Need to feel good and do nothing? Buy a Hybrid

by | Feb 13, 2020 | Lifestyle, Motoring

Reading time: 9 minutes

The truth about the biggest delusion in the today motoring world

It was 1999 when the Volkwagen Lupo 3L was launched. Its weight was 800 Kg, it had a 1.2 lt Turbo-diesel engine, two doors, and four seats. The Lupo 3L was capable of 165 km/h top speed. VW claimed fuel consumption of 3 Lt per 100 Km or 33 km per Lt. Real-life tests confirmed it was capable of around 27 km/lt. Not bad for a technology that is already 20 years old. Furthermore, its Co2 production was 87 Gr/km.

20 years old, still greener than the greenest of the modern Hybrids

EU 2020 regulation set the limit to 95 Gr/km. So the small german was already well below the today “green” standard. What happened? We already had the solution: a small turbo-diesel engine, good aerodynamics, low weight. Yes, low weight, because even the 2021 regulations admit that for every 100 kg additional weight, the emission of 3.33 g/km more of CO2 is allowed. This simply means that the heavier the car is, the more Co2 production. 

Hang on. There is more. Regulatory bodies introduced the “Super Credit”; it says that the pollution created by a manufacturer is calculated over the whole production of its vehicles. This means that if you produce enough hybrid cars, say below 50 gr/km average, you can use this credit to make “dirty” cars. In practical terms they say that if you produce fake guns, they allow you to produce as many real weapons. Wouldn’t Audi want to make some Hibrids so that they can make the Lamborghini Aventadors? (464 Gr/km of Co2) Are you following?

Facts first…

Let’s have a look at some facts of the Hybrid cars: a small Hybrid sedan needs around 20kWh of electricity to ensure more or less 50 km of a zero-emission trip. Once the electricity is finished, the combustion engine kicks in, but it has to carry the additional 300/400 kg the Hybrid system weighs. This means higher consumption and higher pollution (let alone worse dynamics). Yes, maybe your Hybrid has an energy recovery system when coming off the throttle or when braking, but the process is very slow, as per the technology of today. Furthermore, the hybrid version of the combustion-only sister can cost between 5 and 10 thousand USD more, as new.

Do you say that your Toyota Yaris Hybrid makes an average 20km/lt? That is very good, but remember the Lupo 3L? In 1999 it made 27 km/lt. Ah, the Yaris Hybrid weighs 1,250 kg, an embarrassing 50% more than the Lupo. The standard Yaris already guarantees 18.7 Km/lt and average pollution of 95 gr/km. It smells, don’t you agree? Couldn’t we develop the technology we had in 1999? Imagine the results we could have achieved after 20 years.

The Homologations Dilemma

The other day I was doing some research over the claimed data of some modern Hybrid vehicles, and my attention fell on the new Range Rover Hybrid (there are dozens of similar examples). Listen to this: the car has a 4 Cylinder combustion engine, paired with a Hybrid system. It has a combined power of 404 Bhp. It weighs 2,577 Kg. The manufacturer claims an only-electrical range of 48 Km and an incredible 3,1 Lt/100km. What? No chance.

A European colleague borrowed that vehicle and drove around 200 km in mixed conditions, 30% highway, 30% B-road, 30% city and 10% countryside. He drove carefully, “as if I have my baby in the car.” The result was an average of 12.5 Lt/100km. It is four times more than they claimed. This should tell you that the homologation tests use criteria and conditions that are miles away from real life. In other words, if you test the car over a short trip, then the paltry 48 km of electric range, will make it look like the vehicle is super-green and super-efficient. But real life is a different story. Four times worse, in fact.

