Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Power Hardware

Hummer Greener Than Prius? 920

An anonymous reader sends in a story from Central Connecticut State University, claiming that a Prius takes more energy to manufacture than a Hummer — 50% more. In addition, the article claims that the Prius costs $3.25 per mile over its expected lifespan of 100,000 miles compared to $1.95 per mile for the Hummer. The article gets its data from a study by CNW Marketing called Dust to Dust, which is an attempt to account for all the costs of vehicles, from manufacture through operation through repair and disposal. The $3.25/mile cost quoted for the Prius is the 2005 number; for 2006 it is $2.87. This improvement pulled the Prius below the straight industry average — all the other hybrids are still above that average. And the Hummer is not listed at all for 2006. Update: 03/21 00:44 GMT by J : You might want to take those figures with a grain of salt; I don't think anyone's seen the supporting data. Read on for details.

J adds:

The Prius's mediocre cost-per-mile is due mainly to CNW Research assigning the car a short expected lifetime: 109,000 miles. Nobody knows where this number comes from because CNW has not published details about its derivation. If a car will not last very long, then of course its energy cost per mile is high.

Back in July 2006, when CNW's study "Dust to Dust" had just been published (and which remains, unchanged, the original source for today's news), I emailed its president, Art Spinella:


I'm with the tech news and discussion site Slashdot.org. One of our readers submitted a story about your Dust to Dust study.

According to Wikipedia, the Prius comes with a 150,000 mile warranty in California and a few other states; 100,000 elsewhere.

On p. 21 and p. 40 of your report I see that you estimate the average Prius will be "removed from the streets... and sent for disposal" at 109,000 miles. Can you explain how you arrived at this figure?

Thank you.

I did not receive a reply.

My question was about the cost-per-mile denominator; here's another critique questioning the numerator.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hummer Greener Than Prius?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:23PM (#18419155)
    They can't even spell joule...
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:26PM (#18419207)
    The question is what type of eneregy is used, and how much is producted from the energy source. Automobiles are a lot more energy effecient then say a human. But they give off polution that is less "green" or more difficult for the environment to handel.
  • by CapsaicinBoy ( 208973 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:38PM (#18419453)
    Oh man, How many times do we need to go over the flawed assumptions and conclusions from the CNW Marketing analysis.

    First, it incorrectly assumes that hybrid batteries are not recycled. In reality, Toyota has very successful recycling program, including a $200 bounty on Prius batteries.

    Second, it is interesting that TFA mentions the Scion xB. Yet it fails to note that the CNW report data on the xA and xB don't make any sense. They are built on the same assembly line, have the same powertrains, only differ in weight by 50 lbs or so, and have similar efficiency (~35mpg), yet the CNW study shows the lifetime energy use of these vehicles to differ by 50 percent. How's that work?

    Third, the CNW report makes really bad assumptions about where the bulk of lifecycle energy use occurs (eg manufacturing vs operation).

    In short, it's misinformed at best and is more likely an intentional greenwash to assuage SUV owner dissonance in a post 9/11 world.

    Disclaimer: I drive a biodiesel powered Jetta TDI, not a hybrid.
  • by daveo0331 ( 469843 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:39PM (#18419483) Homepage Journal
    Have you ever actually ridden in a Prius? They're surprisingly roomy.
  • Re:BS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thesameguy ( 1047504 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:46PM (#18419601)
    Why exactly to you believe the Hummer's lifespan is limited to 120,000 miles? Most truck owners I know have HUGE mileage on their rigs - my '84 Suburban has almost 500,000 on it. Trucks are generally built to last quite a bit longer than cars, and I don't see 300,000 miles as a major obstacle. The Prius, on the other hand, will probably die an abnormally early death due to the high cost of repair once its electronics & electricals start failing.

    Although I think the scope of this particular paper is limited and probably biased, I would really love to see some further research on this general topic. The newest car I own is 12 years old now, and living in California I get the very distinct feeling that the PTBs don't want my old POS (a once very-expensive Alfa Romeo) on the road for all the environmental damage it does with its tailpipe.

