The Driving Significance of Hybrid-Electric Vehicles

I am currently undergoing the search for a beautiful new (or used) car for myself. As daunting as the search can be, there are a lot of great facts about hybrid-electric vehicles that I’ve found during the process. Luckily, as the importance of protecting our environment becomes apparent, the amount of research and production of green technologies increase. Rising energy consumption is what drives the worlds ecological footprint, and income and population growth are the forces increasing greenhouse gas production. A large industry for green technology exists within hybrid and electric vehicles, just as the growing  industry for Bio Fuel, Bio Diesel, FlexFuel and alternative fuels exists.  “Green technologies are the master key to the future of the automobile,” says Thomas Weber, head of research and development for Mercedes-Benz. Now, the federal government has created a 2.4 billion dollar Recovery Act in order to provide subsidies for electric battery factories and continued research. These subsidies will help car manufacturers meet the new emission standards enacted last year by the Obama administration. By 2016 automakers must achieve 35.5 mpg. This is an increase from the current standard of 27.5 mpg. “Hybrids are less than 3% of the market and they’ve been less than 3% for years,” says Rebecca Lindland, and analyst with the research firm HIS Global Insight. This means that about 97% of the vehicles sold in the United States in recent years were powered by gasoline, not electricity.

A question posed by economists is when is an electric car worth the cost for the owner or for the environment. In the United States, gasoline powered vehicles are responsible for up to half of the emissions of smog forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. They also release more than 50% of the hazardous air pollutants and up to 90% of the carbon monoxide found in urban air. Burning a gallon of gasoline produces about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. The average kilowatt-hour results in the release of 1.5 pounds of carbon dioxide which is a significant decrease from gasoline. Despite these obvious emission reductions, the existence of hybrid and electric vehicles will not necessarily decrease total emissions. First, alternative fuel vehicles have a smaller range of travel than gasoline vehicles. This may increase usage or purchase of another gasoline powered car. Second, alternative fuel vehicles increase the variety of vehicles available to consumers which may lead to an increase in vehicle purchases and total usage.  Also, the internal battery of an electric car does not last as long as a typical gasoline powered vehicle, pushing companies to increase the warranty of the car.

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When juxtaposed to gasoline powered vehicles, electric cars are much more expensive, their range is lower, acceleration is lower, and operating costs are higher. So what drives Americans to purchase a green vehicle. In his essay “Do greens drive Hummers or Hybrids? Environmental Ideology as a Determinant of Consumer Choice,” Matthew Kahn proposes that those who purchase environmentally friendly vehicles live in “green communities” in which social pressures may reinforce the urge to take green actions such as driving a Toyota Prius. A green community exhibits the features of maintaining a lifestyle which includes recycling, political activism and minimalist consumerism. This is where driving a Prius would increase one’s status where driving a Hummer would have the opposite effect and may lead to “green attitude.”  Because of these communities, environmentalist would have two incentives to purchase a hybrid or electric vehicle. For any given amount of miles driven, driving a more fuel efficient vehicle will reduce their environmental impact. Additionally, their choice of vehicle can be viewed by everyone in their community. Kahn suggest that many purchase the Toyota Prius due to marketing and celebrity endorsements recognizing the car as the “Green Car.” Because this car will be acknowledged when environmentalists drive through their neighborhood, many green community households purchase a Prius. Manufacturers can capitalize on the social appearance of an alternative fuel vehicle and market their hybrid and electric cars appropriately and effectively.

Meeting future emission regulations, reducing our dependency on oil, and improving the environment are all benefits producers and consumers can receive by researching and investing in hybrid-electric vehicles. William Ford, Ford’s executive chairman states that “we don’t know what the market is going to be for electric vehicles […] but we will be ready for the demand whatever it is, whether it becomes 10% of the market or 90%.” Though current electric car prices are high, manufacturers hope to bring down costs in order to meet a large demand they predict to experience in 2020. Until then, further testing and technology development, as well as marketing towards green communities and individuals to purchase existing vehicles will determine the future of alternative fuel sources for cars.

