste heat contributes to unnatural increases in average temperatures in densely populated urban areas, and therefore forms a part of anthropogenic heat impact on the environment, it is desirable to curb its influx into the atmosphere. That is why the broader use of the hybrid cars would be rather beneficial for such a purpose. 

2012 Honda CR-Z

Effect of Hybrid Models on Driver Convenience

The effects of rising oil prices led to increase in urgency of the automotive industry restructuring. The relative growth in numbers of hybrid cars produced is testimony to the increasing appreciation of their relevance in the world where high oil prices are the norm. The main consumer benefit  from the hybrid models seems to consist in relatively lower upkeep prices; according to the calculations presented by Romm & Frank (2006), even though the premiums for hybrid models were significantly higher than those for conventional cars, hybrid technology allows a consumer to save near $600 annually by cutting  fuel expenses (2006, p.74). Taking into account the tax credit systems for hybrid car consumers that are provided by the Securing America Energy Act of 2001, this means that for the time being consumers may take advantage of these benefits despite relatively higher prices of hybrid cars.

For example, according to the aforementioned Securing America Energy Act, buyers of Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are entitled to $250 to $1,000 tax credits if their vehicles weigh less than 8,500 pounds; in case of further fuel economy increases (over the 2000 level), an additional tax credit of around $1,000 to $3,500 might be provided (C.D. Anderson & J. Anderson, 2010, p.96). As  annual fuel cost for many HEVs ranges from $700 to $2,000, it may be noted that the tax credit system  partially lifts the burden of the car’s upkeep for the  first year of usage. This may increase availability of the HEVs to average consumer.

Another aspect that has a rather positive impact on driver convenience when dealing with the HEVs is their specific design features. While conventional cars are disadvantaged by the need to rely on their engine for providing power to such utilities as air conditioning or oil pump, the HEVs may make use of their larger battery to avoid energy waste (Romm & Frank, 2006, p.75). This means that, unlike conventional cars, the HEVs are no longer reliant on the specific thrust of their mechanical systems. The advantage of having a large-scale battery with fixed voltage is rather important, as it helps avoid the problems that might be caused by transmission belts’ failure.

An important part of the HEVs’ design  is its engine downsizing. While conventional models are dependent on their engines’ ability to achieve high power levels and therefore have to devote a lot of space to them, the HEVs might rely on power assist from electrical motor, making engine downsizing a practical option for them. This in turn allows for greater comfort for a driver, as the more compact hybrid cars are easier to maneuver and are less prone to the ICD failure. 

Fuel Economy and Hybrid Cars; Image retrieved from FuelEconomy.gov

Hybrids and Fuel Economy

The importance of fuel economy is underscored both by continuing volatility in the global energy markets and the growing environmental awareness. The HEVs are clearly able to satisfy the requirements engendered by such considerations, as the use of electric power allows them to attain the high power output without excessive waste of energy and hence of fuel. According to Schofield & Forsyth (2005), the HEVs may make greater use of fuel-cell technology to reduce the overall level of fuel consumption. At the same time, Romm & Frank (2006) argue in favour of plug-in hybrid models, emphasizing their high performance and potential for decreasing fuel requirements. The latter believe that specific features of plug-in designs are more amenable to greater gasoline savings and lesser carbon emissions, as the plug-in hybrids are able to operate in electric or hybrid mode continuously (unlike conventional hybrids, where electric motors are generally used as a supplement to the main, petroleum-run engine).

While most hybrids are generally useful for fuel economization while travelling in low speeds (Romm & Frank, 2006, p.76), the higher-powered electric engines of plug-in hybrids enable significant downsizing of the weight of petroleum-based motor, avoiding the increases in weight (2006, p.78). In addition, plug-in hybrids achieve a higher fuel economy level; as demonstrated by tests, they can run for 500 miles with a full battery charge on 1 gallon of gasoline blended with 5 gallons of ethanol (Romm & Frank, 2006, p.78). This, together with their unique ability to take energy from local utilities' electric grid, may be rather advantageous for car drivers.

Overall the fuel economy attained by hybrid cars is rather visible when compared with that of appropriate conventional models, as the data presented in the table below convincingly show. 

Table 2

The Fuel Economy of the HEVs (In Comparison with the Conventional Cars)



EPA City mileage (mpg)

EPA Highway mileage (mpg)

Annual fuel cost  (USD)

Ford Fusion Hybrid FWD (4 cyl.)





Ford Fusion FWD (4 cyl.)





Lexus GS Hybrid 600h





Lexus LS 460 L AWD





Toyota Camry (2010)





Bentley Continental Flying Spur





Sources: Sources: U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2010). Find and Compare Cars. FuelEconomy.gov. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm (search for 2010-2011 models)

Taking into account the abovementioned data, it is obvious that in general the HEVs are more efficient with respect to fuel consumption and are less costly in maintenance. As the example of California and several other U.S. states demonstrate (see Kilcarr, 2005 for more information),  the hybrid vehicles fuel efficiency (including the diesel-electric ones) is high enough to enable gradual transition of the U.S. public agencies from more costly petroleum-dominated transportation model to the greener, HEV-based one. In general, the development of hybrid automotive transport is rather beneficial from the point of view of further increases in fuel efficiency, as the HEVs are more attuned to the needs of modern transportation model. 

