The hybrid electric vehicles are gradually gaining preference over the gasoline powered vehicles following gradual shifts the global economic dynamics. For example, The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that “the United States imported about 45% of the petroleum it consumed, and transportation was responsible for two-thirds of total U.S. petroleum consumption.” Unfortunately, the U.S. is exposed to frequent price shocks and supply disruptions as a result of volatile political environments in the source markets for petroleum products (U.S. Department of Energy, 2012). To this end, hybrid electric vehicles come with numerous mitigating advantages against these challenges.
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For starters, hybrid cars are designed to release low toxic gas emissions by combining the use of an electric motor and regular gas engine (U.S. Department of Energy, 2012). This combination increases the gallon per mile functionality of the vehicles such that they cover more miles per gallon than gasoline powered vehicles. Therefore, when mass production and mass purchases of these cars are achieved therefore, the dependence on fossil fuels will decline by great margins. This will subsequently enhance the protection of the environment through decreased toxic gas emissions.
Populations across the world would also benefit from low costs of fuel because of high numbers of mileage per gallon of hybrid electric cars. The U.S. Department of Energy (2012) noted that “for example, the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid has an EPA combined city-and-highway fuel economy estimate of 44 miles per gallon, while the estimate for the conventional 2012 Civic (four cylinder, automatic) is 32 miles per gallon.” In the U.S. for example, owners of hybrid vehicles access to tax credits in direct proportions of the fuel efficiency capabilities of their vehicles.
Despite these advantages, increased production and mass use of hybrid cars portend many challenges such as increased demand for electricity power. As a result, there is an inverse relationship between the expanded production of hybrid vehicles and the reduction of environmental pollution, such that emissions of toxic gases increase with additional electricity generated from coal. The logistical and infrastructure dynamics of recharging the hybrid cars also pose challenges because unlike gas stations, there aren’t as many public charging stations (U.S. Department of Energy, 2012). Nonetheless, these challenges can be overcome by employing alternative sources of renewable energy such as wind and solar energy in recharging hybrid cars.
Shortages of core raw materials, and particularly rare earths that are used in the production of electric motors, is the other major challenges that faces the mass production of hybrid cars. Cox (2008) identified “dysprosium (Dy), neodyminium (Nd), and europium (Eu)” as some of these rare earths and observed that most of them are sourced from China. However, Cox (2008) “predicted a 9-11% growth rate for the industry, and displayed charts showing that China may absorb the entirety of its own production by 2012.” Such realities hamper the production of adequate volumes of hybrid electric cars in other regions of the world. These challenges can be overcome by seeking for alternative sources of the critical raw materials in other parts of the world that still harbor untapped mineral resources such as Africa.
Moreover, the costs of manufacturing hybrid cars are absolutely expensive, and the costs have to be passed to buyers for manufacturers to be able to realize reasonable profits. This leads to prohibitively high pricing of the cars making it difficult to achieve mass consumption of the cars in the target markets. Unfortunately, Bunkley (2012) observed that “the added cost of the fuel-efficient technologies is so high that it would take the average driver many years — in some cases more than a decade — to save money over comparable new models with conventional internal-combustion engines.”
In the geopolitical front, lack of globally accepted global warming regulatory regimes makes it impossible to establish uniform standards for global mass production of hybrid cars. For example, the stalemate over Kyoto Protocol has split the United States, China, the European Union and other major industrialized nations of the world right in the middle, thereby delaying the advancement of mass production of environmental friendly vehicles.
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Cox, C. (2008). Digging at the deep sands for rare earth elements. The Anchor House, Inc., 2008. Web.
Bunkley, N. (2012). Payoff for energy efficiency takes years. New York Times, 2012. Web.
U.S. Department of Energy. (2012). Benefits and considerations of electricity as vehicle fuel. Alternative Fuels Data Center, 2012. Web.