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In Defence of Plug-in Hybrids

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17 Sep 2020

Guest post by Mike Jonas,

There is an article today from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

Plug-in hybrids are a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’

that attacks plug-in hybrid vehicles because

Carbon dioxide emissions from plug-in hybrid cars are as much as two-and-a-half times higher than official tests suggest, according to new research.

The greens (Transport and Environment and Greenpeace) are now attacking plug-in hybrids, and calling for them to be banned, saying “false claims of lower emissions are a ploy by car manufacturers to go on producing SUVs and petrol and diesel engines.“.

I feel that it is worth noting the following:

1. False claims of lower emissions by plug-in hybrids cannot be a ploy by car manufacturers to go on producing SUVs and petrol and diesel engines, because they give plug-in hybrids better green credentials than SUVs and petrol and diesel engines, not worse.

2.Even the data that Transport and Environment and Greenpeace are using shows that plug-in hybrids emit less CO2 than petrol or diesel cars.

3. Those emissions can be reduced anyway – if that is really what is needed – simply by getting users to charge more at home instead of always using the petrol/diesel engine to charge the batteries.

4. The major problem that plug-in hybrids solve was never CO2 emissions. Their real value lies in cutting city pollution.

Petrol/diesel exhaust fumes have become a major problem in densely-populated cities, and plug-in hybrids are a promising way of reducing the problem. By using the battery when in a city, the city’s air is kept clean. By using the petrol/diesel when outside the city, the plug-in hybrid does not have the range limitation of a battery-only vehicle. Also, on a very cold day, when a battery is less effective, the petrol/diesel keeps the plug-in hybrid going.

There is an argument, of course, that charging at home uses grid electricity, a lot of which is coal-fired, and therefore the plug-in hybrid (or any electric vehicle) is not cutting CO2 emissions anyway. That argument may well be valid, but the big advantage of the electric vehicle is that it moves the exhaust fumes away from the city. Once you understand that CO2 emissions are of no importance at all compared to city pollution, the use of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in cities starts to make a lot of sense.

Footnote: This whole thing looks like the greens eating their own young. After all, it was the greens who pressed for things like plug-in hybrids in the first place. But what I think is really going on is that this particular variety of greenism – or maybe even all of greenism – is fundamentally opposed to anything that can work to make people’s lives more independent, more prosperous and more comfortable. If they get their way on banning plug-in hybrids, it won’t be long before they attack the next thing that works.

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