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Is There Any Point In Hybrid Cars?

September 24, 2016

By Paul Homewood 



By Alister Doyle | September 19 2016

(Reuters) The last gasoline-powered car will have to be sold by about 2035 to put the world on track to limit global warming to the most stringent goal set by world leaders last year, a study said on Thursday.

The report, by a Climate Action Tracker (CAT) backed by three European research groups, said a drastic shift was needed towards clean electric cars and fuel efficiency since transport emits about 14 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions.

Last December, world leaders at a Paris summit set a goal of limiting a rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for a much tougher 1.5 C (2.7F) ceiling.

“We calculate that the last gasoline/diesel car will have to be sold by roughly 2035,” the CAT report said, to make the car fleet consistent with staying below 1.5C. It assumes the last fossil-fuel vehicles would be on the roads until 2050.


As the report indicates, this is a much stiffer target than generally thought before. As far as the UK is concerned, cars account for 11% of GHG emissions, plus another 7% for HGV and vans.





The Committee on Climate Change, in their Fifth Carbon Budget, are planning on electric cars and vans accounting for 61% of sales by 2030, but crucially hybrids account for 38%.




Meanwhile, electric car sales still fail to make much headway, with pure electric cars accounting for just 0.4% this year so far. Hybrids fare slightly better with 1.8%.




But just how much difference do hybrids make, and are they cost effective?

Many manufacturers now offer hybrid alternatives, so it is easy to compare like with like. Ford, for instance, have a hybrid version of the Mondeo Titanium. It has similar performance to the 1.5 Duratorq diesel model, so we can make a few comparisons:


  1.5 Duratorq Hybrid
OTR Price £24395 £27045
Mpg – combined 78.5 70.6
Max speed 119 mph 116 mph



Of course, real life fuel economy will be worse than the manufacturers figures, but this should apply to both models.

So we find that, not only is the hybrid dearer, it actually has poorer fuel economy. (It should be pointed out that the hybrid is better for urban driving).


There are two other factors to take account of:


1) Ford’s warranty covers the battery for up to 3 years/60000 miles. But, as with all car warranties, this only covers repair or replacement as a result of a manufacturing defect.

Whether they would replace a battery that started to deteriorate before then is anybody’s guess.

What we do know, though, is that Ford’s extended warranty for Years 3 and 4 specifically excludes batteries. This would seem to indicate that they have little confidence that the hybrid battery would last much longer then 3 years.

According to the Hybrid Shop in the US, “despite the sterling reputation of Toyota’s hybrid power storage systems, any given battery can only survive so many charge cycles, and cars reaching into the 100,000 mile range are certainly within the borders of the battery pack danger zone”, and replacement batteries would cost at least $3600.

While this may not affect driver of newish cars, it is likely to mean that second hand prices for hybrid cars will be pretty poor, when it comes to trade them in.


2) The Mondeo hybrid is only available in 4-door, presumably because of the amount of space the battery takes up. This is a definite drawback, particularly as storage space is 30% less than the 5-door (and even less compared with the 2-seat mode).



On the face of it, hybrids now have little going for them. In reality, conventional cars have caught them up in terms of fuel efficiency.

There should be little surprise about this, car manufacturers have been steadily improving this for decades, and without any need for government diktats.

As the Committee on Climate Change show, this has enabled emissions from domestic transport to remain pretty stable, despite the large increase in the number of cars on the road since 1990.





Returning to the initial topic, it is hard to see any significant reduction in emissions arising from large scale deployment of hybrid cars, either in the UK or world wide. It appears to be pure electric cars or bust. 

  1. September 24, 2016 6:08 pm

    If you drive in a hilly, urban area, the regenerative braking is worthwhile!

    • Dave Ward permalink
      September 24, 2016 6:26 pm

      But that’s countered by the extra energy used to haul that heavy battery pack up the hill in the first place!!

      • September 24, 2016 9:02 pm

        Have you got a weightless car to put that heavy battery into?

