What's that? You thought buying a hybrid would be the ultimate expression of concern for Mother Earth, a gesture that would help reduce smog and save trees and whales alike? Well, not exactly.
First and foremost, hybrids are still internal-combustion, gasoline powered cars. While they might use less of it than other vehicles, they still depend on a fuel that often comes from volatile and war-torn parts of the world, and they still create emissions when they drive around.
The batteries inside hybrid cars depend on materials like lithium and cobalt. Mining for those minerals is an extremely destructive process, and one that has left entire mountains leveled in their wake. Local residents benefit little from these endeavors. Furthermore, the countries with the most lucrative mines tend to also be some of the most unstable, including Bolivia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. So increasing our dependence on electric and hybrid cars may mean trading the conflicts in the Middle East for another set of problems [source: Robinson].
Then there's the issue of plug-in hybrid cars. While they have the potential to use far less gasoline than conventional engines or even regular hybrids, the electricity they use comes from our existing power grid. And in the U.S., most of our electricity comes from coal and only a little from nuclear power -- both of which can be somewhat nasty to the environment for a variety of reasons. Adding more plug-in hybrids will put an extra strain on the grid that just means more output from existing power plants, at least until our country runs on renewable energy sources [source: Scientific American].
Author's Note: 5 Reasons Not to Buy a Hybrid
Hybrid cars can be great alternatives to conventional vehicles, but people need to realize that they won't solve the oil and pollution crisis overnight. In fact, there are some serious drawbacks to owning a hybrid. I think people are starting to realize this -- a study that came out in April 2012 said only 35-percent of current hybrid owners will buy another one. I guess a greener alternative is to simply drive a fuel-efficient conventional car -- and to walk and take the bus whenever you can.
- Chevrolet. (Aug. 21, 2009) http://www.chevrolet.com/
- Ford. (Aug. 21, 2009) http://www.fordvehicles.com/
- FuelEconomy.gov. "New Energy Tax Credit for Hybrids." May 5, 2009. (Aug. 21, 2009) http://fueleconomy.gov/feg/tax_hybrid.shtml
- Hanson, Brandon U. "Is a Hybrid Worth It?" OmniNerd.com. Nov. 11, 2005 (Aug. 18, 2009) http://www.omninerd.com/articles/Is_a_Hybrid_Worth_It
- Honda (Aug. 21, 2009) http://automobiles.honda.com/
- HybridCars.com "Reasons Not to Buy a Hybrid." March 23, 2006. (Aug. 18, 2009) http://www.hybridcars.com/decision/reasons-not-to-buy-a-hybrid.html
- Padgett, Marty. "Seven Great Reasons to Buy a Hybrid -- and Six Bad Ones." TheCarConnection.com. Aug. 19, 2008. (Aug. 18, 2009) http://blogs.thecarconnection.com/marty-blog/1015967_seven-great-reasons-to-buy-a-hybrid-and-six-bad-ones
- Ransom, Kevin. "Reasons to buy a hybrid -- or not." CNN.com. Jan. 28, 2008. (Aug. 18, 2009) http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/01/28/buy.hybrid/index.html#cnnSTCText
- Robinson, Aaron. "Out of Africa: Where Electric-Vehicle Batteries Come From, Part II." CarAndDriver.com. November 2010. (April 12, 2012) http://www.caranddriver.com/columns/aaron-robinson-out-of-africa-where-electric-vehicle-batteries-come-from-part-ii
- Scientific American. "The Coal Truth: Will the Coming Generation of Electric Cars Just Be Coal Burners, Once Removed?" ScientificAmerican.com. May 4, 2010. (April 13, 2012) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earth-talk-the-coal-truth
- Silke Carty, Sharon. "Hybrids recoup higher cost in less time." USA Today. May 12, 2008. (Aug. 21, 2009) http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/environment/2008-05-11-hybrids-gas-prices_N.htm
Is an all-electric car a bad investment? Keep reading to learn about electric cars and if an all-electric car is a bad investment.