Tuesday, March 20, 2007

If You Are Really An Environmentalist - Ditch The Prius

This well done report by Chris Demorro is an education about how the Prius is manufactured and what the real truth is about it's "greeness".

Mr. Demorro says that the Prius creates incredible environmental damage just based on its nickel batteries alone, the production of which is a source of some of the worst pollution in North America! It even takes more combined energy to produce a Prius than it does to produce a Hummer! The report is very well researched.

But just say the word "green" and everyone falls for it and jumps on the bandwagon without even checking out what they are being sold.

Check it out:
The Prius is powered by not one, but two engines: a standard 76 horsepower, 1.5-liter gas engine found in most cars today and a battery- powered engine that deals out 67 horsepower and a whooping 295ft/lbs of torque, below 2000 revolutions per minute. Essentially, the Toyota Synergy Drive system, as it is so called, propels the car from a dead stop to up to 30mph. This is where the largest percent of gas is consumed. As any physics major can tell you, it takes more energy to get an object moving than to keep it moving. The battery is recharged through the braking system, as well as when the gasoline engine takes over anywhere north of 30mph. It seems like a great energy efficient and environmentally sound car, right?

You would be right if you went by the old government EPA estimates, which netted the Prius an incredible 60 miles per gallon in the city and 51 miles per gallon on the highway. Unfortunately for Toyota, the government realized how unrealistic their EPA tests were, which consisted of highway speeds limited to 55mph and acceleration of only 3.3 mph per second. The new tests which affect all 2008 models give a much more realistic rating with highway speeds of 80mph and acceleration of 8mph per second. This has dropped the Prius’s EPA down by 25 percent to an average of 45mpg. This now puts the Toyota within spitting distance of cars like the Chevy Aveo, which costs less then half what the Prius costs.

However, if that was the only issue with the Prius, I wouldn’t be writing this article. It gets much worse.

Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.

The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius’ battery and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually. Dubbed the Superstack, the plague-factory has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario, becoming every environmentalist’s nightmare.

“The acid rain around Sudbury was so bad it destroyed all the plants and the soil slid down off the hillside,” said Canadian Greenpeace energy-coordinator David Martin during an interview with Mail, a British-based newspaper.

All of this would be bad enough in and of itself; however, the journey to make a hybrid doesn’t end there. The nickel produced by this disastrous plant is shipped via massive container ship to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel hops over to China to produce ‘nickel foam.’ From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the completed batteries are shipped to the United States, finalizing the around-the-world trip required to produce a single Prius battery. Are these not sounding less and less like environmentally sound cars and more like a farce?

Wait, I haven’t even got to the best part yet.

When you pool together all the combined energy it takes to drive and build a Toyota Prius, the flagship car of energy fanatics, it takes almost 50 percent more energy than a Hummer - the Prius’s arch nemesis.

Through a study by CNW Marketing called “Dust to Dust,” the total combined energy is taken from all the electrical, fuel, transportation, materials (metal, plastic, etc) and hundreds of other factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle. The Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles - the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.

The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use less combined energy doing it.

So, if you are really an environmentalist - ditch the Prius. Instead, buy one of the most economical cars available - a Toyota Scion xB. The Scion only costs a paltry $0.48 per mile to put on the road. If you are still obsessed over gas mileage - buy a Chevy Aveo and fix that lead foot.

One last fun fact for you: it takes five years to offset the premium price of a Prius. Meaning, you have to wait 60 months to save any money over a non-hybrid car because of lower gas expenses.
So there you have it. Maybe the best thing for environmentalists to do is stick with a diesel car and use biofuel or french fry oil to run it, or they could always hitch a ride with someone who owns a Hummer.


Dana said...

You know something I never thought of, but found interesting in an NPR report? Blind people cannot hear the cars and they are therefore very dangerous.

Eric Holcombe said...

Or, you could drive a VW turbodiesel passat, jetta or golf on bio or WVO and get 45-50mpg. Too bad they are no longer in production here due to the US gov't interference on low-sulfur diesel fuel & emissions. I'll bet it helped hybrid sales - just like those stupid HOV lane privileges extended to single passenger hybrids that get worse highway mileage than some of their (other) fossil fuel counterparts.

If the gov't worked as hard on traffic gridlock as they do favorably legislating hybrids and red-light cameras, the hybrid would be irrelevant. It's only advantage is urban, stop-and-go traffic.

Only good for 100k miles? Takes five years to payback? The math just doesn't jive here. For lots of people, that would mean it never pays back. Where do they "throw away" all those big hybrid nickel batteries?

My newest vehicle (a 6000lb. Suburban @ 16mpg) is ten years old and has 170k miles on it. Granted, the Prius would payback on mileage much faster, except I would have to make two trips to carry everyone - and rent another truck to tow the camper.

Just Here For Now said...

Very interesting. It's information I'd never read before!

~Miss Roxie

Seek Truth said...