    I would LOVE to see a study that compares the damage the extra stuff coming out of my car does versus the savings a new SULEV or PZEV car offers when you factor all the new pollution that goes into making a brand-new Camry Hybrid. I really question whether even a 50% savings in tailpipe emissions over 10 years makes up for all the manufacturing and shipping involved in a new car. From this article, it sure sounds like it may not.

    I'm willing to make sacrifices for the environment, but I never have and still don't see how a 3200lb rolling toxic waste hazard is any improvement over a 2200lb '87 Civic, y'know?
  • Impossible Numbers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by diakka ( 2281 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:49PM (#18419669)
    TFA claims that the prius costs $3.25 per mile over the course of 100,000 miles. The car must therefore cost $325,000 to own over the lifetime of the car. That sounds pretty impossible to me. I think somebody miscounted a zero when they were doing the math.
  • by Vegeta99 ( 219501 ) <rjlynn@ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:55PM (#18419763)
    Ok, big guy.

    Who's ever heard of a Prius lasting 300k miles?

    I could name you at least ten people driving a GM vehicle with over 300k on it.
  • Re:Old News (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:55PM (#18419769) Journal

    So who the fuck is CNW Marketing and why should their study be given any credence?
    Well, they seem to be a big deal.
    Link [autonews.com]

    Art Spinella
    CNW Marketing Research, Inc. ... Mr. Spinella is responsible for new areas of automotive research including the industry's most comprehensive minority market research, the company's monthly Retail Automotive Summary periodical, Month End Summary newsletter, Purchase Path studies, sales forecasting and industry analysis.
    Mr. Spinella served as director of the Nissan USA account for Bob Thomas and Associates Public Relations in Redondo Beach, CA where he wrote speeches for the company's Japanese president and was responsible for new-product introductions and business-story placements.[/end]

    And that's just from plugging their President's name into Google.
    Maybe you didn't look very hard?
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:02PM (#18419951) Journal

    this article is only useful for raising questions

    Yeah, what a horrible thing that would be if that happened...

    You are acting like he was recommending environmental types buy Hummers. In fact, he recommended people buy a Scion or an Aveo in place of a Prius.

    and making people who own Hummers feel good about themselves.

    I don't think they really need any help in that department...

    In other words, you might be able to shame most of the people all of the time, but you can't shame all of the people, all of the time.

  • by Brad1138 ( 590148 ) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:03PM (#18419969)
    I was figuring this out a while back. If you keep your Prius for 100,000 miles at about 50mpg that is 2,000 gallons of gas. At $3.00/gal that's $6,000 in fuel. If a none Hybrid gets even 25 mpg (mine gets 30+) that's 4,000 gallons of gas or $12,000. So the Prius saves you $6,000 in gas and costs about $10,000 more than a comparable non-hybrid. I think I'll pass.
  • Re:wtf? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:10PM (#18420057) Homepage Journal

    Your CFL argument makes no sense, maybe you could explain it better? Because it sounds like you are saying that no one should ever try to reduce energy usage, as it will always be futile. Is that what you are saying?

    What he's saying, which is absolutely true, is that it makes more sense to simply charge everyone for their emissions. If you are one of the ones buying alternative energy credits, then you don't have to pay them. Or at least, you pay less (building and maintaining the alternative energy sources typically consumes traditional energy, and produces CO2.)

    Mandating CFL makes no sense because people living alone in 50 room houses and leaving all the lights on for the "feel" are still going to be using dramatically more power than a person living a lone in a studio and using one incandescent light.

    Instead, you should penalize use, which will motivate people to use less energy. It will not only lead to people voluntarily installing CFL lamps, but also to there being higher demand for everything to be energy-efficient. Banning incandescents is a subsidy for those making CFLs, plain and simple.

    In the spirit of this story, I'd very much like to know what it costs to make both CFLs and incandescents. I suspect that it costs vastly more energy to make a CFL, not least because an incandescent is just an evacuated glass bulb with a cheap filament in it, and a CFL has a twisty (or at least bent) tube, a ballast, a plastic casing, et cetera.

