Monday, June 10, 2019

The Hybrid Electric Vehicle: Is It A Wise Environmental Investment?

Cut-out model of the All-new Toyota Prius Hybrid Electric Vehicle

 By Monch Henares

Is achieving zero CO2 emissions possible?

Let's say the government wants drastic change today and decides in six months to ban all CO2 releasing Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles and allow only zero-CO2 Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) on the road. Can the transport sector achieve zero CO2 emissions in the country if all private and commercial vehicles are BEV?

The answer is no.

Normally when we talk about CO2 emission, we usually measure what is emitted from the vehicle tailpipe. That is just half of the equation. It is correct to say that BEVs have no tailpipes, thus having no CO2 emissions. But, when considering the way electricity is produced using coal, oil-based, and natural gas  to recharge them, they too are guilty of CO2 emissions.

We should consider the total CO2 emissions by adding up the CO2 emissions at the tailpipe and add the CO2 emissions released by the power plant. This way of thinking is very important for future CO2 reduction.  We can only achieve zero CO2 emission using the BEV when all power generating plants used to recharge them are run using clean energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, and nuclear.

To sum it up, the use of energy sources should truly match the energy situation in the country. We need to consider a wide comprehensive approach to products, technology, and infrastructure.

The Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

The Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) has two power sources, a highly efficient Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) and an Electric Motor (EM). In the middle of it all is a Nickel Metal Hydride Battery Bank called the Traction Battery (TB). Hybrid operation combines both power sources and the battery to work seamlessly together. It has one goal and that is to achieve greater energy efficiency, but also better driving performance. It is programmed to give priority to the EM and TB, at the same time minimizing the usage of the ICE.

The Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) has two power sources, a highly efficient Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) and an Electric Motor (EM)

The ICE’s main purpose is to recharge the traction battery (TB), assist the EM with horsepower when needed, and lastly to help the car decelerate. Deceleration signals the PCU to convert the EM to become a generator, thus it helps recharge the TB too.

When the vehicle is stopped, the ICE will only turn on if it needs to charge the TB. When the vehicle starts moving to the mid-speed range, it will be driven only by the EM. At the time of acceleration or when high power is required, both ICE and EM will work in tandem to increase the output power.

Nickel Metal Hydride Battery Bank called the Traction Battery (TB) with 168 cells, 201.6 Volts, at 6.5 amperes

Under constant speed conditions, both the ICE and EM will be optimally used. When there is a surplus of engine power, the hybrid is equipped with an ingenious system that will capture this residual energy and convert it to charge the TB.

During braking, energy is recovered through the regenerative braking system and it too is used to charge the TB.

With this energy management system, the hybrid has greater energy efficiency by stretching every opportunity to reuse what would have been wasted energy, and the need to use the petrol engine is minimized.

Power Split Device

Toyota Prius Hybrid Evolution

The All-New Toyota Prius 

Toyota has been continuously improving the fuel efficiency of their HEV model since its 1st generation Prius.  And now, the 4th generation of Prius has good fuel efficiency at 40.8 km/L which is an improvement of 25% compared to the 3rd generation.

Toyota was the first automotive brand to make the HEV available to the Filipino with the introduction of the second-generation Prius in 2009.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle or Battery Electric Vehicle?

HEVs definitely are more fuel-efficient than traditional petrol engines, and their self-charging capability is a game-changer because it requires no additional infrastructure to be built. The transition to BEV will be seamless. These obvious and proven factors make hybrid electric vehicles the viable option as the Philippine transportation alternative for a sustainable future.

Regarding the characteristics of BEV products and their applicable usage condition, the advantage of HEV is its cruising range, fueling time, and existing infrastructure network..

Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation (TMPC) aims to kick-start the country into this revolutionary shift through its lineup of self-charging Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV). (TMPC) and its technological engineers suggest that the hybrid  is currently the most suitable electric vehicle platform for the local market.

Making the switch from the ICE to HEV or BEV at the moment is quite expensive for the middle-class Juan. The 4th generation Toyota Prius (from Japan) sells for a whopping 2.3 million pesos and BEVs would cost even more. But there is hope. Toyota Motor Philippines recently launched the All-New Toyota Altis Hybrid (from Thailand) with a price tag of only 1.5 million pesos. They will be bringing in other affordable hybrid variants by next year.

The All-New Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid Electic Vehicle

The government should help bring those prices even lower by removing tariffs and give tax breaks to all stakeholders involved in EV production if they want that drastic change for cleaner air to happen.  Manufacturers might also want to move their EV production  to the Philippines to support the local market when the path to Zero CO2 emission becomes a reality.

At the end of the day, we should all look at the practical side of owning a hybrid electric vehicle. It is now more affordable. The technology has been here for more than a decade now and the hybrid has proven itself to be very reliable and easy to maintain. There will soon be an assortment of models to choose from as other leading brands have joined the bandwagon.  It is so economical, it saves you thousands at the pumps each year. It could be the best environmental investment you could make.

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Monch "Monchster" Henares is an award-winning automotive journalist and feature writer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Road Talk, a media blogger, and a co-anchor in the program 'Kaya Mo Yan' on DZRH News Television.  He is also a tech and motoring specialist, inventor, and automotive engineer. 

He managed the motorpool for a limousine company in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. He is now based in Manila, Philippines, and is the President of BuildMeUp Corp.

You may e-mail him at

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