Hybrid cars emitting much more CO2 than advertised

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Hybrid cars emitting much more CO2 than advertised

Top auto brands are getting smoked by environmental analysts who have found that their carbon emissions are much higher than what carmakers had reported.

The European group Transport and Environment (T&E), which campaigns for renewable energy in transportation, found three top-selling plug-in hybrid SUVs — BMW’s X5, Volvo’s XC60 and Mitsubishi’s Outlander — are emitting 28% to 89% more carbon dioxide than advertised, even under ideal road conditions.

“Plug-in hybrids are fake electric cars, built for lab tests and tax breaks, not real driving,” Julia Poliscanova, T&E’s senior director of clean vehicles, said in a press statement. “Governments should stop subsidizing these cars with billions in taxpayers’ money.”

Hybrid vehicles are those that combine a combustible fuel engine — one that is smaller than conventional cars — with an electric motor and rechargeable battery. The car is thus able to toggle between using electric power and gasoline. While plug-in hybrid car emissions are lower than those for gas or diesel vehicles, T&E found CO2 levels in real-world tests were typically two to four times what the auto brands reported.

These companies haven’t copped to the findings, according to Reuters: Volvo and Mitsubishi denied the results, while BMW declined to respond to its inquiry.

Last week, the European Union announced an emissions proposal that would narrow which cars can be deemed “green” vehicles. Under the new rules, hybrid vehicles, such as the three makes tested, would no longer be considered sustainable automobiles, beginning in 2026.

Despite a potential $7,500 vehicle tax credit up for grabs, Americans overall have been slow to adopt electric cars. Overall last year, only about 727,000 new partial- and all-electric cars were sold in the US, which is just over 4% of the 17 million total sales in new “light-duty” vehicles, including SUVs and small passenger trucks, according to USAFacts.org, a nonprofit data resource, with statistics from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Sales of hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) about doubled between 2011 and 2013, from approximately 266,500 to 495,500 units sold, prompted in part by Tesla’s move to go public in summer 2010.

All-electric varieties lag far behind HEVs, which experts have claimed is a result of consumer concern over their viability for long-distance driving. In 2019, only about 241,000 all-electric cars sold, adding to the 1.4 million total since they were first introduced in 2010. Plug-in hybrid vehicles, like those studied by T&E, are a steppingstone between HEVs and all-electric, with a slightly larger battery that requires more juicing, but which make up the smallest share of the US market.

Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency released their new rules for US-based car manufacturers’ fuel economy standards. The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient vehicles rule requires carmakers to improve fuel efficiency in all cars, including hybrid electric and gas-powered, by 1.5% per year, to reach an average of 40.4 miles per gallon by 2026. These standards were recalibrated after an initial proposal, announced in 2012, would have required a 5% annual increase in fuel efficiency, for an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

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