Regional and Urban Design Committee

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The Regional and Urban Design Committee (RUDC) aims to improve the quality of the regional and urban environment by promoting excellence in design, planning, and public policy in the built environment. This will be achieved through its member and public education, in concert with allied community and professional groups. Join us!

How your ride can best combat climate change

  • 1.  How your ride can best combat climate change

    Posted 12-02-2020 09:12 AM


    With the threat of Climate Change heavy on the mind many people ask what is a safe but environmentally friendly way to get around, especially now when the use of transit and trains presumably adds COVID risk. The answer is a pretty easy one: A mid size plug in hybrid (PHEV) such as the Toyota Prius Prime, the Chevy Volt or the Hyundai Ionic plug in. This may surprise you.

    Most miles traveled can be covered by the small battery of the
    PHEV with much less weight and embedded energy. (Scientific Reports)

    Owners of fully electric cars (EV) look at plug-in hybrids with scorn. They note their tiny range (usually only about 30-50 miles), the complications of having two motors under the hood and studies that show that some plug-in owners leave the charging cable unused and just drive in standard hybrid mode while cashing in on the electric car tax incentives. For many environmentalists having any gas powered engine is unacceptable if one wants to truly be green. They see the car industry's plug-in hybrids as a fraudulent way of scoring on the number of electric cars they make so their CAFE fleet consumption standards look better.

    There is a kernel of truth to all of this, still, currently the greenest way to have a car at all is a frugal plug-in hybrid (PHEV)! The emphasis is on frugal, meaning a very low gas consumption in gas-engine mode combined with a fairly small Lithium Ion battery back. (There are also all kinds of plug-ins with large and thirsty gas engines). Key for the advantage of the PHEV is the insight that the overall environmental impact of  a car....

    [Klaus] Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD