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Prius Versus HUMMER: Exploding the Myth

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Over the past year, there has been an explosion of stories raising questions about the real environmental cost of hybrids.

One of the most misleading ones, which has been spread by countless blogs over the past several weeks, and cited without verification by several sources that appear reputable, looks to have originated in a story last November in England’s Daily Mail, a right-leaning, British tabloid paper, which bore the gleefully spiteful title ‘Toyota factory turns landscape to arid wilderness.’ An editorial, published last month in a newspaper for a small state university on the East Coast, helped bring this misleading report a new life.

But it isn’t a Toyota factory at all. The automaker has, in fact, only been purchasing significant amounts of nickel from the Sudbury, Ontario, Inco mine for its batteries in recent years, while the environmental disaster the headline is referring to largely occurred more than thirty years ago.

And that ore is at the core of a semi-urban legend that leads to dumb headlines like “HUMMER Greener than Prius,” and others we’ve seen recently.

Over at the main site, we’re digging into what goes behind studies that attempt to measure the “social energy” costs of vehicles like the Prius – and the HUMMER. The farther back you go, the muddier the issue becomes. But it does beg the question: if you knew about the total environmental impact of what you drove, would you change to something greener? What would the cost have to be before you switched? Tell us here, and vote in the poll on the homepage.

Prius Versus HUMMER: Exploding the Myth—TheCarConnection.com
 
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Comments (12)
  1. Anything we can do to dispel that stupid article we must.
    Apparently there are a lot of gullible folks who took that
    misleading article and spread it around. Most disheartening
    of all is George Wills, of course.

    What steps can we take to set the record straight?
    Has Toyota issued any official comments on this?
    Surely they must be aware, no?
     
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  2. Unfortunately, I think we'll just have to wait until Priuses are old enough to routinely have 300,000 miles on their odometers to refute the weird idea that the lifespan of a Prius is 1/3 that of a Hummer.
     
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  3. I've been asking for year[s], what will we do with these eco-vehicles once they are at the end of their useful life? We can't get tires, used motor oil & cell phone batteries recycled in this country! What kind of pollution are we gonna have when somebody leaves this "eco-friendly" car or SUV [think escape/mariner] out in the field for years after it goes kaput. And before the environmentalistas burn me at the stake, I agree that some common sense needs to be applied to our future use of fuels. We should have continued the "gasahol" programs in the 70s like Brazil did[Yes thats what it was called WAY BACK THEN] but it took Brazil 30+ years to get to this point, the idea we can just turn the ship of state around on a dime just isn't realistic. The system in place right now is, if we all went to the smallest vehicles we could for our individual circumstances, the poor would wind up with cheap gas hogs [face facts we're not gonna crush 10 years production of SUVs!]
    GM destroyed local trolley service in most cities in the 50s & government helped them do it. Now we need to stop building bridges to no-where, and rebuild the rails in this country, both short & long haul. And demand that American workers & American parts are used throughout. It is well past time to rebuild our OWN country.
     
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  4. While we're waiting for the Prius to establish an average lifespan, where is the data that supports the purported 379,000 mile longevity of the Hummer? To what study, survey or questionaire is this assumption attributed? Treatises need footnotes. Where are CNW's footnotes supporting this seemingly far-fetched assumption?
     
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  5. "where is the data that supports the purported 379,000 mile longevity of the Hummer?"

    Statistically, the Prius is one of the most reliable cars on the road while the Hummer is one of the least.

    An example from CNN:

    Prius - http://money.cnn.com/popups/2006/autos/reliable/2.html
    Hummer - http://money.cnn.com/popups/2006/autos/reliable/9.html

    There really isn't any objective fact in the Daily Mail article.
     
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  6. Cabdriver is right about the involvement of GM in doing away with streetcars and trolleys in the 50s. I grew up in Detroit then and lived next to the old DSR streetcar terminus up at the State Fairgrounds on Woodward. But it wasn't only GM, Firestone and Standard Oil pitched in heavily too. So we ended up with less mass transit, more cars on the road. GM sold more buses and cars, Firestone sold more tires and Standard Oil sold the gasoline. Their actions resulted in a shift in cultural expectations and ways of life. An unnatural shift. We would likely have fewer big city traffic congestion issues today were it not for this conspiratorial action by these companies. This model of efficiency was good back then. Many cities are working to restore these transport systems now. The Lord of the Car has a hold on us. Nobody ever complained there were too many streetcars, or trolleys or commuter trains.
     