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      September 24, 2016 7:16 pm

      When going down hill in a diesel taking your foot off the accelerator means the engine consumes no (zero) fuel. For downhill the only advantage for hybrid is when gravity exceeds rolling resistance when regenerative braking store energy. For a careful driver who anticipates the road the advantages from regenerative braking are less than for a boy racer.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        September 24, 2016 9:42 pm

        “When going down hill in a diesel taking your foot off the accelerator means the engine consumes no (zero) fuel”

        That applies to petrol engines as well, and has done for many years (known as “Overrun Fuel Cut-Off”). I make use of this all the time, but the downside is constantly finding my rear view obscured by following drivers who normally expect to drive at full speed until the last possible moment, and then stand on the brakes. People like this (probably) stand to gain the most from a hybrid, but if they learned to look ahead, and drive more smoothly in the first place they might find their fuel bills dropping quite a bit…

        And should you assume that I’m a “dawdler” – nothing could be further from the truth. I learned long ago that it is possible to make good progress with limited performance by planning ahead and not constantly accelerating and braking.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        September 25, 2016 1:44 pm

        Dave Ward
        Only mentioned diesels specifically as the article compared diesels and hybrids.
        I agree with all you say, including the filled rear view mirror. By anticipating situations you can make good progress in virtually all situations without risking your life and using fuel unnecessarily.

  2. September 24, 2016 7:07 pm

    The analysis is not exhaustive or conclusive in general.
    We have driven a Ford Hybrid Escape AWD small SUV with class 1 tow hitch since July 2007. Car now has about 70000 miles. Hybrid upcharge paid for itself in 2.5 years. We are now well over $10k to the good in gasoline cost savings.
    Battery is still going strong. There are 2wd versions of the Hybrid Escape in the NYC cab fleet with over 300,000 miles and no battery probems yet. This is because the battery is floated between about 45% and 55% SOC, so never drained like a plug in electric.

    In general, the bigger the vehicle and the more it is driven in city stop/go traffic the more a full hybrid makes sense. We get 32mpg city and 28mpg highway ay 70mph. The comparable V6 AWD Escape gets ~22 city and 24 highway. There are a number of engineering tricks. Atkinson cycle 2liter I4 at 120 hp versus Otto cycle 3.6 liter V6 at 200 hp. Atkinson is ~15% more fuel efficient than a comparable HP Otto cycle but lacks torque. Smaller displacement directly saves fuel. I4 uses regular, the V6 needs premium gas. That is, in the US at present, almost a $1/gallon price difference (~$2.20 versus ~$3.05). Low torque in the Atkinson cycle I4 doesn’t matter since the 85hp electric machine provides it. Engine off at stop saves 5-8 percent depending on drive conditions. Regen braking saves about 10%. DCT transmission saves 5% plus enables idle off. Total weight disadvantage compared to an AWD V6 only about 300 pounds dry. 11 gallon fuel tank versus 18 on the V6 for essentially equivalent 350 mile range. Adds up to about 45% better fuel economy plus the additional regular/premium savings.

    • Sean permalink
      September 24, 2016 8:17 pm

      I looked at a hybrid vs. a standard engine in the Escape 7 years ago but I compared the front wheel drive small engine vs.hybrid. My overall fuel economy is 26 mpg and if your overall hybrid economy is ~30 mpg then you only save about 70 gallons of gasoline per year. If regular gas was $3 per gallon (and it was close to that when I purchased 7 years ago), that’s less than $200 per year saving. As I recall, when you included dealer discounts (which was substantial on the non-hybrid vehicles) I saw no way the difference in price between the hybrid and the small gasoline engine could be made up on fuel savings.
      I think you can make a good argument for smaller, lighter vehicles with low drag coefficients. I often wonder how much fuel could be saved simply by replacing side mirrors with cameras and internal video screens plus you could eliminate blind spots. Then smooth the underside of the car and add movable louvres to the front of the car where air is directed to the radiator. I’ve heard aerodynamic changes coupled with careful driving can more than double mileage with a standard drivetrain, particularly for highway driving.

