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Debate: Plug-in hybrids

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Should plug-in hybrids by a major part of plans to combat global warming?

Background and context

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid vehicle with batteries that can be recharged by connecting a plug to an electric power source. It shares the characteristics of both conventional hybrid electric vehicles, having an electric motor and a backup internal combustion engine for power, and of battery electric vehicles, also having a plug to connect to the electric grid. Most PHEVs on the road today are passenger cars, but there are also PHEV versions of commercial passenger vans, utility trucks, school buses, motorcycles, scooters, and military vehicles. The GM EV1, the Toyota Prius, the Tzero and others are all steps leading in that direction.Interest in plug-in hybrids increased in 2006 to such a level that the architecture was included as an area of research in President George W. Bush's advanced energy initiative and mentioned in his 2007 State of the Union Address. However, designing a battery that will store a lot of energy and handle power surges has been a real problem for automakers. Designing a practical plug-in hybrid is another story, and it’s all about the battery, or batteries. SO whether Hybrid Cars really will work, is feasable enough for the huge investment it may require, or is sustainable enough to become the standard remains the question

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Global warming: Will the plug-in hybrid car help reduce emissions, combat global warming?

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Yes

  • PHEV's can substantially reduce carbon emissions. PHEV's can increase drive-train efficiency results and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) predicts that, on average, a typical American driver is expected to achieve about a 15% reduction in net CO2 emissions compared to the driver of a regular hybrid, based on the 2005 distribution of power sources feeding the U.S. electrical grid.
  • PHEV's can act as "back-up batteries" for grid and lower emissions. PHEV's can lower a country’s carbon emissions by acting as a "back-up battery" for the national grid because they can operate in a mode called "vehicle to grid". V2G: Vehicle to Power Grid
  • Plug-in hybrids can help reduce smog. The Ontario Medical Association announced that smog is responsible for an estimated 9,500 premature deaths in the Ontario every year. Therefore PHEVs will be very beneficial to tackle this problem.


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No

  • Plug-In Hybrids increase demand for dirty electricity. Electricity is expensive and the production is hardly pollution-free. A study by the ACEEE predicts that widespread PHEV use in heavily coal-dependent areas would result in an increase in local net sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions, given emissions levels from most coal plants currently supplying power to the grid.A reality check on Plug-In Hybrids
  • The need for oil would hardly be reduced. Half of the oil drilled is not even used for fuel, but rather plastics, pills, vaseline, machines lubricants, bags, make-up, clothing, carpet, computer components, T.V. set compnents (about 30% of the set), hospital I.V.'s or hypodermic needles. And ironically hydrogen-powered and electric cars require plastics made from oil. Study Projects Death, Illness from Coal Power Plants
  • A plug-in hybrid (with a small battery pack) is much more abusive to the batteries than a pure electric car is. This seems counter-intuitive, so bear with me. Let’s say your particular battery design is good for 500 full charge-discharge cycles. On a pure electric car that goes 250 miles per charge, the battery pack should last 500 X 250 = 125,000 miles. On the other hand, a hybrid with, say, a 50 miles range will cause the capacity of the batteries to drop much sooner: 500 X 50 = 25,000 miles
  • The mix of the grid changes constantly and differs by locality, region, state, country, etc. Conducting WtoW analyses is a moving project with no end, which weakens argument data against other disciplines or expert that are not engineers.
  • Disadvantages of plug-in hybrids include the additional cost, weight, and size of a larger battery pack. The dual drive train may also require additional resources.
  • Many people living in apartments, condominiums, and townhouses do not have garages. With only on-street parking available, they will need access to electrical outlets to take advantage of all-electric operation. New electrical outlets near their places of residence, or in commercial or public parking lots or streets will need to be installed for them to gain the full advantage of PHEVs.
  • If fuel costs cheaper, there will be a rebound effect on the fuel economy. A driver who replaces a car with a fuel-efficient model may then take advantage of cheaper running costs to drive further and more often.


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Economics: Are plug-in hybrids economical?

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Yes

  • The operating costs of PHEVs are lower than gasoline cars. The cost for electricity to power plug-in hybrids for all-electric operation has been estimated at less than one quarter of the cost of gasoline.(article) In a 2008 research estimate in California, a PHEV can travel 30 miles for just US$ 1.04 (the same mileage as a gallon of gasoline costing $4.08). Furthermore, the internal combustion engine (ICE) is further reduced in size; the electric motor and battery pack are scaled up; and a cable is provided, to connect the car to the national grid via wall sockets. With heavy-duty electrical components taking more of the strain, the ICE runs for shorter periods of time, thus improving the car’s efficiency.
  • Surveys indicate strong market potential for plug-in hybrids. Potential will grow over time as public familiarity with the technology increases. The majority of those surveyed preferred being able to charge their car at home over having to fuel it at a gasoline station. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute (http://www.epri.com/ (EPRI)) found that consumers like plug-ins because they would offer the best of both worlds: the gas savings and emissions reduction benefits of battery powered electric vehicles, and the range of a "normal" car.



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No

  • Though Plug-In Hybrids cut fossil-fuel consumption, it increases electricity consumption. e.g. In a country of about 33 million people, the plug-in hybrid is realistically capable of shifting 500 PJ of load from oil to electricity. This works out to about 11.5 kWh per person, per day! This will especially be true for people who need to travel long distances i.e. people who will need to charge the car more frequently.
  • Increased electricity consumption may even increase black-outs and related problems in many areas.
  • The major drawback of the plug-in hybrid is its higher capital cost from the extra battery capacity. The cost of this plug-in battery (when assembled into packs) to carmakers, using present technology, will be three to five times the average cost of today’s hybrid batteries—around $5,000 to $7,000 per pack.
  • The life of either battery technology, nickel metal hydride or lithium ion, in the plug-in application is not known. There is a significant risk that its life will be shorter than that of conventional hybrid car batteries. This will further escalate maintenance costs.
  • The other issue of the plug-in is that it is hardly a better solution if the electricity comes from coal or some other polluting resource.




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Energy independence: Are PHEV's central to national energy independence?

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Yes



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No

  • All PHEVs will do is shift the energy dependence from one source to another i.e. from oil to electricity. For instance accordin to the Office of Energy Efficiency (Canada), passenger transport consumes roughly about 15.6% of the total energy production of the country. Thus, in a country of about 33 million people, the plug-in hybrid is realistically capable of shifting 500 PJ of load from oil to electricity. This works out to about 11.5 kWh per person, per day. That is a large chunk of electricity.
  • The emergence of plug-in hybrids depends on the viability of mass-manufactured lithium ion battery technologies. That technology may not be available for a decade or more, according to Dr. Menahem Anderman, a leading expert on advanced automobile batteries
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Social: What are the social pros and cons of hybrid vehicles?

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Yes

  • PHEV's are quieter than combustion vehicles. A major annoyance and even social problem in urban areas and around freeways, is the noise that combustion engines make. This noise pollution can be eliminated by switching to hybrid plug-in electric vehicles.



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No

  • The shift to electricity may cause black-outs in many areas. In the short-run if PHEVs are used at mass, it will certainly trigger the problem already existing in so many places.
  • PHEVs cannot be trusted for long miles as there isn't many existent charging stations available. Thus if PHEVs are made the new standard, society will have to bear the economic and opportunity cost of building stations, foregoing resource allocation in other important areas.




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Pro/con sources

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Yes


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No

See also

External links and resources

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