Dark side of the hybrid car technology

The dark side of the hybrid car technology: Is it really good?

From bicycles to heavy vehicles like the train, buses, commercial vehicles, rubber tyred gantry cranes, ships and even aircraft, the hybrid technology became widespread since the late 1990s. Do you know that the first hybrid car was produced back in the 20th century by Viennese coachbuilder, Jacob Lohner and Ferdinand Porsche, an automotive engineer and founder of the Porsche car company?


Featured Image Source: Carbuyer


First Hybrid Car by Jacob Lohner and Ferdin and Porsche

Figure 1: Semper Vivus, a $750,000 reproduction of the hybrid car built by Ferdinand Porsche and Jacob Lohner in 1900

Image Source: Superstreetonline


According to the motor vehicle population data by Land Transport Authority, there’s a fifteen-fold increase in hybrid vehicles (private cars, taxis, buses and goods vehicles) in Singapore over the past decade. Especially for the car rental industry in Singapore, there is an increase in demand for hybrid vehicles primarily due to its fuel efficiency as compared to the conventional combustion engines.


2018 Annual Motor Population by Type in Singapore

Figure 2 – Motor Vehicle Population by Type of Fuel Used: Data by Land Transport Authority of Singapore


Some of the popular hybrid car models in Singapore are Toyota Prius, Toyota Sienta Hybrid, Toyota Camry, Honda Vezel, Honda CR-Z and Hyundai Sonata.


Advantages of the hybrid vehicle


Other than being fuel economy, the other benefits of hybrid vehicles include:


    • Zero or Low Emission: The hybrid car runs on a petrol/diesel engine and an electric motor. With a dual powered engine, lesser fuel is consumed and lesser carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted.


    • Rebates for Hybrid Vehicle Ownership: Under the Vehicle Emission Scheme (VES), cars with low pollutants like hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulate matter (PM) will qualify for rebates up to $20,000. However, for the top tier of the rebate, only fully electric vehicles will qualify for a $20,000 deduction.Vehicle Emission Scheme Banding


    • Regenerative Brakes: The regenerative brake system capture and stored kinetic energy to charge the car battery. It also reduces heat, wear and tear which make brake pads more durable. However, do note that the effect will not work for low speed which requires friction brakes to stop the vehicle completely. According to some driving experience reviews [1], these brakes tends to be much softer than the conventional ones.


    • Quiet Driving Environment: Without the presence of the gasoline engine, the electric engine runs silently.


Disadvantages of the hybrid vehicle


However, do you know the disadvantages of hybrid vehicles? They might not be as mighty and efficient as what most of the drivers thought.


    • Higher cost: For those who are taking up vehicle ownership, hybrid cars do cost more than the conventional gasoline running ones. Let’s take Toyota Altis and Toyota Prius as a comparison.


Vehicle Ownership(10 Years Commitment)
  Toyota Altis(1.6 Sedan Auto) Toyota Prius(1.8 Sedan Auto Hybrid)$
Cost* $95,988 $146,988
Road Tax $744 x 10  = $7,440 $878 x 10 =$8,780
Car Insurance No much of a difference in pricing in terms of vehicle type for insurance. The cheapest car insurance are from budget direct costing $508 annually.
OMV Lesser than $20,000 More than $20,000
The maximum amount that a car owner may be able to borrow 70% of the purchase cost 60% of the purchase cost
Car loan interest# $1,867.93 $2,451.76
Generally, most banks in Singapore offer an interest rate of 2.78% for car loan.(as of Feb 2019)
Vehicle Cost $110,375.93 $163,299.76
Difference $52,923.83
Estimation of petrol cost and consumption is done based on the average Singapore car which travels 16,700km annually. Petrol price in Singapore was quoted from money sense.
Petrol Consumption 6.1 litres of petrol per 100km – 16.3km/litre  3.7 litres per 100km – 27km/litre
Distance Travelled on Full Tank 896.5km 1,161km
Average petrol cost in Singapore after discount $2.00 / litre
Fuel Cost $110 for one full tank
$2,049.08 x 10 = $20,490.80

$86 one full tank

$1,237.04 x10 = $12,370.37

Total $130,866.73 $175,670.13
Difference $44,803.40

$No rebate for Prius with stricter VES scheme. Previously, Prius do enjoy a $30,000 rebate under the CVES scheme.

*Pricing is with effect from 9 to 20 Feb 2019 and guarantee COE

#Depending on the OMV of the vehicle involved, the maximum amount that a car owner is able to borrow was quoted.