  • Re:wtf? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jimmyfergus ( 726978 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:12PM (#18420095)

    The Prius was never for real environmentalists anyway. It's for lazy yuppies who want to put out an environmentally conscious image.

    I came to that conclusion when I did a calculation of the energy saved by turning off my computer when I wasn't at work. It's amazing how many people leave them on all night to save minor hassle (I know sometimes there good reasons, but not for most cases where I see it).

    I worked out turning my one work computer off as I leave the office keeps about 1 ton of CO2 per year out of the atmosphere (workings below), plus an amount of mercury and other pollution, assuming the electricity here comes from coal. It takes 100 gallons of gasoline to produce 1 ton of CO2. Please correct me if I'm wrong

    • My machine: a twin Xeon, draws 140W at idle. More efficient machines may draw little more than half of that. Laptops, significantly less again.
    • If it's off 15 hours at night and all weekend: 123 hours
    • Coal generation produces about 2.3lb CO2 per KW/h (reference [ornl.gov])

    0.140 * 123 * 52 * 2.3 = 2059lb

    • CO2 per gallon of gasoline: ~19.4lb (reference [epa.gov])

    therefore 2059 lb is produced by around 106 gallons of gasoline.

    That's about how much I'd save if I had a Prius (I do ~8000 miles/year). Sure, many people do more, and have more efficient computers, but it puts it in perspective.

  • Re:wtf? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bignickel ( 931486 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:17PM (#18420171)
    "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'... Man, when are they going to stop trotting that NASA thing out? I've lived in Sudbury for a while (the bignickel in my UID refers to a giant model Nickel that the city is famous for), and my family has lived there since 1905. Yes, at one point Sudbury was a bit of a moonscape. But that was decades ago and they've since received numerous awards for the ecological restoration that has gone on.
  • by SheldonLinker ( 231134 ) <sol@linker.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:23PM (#18420293) Homepage
    I have a Prius with 46,000 miles it. I average 52MPG. Gas costs $3.13 today. Here are my total costs:

    Purchase: $26,000 or so. That's 56.5 per mile.
    Gas: 6 per mile.
    Oil: 0.5 per mile.
    Tires: 1 per mile.

    TOTAL: 64 per mile, so far.

    If I threw the thing away today, and bought a new one (which I'm not likely to do, so don't check my dumpster), that would still be 64 per mile. Assuming it will last 250,000 miles, like the rest of my Toyotas, the cost will be WAY lower.
  • Re:Not true (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:29PM (#18420407) Homepage
    Exactly. The primary purpose of the current generation of hybrids is to make their smug owners FEEL like they are helping the environment. And since there was apparently a pretty big untapped market selling feel good cars to pompous greens, Toyota has made a killing with the Prius. Looks like good marketing to me.

    Well of course it's mostly about image and Toyota's bank roll. Yet I think it's hard to argue that the Prius isn't more environmentally friendly. This study does it by assuming a Prius will only last 100k miles, which we know is low-balling.

    In reality the only thing about the hybrids that really works against them is those big batteries. The plus is lower fuel consumption. How does that work out in balance? Well I don't have the numbers to crunch, but you have to consider the difference between applying environmental protections to a big battery production plant, what parts of the battery can be recycled, etc etc vs the difficulty of adding more environmental protections to a horde of tiny ICEs. Different energy sources have different environmental impacts.

    The most important thing for us right now environmentally is to wean ourselves off of petroleum products for transportation. If we were to all start driving pure electric/hydrogen/compressed air vehicles, and all of the electricity needed to produce that stored energy came from coal plants, we would still win. Because it's easier to add huge air scrubbers to a coal plant than to the exhaust of a car. And every coal plant we replace with something cleaner has a direct impact on the cleanliness of our transportation. Transportation would be decoupled from the source of energy used, allowing us to painlessly switch as technology advanced. Whereas now if we switched entirely to green electricity, our transportation infrastructure would still be polluting. Ideally we would start doing both, and our switch away from petroleum fuel and our switch away from coal power plants would each amplify the benefit of doing the other.