      • September 25, 2016 3:26 am

        The small engine 2wd Escape was a useless driving dogfor us. We tried it. Thats why I was careful to compare ‘like to like’. Hybrid I4 to standard V6 Awd both with class 1 tow capability at similar trim price levels (leather seats, built in 2007 navigation). Similar acceleration and torque (towing), and similar AWD mpg penalties (about 1mpg). Comparing apples to oranges produces a fruit salad.
        Plus we got a ~$3500 tax credit off the top. Trust this HBS grad. It was a very good deal for what we wanted/needed given our life style. We did run the numbers beforehand. And they still compute today. We call the car Kermy, because we bought a light grey green one, the same as advertized in SciAm in 2007 by no less than Kermit the Frog on behalf of Ford. Just before I cancelled my Sci Am 40 year long subscription (since a kid) thanks to the warmunism there.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      September 24, 2016 9:51 pm

      “With over 300,000 miles and no battery problems yet”

      That doesn’t mean it is still as good as the day you bought it. Unless you have some form of accurate capacity monitor you won’t notice a gradual drop in stored energy – this will only be apparent as less miles in “electric only” mode, or a small drop in miles per gallon due to more frequent running of the engine in city traffic.

      • September 25, 2016 3:02 am

        DW, we still do over 5km E only on gravel roads up/down hill along the Toccoa River over the Shallowford River Bridge to our favorite Chatahoochee National Park canoe launch place. Electric only under 15 mph. Both ways; Upriver is net uphill but not a lot given the grosser up/down Southern Appalachian mountain roads.
        Understand your argument. Have several issued patents in the space. Am saying, am not detecting any Ford Escape hybrid NiMH battery degredation yet. So the negative hybrid arguement really depends. And I own and have been avidly monotoring one cor near a decade to learn the truth. As posted.

    • September 25, 2016 6:45 am

      @ristvan, good comments about hybrids. David MacKay made the fuel saving point in SEWTHA, page 126. You would have achieved the same fuel savings with a diesel but the particulate matter is a huge problem. In North America, the comparative prices of gasoline and electricity make all-electric cars the obvious choice, but in the UK and Europe electricity is so expensive that there’s no profit.

      • Billy Liar permalink
        September 25, 2016 10:01 pm

        Why is the particulate matter a ‘huge problem’ with modern diesels? My 2 litre 190HP diesel car has PM10 = 0 through the use of a particulate filter. It also uses urea to depress NOx to 52 mg/km and this is for a 4-wheel drive automatic shift vehicle.

  3. September 24, 2016 7:15 pm

    There will have to be a large increase in electrical generating capacity to charge up all the (predicted) battery cars.
    And where is all this power going to come from?
    Wind & solar?
    My backside, more likely.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      September 24, 2016 7:25 pm

      Only if you increase your Methane production.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        September 24, 2016 7:29 pm

        A battery of mung bean eating greenies in every garage?

    • September 24, 2016 7:56 pm

      In general power grids should have spare capacity overnight when demand is low compared to the rest of the full 24 hour day. Electric cars recharged then can also get night-rate electricity at much lower cost than daytime.

      Batteries are heavy but a serial hybrid doesn’t need all the parts of a standard fuel-burning car.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    September 24, 2016 9:00 pm

    My two-penneth with personal experience of Audi-A4 diesel manual vs Lexus CT200h petrol-hybrid automatic

    Over 3 yrs/40,000 miles of company driving with regular day trips of 50-100 miles the diesel delivered 55mpg overall. My circumstances changed, and much more urban driving, very few long trips 45-50 mpg overall. Then changed to petrol-hybrid which continued the latter pattern, and it delivers 56mpg overall.

