Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Prius vs. Hummer?

There have been a lot of articles recently about the "dust to dust" cost to society over the full lifetime of a car or truck with particular emphasis on the Prius, a hybrid which gets excellent gas mileage vs. the Hummer, a large to medium size SUV which gets horrible gas mileage. Most of these articles claim that the Prius actually costs our society more than the Hummer: $3.25 per mile driven over 100k miles vs. $1.95 per mile driven over 300k miles. Yesterday I read an article in the Oregonian titled "Smug Alert" where the author also talked about the nickel in the Prius' battery. Apparently the nickel is mined in Sudbury, Ontario, which is an environmental wasteland - NASA even chose that site to test drive lunar buggies because it is the one spot on earth that is most like the moon. He also talks about the distance the nickel has to travel (start to finish more than 10k miles) and tries to factor the "global emissions" caused by this travel.

I will say first of all, that while I do not own a hybrid vehicle, I love them and am a big fan. This smearing (in my opinion) prompted me to do a little research of my own. First I looked into the mining in Sudbury. Apparently the place was an evironmental wasteland LONG before Toyota started buying 1,000 tons a year. They have actually done a bit of clean up and planted some trees in the area to try and revitalize the landscape. While I don't blame Toyota for the devastation, I do think it would be a great move on Toyota's part to help with the clean-up and environmental restoration of the area. It would say a lot about Toyota's true commitment to the environment.

Second, the mileage numbers that the author used: 100k for a Prius and 300k for a Hummer? I just don't believe it. For one thing, Toyota consistently makes cars that are reliable and long lasting. For another thing, since the Pruis is a hybrid, some of the time the engine is not actually running. So while the mileage might say 100k, the engine will actually have far less usage. So far there have been Prius' that have hit the 250k mark, which is not surprising for a Toyota vehicle or a hybrid, in my opinion. However 300k miles on a Hummer would greatly surprise me. I have a hard time believing the mileage discrepancy between the two vehicles would be that large.
Another concern that people have with hybrids is the the battery, and what is going to happen to all those batteries once their life span is over. While I can't speak for other car manufacturers, Toyota's battery has an 8-10 year warranty. Toyota offers a $200 credit to return the battery, when they then dismantle it and recylce all the parts.

All in all, I believe that Pruis and other hybrid vehicles are the way to go. Also a great option are cars with traditional engines that achieve excellent gas mileage. Honda now makes a civic hybrid that runs on natural gas and is the cleanest burning car on the road. (too bad it's only available in CA and NY right now) Diesel engine cars are also a great option with biodiesel becoming more available, unfortunately there are few diesel cars to choose from in the US. Hopefully that will change as the demand for alternative-fuel vehicles grows.

You can check out the full Dust to Dust report by CNW Research HERE.

1 comment:

Todd said...

I'm glad you guys did a bit more research on this. ;)