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AskPablo: Time to get a new car?

| Monday July 16th, 2007 | 71 Comments

This week David asks “how much more energy efficient does a new car have to be to make up for the energy of production vs a used car? For example, if someone was considering buying a used car that gets 18 mpg vs. a new car that gets 30 mpg. At what point in driving would that increase in mpg make up for the energy of production of the new vehicle?” Read on to find the answer in this week’s AskPablo.


The Argonne National Lab has done a great job in analyzing the material intensity and energy consumption in manufacturing vehicles and vehicle fuels. Their work is packaged in the GREET 1.7 and 2.7 models (Excel-based and available at: http://www.transportation.anl.gov/software/GREET/). According to the assumptions in their model the average conventional internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) is made up of 61.7% steel, 11.1% iron, 6.9% aluminum, 1.9% copper/brass, 2.9% glass, and around 13.6% plastic/rubber. This data will help us determine the energy required to produce a vehicle. We will also have to look at the energy used in operating a vehicle. To help us along in our analysis we will look back at AskPablo: Lighten the Load to find the relationship between vehicle weight and fuel efficiency.
According to the GREET model it takes 100.391 mmBTU (million BTU) to make the vehicle, batteries, and fluids in an average 3,201 pound vehicle. This comes out to 31,362 BTU/lb. The obvious lesson in this is that heavier vehicles require more energy to make than lighter ones, in general. There has been a study circulating that states that hybrids are more environmentally damaging than Hummers because of the battery production but this has been widely disputed. According to the GREET model a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) that weighs 2,632 pounds requires 101.726 mmBTU to make, or 38,650 BTU/lb. As we will see, this small difference in production energy becomes negligible when you factor in the increased fuel efficiency.
Using the GREET assumptions I will compare several vehicles, a Hummer H2, a Toyota Prius, and the Toyota Highlander (standard and hybrid). I will use the vehicle’s published curb weight to determine the energy used in manufacturing, based on the mmBTU/lb factors above and I will use the average MPG (city and highway) to estimate fuel usage over a 160,000 mile lifespan. The energy required to manufacture the vehicles is:

  • Hummer H2: 200.717 mmBTU

  • Toyota Prius: 113.322 mmBTU
  • Toyota Highlander: 107.133 mmBTU
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid: 155.18 mmBTU

Gasoline contains 113,500 BTU (0.1134 mmBTU) per gallon. By dividing the expected lifespan of a vehicle (160,000) by its average MPG we can determine the gallons of gasoline used over that lifetime. We can also multiply this by the energy content of the fuel to get the total energy used. The gallons used during a 160,000 mile lifespan and the energy contained therein is:

  • Hummer H2: 13,913 gallons ($44,800 at today’s prices!), 1579.13 mmBTU

  • Toyota Prius: 2,883 gallons, 327.207 mmBTU
  • Toyota Highlander: 6,400, 726.4 mmBTU
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid: 5,424, 615.593 mmBTU

So, in comparison, 89% of the energy consumed by a Hummer H2 is in burning fuel, whereas the Toyota Prius uses 74% of total energy on burning fuel. This means that, in relation to weight, the Prius requires more energy to manufacture, but the Hummer uses far more energy to operate. What we also learn (click on the graph to enlarge) is that a Hummer H2 uses more energy in the first 24,000 miles (roughly 2 years) than the Prius will in its entire lifetime.Hummer%20vs.%20Prius.jpg
Here is my advice, David: Continuing to drive an older car with poor fuel economy is less environmentally friendly than getting a new car that gets drastically better fuel economy. You can take my factors above and calculate the exact energy use for your old vehicle and a new vehicle to see the comparison. Keep in mind that these results are for the energy used, not the carbon dioxide emissions, but the two are highly correlated since most of our energy comes from fossil fuels.
Pablo Päster, MBA
Sustainability Engineer


▼▼▼      71 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Wyatt Brown

    Can the longevity of the vehicles be factored as well?
    The engineered and expected life-spans of most vehicles is quite short today. Especially in comparison to some, MUCH older vehicles that can still run after decades, like my 1966, Mercedes Unimog, bio-burner.
    Ideas on how this factors into the long-term carbon calcs?

  • http://www.moneychangesthings.blogspot.com MoneyChangesThings

    I have often thought about this. Your old car is not getting recycled into parts, if it still works. It will be reused. So it’s still impacting the environment at its low mpg rate. The next driver might even drive more than you. My conclusion is that it’s better to hold onto it and drive less!