To be fair, also the BMW 3.0e 745 Saloon PHEV claims a fuel consumption of 54 km/lt. That is less than a scooter. Read below how the NEDC homologation test is run…

How to cheat consumers. For the 745E Hybrid, both values of the fuel consumption and of the CO2 emission are tested over less than 10 kilometers, hence with the use of nearly only electric

But wait. I’m not done. Range Rover claims a CO2 production of 71 gr/km. Well, here below the report of a reputed European consumer-protection organization:

Your 2.7 tons green hero

While driving in full-electric mode, the Land Rover Range Rover P400e PHEV will not emit any CO2. When the battery is empty, or if the engine load is high, the internal combustion engine will be used. When driving using only the petrol engine, CO2 emissions will be around 296 grams (three times the Euro6 Limit) of CO2 per kilometer on the combined (motorway and city) cycle. CO2 Emissions will drop to 0 g/km on a 15 mile trip, 148 g/km on a 30-mile journey, and 223 g/km on a 60-mile trip. This only includes tailpipe CO2 emissions. The energy needed to charge the battery might have been (partly) generated by the use of fossil fuels. Additionally, CO2 is emitted during the production and transport of fossil fuels. The official figures under the NEDC driving cycle for CO2 emissions of 72 g/km are for comparison of vehicles only and have no relevance in practice.

Range Rover also produces the V6 Turbo Diesel version: it’s capable of 258 Bhp, it weighs 2,134 Kg, it produces 182 Gr/km of C02 and uses an average of 10 Lt/100 km. Lighter, cleaner, more efficient. That’s data, that’s science. The Hybrid deal is a cheat.

What’s the point of homologation figures if they are not representative?

One study by The Miles Consultancy (TMC), a specialist motoring company which conducted an audit of fuel consumption of PHEVs among fleet drivers, found that the most popular PHEV cars – manufactured by BMW, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, and Volkswagen – routinely returned fuel consumption figures two-and-a-half to three times higher than official claims.

Correspondingly cars with official CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km are actually emitting more than 150g/km under real driving conditions, said experts.

The findings are backed up by an academic study conducted in Norway in 2018 on plug-in hybrids, which concluded that “the average yearly estimated CO2-emission was about 2.5 times higher than the value stated in the type approval official CO2-emission test”.

The delusional compromise

From the Telegraph, UK:

A new generation of ‘plug-in’ hybrid cars emit up to three times more greenhouse gases in the ‘real world’ driving than official figures suggest. A series of studies found the fuel consumption in the plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) was far higher on the road than claimed.

PHEVs are powered by a combination of battery-powered electric motor and a traditional combustion engine. But they only have a short-range in electric mode – typically of between 15 and 25 miles – amid warnings motorists are neglecting to charge them and instead choosing to run them on petrol only. In a shock announcement on Tuesday, ministers said sales of new hybrid cars would be banned from 2035 onwards. But experts said last night PHEVs could actually be emitting more CO2 than equivalent petrol-only vehicles, which are more fuel-efficient because they are not as heavy as hybrids which have to carry the extra weight of a battery and motor.

Just a thought: a 2.7 Tonns Range Rover Hybrid, can enter downtown because it has a Euro6 certification, but the small, practical Lupo 3L cannot. Three times bigger, Three times heavier and three times more polluting. Why?

New European Driving Cycle. NEDC. Testing Criteria

What is it? It’s THE standard. It’s THE driving cycle, last updated in 1997 (!), designed to assess the emission levels of car engines and fuel economy in passenger cars. Are you ready for this?

The test procedure is here explained:

A) For the Urban Driving Cycle, the test lasts in total 13 minutes and 3,976 meters at an average speed of 18 km/h. That’s it?

B) For the Extra-Urban Driving Cycle, the test lasts in total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds and 6,956 meters at an average speed of 62 km/h. Yes, that’s it!

Now you can do your considerations on this and understand how easy it is to score on such a ludicrous and short test. This is not the representation of the reality, and someone says it has been formulated to support false claims by the manufacturers. It looks crystal clear to me.


