Photograph by Carolyn Fortuna | CleanTechnica

EVs vs. Hybrids: No Contest

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You may have heard people battle feverishly in an EV vs. hybrid battle. Each side has stats to back themselves up. Let’s dive in.

If your objective is to completely eliminate personal transportation emissions, then the fully electric vehicle is your clear choice. If you’re wary about inability to charge reliably, then a plug-in hybrid may be your choice.

However, once EV chargers are as ubiquitous as gas pumps are now, the EVs vs. hybrids contest will end — hybrids, with dual engines and two sets of likely problems, will fade into a Gen Z’s memory. Concern for the planet will triumph with all-electric vehicles, but so, too, will fun, tech, total cost of ownership, and sheer driving pleasure.

In the interim, though, the EVs vs. hybrids contest has been largely staged by politicians, legacy automakers, and media pundits.

The Biden administration has proposed new environmental rules that would essentially force two-thirds of car sales in the country to be electric vehicles by 2032. Rhode Island is also considering legislation, the “Electric Transportation Act,” that would require all new cars sold in the state after 2030 to be electric. Massachusetts is following California and is requiring all new cars sold by 2035 to be electric.

There are two types of EVs: battery electric and hybrid. A battery electric vehicle (BEV), also known as an all-electric vehicle, draws electricity from rechargeable electric batteries. A 100% EV produces no tailpipe emissions and doesn’t have a gasoline tank — so, with a BEV, you don’t need to stop for gas anymore.

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle can be powered either by an electric motor that draws electricity from a battery or by an internal combustion engine (ICE). Plug-in hybrids have an electric-only range from 20 to 60 miles, and you can charge them as you would a BEV. If you exceed the electric range, the ICE kicks in. To reap full plug-in hybrid efficiency benefits, owners must recharge frequently.

Comparing Apples to Oranges: EVs vs. Hybrids

Environmental journalist Peter Douglas, who writes the “Green Rides” column for the Bay Area News Group, helps to clarify misconceptions. “While some hybrids are very efficient, the best electric cars deliver significantly greater emission reductions,” he said, “and reductions will continue to increase. Hybrids help fight climate change but burn gasoline and produce some tailpipe emissions. The best BEVs are far more energy-efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles, including hybrids. BEV owners who recharge at home spend considerably less on fuel.”

The CEO of the luxury brand Mercedes, a symbol of wealth and class concurs, Ola Kalleniues, has told the German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung that its future focus will be on EVs, as it finds them “technically superior” to combustion engines, even if they work on e-fuels. “The electric car is still a young technology compared to the combustion engine. We still see great potential for progress: the electric drive will overtake the internal combustion engine in terms of performance before the end of this decade,” CEO Kalleniues explained.

As a result, Mercedes will develop electric-only vehicle architectures and will adapt them to accommodate ICE vehicles when it makes business sense. Ultimately, the company wants to achieve CO2 neutrality by 2039.

Florida Senator Joins the EVs vs. Hybrids vs. ICEVs War

Hybrids vs. EVs is a proposition that maintains the false myth of internal combustion engine (ICE) preference and necessity. The EPA recently updated its “Electric Vehicle Myths” page, which deconstructs accusations of EV pollution due to power plants and battery manufacturing; failure of the grid; and lack of charging, range, and safety.

Yet Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) has joined a cohort of other Republican fossil fuel sycophants and introduced the Directing Independent Research To Yield Carbon Assessment Regarding Electric Vehicles (DIRTY CAR EV) Act.

Rolls right off your tongue, doesn’t it?

The Act’s goal is to conduct a study on the true carbon footprint of EVs and research the ramifications of widespread EV usage on the country’s electrical grid. In theory, this makes sense — we want to know factually the total impact of vehicles on the environment, both EVs and ICE vehicles.

The problem is in the acronym for the Act, as it predetermines the “dirty” end result of the suggested research. Actual peer-reviewed research is objective so that it can point to validity and reliability. It doesn’t start with a foregone conclusion — that isn’t really research; it’s a position wrapped up in opinion, couched in hyperbole, and injected with political rancor.

