Thursday, July 20, 2006

Not the Least Bit Surprising

So hybrids aren't all we'd like them to be in terms of saving the planet. We all kind of knew that, didn't we? But not even I suspected they were this bad:

Spinella's finding that a Hummer on the whole consumes less energy than a hybrid than even some smaller hybrids and non-hybrids has infuriated environmentalists. And on its face it does seem implausible that a gas-guzzling monster like a Hummer that employs several times more raw material than a little Prius' could be so much less energy-intensive. But by and large the dust-to-dust energy costs in Spinella's study correlate with the fanciness of the car – not its size or fuel economy -- with the Rolls Royces and Bentleys consuming gobs of energy and Mazda 3s, Saturns and Taurus consuming relatively minuscule amounts.

As for Hummers, Spinella explains, the life of these cars averaged across various models is over 300,000 miles. By contrast, Prius' life – according to Toyota's own numbers – is 100,000 miles. Furthermore, Hummer is a far less sophisticated vehicle. Its engine obviously does not have an electric and gas component as a hybrid's does so it takes much less time and energy to manufacture. What's more, its main raw ingredient is low-cost steel, not the exotic light-weights that are exceedingly difficult to make – and dispose. But the biggest reason why a Hummer's energy use is so low is that it shares many components with other vehicles and therefore its design and development energy costs are spread across many cars.

It is not possible to do this with a specialty product like hybrid. All in all, Spinella insists, the energy costs of disposing a Hummer are 60 percent less than an average hybrid's and its design and development costs are 80 percent less.

One of the most perverse things about U.S. consumers buying hybrids is that while this might reduce air pollution in their own cities, they increase pollution – and energy consumption -- in Japan and other Asian countries where these cars are predominantly manufactured. "In effect, they are exporting pollution and energy consumption," Spinella says.

What a surprise, another triumph of feeling good about one's self over the realities at hand. Quote from Varifrank's source material at

UPDATE: I've been thinking about this one a bit. When my wife needed a new car almost three years ago, we wanted a hybrid but the waiting lists were all a year or more, so we bought a Toyota Rav 4. And whether or not hybrids are a great thing right now, one day they will more than fulfill their promise, and for now there will have to be a transition period during which we fall back a few steps before we can leap ahead. So no, I don't think hybrids are a bad thing. I just get a kick out of the reality of the situation being so different from the idea of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm going out today to purchase a Hummer... a car silly rabbits, to run over any Prius I see.....Just doing my part to stamp out the so called "greenhouse effect"