    The gain is ~10% extra mpg, but far fewer emissions ‘cos now petrol vs diesel. (Not forgetting the hybrid is auto gearbox vs manual gearbox)

    The batteries take up valuable luggage space AND fuel-tank space. The Audi had a range of ~650 miles, the Lexus ~400 miles.

    In heavy stop-start congestion emissions can be zero in 100% EV mode for a couple of miles.

  5. Frank Everest permalink
    September 24, 2016 9:08 pm

    Don’t forget that EVERY INCH of a hybrid vehicle’s mileage comes from petrol or diesel. Only plug-in hybrids get any mileage from the grid.
    The reason hybrids seem to offer better MPG (despite having to lug all that extra mechanical complexity and the battery about) is that the IC engine can be run at higher efficiency because it doesn’t have to provide sufficient power for exciting acceleration!

    • September 25, 2016 3:04 am

      There are additional other reasons explained in a comment above.

  6. John F. Hultquist permalink
    September 24, 2016 10:22 pm

    It assumes the last fossil-fuel vehicles would be on the roads until 2050.

    With the assumed sales halting in 2035 this leaves just 15 years. So, it is not going to happen. Many cars and trucks last much longer than 15 years. While not my main vehicle I have a working 1980 pick-up.
    The real test case is Cuba. The US embargo of American-made was in 1960 and there is an estimate of 60,000 still being used.
    Their goal would require outright bans.
    The destruction of wealth with the “Cash for Clunkers” (2009) program will become a minor rounding error compared to a total ban on sales and use of all fossil-fuel vehicles.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 25, 2016 10:43 am

      The vehicle life argument is going on in London as they want to reduce emissions of buses, coaches and taxis. Coaches go on for years and the industry are saying that they can’t afford to switch their fleet to meet the emissions as their current fleet will last well beyond the cut off point. Taxis are the same. For UK readers only – I saw an X plate taxi this week! And so of course up comes the suggested solution – taxpayers’ cash.

  7. September 25, 2016 8:29 am

    The long-distance haulage industry would be out of business in 2035 if this plan were to stick.

  8. johnmarshall permalink
    September 25, 2016 9:43 am

    Hopefully by then politicians will realise that CO2 has no impact on climate.

    • Edmonton Al permalink
      September 25, 2016 11:13 am

      I agree John. These arguments about emissions seem to me to be similiar to the Geocentrist’s arguments using epicycles.

  9. September 25, 2016 10:03 am

    There’s an interesting review of the Mondeo Hybrid by Auto Express:


    Not as economical in the real-world as a diesel Mondeo, nor as sweet to drive as the petrol, and pricier than both, the Hybrid also falls down because of its noisy powertrain, which is completely at odds with the sublime manners of conventional new Mondeos. Unless it’s a company fleet must-have, this is the version to be avoided.

  10. Ian Wilson permalink
    September 25, 2016 10:09 am

    There has been much diesel-bashing since Volkswagen’s disgraceful conduct was exposed but let’s remember replacing diesel cars with petrol hybrids (or pure petrol) would certainly result in more car occupants dying in particularly unpleasant manner in fires following accidents because petrol is far more explosive than diesel.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 25, 2016 10:44 am

      Although diesel has a lower flash point.

      • Billy Liar permalink
        September 25, 2016 10:08 pm

        ?? Flash point petrol = -43°C, flash point diesel = 52-96°C

  11. Gamecock permalink
    September 25, 2016 10:53 am

    ‘It assumes the last fossil-fuel vehicles would be on the roads until 2050.’

    Very well, then. You can bury me in my Mustang GT350.

  12. Gerry, England permalink
    September 25, 2016 10:56 am

    Working on the inside, I have done things to promote EVs and it hasn’t achieved much. It is all very well providing EV charging bays but their turnover is very low. The cost to make every parking place in London a charging point is just way too much. At the moment there is a free parking incentive but how long before rising costs bring in a tariff? I always pointed out to those running these schemes how few pure EVs are sold even when they excitedly claim a 50% increase. The most popular car model sales outstrip EVs and hybrids. The introduction of LEZs and no congestion charge might make hybrids a good option for cities if you need to use the open road as well. Of course the congestion charge might be applied if too many are being used.

