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Is a hybrid car 'eco-friendly' or not?

Hybrid Cars (Good Housekeeping)

Is a hybrid car 'eco-friendly' or not? It seems like an easy question to answer at first glance, but it is not. First of all, the U.S. and Europe answer 'no'. In the United States, the country that has filled half of the new cars sold locally by 2030, hybrid cars are not included in the eco-friendly car category. The European Union (EU) plans to ban the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles in the EU from 2035, including hybrid vehicles.

South Korea says “yes”. First, the ‘Act on Promotion of Development and Distribution of Eco-Friendly Vehicles’ classifies hybrid vehicles as strictly eco-friendly vehicles. Even with the government announcement (five-year plan for eco-friendly vehicle distribution) that the cumulative supply of eco-friendly vehicles will be achieved by 2025, more than half (53%, 1.5 million units) of hybrid vehicles are in the market. Toyota, Japan's largest automaker, is of the same opinion as the Korean government.

The reason why hybrid cars are considered eco-friendly cars is simple. Hybrid cars are more eco-friendly than electric vehicles in places that do not produce 'clean electricity' that does not emit greenhouse gases. Of course, environmental groups such as Greenpeace are jumping. He criticizes the auto industry for creating coercive logic to sell more internal combustion engine vehicles.

Has the Korean government been deceived by the twists and turns of the automobile industry? According to the Korea Electric Power Corporation's 'Electricity Statistical Breaking News', the proportion of coal and gas power generation in domestic electricity production in January to May this year was 62%, the same as last year. This is much higher than the share of coal and gas power generation in all OECD member countries (49%) last year, compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The amount of carbon dioxide emitted when producing 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electrical energy in Korea is 459.4 g (greenhouse gas emission factor, as of 2017). About 72 kg of carbon dioxide is emitted when a round trip (about 800 km) from Seoul to Busan in Hyundai Motor’s electric vehicle ‘IONIQ 5’ runs 5.1 km per 1 kWh of electricity.

On the other hand, if you drive the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Hyundai Grandeur Hybrid, which emit 91g and 108g of carbon dioxide per 1km of driving distance, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted is 73kg and 86kg, respectively. Hybrid vehicles emit slightly more carbon dioxide than electric vehicles.

If we look at the entire life cycle of automobiles and fuels, from production to driving and disposal, the results may be different. Han-ho Song, professor of mechanical engineering at Seoul National University, said in a recent article in AutoJournal, “In the case of domestic semi-mid-size cars, there was little difference in greenhouse gas emissions between hybrid and electric vehicles when considering the process of producing, assembling, operating, and disposing of automobile raw materials and parts.” said. It was pointed out that electric vehicles emit a lot of carbon in the process of disposing of used batteries.

In a report published in 2018, the Korea Energy Economics Institute, a national research institute, also urged the government to reconsider the electric vehicle supply policy, saying, “Electric vehicles also emit significant particulate matter (PM10) from brake pad and tire wear and the stage of electricity generation.”

The government’s measures to ‘use hybrid cars as a realistic alternative to greenhouse gas reduction’ also focus on this. Lee Min-woo, head of the automobile division of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, said, “Eco-friendly vehicle policies may vary depending on each country’s electricity generation structure, people’s driving habits, and fuel charging convenience. “Considering the difficult apartment-centered housing conditions, hybrid vehicles should be supplied in parallel with electric vehicles for the time being,” he said.

With these discussions in mind, we come to the conclusion that the elimination of internal combustion locomotives and the expansion of electric vehicles are not the only options. The ‘don’t ask subsidy for electric vehicles’, which does not include the restructuring of the existing power generation structure, restraints on passenger car use, and policies to promote public transportation, can have a negative impact on the environment by significantly increasing the supply of automobiles and demand for electricity.

Another problem is “regressiveness,” which provides subsidies to high-income people who purchase expensive electric vehicles and does not have eco-friendly transportation measures for the convenience of ordinary people who ride public transportation. Jae-Young Lee, Senior Research Fellow at Daejeon Sejong Research Institute (Green Coalition Steering Committee), said, “The most important thing for carbon reduction is to encourage people to use walking, bicycle, and public transportation rather than riding a car. After changing and increasing the proportion of bicycles and public transportation sufficiently, we came up with a plan to supply electric vehicles as a last resort,” he said.


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