    I don't think any Prius owner has the right to feel smug, or feel that they're saving the earth. They're not, certainly not if buying a Prius is their only nod towards the environment. I do think they are part of a positive social trend towards considering efficiency as a noble goal. Frankly if I have to deal with smug people boasting, I'd rather they boast about how many MPG they get, not how many parking spaces they take up or how huge a yacht it can pull.

    Me, my 'environmentally friendly' car is an Echo.
  • by malaprop ( 853715 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:44PM (#18420717)
    Hmm let me see, I've had my Prius for 5 years and have driven 95000 miles, at a total cost of $308,750 or $61,750 per year. Either I'm a lot more wealthy than I thought, or Chris Demorro is a Cuckoo clock. I'm also not sure why I should feel guilty about Ontario not being able to regulate its mines. After all plenty of other suphide mines (for copper, lead, silver, zinc etc) seem to operate without causing this level of environmental damage.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:57PM (#18420951)
    I can't comment about Mexico, but in most of the countries of South America (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru) importing used cars is forbidden.
  • Re:wtf? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:25PM (#18421431) Homepage Journal

    I went with a nissan my self... the Sentra uses a timing chain rather than a timing belt. My old car was a 79 corolla which required very little in terms of maintaince over it's 360,000+ miles. It reached the point where I "should" rebuild the head, but to be honest didn't want to muck around with such an old car.

    I've got a 1989 Nissan 240SX that has about 320k on it. The head's been rebuilt twice, once at ~120k and once at ~240k. Bottom end is bone stock. It burns a little oil (I think it's just valve guides) but it pulls as hard as it ever did, which isn't all that hard since it has a truck motor in it.

    I've got a 1981 Mercedes 300SD that I crashed, much to my chagrin, but it's repairable. Also about 320k miles, no engine work ever, runs like a champ. I've done some electrical on it and replaced the glow plugs.

    What I'm driving now (I'm getting rid of the nissan, which has race suspension so I can't drive it around here, and possibly ditching the MBZ too, but possibly fixing it) is a 1993 Subaru Impreza. It's got about 250k mi, no engine work, runs like a CHAMP. And that's an engine with 9.5:1 compression, even. But then the mercedes is 22:1 before the 11 psi from the turbo...

    But anyway what I really wanted to chip in with here is that my Subaru has a timing belt, but it also has a non-interference motor (all SOHC subaru motors are non-interference AFAIK.) The others have chains, and that's nice, but I don't really mind having a belt since if it breaks, the only thing that happens is I have to realign the crank and cams when I put the next one on.

  • by matt21811 ( 830841 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:51PM (#18421811) Homepage
    http://www.hybridcars.com/component/option,com_joo mblog/Itemid,0/joomblog_task,blog_view/joomblog_co ntentid,12222/ [hybridcars.com]

    This guy ran a prius as a taxi for 2 years and 300,000 kms with it before he sold it back to Toyota.
    300,000 miles sounds do-able.
  • Re:Not even close? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Freak ( 16973 ) <prius@driver.mac@com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:40PM (#18422385) Journal
    That's insane. My 2004 Prius is already about to hit the 100,000 mile mark, and its nowhere near dying. There are reports (see other /. replies) of first-generation Priuses (Prii?) already over the 200,000 mile mark. I wonder if even a single consumer-use Hummer has hit that yet?

    Unless they're willing to share their reasoning for 'expected life', then their arbitrary choice is bull-crap.

    Toyota has a document called the [url=http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/k_forum/tenji/pdf/ pgr_e.pdf]Prius Green Report[/url] that shows their analysis of the environmental impact of the Prius compared to an equivalent gas car (I believe they used their own Corolla,) over a 100,000 km (not mile,) lifespan. It doesn't say they only expect it to last 100,000 km, just that if you destroy the car at that point, what the impact is. It covers material production (mining, refining, etc, which would include the Nickel problem,) vehicle production, driving, maintenance, and disposal. The Prius is considered 'cleaner' with regard to CO2 emissions at about the 20,000 km mark. I'm sure the Hummer would be long blown out of the water in this comparison.

