Hybrid cars may not always be so eco-friendly

SF State is a commuter campus, which means many students use public transportation or drive to campus to attend classes. Some students find themselves feeling particularly “green” while driving to school in their hybrid electric vehicles, because it uses less fossil fuel than a standard vehicle. Unfortunately, hybrid electric vehicle owners aren’t asking questions regarding the true impact their car has on the environment. Many people don’t realize that hybrids can cause more harm to the planet than good.

Hybrid vehicles are automobiles that use two or more distinct power sources that allow the vehicle to function. The term “hybrid vehicle” most commonly refers to hybrid electric vehicles that combine an internal combustion engine, which uses gas, with one or more electric motors. These vehicles were built to recharge by capturing energy and reusing it or storing it.

By using less crude oil to power the car, the auto industry thought they were doing a great service for the environment. However, batteries are toxic and are not environmentally friendly.

The Toyota Prius made its U.S. debut in July 2000. Out of all the hybrid cars sold, the Toyota Prius holds the top spot. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, the Toyota Prius is the source for some of the worst pollution in northern America.

The nickel found in the battery of a Prius is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Canada, which has had a profound effect on the surrounding habitat and NASA has labeled the area as a ‘dead zone.’ The area surrounding the plant isn’t habitable to any living thing. According to NASA, the area is used to test moon rovers. Another environmentally detrimental result is that the toxic and pungent gas, sulfur dioxide, has spread outside the town to the whole northern part of the province. Acid rain was so bad it destroyed all plants and the soil in the area as well.

The production that is needed to make a hybrid battery is as environmentally unfriendly as it gets. The nickel produced by the Canadian plant is shipped to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel goes to China to produce ‘nickel foam.’ From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the completed batteries are shipped to the United States.

The carbon footprint attached to the making of a hybrid battery is extremely high, as can be seen by the frequent flyer miles the hybrid battery racks up.

According to a study called Dust to Dust, by CNW Marketing Research, Inc., the total combined energy needed to produce a Prius is greater than what it takes to make a Hummer. On average, a Prius costs $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles, which is the expected lifespan of a hybrid. A Hummer, costs $1.95 per mile over its lifetime of 300,000 miles, which means a Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and it uses almost 50 percent less combined energy, according to the NCPA.

It’s important to do some research when it comes to picking out any product that may sound environmentally friendly. The product you end up purchasing could end up doing more harm than good. An alternative to a hybrid car, or any car, is to take public transportation or ride a bike. The less carbon emissions you put out, the smaller your carbon footprint will be and in turn the better you will feel about trying to lessen the contribution of fossil fuels in the atmosphere.