Are hybrids more enviro-friendly than diesels?



Comparing fuel economy with overall emissions, the Toyota Prius hybrid (pictured) and the Honda Civic hybrid top both lists.


A joint BCAA/Pollution Probe analysis done recently for Clean Air Day shows most, but not all, fuel-efficient cars are also the easiest on the environment. Results show that gasoline-electric hybrids top both the cleanest and most economical lists while fuel-sipping diesels slip down the list because they emit more air pollutants.


The analysis uses Natural Resources Canada (EnerGuide) data to rank vehicles according to fuel economy, and relies on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data to derive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) and air pollution emission scores.

“With so much focus on climate change, we tend to only think about a vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions when measuring its impact on the environment,” says Trace Acres, BCAA’s director of corporate communications and government affairs. “But (we) believe it’s also important to consider a vehicle’s impact on the air we breathe, as well as its contribution to climate change.”

Comparing fuel economy with overall emissions, the Honda Civic hybrid and the Toyota Prius hybrid top both lists. But that’s where the similarities end, as the highly efficient Mercedes-Benz Smart Fortwo and VW diesels can’t match the overall emission scores of their gas-powered counterparts.

“Today, diesel-powered cars do not compete with their gasoline-powered counterparts on smog forming emissions performance, but that could soon change,” says Bob Oliver, Pollution Probe transportation program director. “Federal low sulphur fuel regulations combined with more stringent emission standards should drive the development of cleaner diesel technologies. Look for cleaner diesel vehicle options to start arriving in 2008.”

Reducing environmental impact is a growing motivation to reduce fuel consumption, according to BCAA’s 2007 member opinion survey.

Of the 60 per cent of members who said they’d taken action to reduce their fuel consumption in the past 12 months, 19 per cent said their main motivation was to reduce emissions, and 35 per cent said their motivation was both to reduce emissions and cost.

A year earlier, only 14 per cent were motivated to reduce environmental impact and 31 per cent were motivated by both environmental impact and cost.