When I am surfing the Green sites of the interweb (including our own) I see a lot of very thoughtful and inspiring conversation, and I see a lot of misleading generalizations. One of the most abundant of the ladder is the comment "that car is not Green because when you plug it in it is using fossil fuels and contributing to global warming!" Here's an example from our post on the Aptera. The issue of the indirect carbon emissions from plugging a hybrid into the "Grid" is an important one that needs to be scrutinized, however, those snap criticisms are misleading and hardly productive.
Such a statement implies that because of the fossil fuels being burned to provide the electricity to these cars, there is no net reduction in emissions or the reduction is somehow insignificant. That is just not the case.
This past week the journal Environmental Science & Technology published a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that covers this very issue. The study took a look at the Green House Gas emissions (GHG) of Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV's) as compared to conventional vehicles (CVs) and charge-sustaining hybrids (HEVs).
What they found was that at current average GHG intensity levels from electricity in the US, while the PHEVs only offered a small net reduction in emissions over the HEVs (5%), they offered huge reductions as compared with CVs (32%). However, in areas that have above average GHG intensity, eg. where Coal is still the dominant power generator, the HEVs out performed the PHEVs, yet both still beat out CVs. Now obviously if our energy production improves it's GHG then the PHEV will gain an even greater leading in the "Green" factor, but if our power plants start emitting more GHG then the effectives of the PHEV is diminished.
To sum this all up in layman's terms:
- Both plug in hybrids and self-charging hybrids are more efficient than old school gas cars.
- Even though they use electricity, on average plug in hybrids are more efficient than the self-charging hybrids so stop hating on the electric cars!
The significance of all this is there is no one solution to the problem of global warming, and we need a holistic approach, however, we can't be shunning technologies that represent vast improvements to the status quo simply because they are not perfect. Small steps Grasshopper...
To answer the question asked in the title, yes, I think they are.
The terms "Green" and "Eco-friendly" are subjective. They hold different meaning to different people so I should explain what we mean when we use them. We like to use the term "Green" or "Eco-friendly" to describe something that helps people live a more sustainable life. We understand that this is not the only way, or even the most appropriate way, to define these terms, but we want to bring all types into the Green so we favor a definition that we feel is more inviting and empowering.
[via Sustainable Research]
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