  • Wyatt

    Bicycles; It’s all about bicycles…

  • http://www.odograph.com odograph

    Someone asked about lifespans …
    The improvements are helping cars’ longevity. In 1977, half of all U.S. passenger cars lasted until they were 10.5 years old, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates. Their travel lifetime was 107,000 miles. By 2001 – the latest year tallied – median longevity was 13 years for passenger cars and their travel lifetime was up to 152,000 miles.
    For light trucks, the mileage rose from 128,000 to 180,000, reports NHTSA, but longevity remained 14 years, largely because more trucks were being used like cars.

    from my old post
    FWIW, I think my Prius is a clear win. It was cheap to buy, costing $22.4K relative to the $27K new car average. And it is certainly cheap to drive. I put $20 in the tank every couple weeks.
    I suppose in terms of personal finance, the relative depreciation rates of what you drive now, and what you buy next, might matter. I bailed from a relatively new, but rapidly depreciation Subaru to a Prius … that hasn’t really dropped in value yet.

  • Jim Summers

    MoneyChangesThings has a good point; when you sell a used car, someone else will buy it and drive it until it dies. However, if you don’t sell your used car, the person who would have bought your car will go buy something else. If there is one fewer used car available, someone will have to buy a new car. If you are willing to spend the money to improve the environment, I think it is best to buy a new car and sell your old one. That way you get to choose one of the vehicles that will be on the road for the next decade, rather than letting someone else add yet another inefficient vehicle to the fleet.

  • http://www.joshourisman.com Josh

    What? At what point in that analysis were used cars even considered? I don’t see a single point in there that even discusses the energy consumption of continuing to use a used car or buying a used car. All it really seems to prove is that more efficient cars are, surprisingly, more efficient.

    Where is it taken into account that old cars might well have higher fuel efficiency than new cars? Or that the composition of an older car might be different than that of a newer car completely throwing off the energy usage calculations? My car is 25 years old, 4000+ lbs, has a cast iron engine, 271,000+ miles, and gets 25-30 mpg. I expect to keep driving it for another 5-10 years. You can’t seriously expect those numbers to show that a car with that sort of performance is less ecologically friendly than a brand new anything.

    Additionally, energy consumption is not the only source of environmental damage. The complete dismissal of hybrid battery production as a source of damage completely overlooks the fact that it’s not through the energy consumption that the production creates the damage, it’s through industrial pollution: the leaking of dangerous chemicals into the environment. Not to mention the fact that far more energy is used in producing a new car than just the energy used in processing the materials and assembling the parts. What about the fact that most of those parts are getting shipped all over the world in hugely inefficient cargo ships, trains, and planes? Where is that energy consumption taken into consideration? Or the energy consumption involved in building the infrastructure that enables all that global movement of parts?

    This article is nothing but an implicit encouragement of our ever increasing consumption culture: keep buying new things and throwing away the old! There’s no reason to keep using out-dated technology when you can just toss it on a landfill and buy something new!

    Bullshit.

  • Ned

    Bicycles; It’s all about bicycles…
    For a 200 mile roadtrip? I think not. And is Grandma going to get out of her wheelchair and onto a mountain bike?

  • Loren

    Energy use is just one of many factors involved here. In addition to the energy savings from driving a prius or any other pzev or ulev vehicle you’re also producing less smog forming / cancer causing pollution as well. If everyone in the US drove a Prius imagine how clean our cities would be!
    Honestly I think a Honda Civic or a Toyota Yaris would be a better value – the Prius gets maybe 10 more mpg for a lot of extra $. If everyone just drove a practical compact car (an actually realistic goal) we’d also be in a lot better shape. My 1997 Saturn wagon does about 36mpg on road trips for god sakes and it’s big enough to cram an elephant in there – the idea that you need new technology to get decent mileage is a lie.
    The Prius is more about showing off you green credentials than anything else, which I think is a good thing. I just think if Honda Revamped their Civic to get 5 more mpg that’d make a hell of a lot more difference than a Prius with lithium ion batteries.

  • Anonymous

    Honestly I think a Honda Civic or a Toyota Yaris would be a better value – the Prius gets maybe 10 more mpg
    The Prius is not comparable to the much smaller Yaris and is still larger than the Civic – especially in legroom.
    Prius – 46 mpg
    Yaris – 31 mpg
    Civic – 29 mpg
    That’s a lot more than 10 mpg. It’s a 50% higher number from Yaris to Prius, more from Civic to Prius.
    My 1997 Saturn wagon does about 36mpg on road trips for god sakes and it’s big enough to cram an elephant in there
    cf.
    “Energy use is just one of many factors involved here. In addition to the energy savings from driving a prius or any other pzev or ulev vehicle you’re also producing less smog forming / cancer causing pollution as well.”
    The combined fuel economy rating of a 1997 Saturn is 25 mpg — fully 21 mpg lower than the Prius — and its tailpipe emissions aren’t even in the same realm. I really wish people would stop saying “But what about the 1989 Geo Metro!?!” Not even comparable.

