Hybrid Car's Eco-Friendly Credentials Questioned

Hybrid cars – an effective way to reduce carbon emissions or a marketing gimmick? That is the question posed by Auto Express magazine here in the UK. The magazine published the results of road tests carried out on a number of so called ‘green’ cars that are routinely promoted by the manufacturers as eco-friendly and the results are surprising, to say the least. Consumers purchase environmentally friendly cars for a variety of reasons, such as concern about the environment and climate change, lower running costs and of course for image. Whatever the reasons, manufacturers have cottoned on to the fact that not only does ‘green’ sell, anything ‘green’ can be sold at a premium.

Many manufacturers now sell hybrid and low emission vehicles with planet saving claims about their CO2 emissions. In fact, the demand for environmentally friendly cars has grown to such an extent that now almost 25% of new cars have a claimed CO2 emissions level below 140g/km and 5% claim CO2 emissions below 120g/km. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their role in climate change and many are actively looking for ways to address the problem. The question remains though, are manufacturers actually providing green alternatives or merely giving their existing products a green paint-job?

Well, just how do the manufacturers claims stand up to scrutiny? Three of the cars tested fared particularly badly. The Honda Civic Hybrid, commonly believed to be one of the cars with the lowest CO2 emissions actually came out the worst in the tests. Honda claim a level of CO2 emissions of 109g/km, but the level determined by the tests was 171g/km, that’s 56% higher than Honda’s claims. That is a massive difference in CO2 emissions and was sufficient for Auto Express to say the Civic “failed to match the firm’s economy claims”. The Lexus GS450h failed to live up to its manufacturer’s claims of fuel efficiency and was labelled a gimmick, the actual fuel consumption was 26.7 miles per gallon (mpg) compared to the manufacturers claim of 35.8 mpg. The Skoda Fabia Greenline fared equally as badly, in the tests two other cars that use the same engine produced lower levels of CO2 emissions. The Ford Focus ECOnetic, the Mini Cooper Clubman D, VW Polo BlueMotion, Seat Ibiza ECOmotive and Toyota Prius were praised for the innovative technology used to reduce CO2 emissions, even though their actual fuel consumption was higher than the manufacturers claims. These were the only cars tested that Auto Express considered ‘green’. – The Times

The results of these tests reveal a great deal more than the fuel efficiency of a few ‘green’ cars. The fact that manufacturers will go to such lengths to promote their cars as environmentally friendly demonstrates how much potential there exists in the market place for ‘green’ products. The other thing we all need to be careful of is are we buying environmentally friendly products for ethical reasons or as a label to demonstrate our own green credentials? If we are truly concerned about the environment and climate change, we have to take action that is both genuine and effective. The time for token gestures has passed.

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chester (anonymous)

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Written in March 2010

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