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Hybrid Cars: The Green Alternative That Can Help the Environment

written by: •edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 2/22/2011

A hybrid car has an efficient internal combustion engine for rural use, which charges a set of batteries used to drive the car in slow traffic. Hybrid cars are constructed from lighter materials such as aluminum, the combination of these designs leading to an economic fuel use of up to 50mpg(us).

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    Introduction to Hybrid Cars

    The first commercially produced hybrid car was the Toyota Prius in 1998 followed shortly after by the Honda Insight.

    Today there are numerous car manufacturers producing hybrid cars known collectively as Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV). They are all very efficient and although more expensive than a conventional car, they have proved to be of great benefit to the environment due to their reduced emissions into the atmosphere.

    This is an article describing hybrid cars and their components, where we hope to find out just how they can help the environment.

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    Components of a Hybrid Car

    A hybrid car can be defined as an environmentally friendly car which is propelled by a finely tuned gasoline or diesel engine in combination with an electric drive which is used in city or in slow moving traffic.

    Toyota is the current world leaders in hybrid car sales which in 2009, totalled over two million, followed by Honda with a third of a million sales.

    The innovative technologies that contribute to the hybrid car's efficiency are;

    • High efficient engine – the engine is constructed from an alloy which makes it very light, also being very efficient due to being finely tuned and controlled by computerized monitoring systems.
    • Battery operation in traffic – this drastically reduces tailpipe emissions that are so obnoxious in many cities.
    • Lighter materials used in manufacture – a lighter car means less energy required to drive the wheels.
    • Regenerative braking – when you brake this system converts the energy normally lost through heat to electricity, charging the batteries.
    • Automatic engine stop / start – this component automatically cuts out the engine when you stop the car in traffic, restarting in the electric mode when the accelerator is pressed.
    • Hi-tech tires – new designs are low rolling resistant tires (when you turn the steering wheel sharply, the tires tend to roll onto their sidewall and this action uses more fuel). Some hybrid car tyres are produced using recycled materials.
    • Hi-efficient lithium batteries- these are lighter and take up less space than conventional battery packs.
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    How Hybrid Cars Help the Environment

    1. Reduction in Ground-Level Ozone

    City smog contains numerous pollutants, mainly from our car tailpipe emissions, particularly when the car engine is idling in traffic. The main component is ground level ozone, which is formed by car exhaust emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and micro dust particulates.

    The sun’s rays act on these noxious gasses and produce the ozone, which is particularly dangerous to young children, people with respiratory problems such as asthma, and the elderly.

    Ground level ozone can also transfer to rural areas where it damages agriculture and vegetation.

    Hybrid cars drastically reduce the exhaust emissions which cause the low level ozone in our cities, up to 90% less emissions of that from conventional cars.

    They achieve this by the almost exclusive use of the electric drive motor in city driving, which emits no noxious fumes.

    2. Reduction of CO2 Emissions in Rural Driving

    Gasoline and diesel typically contain over 2000 grams of carbon in a gallon of fuel, and after combustion, is emitted as CO2 from the car exhaust, CO2 being a major component of Greenhouse gasses.

    The innovation of the catalytic converter in the exhaust removes nitrogen and unburned hydrocarbons from the exhaust, but unfortunately, the CO2 passes into the atmosphere.

    The hybrid car uses its finely tuned economical engine in the rural cycle, emitting much less CO2 gas.

    When climbing hills, accelerating or overtaking it uses the electric motor as well as the engine. This reduces the load on the engine (a conventional car would produce more CO2 under these conditions) thus reducing the CO2 emissions.

    3. Mitigation of Air Pollution Through Savings in Energy

    The combination of all the innovative efficient energy saving components integrated into a modern hybrid car results in using less fuel than a conventional car. This leads to a higher MPG, saving energy and producing/releasing less polluting exhaust emissions into the atmosphere.

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    Summary

    About 30% of all CO2 emissions come from our use of vehicles, with the attendant rise in greenhouse gases.

    Greenhouse gasses promote global warming which have been cited as the cause of the melting of icecaps, rising sea levels and climate change.

    Hybrid cars can reduce these greenhouse gas emissions through the use of an efficient engine coupled with the ability to switch to electric drive in heavy traffic. This is one example of how hybrid cars help the environment.

    City smog and ground level ozone produced by noxious exhaust fumes are currently causing health concerns. However, the use of a hybrid car in electric drive mode in urban areas will also mitigate these dangerous gases. Although energy supplied by hydrocarbons is expended in the cars manufacture and powering the engine in a hybrid, these are offset by the efficiency of the car due to its innovative technology enabling it to obtain up to 50MPG(US); another example of how hybrid cars help the environment.

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    Sketches of Hybrid Car, Facts Diagram and Dashboard Energy Monitors

    Facts DiagramTypical Hybrid Car LayoutHonda Energy Monitor (www.honda.co.uk)Toyota Energy Monitor(www.toyota.com)