Hybrids and emissions

While one can see that developing hybrid Camrys is going to be of some benefit, with reduced petrol consumption and therefore reduced emissions, I think we need to get a little perspective here.

What they’re saying is that the hybrid Camry will reduce consumption by about a third.

That’s certainly a start, putting it below similar-sized cars. But it would still be well above the figure of slightly smaller cars like the existing Prius.

Not to mention that some climate change experts are looking at emissions reductions of 90% or even more being necessary to prevent dangerous climate change. Cutting transport emissions by a third just isn’t going to do the job.

Comparison of different vehicles CO2 emissions

It should be obvious that this generation of hybrid cars can only be the first step to reducing transport emissions. The reduction for individual vehicles isn’t that big, and over time the emissions for the entire vehicle fleet needs to drop markedly. Not just the per km rate, but the rate of usage — more trips need to be moved out of cars.

And let’s hope oil prices don’t drop. It seems the repeated increases are the only thing prompting anything approaching real action.

Sources for graph:

PS. Even a 30% cost saving in fuel is of limited benefit if the price doubles…

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

7 replies on “Hybrids and emissions”

I agree. And it’s gramms of CO2, per pass, per km, right Daniel?

The Camry is probably political greenwash. Still, it’s a start and better than ‘business as usual’. But we have to start thinking beyond this stuff that is, in reality, just ‘fiddling around the edges’ of the problem.

If the experts are correct and the 90% (or more!) GHG reductions prove to be required to get the job done (and I tend to believe that), then it’s going to change the way we live. Or at least the way we produce and use energy.

Nobody knows what a world running on 90% less GHG looks like – they just know it’s going to be very hard to get there and we have to start now and invest time, money and political capital and be prepared to change our attitudes and our lives. A few thousand Hybrid Camry’s is just tokanism.

Good catch Tony; have corrected the title.

Actually I think 90% less is perfectly possible if we put our minds to it. In a lot of cases the technology already exists, it’s just not applied well enough or in enough quantity.

If we were told the coal power stations would all shut down in 2020, no matter what, we’d find a way to put solar panels on every roof and wind farms right around the coast.

If we were told no car could generate more than 28g/CO2 per km by 2020, we’d suddenly find huge investment in completely electric vehicles powered from renewables, and a massive boost in public transport in urban areas.

None of it’s impossible; it’s just that our leaders haven’t shown the will to make it happen — not even their self-imposed goals such as Rudd’s 60% reduction by 2050.


We need the CO2 reducing percentage much higher, I agree. Another thing, how about the large batteries in these cars that need to be replaced(?), say every 7-8 years at the moment. How hard it’s to manufacture those in plastic or energy cost sense, are they recycle-able, etc.

btw, all stand-by power appliances are switched off at the wall plug in our house when not in use.

Well-articulated Daniel. However, if I were a pugnacious road-lobbyist – I would criticise that graph. It’s from your own organisation anyway. Still, nobody’s refuting those statistics and it’s incredibly slack of our politicians to behave as this is a silver bullet. It might be a bullet, but it’s only 2% silver.

The figures aren’t just made up though Reuben; they’re from the Australian Greenhouse Office (derived from different reports though, which is why I linked back to the PTUA page rather than list them all).

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