How Used Cars Can Be Greener Than Hybrids

images (22)Used Vehicles and the Environment

There is perhaps no greater symbol for man’s relationship with the environment than that of the oilrig. The fact is, Americans are addicted to oil, along with the rest of the world. We use it for heating, energy, transportation, plastic, and a host of other necessities that make up nearly every part of modern life. So why would used cars be an environmental boon?


Many people look at the environmental crisis and are driven to buy a hybrid. These autos require less gasoline to operate because they also utilize electric batteries. However, most of them take an enormous amount of energy to build – on some estimates, in the neighborhood of one hundred million BTUs of energy, about the same as one thousand gallons of gasoline. That means that every new hybrid on the market has already driven the equivalent of nearly 50,000 miles or more, when you compare BTU usage.

Additionally, hybrids cause some serious problems when it comes to emissions. These vehicles run off of two engines, which raises production costs through the roof in terms of air quality. Plus, electric batteries are filled with dangerous chemicals, many of which are strip-mined in areas with less stringent environmental policies than the United States, a classic example of shifting-the-burden. It is estimated that many hybrids actually leave the environment worse off due to the material cost of transporting heavy batteries across the ocean on tankers. And, while plug-in autos sound like a good idea, the electricity used to power them comes from a coal plant, which can cause more pollution than gasoline, in the long run.

The Manufacturing Process

When considering the environmental impact of a car purchase, MPG is typically the first condition to come to mind. This is not an altogether misguided move, as the more efficient the car is, the less energy it will expend and the fewer pollutants it will release into the atmosphere. However, every new car takes energy to produce. This is true of traditional SUVs, plug-in electric vehicles, and hybrids.

Used Autos

Used cars, on the other hand, have already been produced, so they don’t add any new burden on the environment. This, of course, is especially true for well-maintained vehicles that already have great gas mileage. The environmental savings from buying a compact car with an MPG of around 35, for example, is immense. Many recent studies have shown that used cars are often a better environmental investment than a new hybrid, due simply to the lack of manufacturing cost and the efficiency of many late 90s and early 2000s commuter vehicles. At the end of the day, the rust bucket might win out over the shiny new hybrid, even with all the marketing in the world.


Electric Versus Traditional Car Engines

download (65)According to the EPA, a majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and trucks. In past years, gas from transportation is the second largest contributor. The United States’ average commute is roughly 20 miles which translates to a 0.01 metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted for just one trip. Though seemingly small, this adds up fast throughout the year as everyone commutes. Out of all transportation, about 1,750,000 metric tons is emitted in a year. This statistic only includes the United States and is a dangerously high number.

The consequences of all the air pollutants does not come at no risk. The large amount of carbon dioxide emitted every year is what experts believe is the cause of global warming. The warming can endanger our health and can cause extreme weather such as higher sea levels due to flooding and droughts. Because oil is a non-renewable resource, it will only become more difficult to obtain, which will make the burning of gasoline even worse.

With all the seemingly negative effects of traditional car engines, there are some positives. Engines that run on gas will travel much further than an electric engine. All electric cars will only travel up to 100 miles on a full charge before needing to be plugged in again. If a consumer is not near somewhere they can charge, this can be a cause for concern to the individual. Charging stations have not become a commodity that is everywhere yet. Also, the price for a car with a combustion engine will be priced lower than that of a pure hybrid vehicle. The average price to buy the hybrid car brand new can reach up to $30,000, but a regular midsize sedan has an average price of around $18,000.

Although electric vehicles are priced significantly higher than the others, they will typically last several years longer than a gasoline based car. A battery in the electric car will last up to 100,000 miles before needing to be replaced. With no engine to give maintenance to, money is saved through the lack of oil changes and upkeep. In addition, brakes will last notably longer therefore making it even more cost efficient. Lastly, and most important, zero emissions will flow out from the electric vehicle. Some emissions are exuded to make the electricity to charge the car, but it does not compare to the greenhouses gases put into the air through combustion engines.

The demand for an all hybrid car has increased within the past decade, yet traditional cars still sell better. According to the EIA, electric cars sell at a very small fraction compared to gas cars. Yet, by 2040, the growth rate of electric cars is expected to be 11%, whereas conventional cars will only grow by 0.1%. Most family households are presumed to have the two types of vehicles in the future, one for traveling far distances and the other for riding around town. If these predictions are correct, transportation will no longer be a tremendous contributor of greenhouse gases and each individual’s carbon footprint will not have as much of an impact on the environment.