As our ozone layer depletes and gas prices soar even more rapidly, the American public is left with a difficult question to answer. What can I do to help save the environment while saving money at the same time? Most ignorant Americans would say, “Buy a hybrid car!” however this is not the right answer. Hybrids, on average cost about 9000 dollars more than a conventional gasoline powered vehicle of a similar quality and build. This coupled with the reality that hybrids are actually bad for our earth make it a completely illogical decision. The cost of a hybrid vehicle is not worth the initial investment required for the additional mileage and the hybrid batteries deem hybrid cars excessive pollutants.
When taken at face value, hybrids seem to be the perfect solution to a growing problem. However, hybrid technology isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Hybrid vehicles, regardless of brand or year model, utilize a battery that is constructed using a Nickel/Metal/Hydride composition. In a traditional hybrid vehicle, there is a complete electric engine. It includes an electric motor to provide all of the power to the wheels, as well as batteries to supply the motor with electricity. Then you have a completely separate gasoline engine powering a generator. The engine is very small — perhaps 10 to 20 horsepower — and is designed to run at just one speed for maximum efficiency. With the use of these hybrid vehicle batteries, this means that with the mining, usage, and disposal of the battery a hybrid vehicle will have a larger carbon footprint than any other vehicle on the road today. Hummers included. Lest we forget that the batteries in these hybrid motors must be charged via an external power source, which in itself has a laundry list of agriculturally detrimental side effects. It seems that many hybrid proponents neglect to realize their hybrid runs on electricity often yielded from the likes of nuclear power plants.
It is a common misconception that hybrids utilize “green” technology and advocates to the idea often gratify themselves for having such an efficient car. In actuality, many cars that do not utilize hybrid technology offer similar or better mileage than their hybrid counterparts. If you compare them side-by-side, the Nissan Versa and Kia Forte, both non-hybrid cars, get the same or better mileage than more than half of the hybrid cars available on the market today. If you compare the Cadillac Escalade to its hybrid version, the “Cadillac Escalade Hybrid”, you’ll see that they emit the same amount of air pollution.
An efficient hybrid should have battery storage, an electric motor, a smaller engine, and better emissions controls, but some manufacturers will pick only one or two things to add. That means non-hybrid cars can sometimes perform better than hybrids. Car companies can fool people by calling a car a hybrid vehicle but the literal translation only requires them to utilize two forms of propulsion in the engine bay. There aren’t any regulations that stipulate what defines a hybrid vehicle. By using this umbrella term, car manufacturers can wrongly take advantage of the consumer.
The 2011 Toyota Prius, the industry’s highest-selling hybrid car, gets 51 mpg, has a carbon footprint of 3.8 tons/yr of CO2 and an air pollution score of eight out of 10. In comparison, the most fuel efficient car in the world is not a hybrid. It’s a diesel. A Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel, to be exact. Making its way across the nation and into a world record, a Jetta TDI recently achieved 58.82 MPG during a successful 9,419 mile bid for the lowest fuel consumption across the Continental United States. Despite being officially rated at 30 MPG city and 41 MPG highway by the EPA, the Jetta TDI managed a 14 percent improvement over the previous record of 51.58 MPG.
Today’s diesel engines provide 20-to-40-percent better fuel economy and offer more torque at lower rpm when compared to their gasoline counterparts. Diesel engines are also substantially less harmful to the environment today than they were in the past. Diesel fuel actually burns cleaner than any alternative fuel available including gasoline. Diesel fuel can also assist in relieving our dependence on foreign oil. Our government in America encourages diesel-powered vehicles however they don’t offer tax incentives for the technology as they do for hybrid cars. According to the Department of Energy, if 30 percent of the passenger cars and light-duty trucks in the U.S. had diesel engines, U.S. net crude oil imports would be reduced by 350,000 barrels per day.
A diesel engine has a fuel injection system with a very high pressure ratio which causes an explosion thus driving the vehicle forward. Of all the types of internal-combustion engines, the diesel engine is the most efficient: A given amount of diesel fuel can make more power than the same amount of gasoline. Over time, this slight but significant fraction of fuel saved would bridge the price difference between an overpriced hybrid vehicle and the increased cost of diesel fuel for a diesel vehicle. A diesel burns cleaner, costs less, and doesn’t impede your acceleration negatively but positively affects a cars ability to accelerate. This is why the American public should embrace diesel technology and extinguish irrational beliefs that hybrid cars provide a “green” alternative where in actuality they more rapidly degenerate the earth than any other form of transportation to date. I’m not so sure there is “A Prius for everyone” as the latest Prius commercial states, I’ve yet to find one that interests me…