The article was written by a student that didn't conduct any reseach or use any real facts. The Sudbury area where the nickel is mined was a toxic mess in the 70's, but is now recovering quite nicely. Toyota only buys 1% of the nickel that is mined. The batteries are recyclable. The hybrid system is proven to go over 200k miles with no problems. Google this, prius nickel batteries environment, to find some accurate forum discussions that further dispell the lies in this student's article.

Judy Aron said...

Dear Seek Truth,

On the contrary, this student used lots of research and was quite thorough to my knowledge. These hybrid cars have been proven to use more energy to produce them than other vehicles. That's a fact. Have you even read the entire study plus the cited studies? I have. As for Sudbury recovering, that may be true, but the area is still an environmental mess. The mining of nickel has done some tremendous damage to the area and has created acid rain. Whatever Toyota buys is still a contribution to the need to mine that nickel. To my knowledge there are no "lies". There are better and more environmental friendly technologies that can and are being developed. Hybrids are in their infancy and they still use more energy to produce than a hummer. That has been proven.
You may disagree with the study - that is your prerogative. I think the points raised were valid and that looking at these hybrids with a critical eye,(instead of jumping on the band wagon), is a good thing.
I am sure that there will be better more efficient technologies developed fairly soon.

My name is Mud said...

college student writes article,
cites environmental damage caused by mining and smelting of nickel (only its from 1970's data),
links that damage to today's Toyota batteries,
ignores fact that toyota only buys 1% of todays nickel,
makes a case about nickel traveling across the globe to end up in batteries of car,
ignores all other materials and components that go into every car produced,
uses skewed data about dust to dust cost of producing and driving a car,
states that a Hummer will last 300,000 miles and will cost an average of $1.95 per mile,
whereas the Prius will only last 100,000 miles and will cost an average of $3.25 per mile,
states that the Prius will take 60 months to realize any cost savings over any non-hybrid car.
*Those last three lines are so wrong in so many ways. Toyota is a benchmark for quality, there are no books about the GM Way. Yeah, that would be Toyota. Also there are Prius taxi cabs with over 200k miles and no powertrain problems.
He then failed to make the consumer cost comparison of the Prius, base price of $22k versus lowest base Hummer H3 of $29k.
Factor in triple the gas mileage for the Prius (real world scenario) and you can easily see that this boy's article is totally off base.
And speaking of environmental damage, how does consuming 3x the amount of gas impact the entire world? Foreign oil being drilled, shipped (spilled), processed, transported and burned up like it's going out of style.

This same student writer then publishes a follow up article admitting some flaws in his research.
Then goes on to talk about the Tesla Roadster (which I have been drooling over for 3 months already, it has been my wall-paper for 2 months) and states that you can buy one for $30k. He even cites the Tesla motors website, but he obviously misses the price tag for the car at $92k.

There were numerous, national writers and radio talk show hosts that used this boy's first article to slam the Prius and all other hybrids and tote that we should be buying and driving big suv's.
You still think that was a well written article...

Judy Aron said...

Hey Mud...

Your points are made.
I don't happen to agree with all of them, nor do I have to.
The larger work cited showed that a prius uses more energy to produce than other vehicles. It wasn't skewed - it happened to be well researched in my opinion. I also happen to think the student made some very good points in his article. You are free to have a different opinion. At the end of the day, I personally do not care what conclusions you have come to.

If you like a Prius then go ahead and buy one.. it's a free country ok?

I don't happen to think hybrids are the greatest thing since sliced cheese. They are a technology that is buying us some time before we get some real change to how we transport people, that's all. People used to think 8 track tapes and Polaroid cameras were great too.

I agree we need to end our dependence on foreign oil, etc.
Hybrids are a transitional technology. They are not perfect and quite frankly their cost is out of reach for most people. That alone does not make them practical or cost effective to own. They are also ugly and have poor visibility.
I have driven one, and wasn't impressed. I don't have to like a Prius or jump on the little bandwagon that you are on just because you think they are terrific.

Enjoy whatever studies you like that fit your agendas and enjoy the free market that allows you to choose whatever toy you wish to drive.

You can have an opinion, but don't be a troll, o.k.?

My name is Clay said...

That picture at the top is a Honda Insight, not a Toyota Prius. Dana, good drivers don't run over blind people.
Eric, check out the Mercedes E320 bluetec if you want a clean burning diesel. VW should be back with tdi versions real soon, if they aren't already.
Judy, I can't quite figure out what the deal is. Your page has a lot of different topics, and just based on that, it appears you're open minded, but you're willingness to jump on board with Demorro's hybrid bashing paper tells me otherwise. The fact that Toyota took a risk with their hybrids, and that they probably don't make much money on them, says a lot about them. The Prius didn't become the number one selling hybrid by coincidence. It proves that consumers want vehicles with better gas mileage today - not just holding out for some breakthrough technology in 5 or 10 years. And the same folks that buy hybrids now, will be the first to take the plunge when those new cars do roll out.
I am sorry that you are so afraid of change. That must be a sad little world that you live in.