Comments 3

  1. The electric car projects are just a scam to get a certain group of VC’s to control the lithium fields in Afghanistan!

    Dmitry Medvedev Came to Silicon Valley on June 22, 2010 and met with some of the venture capital companies that helped lobby the leverage for the electric car companies that just got funded.

    Ener1 Battery Systems who got zillions of the dollars from DOE per the Loan Guarantee and ATVM Director Seward.

    Is controlled in part by Russian “business man” Boris Zingarevich.

    Who is best friends with the Russian Dmitry Medvedev, who arranged for all of Russia to extend current agreements signed with foreign automakers between 2005 and 2008 granting preferential duties on imported components for eight years in return for sourcing 30 percent of parts locally, the Industry and Trade Ministry said. Once those arrangements expire, the carmakers would need to commit to buying 60 percent of components in Russia within six years to get more tax breaks.

    Dmitry also appears to own interest in lots of Lithium processing and mining company technology in Russia which is pretty close to Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan is: the “Saudi Arabia’ of lithium”. American geologists have discovered huge mineral deposits (Many $1 trillion of dollars worth) throughout Afghanistan, according to the New York Times. Lithium, gold, cobalt, copper, iron, among other valuable minerals are lying beneath what is already a war-torn country with little history with mining. Off and on over the decades, geologists—Soviet, Afghan, American—would investigate and chart some of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, only to put the work on hold as violent conflict erupted. Now, corruption, in-fighting between the central and district governments, foreign interests, and greater zeal from the Taliban might come into play to disrupt a potential economy evolving around these natural resources. With the Ministry of Mines, a Pentagon task force is now helping organize a way of handling the mineral development and bidding rights. How this unfolds socially, environmentally and politically should be interesting.

    The New York Times reports: The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion. The two most prevalent minerals are copper and iron. Niobium, used for making superconducting steel, has also been found.

    The effort to get that money for Ener1 was strong armed by Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar, one of the deans of Congress, and his junior colleague, Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

    Richard Lugar and Lachlan Seward co-managed the Chrysler Bail-out.

    Lachlan Seward was appointed by George Bush to run all of the tens of billions for the DOE ATVM and Loan Guarantee Programs. He & Matt Rogers gave most of the money away to their closely aligned interests and negated competing applicants. —

    Another place near Afghanistan that there is lot’s of Lithium is in Mongolia. Blum Capital has targeted the Lithium fields in Mongolia, said to be the second largest fields after Afghanistan in the region. Mongolia touches Russia so mining and equipment access could first take place there via Russia. China wants the Mongolian Lithium too so there is some two-way bidding that each country (Russia and China) do not know about. The owner of Blum Capital is Senator Feinsteins husband. She recently made him the Goodwill Ambassador to Mongolia.

    Blum’s wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has received scrutiny due to her husband’s government contracts and extensive business dealings with China and her past votes on trade issues with the country. Blum has denied any wrongdoing, however. Critics have argued that business contracts with the US government awarded to a company (Perini) controlled by Blum may raise a potential conflict-of-interest issue with the voting and policy activities of his wife. URS Corp, which Blum had a substantial stake in, bought EG&G, a leading provider of technical services and management to the U.S. military, from The Carlyle Group in 2002; EG&G subsequently won a $600m defense contract. In 2009 it was reported that Blum’s wife Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to provide $25 billion in taxpayer money to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, a government agency that had recently awarded her husband’s real estate firm, CB Richard Ellis, what the Washington Times called “a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.” In 2009 the University of California Board of Regents, of which Blum is a member, voted to increase student registration fees (roughly the Univ. of California equivalent of tuition) by 32%. Shortly thereafter, Blum Capital Partners purchased additional stock in ITT Tech, a for-profit educational institution. These events suggest a conflict of interest on Blum’s part. Also see: and and

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