  • http://mrz80.livejournal.com Bruce McIntosh

    And too, no matter how efficient the vehicle is, you’ve always got the heavy foot on the loud pedal, your mileage numbers will look like a an M1A tank’s.
    When you consider that any car already built is sunk cost- the energy and environmental bills to bring that car to life have already been paid – you might as well use it until it just plain don’t run any more. Just learn to moderate your driving, and keep it maintained, and you will see some savings. Changes in driving habits, easing off the gas, combining trips, etc., can make a small but significant difference in the amount of gasoline consumed.
    As an aside, rushing out and plunking half your annual income down on a shiny new car just ’cause it might give you better gas mileage, and casting off your existing, perfectly adequate vehicle, is just another example of the sort of flagrant consumer lifestyle that everyone decries as one of the roots of our various crises. It’s certainly more responsible stewardship of resources, both consumed and unconsumed, to drive responsibly and maintain that already-extracted construct of finite resources than to put another coin in the slot of the vast apparatus of unchecked irresponsible consumerism, isn’t it?
    And the gent above who said the Prius is cheap at $20+k is using a radically different set of economic evaluation criteria – for me a $20k ANYTHING is EXPENSIVE.
    I have two big sedans – a Ford Taurus and a Honda Accord, both bought used after careful consideration of many factors – up-front cost, gas mileage, expected lifetime, comfort and flexibility of the interior (an important point for a family with a 6′-2″ driver and a 5′ driver), carrying capacity (family of four with contentious kids on long road trips needs space for luggage and sanity), etc. I didn’t pay more than $11k for either of them. They both run well, haul my family of four and all their things all over the place, get mid to upper 20s in town and 30+ on the highway. NO WAY can I contemplate buying a new car of any stripe for $20-30k or up, watch 30% of that amount depreciate right off it as I leave the dealer’s showroom, and then turn out still only to get 25-30mpg in practical real-world driving. Not gonna happen.

  • Anonymous

    then turn out still only to get 25-30mpg in practical real-world driving
    The Prius? Only if you drive all the time at 95 mph with all four doors open.

  • Anonymous

    I am 6’7″. I bought a used Prius for $10,500, and I get about 45 mpg in the city (real world driving). Gas mileage is a bit less on the highway. I drive with AC on (live in Las Cruces, NM) and with the windows open while getting highish gas mileage.
    My car can fit 3 people comfortably – no one would want to ride behind me.

  • Loren

    “The combined fuel economy rating of a 1997 Saturn is 25 mpg — fully 21 mpg lower than the Prius”
    That’s theoretical mileage. On the highway my saturn wagon gets around 35 and the prius realistically gets around 40 so in my case since I do mostly highway driving the difference is only 5 mpg! In the city I probably get 25 vs the Prius’s 45, but if I need to get around the city I ride a bike which I can power with a bowl of cheerios.
    Prius – 46 mpg
    Yaris – 31 mpg
    Civic – 29 mpg
    These ratings are ridiculous. I’ll bet on a 60 mile stretch of highway these cars would all come within 5 mpg of each other. How many of us spend 50% of our time on the highway and 50% of our time in the city – the idea is simply ridiculous. They should honestly offer three different ratings – one for mostly city drivers, one for 50/50, and one for mostly highway.
    “I really wish people would stop saying “But what about the 1989 Geo Metro!?!””
    All I’m trying to prove using my car as an example is that the technology has been here for decades to get decent mileage – light weight car + low horsepower engine = efficiency – Holly damn it’s a miracle. If you want the most efficient new car and drive 50% or more on the highway the best bet in terms of gas mileage would be a diesel.
    Don’t get me wrong I think the Prius is a great car, especially in its price range for people who would otherwise go with a camry or an accord, but it’s mileage claims are way overhyped and it ain’t cheap. If I could afford to blow 25k+ (not sure if they sell Prius’s without all the options now, but the demand was so high for a while they only sold loaded ones) on a really efficient vehicle that you could drink out of the tailpipe of I would, but most of us can’t.
    My car cost $3k and if something breaks I go to the junkyard where they have four identical cars lined up, I cut out the parts I need, give the guy $50, and drop them off at my mechanic.
    I’ll sit back and smile while the middle class dances the Prius dance as long as it gets all these other gas guzzling mid sized sedans off the road. Then five years from now I’ll pick up a used Prius for $5k when my car finally needs to be put out to pasture.

