How long will consumer’s be fooled that Hybrid vehicles are the answer?

Whether it’s the nature inspired model names, or the creatively deceiving ad campaigns, current hybrid gasoline-electric automobile manufactures have consumers fooled that they are making a heroically environmental decision purchasing their product. While they are quick to include statistics like miles per gallon and reduced emissions, they purposefully fail to show the dirty and environmentally damaging mining and extraction processes required to build the batteries that operate the vehicles.

In addition, manufacturers don’t seem to mind that they are not only contributing to, but enabling the social problems around materialism and disposable society. Consumers have blindly followed smart marketing techniques that have convinced them they are nature haters if they don’t purchase a brand new hybrid vehicle.

Despite what has just been said, it’s undeniably true that hybrid electric cars have a smaller contribution to air pollution and climate change than a gas guzzling SUV, but are they really the environmental vigilantes manufacturers make them out to be? The purpose of this is to inform consumers, and hopefully broaden someone’s perspective that might think there aren’t any negative aspects to hybrid vehicle production.

As a business that depends on consumers purchasing their product, manufacturers tend to place the highest priority on selling more cars, even if that means irreversibly damaging the environment in the process. Hybrid manufactures don’t advertise the environmental costs associated with the production of the cars because it goes against everything the car is supposed to represent.

Lithium Fields in Chile

Sustainable problems for hybrid electric vehicles originate long before the consumer even turns the key. Mining processes involved in extracting the rare earth metals used in the hybrid’s batteries pose a serious problem to both the environment’s health, as well as the consumer’s, as an EPA article suggests. The results of a life cycle assessment of Lithium Ion batteries, typical batteries found in hybrid vehicles, found the production leads to “resource depletion, global warming, ecological toxicity and human health impacts.”(McElroy, Electric Vehicles Not Sustainable). Focusing on the impact associated with the health of the workers handling rare earth metals used in batteries, “may cause adverse respiratory, pulmonary and neurological effects in those exposed” (McElroy, Electric Vehicles Not Sustainable). There is no incentive for manufacturers to broadcast this information because it tarnishes the brand’s “green” image.

As a consumer in search of a car that serves some environmental justice, there are a few options, but certain compromises must be made when comparing the solution, to the problematic gasoline-electric options available today. Factors like safety, reliability, and estimated fuel mileage are all worth consideration when choosing the vehicle that’s right for you.

2000 Honda Insight

When it comes to fuel economy and reliability, cars like the 2000 Honda Insight, 1995 Geo Metro, and 1992 Honda Civic are all examples of high efficiency, budget compact cars. With small gasoline powered engines and a lightweight construction, these 20 year old cars can still compete with today’s leading hybrids, at a fraction of the cost. Examples like this can easily be found for under $10,000, setting aside at least another $20,000 for future repairs, based on the assumption that the least expensive brand new hybrid is approximately $30,000.

Unfortunately, competition is not so close when it comes to driver and passenger safety. New hybrid cars have taken advantage of design techniques that include crumple zones, multiple airbags, and computer detection software. When deciding to purchase an older car, a heavier responsibility gets placed on the driver to be more cognisant of their surroundings to ensure both their and other driver’s safety.

Arching over the entire issue is the fundamental concept of sustainability that involves pursuing options that take advantage of the fewest non-renewable resources as possible. Purchasing a new car, hybrid or not is a massive investment of resources that can be avoided by purchasing a car that has already been built. The practice of learning about and maintaining one’s vehicle can not only save thousands and thousands of dollars, but it’s a rewarding process that connects the consumer to the tool they use everyday to get around. Nowadays, people are very disconnected to the maintenance and functionality of their new cars, partly due to the technological changes, and partly due to a cultural shift towards a more disposable style of vehicle.

As a consumer, it’s easy to think your decision won’t have an effect towards the future, but the reality is that it will, and it’s up to everyone to start thinking more seriously about what’s actually best for the planet. Do not let a profit-based company try and fool you into thinking they have the solution. Be skeptical, and be a smart consumer that cares about leaving this planet with a lasting legacy of sustainability.

Citations

Voelcker, J. (2012, January 3). A Little Math Lesson: Are Used Cars Greener Than Hybrids? Retrieved April 04, 2017, from http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1072003_a-little-math-lesson-are-used-cars-greener-than-hybrids

McElory, J. (2013, June 24). Electric Vehicles Not Sustainable. Retrieved April 04, 2017, from http://wardsauto.com/blog/electric-vehicles-not-sustainable

M. (n.d.). 25 All-time Best Gas Cars by MPG — Energy Matters — Green Transportation. Retrieved April 04, 2017, from http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-transportation/green-vehicles/miles-per-gallon-cars-zb0z11zblon