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Your Prius Is Greener Even When You Add The Energy To Build It

— Owners of hybrid cars can remain smug, thanks to a study done for the UK’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP). The study found that hybrid cars have a smaller carbon footprint than conventional cars even when you consider the manufacturing process.

The Prius leaves a smaller carbon footprint than a conventional car even though it requires more energy to manufacture.
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Above: The Prius leaves a smaller carbon footprint than a conventional car even though it requires more energy to manufacture.

Questions have been raised about the overall carbon cost of hybrids and electric cars because making their batteries requires a lot of energy. LowCVP did find that producing an electric car created about 40% more carbon emissions than making a similarly sized car with an internal combustion engine.

But when you add that to the emissions belched out during the life of the car, conventional gas engines still accounted for more carbon: 24 tons for a gas engine compared to 21 tons for a hybrid and 19 tons for a battery electric car.

“This work dispels the myth that low-carbon vehicles simply displace emissions from the exhaust to other sources,” said LowCVP managing director Greg Archer. “However, it does highlight the need to look at reducing carbon emissions from vehicles throughout their life cycle.”

One other interesting fact: The study found that 75% of the of the carbon emissions related to production of a conventional car came from producing the car’s steel. That’s another argument for lighter vehicles with less steel. They use less energy on the road and while they’re being made.

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