Hybrid cars

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Hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius (figure 20.19) have more-efficient engines and electric regenerative braking, but to be honest, today's hybrid vehicles don't really stand out from the crowd (figure 20.9).

The horizontal bars in figure 20.9 highlight a few cars including two hybrids. Whereas the average new car in the UK emits 168 g, the hybrid Prius emits about 100 g of CO2 per km, as do several other non-hybrid vehicles - the VW Polo blue motion emits 99g/km, and there's a Smart car that emits 88 g/km.

The Lexus RX400h is the second hybrid, advertised with the slogan "LOW POLLUTION. ZERO GUILT." But its CO2 emissions are 192 g/km -worse than the average UK car! The advertising standards authority ruled that this advertisement breached the advertising codes on Truthfulness, Comparisons and Environmental claims. "We considered that ... readers were likely to understand that the car caused little or no harm to the environment, which was not the case, and had low emissions in comparison with all cars, which was also not the case."

In practice, hybrid technologies seem to give fuel savings of 20 or 30%. So neither these petrol/electric hybrids, nor the petrol/hydraulic hybrid featured in figure 20.17 seems to me to have really cracked the transport challenge. A 30% reduction in fossil-fuel consumption is impressive, but it's not enough by this book's standards. Our opening assumption was that we want to get off fossil fuels, or at least to reduce fossil fuel use by 90%. Can this goal be achieved without reverting to bicycles?

Figure 20.19. Toyota Prius - according to Jeremy Clarkson, "a very expensive, very complex, not terribly green, slow, cheaply made, and pointless way of moving around."

Figure 20.20. Electric vehicles. From left to right: the G-Wiz; the rotting corpse of a Sinclair C5; a Citroen Berlingo; and an Elettrica.

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