Judy Aron said...

Look.. whoever you are Mr. Clay, Mr. Mud or whatever.. (you are certainly not willing to discuss this with a real name, which says something).

You have obviouly not understood a whit of what I said. I do believe in change and I am open minded otherwise I would have deleted your posts. In fact I am SO open minded that I am willing to look at Prius and hybrid technology with a critical eye - which you are obviously not willing to do.

The hybrid is a transitional technology that people are grasping onto to make themselves look like they are doing something meaningful and good, and can show they have a nice income. Good for them. I am not impressed by fashionable do-gooders. These are the same people who probably buy the vehicle out of some sort of guilt of having a huge house or enjoying air-conditioning and high def TV in their homes. They are the same people that believe dolts like Algore, instead of real scientists who have debunked Algore and his inane fear-mongering hysteria that people are destroying the planet because they give off Co2 by breathing. As for consumers running out in droves to buy hybrids.. I'll wager 99% of them don't really know what they are buying, but just want the newest toy that they can boast about. I would also wager that if government fleets weren't being stocked with expensive hybrids on my taxpayer dime, that Toyota would not be sitting so pretty.

If you really want to see what's coming down the pike then look at what the army is doing. They are snapping up contracts for fuel cell jeeps and other vehicles. They aren't buying Priuses (if that's the plural). http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/News/articleId=105320

Also, People don't have to wait 5 or 10 years for a new technology..they can run a diesel car today on veggie fuel if they really wanted to "save the world". If you are concerned so much about using any foreign oil then why not promote something that is totally independent of Exxon and Mobil? There are buses and post office vehicles that run on natural gas, there are solar cars and fuel cell cars.. I am open minded enough to be looking at many many choices and alternatives that are on the drawing board. So what the heck is your problem?

There are lots of new technologies emerging, and plenty will be rolling out. I invest in alternate fuel/energy companies. The hybrids are just buying car manufacturers time before other designs are completed. In the meantime - people like you can buy a Prius. Thanks, but I'll pass right now.

Automakers are pushing ahead. GM has introduced the Sequel concept vehicle, which is the first fuel cell vehicle capable of driving 300 miles between fill-ups. Ford has hydrogen-fueled shuttle buses in central Florida and is distributing Ford Focus fuel cell vehicles in the United States, Canada and Germany.

Nissan is developing its first in-house fuel cell stack and a high-pressure hydrogen storage system. Mazda is working on a hydrogen-fueled rotary-engine version of its RX-8 sports car. Just because Priuses are new doesn't mean they are best, or will remain best.

Why is it so important that you need people to love the Prius - do you sell them or something?
Oh yeah Toyota took a risk.. and if they aren't making money on them .. then pass the kleenex.. I'll have to go have a good cry. Maybe the plug-in hybrids will outsell them at some point.

Quite frankly..perhaps we might do well to run diesel engines on peanut oil (as was originally designed) if we want to end fossil fuel dependence. Hybrids are one technology out of many - if you like them..bully for you.. One still has to buy gasoline to run them. Hello.. the point is to abandon gasoline/oil fuel and move to some sort of renewables (hint: ethanol ain't it)

Sir - I am the one who is open minded - I am not obsessed with or focused on one technology.. but you seem to be. Now take your Prius and your Nickel batteries and be a grownup who accepts the fact that people don't have to agree with everything you say. You might do well to be a little more open minded yourself.

Ok, yeah so I used a different hybrid in my picture.. it's a hybrid. Big deal, get over it. I don't get hung up on that kind of stuff.

Sarah M. said...

After reading all of the heated duscussion above, I found a very informative blog at TrueDelta.com
The information presented there concerning the dust-to-dust reports was very interesting. I would suggest checking it out at least.

Johnathan said...

For an "open-minded" person you sure are getting very defensive when someone comments contrary to what you believe. Are you trying to justify driving a Hummer or defend the person who wrote the article?

Has anyone considered the manufacturing costs involved when automotive builders need to re-tool to build a new model? GM can build Hummers efficiently because they have building them for years. Take a look at how much cost was involved in getting the Hummer to where it is now...remember it was a military vehicle.

Perhaps you can include data about the amount of fuel wasted each year from under-inflated tires???

Judy Aron said...

Johnathan - I am not trying to justify driving a Hummer or specifically defend the person who wrote the article. I believe that article had merits and brought up some very good points. That's all. if someone disagrees that's their prerogative.

I am open minded to all technologies not one particular commenter's favorite technology.

Do we waste fuel - sure. Can we be more responsible in energy use - of course. Do car manufacturers incur costs of retooling - of course they do.. but I am not crying tears for them... they make plenty -- have you seen costs of cars lately? So what's your point? The price of cars includes all the business costs.. Are there cheaper ways to make more energy efficient vehicles? I'd wager there are.

One could retool a diesel car to use veggie fuel for one thing, and there are other technologies on the horizon so I don't have to rush out to buy a Prius, nor do I have to believe they are the best thing since sliced cheese.