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Are Electric and Hybrid Cars Really Green?

By: StaffPublished September 24, 2021

Electric vehicles use battery-powered motors to propel the car instead of an internal combustion engine. Because no fuel is burned, electric cars produce zero localized emissions. They require much less maintenance than conventional vehicles. There’s no need for routine oil changes, and replacing spark plugs, pistons, or belts is also unnecessary. These vehicles do not produce any tailpipe pollution, but still use electricity from power plants to charge their batteries. These emissions are taken into consideration when calculating greenhouse gas emissions. A typical all-electric vehicle produces 54 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per 100 miles.* Currently available all-electric vehicles include:

  • Nissan Leaf
  • Tesla Roadster
  • Ford Fusion Hybrid

Hybrid vehicles are powered by both combustion engines and batteries, offering the low emissions of an electric car along with the power and range of conventional vehicles. Hybrids do not require plugs for the battery to charge. A technology called regenerative braking allows the car to capture energy normally lost during braking, by using the electric motor as a generator. On most hybrids, both the combustion engine and the electric motor provide power to the wheels. A typical hybrid vehicle produces 57 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per 100 miles.* Some of the most popular hybrid vehicles include:

  • Toyota Prius
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Honda Insight Hybrid
  • Ford Fusion Hybrid
  • Lexus HS 250h

Plug-in hybrid vehicles are similar to hybrid vehicles, but also have the ability to be plugged into the power grid like all-electric cars. Some plug-in hybrids are propelled by both the engine and the electric motor like regular hybrids. Others always use the electric motor to drive the wheels like an all-electric car, with the internal combustion engine acting only as a generator. A typical plug-in hybrid vehicle produces 62 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per 100 miles. Available plug-in hybrid vehicles include:

  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Toyota Prius

A typical combustion engine vehicle produces 87 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per 100 miles.* Whatever the technology, all of these green car options produce considerably less harmful emissions than a conventional car. Better yet, advancements in alternative energy, in general, will further reduce the carbon emissions of electric and hybrid vehicles in the future.

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