“The Biden administration continues to push the use of electric vehicles by forcing the automotive industry to shift away from the use of fossil fuels,” Senator Scott said. “We need clear data on what impacts this will have on American families and our environment. There is ample evidence to suggest that EVs are not as clean as people are being led to believe and folks deserve to know the truth. Knowing the carbon footprint of each electric vehicle and the impact on our electrical grids are key to making informed decisions and preventing widespread government regulations and gross overreach.”

Arguing that the Biden administration’s plan would effectively force US citizens to buy EVs, the Group of Five positions themselves as EV manufacturing experts. They cite stats and positions that are convenient to their own intended end results:

  • The IEA says we will need 30 times the current global supply of several key minerals for the EV transition. The IEA’s actual report is more complex than this simple statement. The IEA has determined that mineral demand from EVs and battery storage grows tenfold in the IEA’s Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) and 30 times in the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) over the period to 2040. By weight, mineral demand in 2040 is dominated by graphite, copper, and nickel. Lithium sees the fastest growth rate, with demand growing by over 40 times in the SDS. They say that the shift towards lower-cobalt chemistries for batteries helps to limit growth in cobalt, displaced by growth in nickel.
  • China sources most of these minerals. Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a UK-based consultancy, estimates China currently has 75% of the world’s cobalt refining capacity and 59% of its lithium processing capacity. EVs in the years 2025 and after, though, could shift to sodium-ion or lithium-sulfur battery cells that could be up to two-thirds cheaper than today’s lithium-ion cells. That shift will be dependent on breakthroughs in electrochemistry. US and European startups are accelerating research to develop new batteries using sodium and sulfur that could reduce China’s battery dominance, open up greater looming supply networks, and lead to mass market EVs.
  • By halting critical US mining project, the Biden administration has created a national security risk. Yes, the Biden administration established a 20-year moratorium on mining upstream from Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a vast preserve of lakes and woods that has been at the center of a fierce dispute over a proposed copper and nickel mine. Yet, in 2022, the mining industry and supporters in Congress cheered Biden’s use of the 1950 Defense Production Act to increase US supplies of lithium, nickel, and other minerals needed for EV batteries and other clean energy technology. To meet the nation’s climate, infrastructure, and global competitiveness goals, the administration says that the US must expand and accelerate responsible domestic production of critical minerals in a manner that upholds strong environmental, labor, safety, Tribal consultation, and community engagement standards. Moreover, this week, the White House released a fact sheet that spoke to the need to modernize US 150-year-old mining laws and to responsibly develop domestic critical minerals.

The DIRTY CAR EV Act is little more than an attention-getting device that has no actual merit and, instead, attempts to stall the necessary transition to electrifying everything. Florida seems to adhere to the mantra that bad press is better than no press, doesn’t it?

It’s important to note that in late 2022 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT’s) Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan. This was Florida’s framework for implementing the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (NEVI). Importantly, the state pledged to invest funding for EV infrastructure improvements to address charging gaps identified in the market. The 5-year plan supports the goals and objectives of not only the state’s long-range transportation plan but also the state’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Master Plan (EVMP).

It’s interesting that so many federal fiscal benefits are coming to Florida — and Scott wanted nothing to do with the legislation behind the funding that’s making it all possible.

Final Thoughts about EVs vs. Hybrids

Meanwhile, a new Greenpeace East Asia report indicates that foreign automakers are on track to lose market share in China as new energy vehicle sales surge, even under the most conservative forecast. As a result, as China’s auto market electrifies, automakers will face high levels of unused production capacity for combustion engine vehicles.

Chinese automakers have a higher proportion of existing and planned new energy vehicle production capacity than their foreign-invested competitors. Greenpeace East Asia recommends that all automakers must phase out combustion engine vehicles before 2030 and should transform existing combustion engine vehicle production capacity into electric vehicle production lines. There’s no room in that recommendation for hybrids.


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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

Carolyn Fortuna has 1286 posts and counting. See all posts by Carolyn Fortuna