    As with everything the government meddles in you are at risk of them changing their mind. There is currently a subsidy on EVs but for how much longer if numbers shoot up. No road tax but again how long before a charge creeps in with rising numbers and falling tax revenue.

  13. RogerJC permalink
    September 25, 2016 12:18 pm

    Why oh why are car and bus makers not adopting tested technology that increases both fuel economy and lowers emissions at only small increases in cost. For example Ford have been involved in the testing, at the University of Bath, of a new type of supercharger that has proved to allow a 1.0 litre Ecoboost engine to match the output of a 1.5 litre Ecoboost engine while saving 11% on fuel and hence emissions. The additional hardware cost is minimal as are the size and weight.

    Similarly, flywheel KERS for Buses and Trucks reduces the fuel consumption by at least 12% and consequently emmisions are reduced. Admittedly KERS needs more space and is more expensive but the long term pay off is there.

    I suspect manufacturers will not go down these roots unless forced to by legislators as the first to offer this technology will be at an economic disadvantage unless all have to.

    • September 25, 2016 1:24 pm

      This seems an appropriate spot to throw in hybrid fueling diesels (gas + diesel twin burn) . There have been a number of studies and even Waitrose / JLP (and Aldi…) have been trialing them on their truck fleet.

      Particulates drop massively and there is an efficiency bonus that can be traded against mpg / power – at the cost of a little complexity.

      As the owner of several petrol / lpg vehicles I can attest to the cynicism and stinking hypocrisy that pervades the political attitude to cleaner vehicles – TfL dropped the free pass / concession for gas vehicles in the congestion zone some years back.

      As ever with these things though – the cost of entry has been kept artificially high so that only those prepared to pay the “pious premium” get to parade their saintly green credentials….

    • Gamecock permalink
      September 26, 2016 1:16 pm

      ‘allow a 1.0 litre Ecoboost engine to match the output of a 1.5 litre Ecoboost’

      Whoopee! As if there is something desirable about the output of a 1.5 litre Ecoboost.

      • RogerJC permalink
        September 26, 2016 4:44 pm

        The point is a simple mechanical device increases torque by 40% while reducing fuel consumption. You may sneer, but this can be applied to any ICE, the Ecoboost is just an example of what is a popular engine.

      • Gamecock permalink
        September 26, 2016 4:46 pm

        Put it in the closet with the 100 mpg carburetor.

  14. A C Osborn permalink
    September 25, 2016 12:46 pm

    The absolutely massive elephant in the room that DECC and the Government do not talk about is TAX.
    At the moment Tax is around 60% of the total retail price of Petrol & Deisel in the UK and varies throughout Europe.
    Just where is the Government going to get this tax from if everybody switches to Electric vehicles?
    Add it to the price of vehicle?
    Put a Tax on Electricity that is all ready way overpriced due to Green initiatives?
    Have seperate meters for vehicle charging, so only that is taxed.

    There has been no joined up/grown up thinking on this, they literally live in cloud cuckoo land, just like all the drawbacks to Wind & Solar, they do not think anything through.

    • John Palmer permalink
      September 25, 2016 4:43 pm

      Absolutely agree!

  15. A C Osborn permalink
    September 25, 2016 1:00 pm

    The other point about EVs is their fuel consumption is no where near as good as advertised, see this post by Chefio.

  16. September 25, 2016 11:39 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  17. Peter MacFarlane permalink
    September 26, 2016 7:32 am

    Another point never mentioned in these comparisons is the much greater complexity of hybrid vehicles, which translates to higher energy consumption during manufacture, higher service costs, and shorter longevity (due to non-availability of complex replacement parts because of their higher inventory costs etc). If the general real-world lifespan of a vehicle falls from the current 12-15 years to (say) 8 or 9 – or even less – that means a lot more vehicles have to be produced, with concomitant increases in energy use, cost, and waste that needs to be disposed of or recycled.