Hybrid Vehicle Technology

Hybrids and Technological Performance

When evaluating the HEVs’ overall technological performance, it should be taken into account that different models utilize diverse  technological improvements. Nevertheless, there is something common to them all that warrants an integrated discussion of their common benefits.

The rise in sales of hybrid cars, which amounted to 200,000 by 2005 and was expected to exceed 500,000 by 2010, took place despite their increased price, which was necessitated by higher costs of hybrid power trains (Romm & Frank, 2006, pp.73-74). Nevertheless, such price increase should not be seen as a permanent fixture; as Romm & Frank (2006) observe, the further development of plug-in hybrids might lead to greater fall in fuel consumption. Using the data on a tendency for batteries prices to fall, Romm & Frank (2006) conclude that the average price tag of $3,000 or less will be affordable for nickel metal hydride or lithium ion batteries that might sustain the car for the 20 miles-long voyages (2006, p.78). Therefore an implementation of plug-in and other hybrid technologies would finally result in the drastic lowering of the cars’ prices.

This means that enhancement of electrochemical batteries systems is especially pertinent for the HEVs' further development. In this regard it should be noted that the performance of plug-in HEVs (PHEVs) seem to be currently modest in comparison with that of the other HEVs. For instance, the Toyota Prius PHEV demonstrated below-average levels of fuel economy than its more ‘conventional’ HEV competitors in 2008, with the result that amounted to around 51 mpg-U.S. , given its 30-miles electricity-only driving range. That is why the development of the PHEVs may encounter some further difficulties in the future, as both the batteries' costs and their fuel efficiency need to become a focus for the new engineering efforts.

With respect to specific innovations implemented in the course of he HEV models' development, two of them should be specifically mentioned. The former involves a substitution of the Otto cycle engine, which is used in the variety of conventional car models, with the Atkinson cycle, contributing to greater fuel efficiency. The problem with the Atkinson cycle in conventional cars seems to lie with the fact that its fuel efficiency achievements simultaneously hamper the overall power output of the car, making it less efficient in the long run (Romm & Frank, 2006, p.76). Nonetheless, introduction of additional power sources in the HEVs enables the Atkinson cycle implementation, as the latter can now be maintained at the expense of the car’s electrical batteries. The Atkinson cycle introduction enables car drivers to combine high drive performance with energy economy.

Another important innovation that may be used for the benefit of the HEV-producing industries is the utilization of composite materials for the applications in hybrid car models. According to ACA (2008), the use of composite materials may lead to 30 to 40% savings in the mass of the car’s hood and 25 to 35% in that of decklid. As the problem of increased weight due to the additional batteries' presence  is still relatively important, the use of composite materials will be rather important for further HEVs designs. 

Conventional vs. Hybrid Cars; Courtesy of Alternate-Energy-Sources.com


Proceeding from the data offered above, it may be necessary to make some conclusions with regard to the subject of the article. Firstly, the HEVs' importance may be proved by their great relevance to the environment-friendly transportation policies and by their combination of relatively high performance and lower emissions. Secondly, the HEVs are fitted for greater driver convenience due to their specific design features. At the same time, they are characterized by relatively high fuel economy and a capacity to take in  further technological improvements in their overall design. All of these features clearly mark them as a highly promising subset of the car market. 



ACA Study Demonstrates Composites’ Benefits In Hybrid EVs. (2008). Composites Technology, 14(2), 15-16. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://www.compositesworld.com/news/aca-study-demonstrates-composites39-benefits-in-hybrid-evs .

Anderson, C.D., & Anderson, J. (2010). Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History. 2nd ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Anderson, J. (2010). A Green Car for Every Driver. Kiplinger's Personal Finance, 64(9), 81-85. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://www.kiplinger.com/columns/car/archive/a-green-car-for-every-driver.html .

Block, S. (2002). Hybrid Vehicles Are Good for Environment and Your Wallet. USA Today. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/columnist/block/2002-06-25-hybrid-cars.htm .

Hogan, C.M., & Gregory, A. (2006). Hybrid Vehicle Emission Noise Comparison Study , Lumina Technologies. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://luminatechnologies.org/luminaaco.html .

Kilcarr, S. (2005). Driving Forces. American City & County, 120(8), 52-55. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://americancityandcounty.com/mag/government_driving_forces/ .

Michaels, S. (2010). Top 10 Benefits of Driving a Hybrid Car. Articlebase.  Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://www.articlesbase.com/cars-articles/top-10-benefits-of-driving-a-hybrid-car-2601807.html .

Romm, J. J., & Frank, A. A. (2006). Hybrid Vehicles Gain Traction. Scientific American, 294(4), 72-79.  Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://www.calcars.org/sci-am-romm-frank-apr06.pdf .

Schofield, N., & Forsyth, A. (2005). Hail the Hybrid. Power Engineer, 19(5), 28-31. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=PEJOEE000019000005000028000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes&ref=no .

U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2010). Find and Compare Cars. FuelEconomy.gov. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm (search for 2010-2011 models)

Hybrid Cars and Fuel Economy
Credit: FuelEconomy.gov


Aug 27, 2013 10:32am
Nice informative article!
Aug 27, 2013 10:33am
Nice informative article!
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