The main reason for the start of the passenger hybrids production has become the market demand for such cars, caused by high oil prices, as well as constant increase in sustainability requirements for automobiles (Anderson and Anderson 35-36). The slogan for the struggle for environmental qualities of vehicles, which has recently become so popular, is successfully caught up by the most influential world’s auto producers, hastily throwing serious funds on the development and production of so-called hybrid cars or their another alternative – electric cars. Such automotive innovations of science and technology are positioned by their creators as environmentally friendly products that may not only make a worthy competition to traditional internal combustion engines, but also attempt to completely replace conventional cars on the global automotive market. However, despite the many benefits, the usage of hybrid and electric vehicles has a number of shortcomings, in addition, though it may certainly seem incredible, hybrid cars can bring even more negative environmental effects than usual gasoline ones.
Above all, before evaluating a car from the view point of its environmental friendliness and the level of its negative effect on the environment, it is important to determine how this environmental cleanliness should be properly measured. Numerous state standards adopted in the developed countries as well as independent standards of private researchers generally suggest only exaggerated attention towards the notorious exhaust pipe of a vehicle, assuming that the amount of harmful substances in the exhaust of a vehicle are to determine its level of harm to the nature and vice versa, the extent of its friendliness with the latter (Orecchini and Sabatini 32). However, it is not all that simple. The damage to the environment caused by a particular model of vehicle must also be evaluated through studying the impact of its production on this environment (Orecchini and Sabatini 36).
The main problem consists in the fact that prior to its release, a hybrid car manages to pollute the environment pretty significantly on the stage of the production of its power units (inverter, nickel-metal hydride batteries, electric engine). Studies show that the chemical components and heavy metals used in the manufacture of an electric engine, as well as corresponding lithium-ion and similar high-capacity accumulators widely used in electric and hybrid cars, for one hybrid power-unit, significantly exceed the level of harm to the environment produced by usual internal combustion engines manufacturing, together with the total exhaust rate of the latter calculated per one year (Coffey and Sorenson 183-84). In this way, hybrid models manufacturers cause damage to the environment due to the additional release of solid particles and non-methane hydrocarbons which cannot be decomposed.
Secondly, the production of hybrids is a complex high-tech process which requires high energy costs. Besides, hybrids’ batteries sometimes need to be charged from the power line, i.e. consuming more electricity again (though this is mostly applied to fully electric vehicles). The way electricity is generated for the needs of these cars directly affect the environment. Nowadays, the electricity to for recharging the batteries of hybrids is mainly generated by highly contaminative industries – coal-fired power plants or nuclear power plants (Benders et al. 165-68).
A separate issue is the accumulator batteries of hybrids as such and their utilization. Though to a lesser extent than electric cars, hybrid cars are also prone to the problem of the disposal of batteries, while the impact of discarded batteries on the environment has not be studied properly yet. On the other hand, most batteries today are nickel-metal hydride, and Ni-MH batteries themselves are non-toxic and can be subjected to further recycling (Anderson and Anderson 52-53). But at the same time, their production is preceded by the mining of nickel. This often occurs in the open pits with all the upcoming consequences in the form of environmental pollution with mining wastes. In addition, the electric engines of hybrids need a large amount of copper wire, which also increases the cost of hybrid cars production and has a negative impact on the ecological status (Benders et al. 169).
Still, the main advantage of the hybrid models is the economical exploitation of the fuel and thus, formal reduction in harmful emissions (Clemens 21). Furthermore, the major flaw in the carbon fuel engines – impossibility energy return back in the carbon fuel – has also been fixed (Anderson and Anderson 61-64). Today, accumulators, hydro-accumulators and special capacitors are used as storage. Simultaneously, the constant improvement of technologies and tax incentives to producers in some cases make hybrid cars even cheaper than usual vehicle (Anderson and Anderson 73). In some countries, the owners of hybrids are exempt from road tax and/or do not pay for municipal parking (Clemens 45).
Obviously, during their exploitation, hybrid cars really please the environmentalists and the environment by the low volume of contaminants (to be exact, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide). But there is also a downside of this aspect. In particular, one should keep in mind that it is unlikely to achieve the stated fuel economy for hybrids, if a driver is not driving solely on busy traffic streets (Coffey and Sorenson 185). After all, once a hybrid car enters the freeway, it will continually work on its petrol engine, while all the positive effects of the hybrid system remain unclaimed (Orecchini and Sabatini 37). To top it off, hybrids can be dangerous not only from an environmental point of view. Thus, Highway Loss Data Institute has published a study, according to which hybrid cars is more dangerous for pedestrians than cars with internal combustion engines (Kim et al. 62). The reason of this increased danger for pedestrians produced by hybrids is the noiselessness in the work of engine. According to published accidents statistics, hybrid cars assaults on pedestrians are 20% more likely, and the extent of damage is higher (Kim et al. 69).
In general, the internal combustion engine in hybrid models certainly pollutes the environment less than the one in a conventional car, but at the same time the level of pollution during the production of hybrid cars is higher than the average loss produced by the standard internal combustion engine. Therefore, the more hybrid cars are supplied on the world automotive market under the guise of environmental friendliness used as a promotional move, the greater harm is caused to the environment. In future, the efforts of producers should further be aimed at minimizing negative impacts and at general cheapening of the production of vehicles using alternative energy sources, although it is highly unprofitable for corporations to satisfy both requirements at the same time.