    Of course it’s quite likely that pricing personal mobility out of the reach of ordinary people is a feature for greenies rather than a bug, but it’s at least something that should be discussed; not everyone drives brand new cars and replaces them painlessly every three years without having to think about it.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      September 26, 2016 11:23 am

      “Another point never mentioned in these comparisons is the much greater complexity of hybrid vehicles”

      You can bet that the electronics will contain numerous electrolytic capacitors, which are well known for “drying out” after a few years. Whilst not particularly expensive, or difficult to replace (assuming sensible circuit design and layout), their failure often results in other more expensive damage, so it will help the manufacturers to sell new vehicles by claiming the old ones are “no longer economic to repair”.

      I bought a new washing machine a few years ago, and it had a 10 year warranty on the “Direct Drive” drum motor. It was only afterwards that I realised this consists of nothing more than static windings, which should last a very long time. However, the inverter drive circuitry is another matter, and I suspect would not be covered under that warranty…

  18. dennisambler permalink
    September 26, 2016 10:30 am

    “The report, by a Climate Action Tracker (CAT) backed by three European research groups”

    CAT is actually four “European Research Groups”

    The idea that these are four independent research institutes is as much a deception as the VW affair.

    Climate Analytics was started by former Greenpeace International political director, Australian Bill Hare, at Potsdam in Germany. He has been embedded at Potsdam since 2002. His PhD is an honorary one from Murdoch University in Australia.

    He was pushing for 1.5 degrees and a carbon budget, unburnable fuels etc as far back as 1997. He is not a climate scientist, although he has been a Lead Author for IPCC, even whilst still officially working for Greenpeace. He has used basic computer models for years to produce scary scenarios.

    He is still involved with Potsdam, and took some Potsdam staff with him to Climate Analytics, so already two “independent” institutes are part and parcel of the same set up, although CA now has offices in Berlin.

    Kornelis Blok is Managing Partner at Ecofys. He is not a climate scientist even though he has been a Lead Author for IPCC and neither are his team at Ecofys. In 2009, Ecofys was part of a parent company called Econcern, which went bust along with 27 associated eco companies under the company banner, including Ecofys International BV.

    Then we have the New Climate Institute, set up by Niklas Hoehne, who was Director of Energy and Climate Policy at Ecofys for 13 years and prior to that worked for UNFCCC. Six of his founding partners also were at Ecofys with him. Neither Hoehne nor his partners are climate scientists, even though Hoehne has been a Lead Author for IPCC. They are policy advocates.

    So we see that the “four european research groups” turn out to be essentially one body with four heads and they are pushing policy upon the rest of us, based on a flawed paradigm.

    The 2 degree figure is meaningless and has no scientific basis. It was first floated by economist William Nordhaus in 1977 and was picked up by Potsdam’s John Schellnhuber in 1995 and adopted by the EU in 1996. Encouraged by support from Angela Merkel, it has become a mantra with no meaning. Hare’s 1997 1.5 degrees is rapidly becoming the new mantra.

  19. September 26, 2016 3:53 pm

    The earth’s natural temperature rise over the last 200 years has averaged about 0.6 degK / century. so the 1.5 deg K rise would be expected to occur in about 50 years time irrespective of so-called AGW. Since when was warming actually bad for the world?

  20. Mike Higton permalink
    September 30, 2016 8:36 am

    Autocar tested a couple of plug-in hybrid SUVs a few months back:
    In terms of fuel economy and performance, the diesel equivalents would probably do better – certainly for the BMW – and be cheaper to buy, especially if there are any longer journeys in the driving mix.
    However the 800lb gorilla is the tax advantage for a UK company user: £300 per month against the BMW diesel equivalent, for example. Company cars and personal leasing deals account for the majority of car sales and they typically run for 3 – 5 years. The long-term reliability questions will not be answered until these things start filtering into the secondhand market in large numbers.

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