New Research Says Plug-In Hybrids Won’t Save The World

Will the gas-electric hybrid vehicle help to stem US oil consumption and climate change via carbon emissions? If it does happen, it won’t happen anytime soon. That’s the news according to a recent study from the National Research Council, which says that plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and the Prius Hybrid Plug-In (PHV) are not likely to have a significant impact on the nation’s numbers on either count before 2030.

The study found that the next generation of plug-in hybrids could require hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies to take off–and even then, plug-in hybrids would not have a significant impact on the nation’s oil consumption or carbon emissions for the next two decades. This report, financed with the help of the US Energy Department, found that savings in oil imports would likewise be modest.

image via Toyota

image via Toyota

What’s keeping a great idea from taking off? The main reason behind the slow projected rollout (despite the fact that Toyota, General Motors and Nissan, are all developing new plug-in hybrid, which will begin showing up in showrooms next year) is the high cost of batteries.  According to the report, building a plug-in hybrid that can run for 40 miles on electricity currently costs $18,000 more than a similar conventional car, and the potential for dramatic reductions in that cost, at least for the time being, “appears limited.”

National Research Council Plug-In Hybrid Report [via New York Times]

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.