Hybrids Dirtier Than Diesels

Wed 24th Nov 2021

The much maligned diesel may well be on the way out, overtaken by the more popular and supposedly cleaner electric vehicle, but before the fossil fuel is driven from existence in 2030, it is worth remembering that in tests it was cleaner than a hybrid engine.

A new investigation by the Channel 4 programme Dispatches found that hybrid cars are producing higher levels of harmful emissions than many of the latest diesel models.

Research by Emissions Analytics and broadcast on Monday found that in tests of six hybrids, two diesels and one petrol car, it was the hybrids which produced the most ‘volatile organic compounds’, chemicals which are emitted as gases and can cause cancer and smog.

Hybrids are currently the most widely used EV option on British roads, with more than 200,000 registered in 2021. And many motor manufacturers are pushing for the government to relax the fossil fuel ban and allow hybrids extra time over pure petrol and diesel engines. However the Dispatches report may make the government think again.

“It’s often a simplification when people look at emissions to say that electric is good and diesel is bad,” said James Hobday, director at Emissions Analytics.

“In cold starts, VOCS for the electrified cars were often much higher than for diesels. And the diesels were even cleaner than the petrols. 

“The prevailing wisdom that electric cars are clean when it comes to VOCs it isn’t the case.

“The VOCs we found, like benzene and formaldehyde, are in notable quantities. We still require research into what quantities of VOCs are acceptable.”

Hybrids have also been under the microscope previously as they are far less economical when drivers fail to actually charge them and run the engine from fossil fuels.

A spokesman from the Department of Transport said that emissions from non-electric vehicles will continue to be monitored.

“We’re on course to become the first G7 nation to fully decarbonise cars and vans,” a statement from the DoT said.

“Hybrid cars and vans have an important role to play to achieve our phase-out date and will only be allowed to be sold between 2030 and 2035 if they deliver significant zero emission capability. 

“By 2035 all new cars and vans will be zero emission at the tailpipe. Before 2035 we will continue to regulate emissions from non-electric vehicles.”