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  7. The real issue here is not whether a Toyota is reliable or not. It is whether a Prius saves enough of our environment (by having a bit lower emissions than my SULEV class Hyundai) to pay for the production, maintenance, replacement and eventually disposal/recycling of its hi-tech parts (battery, wires, electric motor...). If the computer industry has anything to teach us - and it does, since mass-consumption and production of PCs has been going on for about three decades now - then these hybrids are indeed an environmental problem from the production of the parts to the junk yard. Their only virtue is that they are a bit more gas efficient, but not if your daily drives include cold winter days and up-and-down the hills highway commutes. Plus if you are really in to the environment, buy a comparable Corolla or Cobalt and spend the balance vs a Prius - likely five grand or so - on more energy-efficient appliances etc for your house. That makes more green common sense to me.
     
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  8. Lindberg says; "A bit more gas efficient, but not if..." one drives in cold weather and hills. I drove my Prius from KY to Denver and across the Trail Ridge Rd. and got phenomenal gas mileage (47.8 average). This car gives me a ride comparable to a bigger car, seats five adults, is comfortable (I had a Corolla and there is no comparison here) etc... The Hummer vs. Prius article has to be an attempt by the oil industry to goad the gullible into believing that pigs fly! Remember the EV1 from GM? The EV1 was Killed by the oil industry despite being loved by those of us lucky enough to have been able to lease one. They were all recalled, crushed, and shredded. Where is GM today?
     
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  9. The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them, their ultimate ‘green car’ is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer.
     
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  10. My '06 Prius cost about $20K after the tax credit. The car is nicely equipped with what I would consider luxuries including a rear-looking camera. It has anti lock and traction control. With reasonably careful driving it yields 50+ mpg in western NY (land of blizzards). It is better than most small and midsize cars inthe snow. It seats 5 adults reasonably comfortably and 4 very comfortably. On a recent 600 mile round trip, it averaged 57.2 mpg with 5 adults and a weekend's worth of luggage. Yes, luggage for 5 people behind the rear seat! It is VERY quiet and smooth riding. The turning radius is smaller than most small cars. It's build quality is unsurpassed. In 26,000 miles the maintenance costs have been nil. The brakes look like they'll last forever. Running the air conditioning makes no descernable difference in the fuel economy. If you're stuck in traffic, the engine turns off while the AC runs. You're cool while everyone else sweats it out eyeing the gas gage. The car is very easy on inexpensive tires. The car has a 4-5 star saftey rating. It costs no more to insure than a minivan. (this should be a real indicator of repair costs).

    Regarding recycling of the car. It does not use exotic materials. It is made of steel, aluminum, copper, rubber, glass and plastic like other cars. It doesn't have more wires or computers than other cars. The battery is totally recycleable. There is more nickel in the chrome and stainless of a Hummer. The transmission of a Prius consists of 1 simple planetary gear set and manages the power flow of 2 simple electric motors and the 4 cylinder gas engine that is also beautifully simple in that it needs no starter and it runs in a narrow range of conditions thus simplifying its design and enhancing it's reliability and efficiency.

    My electrical engineer friends say that the car can be used as a very efficient generator to safely power your entire house in the event of an electrical failure. They say a system could be built for about $1500. This has fascinating implications.

    What the engineers at Toyota have brilliantly done is what America used to be great at - they took existing technology and masterfully combined it in new ways to make something truely innovative and world-changing. They were also forward looking enough to see that oil and gas would decrease in supply while the demand increased. THis was when gas was $1 a gallon and idiots were showing how patriotic they were by buying a Hummer - Mission accomplished! The saddest thing about the Prius is that it wasn't invented in America.
     
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  11. I would refer anyone who is interested to this analysis of the CNW report.

    http://www.pacinst.org/topics/integrity_of_science/case_studies/hummer_vs_prius.pdf

    Attempts to duplicate their findings by other scientists have failed - mostly due to ridiculous assumptions made about the relative lifespan of the Hummer. There is no credible science behind CNW, and they will not disclose who funded the study. I am extremely frustrated that the media keeps resurrecting this dead horse, probably because it makes for sensational headlines, regardless of it's credibility.
     
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  12. Bottom line, there is always going to be some one whispering in your ear telling you what to think whether it be on the internet, radio, TV, or face-to-face. There is always going to be a company offering money to a research firm and there will always be another company willing to pay more to disprove that study. There is no reason to trust either company. BP claims to be green yet they dump toxic sludge into Lake Michigan. Use your own logic, whatever it may be, and stop listening to the media. In the end, it is all about who can make the most money everything else is black smoke which is just they way they want it.

    There is no debate that the Prius burns cleaner than the Hummer. Both the Hummer and Prius can be recycled whenever the cars life is over. The Prius is a fairly new vehicle to the market, there is inconclusive evidence as to how long of a life the car has. Logically, we cannot say which car will be better for the environment in 20 years but based on the information we have now that is conclusive, it would be a safe to say that the Prius is better for the environment in the short run. The long run is still a question mark but we have 20 years or so to figure out how that can be corrected. We need to take action now, not later.
     
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