European Regulation is currently charging the manufacturers 95 Euro for every Co2/km increase over the 95 gr/km limit. But as said, hybrids are tested over a short trip, where the electrical supply is primary. But we know now that they cheat, right? However, for the non-hybrid machines, the pollution taxes will directly increase the cost of the vehicle. This means that we, final users, pay for the pollution. This will obviously affect less the luxury or the supercars, where a 10k USD price increase will not stop the buyer from purchasing his Rolls Royce Cullinam. (2,660 Kg, 343 gr/km of Co2 and 7 Km/l claimed)

More from the Regulation:

Vehicle weight is retained as the underlying utility parameter, i.e., the heavier a manufacturer’s car fleet, the higher the CO2 emission value allowed by the Regulation. The factor used is 0.0333, meaning that for every 100 kg additional vehicle weight, the emission of 3.33 g/km more of CO2 is allowed. For the post-2020 period, other parameters, such as vehicle footprint, will be considered.

It is then clear that the manufacturers are driving the regulations to produce heavier PHEVs vehicles, hence to pollute more. In the name of what? Sales, just sales.

The motoring industry estimates sales of PHEVs will more than double in Europe this year from 220,000 up to 590,000.

Ewa Kmietowicz, Transport Team Leader at the Committee on Climate Change, said: “When charged appropriately, plug-in hybrid vehicles allow drivers to complete the majority of trips in all-electric mode.

“However, there is a concern that plug-in hybrids are not being used as intended, achieving less than one-third of miles in electric mode, and risking higher emissions. By the end of the year, most new models of fully electric vehicles will be able to cover 150 miles on a single charge, and the need for plug-in hybrids will inevitably decline.”

Experts also say that today technology has reached more or less the maximum efficiency available with the materials used. The scientists may find another 10% extra efficiency, but what we have is what we have. No one is expecting miracles from the modern, present technology. Which means, we probably have to find another efficient form of energy transformation and applicable to mobility.

A 800 kg City car no, a cheating luxury Hybrid SUV yes

Fully electric vehicles

It appears that the most logical solution for the future remains the fully electric vehicles. I still believe the infrastructure is not as ready as it could be, but at least the product is available, and it’s progressing. It is not clear to me how economical it is in terms of real cost per km, in comparison to an efficient combustion car, since if you have to inject 50kWh per day in your car, I may think that my electricity bill could skyrocket. However, it’s a necessary and valid alternative to fossil fuel combustion. Not the Hybrid, not at the conditions of today, not with the homologation criteria of today.

Cobalt, Nickel, and Lithium. New Gold and new ethical questions.

You think oil extraction is dirty, political, and it only makes the richest richer? Do you think the “electric world” is clean and ethical? Keep reading

The three primary materials needed to produce modern batteries for electric cars are Lithium, Nickel, and Cobalt. As of today, 50% of the world’s need for Cobalt is in Congo. It has been reported that more than 40,000 children are being exploited to extract the material at a mere 2 USD per day. The Anglo-Swiss multinational Glencore, an owner of the mine, is then selling the Cobalt to a Company called Umicore, which then supplies Microsoft, Google, Tesla, Microsoft, and Dell. This new gold is also highly requested for the production of mobile devices, not only for electric cars. Glencore has been recently accused of minor exploitation, forced labor, and extreme working conditions. 

Cobalt mines in Congo

More from Forbes:

Stainless steel remains the primary market for nickel, but there’s a faster-growing market which, until a few years ago, was insignificant; lithium-ion batteries.

A standard source of power in small appliances such as cell-phones with their nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries, or nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) rechargeable batteries the big game today is in the battery packs which power electric cars such as the Tesla, Prius, and Leaf.

My conclusions

#1 Hybrid systems are not the ultimate solution. They only extend the range of the trip, or they provide extra power for immediate performance enhancement. The efficiency chat is a pile of crap and we, consumers are frauded

#2 Fully electric vehicles need to be developed, but not before the capillary presence of high capacity chargers. The infrastructure for full electric is not ready yet; hence the compromise of the hybrids

#3 Politics and Sales need from the Manufacturers are heavily lobbying, to maximize sales. There is no ethical drive behind hybrid production