    Now, if you convert an original diesel H1 Hummer to run on vegetable oil (a 'greasel' conversion,) then it becomes nearly as clean as a Prius for all categories OTHER than CO2. (Biodiesel and veggie oil conversions both have a 'lifecycle' CO2 emission about 60% less than petroleum diesel, but even that isn't enough to make an H1 emit less CO2 than a Prius.)
  • Re:Not even close? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crunch_ca ( 972937 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:01PM (#18423647)

    And then the next 120 pages are disclosures, articles, correspondance, photos of cars, editorial cartoons and song lyrics. I am NOT joking.
    I was dubious. However, I actually read the source material. The guy is a crackpot.

    Appendix B: An invitation to drive a XEBRA electric car
    Appendix E: Some spam about a psychology professor and techniques for memorization.
    Appendix UU: Cartoons
    Appendix BBB: The lyrics to 90 Pounds SUV

    There's more common sense at the Time Cube [timecube.com]

  • Makes sense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Emperor Cezar ( 106515 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:32PM (#18423903) Journal
    I have a friend who's a real car nut. He's also a big environmentalist. When it came time for me to buy a new car, he specifically told me not to get a hybrid. His rational was that the chemicals it took to make the batteries on the thing, and what happened to them after the cells lifespan was of a larger environmental impact than a run of the mill compact car. Which makes sense to me.
  • by cwerdna ( 572424 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:41AM (#18425839)
    http://john1701a.com/prius/owners/jesse3.htm [john1701a.com]

    This CNW story is such crap and its numbers make no sense. It's old news. I posted my critiques of CNW's old news before at http://www.my350z.com/forum/showthread.php?p=24945 37&highlight=crock#post2494537 [my350z.com] and http://priuschat.com/index.php?showtopic=30444&st= 0&p=403215&#entry403215 [priuschat.com]

    Did you know that CNW claims that the Prius costs $325K to DISPOSE while they claim it cost $13K to make it? Did you that a VW Phaeton the sold for $64K to ~$100K incurs $2.5 MILLION in disposal costs? This is the type of crap that CNW spews out.

    It also makes perfect (!) sense that they claim a Prius only lasts 100K miles when the HV battery is warranted for 10 years/150K miles in CA and a few other states. The Prius also has an excellent reliability record while the Hummer H2 has a terrible one... so therefore, the terrible one should last 300K miles. Right....

    See http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2007-03-01-con sumer-report-list_x.htm [usatoday.com] for a ranking of reliability by manufacturer. Hummer is almost dead last.
  • by mrbluze ( 1034940 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @05:35AM (#18426405) Journal

    Maybe you actually use your truck for real off-road purposes, but the vast majority of truck/suv owners don't do so.

    We refer to those as "Toorak Tractors" in Melbourne (Oz), but you see it everywhere of course. It's always a 40-something mother of one or two, shopping. The main purpose of the vehicle's increased ground clearance is in picking parking spaces from a distance, and the bull-bar is to make sure that when she's crap at parking, the other cars suffer and not hers. And the snorkel is just a phallic thing, everyone knows that. Lately it's always a BMW or Mercedes or some glitzy schmitzy thing with GPS and radar and beepers and other creepers.

    However, Diesel engines do have a much longer lifespan, on average. They are very low maintenance and fatigue very gradually, almost imperceptibly. They are terrible for city driving because they release a lot of soot, but the other emissions are mainly CO2 and very little sulphur or benzene or other nasties that lighter fuel engines release (hence the engine life is longer due to less corrosion).

    The main (other) reason 4WD SUV's have a long lifespan is because they are engineered to survive the conditions they operate under (like the old Volkswagen Beetle was). When you look underneath one of the proper ones, like a Landcruiser, you see all rust resistant parts, no compromises on gearbox design or bearing sizes or break system specifications. It's not like a bubble car which is manufactured to be shiny and round, with a muffled lawnmower engine inside and aluminium foil body.

    However, from the environment point of view, it is true to say that most cars you see have one person too many in them.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin