|Categories:||Environment Energy Automotive industry|
The preservation of the environment and energy are dynamic topics in the world today and ways to preserve the two are discussed every day. One area of concern that contributes to significant pollution of the environment is the automobile industry. Many vehicles use fossil fuels as the main source of energy. Fossil fuels are known to be non-renewable energy sources that produce harmful gases when combusted. The gases emitted from the vehicles we drive today pose serious impacts to the environment through such things as acid rains and global warming. Air pollution is also another consequence of using fossil fuels to run engines. The ever growing environmental concerns have inspired a myriad of options to replace fossil fuel-powered engines. While some of these alternatives have proved to be of great help in reducing pollution, others are equally harmful and present even greater challenges. In this paper, I analyze one such alternative to the use of fossil fuels. I analyze the disadvantages of these vehicles and whether they are worth buying.
Hybrid vehicles have been adopted as an alternative to fuel powered vehicles. The vehicles combine the benefits of gasoline fuels and electric energy to power vehicles. Hybrid engines may also use a combination of turbo-electric energy to run their engines. The different power options provided can be configured to obtain various objectives such as improved fuel economy, increased power and better technologies in the automobile industry (Everett). While the vehicles are perceived to give a wide range of benefits, they come with their equal share of problems and challenges. Even though hybrid vehicles have been in the market for over a decade, there are still a few quirks to consider when putting a hybrid vehicle as an alternative to the traditional diesel powered vehicles. While the reasons for buying a hybrid vehicle are many: saving the environment, promoting a green culture and making fewer stops at gasoline stations; not every reason pans out in the long run. The vehicles continue to be super trendy and have been the choice of many popular stars in recent times. There are, however, greener, better and more efficient alternatives available (Fallah).
The first and most challenging barrier that an individual interested I purchasing the hybrid car will encounter is the high initial cost of the vehicle compared to its gasoline-only rival. These vehicles cost significantly more than their conventional versions of the same kind. It is due to this reason that buyers occasionally find themselves at crossroads trying to choose between conventional vehicles and hybrid cars. The cars cost more upfront than other standard vehicles, and in this sense they do not help people save money in the short run (Autotrader). Many people continue to buy these vehicles oblivious of the hidden drawbacks they come along with. The biggest drawback to a hybrid car is the battery system. Almost all hybrid cars use batteries that are integrated into their power system. The batteries provide additional power while on the road and the car can even run on the battery alone (Greenwald). The problem, however, arise when the battery is old and cannot hold enough charge for a long period of time.
The car batteries eventually go flat and no longer store little to no charge. Since the batteries are an essential part of the power system, the vehicles cannot function without them and hence the need to replace them. The batteries are not easily available compared to those used in conventional vehicles since they are engineered in a special way. A new battery may cost up to about $3000 dollars form an authorized dealer. There is the option of buying refurbished batteries from mechanics, but the con is that they may not last longer (Perdontis). There also arises the complexity in predicting when the batteries may go flat. It is therefore risky to buy used batteries since there is no way of assessing their remaining lifespan. People buy hybrid cars for various reasons, including saving money. The vehicle has shown more economical fuel consumption compared to its conventional rivals. The problem is that the fuel consumption is slightly lower than those of gasoline-only vehicles, and it may up to a decade to make a significant difference (Greenwald). This makes the hybrid car less enticing compared to its gasoline powered rival.
The car comes with other additional costs that only surface after some time of suing the vehicle. Continuous improvement in technology may prove too expensive, since the vehicle has not yet stabilized in its design. Although batteries are the most common source of power for the cars, other better energy sources are being developed. This means that hybrid car owners will be required to upgrade their battery systems from time to time to keep abreast with the latest more efficient technology. This may be prove costly especially when it the cost is not covered by the manufacturer (Fallah). The vehicles are usually smaller and made of lighter materials than conventional vehicles, which means in case of an accident the damage is more severe on the vehicle. As a result, the hybrid owner will end up spending more money in repairs. The cost of converting a gasoline powered engine to electric power is extremely costly. The whole process may cost up to a staggering $10000 excluding labor costs. The overall goal of saving money is therefore not achieved if one pays close attention to such details.
While hybrid cars were developed to help reduce environmental pollution, it is surprising to note that the vehicles also contribute greatly to environmental pollution. The cars have for long been seen as the ultimate solution to eliminating pollution, but does not seem to be the case. First and foremost, the cars still use a good proportion of internal-combustion gasoline power. They use less fuel compared to other vehicles, but they still emit harmful gases when driven around (Everett). It is ironical to state that the vehicles help reduce pollution. This is because a close analysis of the process used to manufacture the batteries reveal that the process pollutes the environment as well. The batteries used in these vehicles depend on some precious minerals such as magnesium, lithium and cobalt. Most of the minerals are obtained through mining processes which have far more destructive to the environment (Autotrader). Mining leaves large pits behind that pose great risks to the communities living near them. During the rainy season, the pits accumulate flood water and becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The process of manufacturing the batteries involves degradation of the environment. This makes the vehicles no different from those powered by fossil fuel.
Replacing gasoline-powered cars with hybrid ones is like trading one problem for another. Today, there are over a million hybrid cars on the American roads. This may seem like good news to people; but not until the vehicles become old. The batteries used to power the vehicles contain harmful carcinogenic materials that are harmful to the environment. The hybrid utopia may, therefore, turn into a toxic nightmare when the nickel metal-hydride is not well disposed (Autotrader). Although supporters of these vehicles argue that they pose less damage to the environment compared to the lead-acid accumulators used in traditional vehicles, the metal hydride batteries also cause significant damage to the environment. Lead is the leading environmental pollutant compared to the metal hydrides and lithium batteries used in hybrid cars. The impacts on the environment, however, depend on what materials are combined with lithium to make the batteries of hybrid vehicles. Using cadmium, for instance, is problematic and harmful to the environment (Perdontis).
Another issue of concern is the high-voltage wiring used in the manufacture of the vehicles. If the car is involved in an accident, some of these wires may be exposed, increasing the risk of electrocution to emergency staff, drivers and other people involved in the crash. Just because one is plugging in a car to refuel it does not mean using clean energy. This is because the source of the power may be from non-renewable energy sources like coal and fossil oil (Greenwald). In such a case, one may end up causing as much pollution as would a conventional car during the charging process. The overall production of the car is surprisingly more harmful to the environment than producing standard cars. This is due to the fact that the vehicles use more complex parts that take more time to assemble and produce (Everett). Processing the electric motors and heavy battery packs emits a lot of carbon dioxide and consumes more power.
Deciding whether to buy a hybrid or conventional vehicle involves more than just being environmentally friendly. One needs to look at other factors such as availability of repair centers, and whether the mechanics are familiar with the electric engines. The above analysis indicate that even if one buys a hybrid car, there is little that can be done to totally eliminate pollution.
Autotrader. Hybrid Cars: Hidden Drawbacks. 20 April 2014. 5 June 2015.
Everett, David. Hybrid Cars 101: Everything You Always Wanted To Know. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010.
Fallah, Saber. Electric and Hybrid Vehicles: Technologies, Modeling and Control - A Mechatronic Approach. Wiley, 2014.
Greenwald, Mike. Hybrid Cars: Not as Green as You Think. 16 November 2010. 5 June 2015.
Perdontis, Malcom. Battery Manufacturing and Electric and Hybrid Vehicles (Energy Science, Engineering and Technology. Nova Science Publishers, 2013.
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