There’s a huge difference of about $45,000 after factoring in the vehicle, road tax, car insurance and fuel cost. For those who think to offset the differences via fuel savings and going for the hybrid option, please do your calculations carefully. Unless you’re confident that the repair and maintenance cost can make up the difference, please re-consider your option of getting a hybrid car.  Apart from the high cost incurred for vehicle ownership, it usually costs more for the car rental option of hybrid vehicles in Singapore than the convention petrol or diesel ones. For short term car rental rates, hybrid cars usually cost more than $70 daily as compared to the daily rental of a petrol running car at $45.



Lithium batteries (made of carbon and highly reactive lithium) are known to degrade with repeated charging over time and the longevity of these lithium car batteries depends on various factors. There’re online reviews mentioning about the loss of power and diminishing battery life under the hot sun. With the rising temperature in Singapore, how do you make sure to get a sheltered parking place all the time?


For cars that are using the nickel-metal hydride batteries, they are cheaper to manufacture than the lithium ones, high self-discharge, heat up during fast charge, high load charge, larger and heavier in size.


Figure 3, Nickel-metal-hydride battery of a Toyota hybrid car


    • Expensive repairs: Hybrid cars generally cost cheaper for routine maintenance as compared to the conventional ones provided they do not break down. If you are covered with warranty, consider yourself lucky. Else, apart from finding a mechanic with the expertise for the repair works, the presence of two engines makes it make the repair process for hybrid cars more complicated. After all, the technology used to achieve great gas mileage and low emission in hybrid cost more to maintain.


    • Environmental impact brought by Hybrid Batteries: Disposal and production of the hybrid’s lithium-Ion and nickel batteries causes severe environmental impact. Apart from the carbon emissions, lithium and nickel mining causes soil, air and water contamination in Latin America, Russia and northeastern areas in China.


Caption: Aerial view of the mineral formations along the Rio Grande, Bolivia. The delta which is home to a wide variety of freshwater fish is left dry due to the effects of lithium mining.


Under the EU regulations for batteries waste, it is the responsibility of the batteries producer to pay for waste battery collection, treatment, recycling and disposal. In Singapore, there’s a list of licensed toxic waste collectors under the environmental public health regulations. In October 2010, Toyota launches a recycling program for hybrid nickel-metal hydride batteries globally with aims to recover nickel for new batteries and to lower production cost of future hybrid batteries. According to the World Economic Forum, battery recycling cost 1 euro per kg (about SGD$1.53) but the cost of the raw material is thrice of that. While conventional car uses mainly lead-acid batteries which are recyclable, recycling of lithium is possible but it costs five times as much as extraction of the raw material.


According to some online sources [2], prolonged exposure to strong electromagnetic fields (EMF) increases cancer risks in humans. The high levels of EMF radiation in hybrid cars primarily come from the batteries located near the passengers’ and driver seat in the vehicle. Other EMF sources in normal and hybrid cars include vehicle relay switches (hazard, signal etc.), computer system, inbuilt GPS system, electric engines, alternator, key-less entry system & start systems, alarm system and onboard Wi-Fi signals as well. For private hire and taxi drivers, just imagine the long hours inside the vehicle daily. After all, it’s not worth to put your health at stake for the mere fuel savings. For the health conscious goers, although the conventional engine cars do also emit a certain level of these radiations, you can opt for the cars with lesser inbuilt electronic devices, computer, remote systems and functions apart from the hybrid or electric ones.

Place where the hybrid batteries are located in the vehicle

Having said that, what are your stand on hybrid vehicles? Are the benefits of hybrid vehicles still attracting you or the disadvantages of the technology making you think twice?



[1] https://priuschat.com/threads/mushy-brake-pedal.193712/
[1] http://mercedes-benz.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/39/~/why-does-the-brake-pedal-in-my-mercedes-benz-hybrid-feel-different-the-first
[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/automobiles/27EMF.html
[2] https://emfacademy.com/emf-radiation-in-cars/  
[2] http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/08/mythbuster-emf-levels-in-hybrids/index.htm
[2] https://www.intechopen.com/books/modeling-and-simulation-for-electric-vehicle-applications/passenger-exposure-to-magnetic-fields-in-electric-vehicles
[2] https://dollarsandsense.sg/evs-make-financial-sense-singapore-heres-electric-hybrid-petrol-cars-compare/

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