  • Anonymous

    That’s theoretical mileage.
    No, those are revised EPA estimates. Real-world Prius numbers are slightly higher than EPA, but not much. It’s safe to assume those new estimates are fairly reflective of real-world performance for the average driver.
    On the highway my saturn wagon gets around 35 and the prius realistically gets around 40 so in my case since I do mostly highway driving the difference is only 5 mpg!
    See – that’s just dishonest. You inflate your mileage and underestimate the thing you’re comparing it to. No one’s going to buy that. If you’re getting 4 mpg higher than EPA ratings with your current vehicle, then you would almost certainly exceed EPA estimates in another vehicle. Prius is rated at 45 highway and the ’97 Saturn SW is rated at 31 mpg. That’s a 14 mpg difference, not 5 mpg. You’re off by almost a factor of 3.
    In the city I probably get 25 vs the Prius’s 45, but if I need to get around the city I ride a bike which I can power with a bowl of cheerios.
    You do all your city driving on a bike? All your shopping trips? And you always drive alone, I assume, or do you have big biking convoys to go see friends and go to the movies?
    These ratings are ridiculous.
    I see. So, heavily-tested scientific methodologies developed over decades and refined to the point where real-world numbers come within a few percentage points of estimates is “ridiculous”?
    I’ll bet on a 60 mile stretch of highway these cars would all come within 5 mpg of each other.
    And you’d lose that bet. Just because you don’t understand why the Prius gets much better mileage doesn’t make it not have much better mileage. Or is the EPA part of some conspiracy to assist Toyota, even though they downgraded its fuel economy rating by 9 mpg with the new standard?
    How many of us spend 50% of our time on the highway and 50% of our time in the city – the idea is simply ridiculous.
    The fuel economy ratings aren’t 50/50. Perhaps you should do some research the testing methodology before commenting on it. I certainly do 80% or more of my driving in city. More than 80% of Americans live in metropolitan areas. Don’t confuse your own situation with norms.
    They should honestly offer three different ratings – one for mostly city drivers, one for 50/50, and one for mostly highway.
    Uh, they do. It’s called City, Highway, and Combined. Again, you’re demonstrating you know nothing about these ratings yet feel you’re in a position to bash them.
    All I’m trying to prove using my car as an example is that the technology has been here for decades to get decent mileage – light weight car + low horsepower engine = efficiency – Holly damn it’s a miracle.
    Right, and your tailpipe emissions of NOx per mile are 20 to 30 times more than a Prius at bare minimum. NMOG 28 times higher. CO 3 times higher. Eight times the particulate matter. And that’s for the Saturn SW that’s 3 years newer than yours.
    If you want the most efficient new car and drive 50% or more on the highway the best bet in terms of gas mileage would be a diesel.
    Despite the fact that you yourself mentioned that tailpipe emissions are important. There aren’t even more than a smattering of diesels for sale in the US other than $40-50K luxury machines getting 18 mpg. And none of those would pass emission standards coming into play next year.
    Plus, the Prius still gets better highway mileage than any diesel in recent years. The Jetta is rated at 38 mpg highway and the Prius at 46 mpg. And gasolne has a lower CO2 emissions coefficient, so the global warming contribution difference is even greater than the fuel economy difference indicates (to the tune of 2.4 more tons per year).
    but it’s mileage claims are way overhyped and it ain’t cheap.
    Um, the 1300+ data points entered at Greenhybrid.com indicate a real-world average for the Prius of 47.6 mpg — 1.6 mpg higher than its EPA rating. Hard to see how that’s “overhyped”. As for price, it goes for $22,175. The current average price of a new vehicle in the US is over $30,000.
    but most of us can’t.
    If the average price of a new vehicle is $30,000, that means that at least half of the buyers can afford it. Given that the Prius is $8,000 cheaper than that (and take off another $600 or so for the tax credit), that means it’s affordable for more than half of new vehicle buyers.
    Don’t confuse your personal preferences and situation with norms. No one’s telling you to get a Prius or that something’s wrong with driving a Saturn wagon. But you don’t need to misrepresent the facts about vehicles that don’t suit your choices and tastes.

  • geoff

    The one other thing that wasn’t figured into the calculations was battery replacement for the hybrid. I believe the Toyota hybrids are only warrantied out to 100K miles on the battery packs. So your 160K lifetime example needs to also factor in a battery swap for the hybrids in addition to their gas consumption.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not so much interested in comparing the technical stuff as in making a point (although I stand by my mileage numbers and the realistic mileage numbers of a Prius driven mostly on the highway since my father owns one).
    All of this technology fetishism is starting to get to me. Realistically riding your bike or turning your thermostat down can make a lot more difference than which car you drive.
    “Don’t confuse your personal preferences and situation with norms.”
    IF YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED THE NORMS ARE KILLING US.

  • Anonymous

    The one other thing that wasn’t figured into the calculations was battery replacement for the hybrid. I believe the Toyota hybrids are only warrantied out to 100K miles on the battery packs. So your 160K lifetime example needs to also factor in a battery swap for the hybrids in addition to their gas consumption.
    Please find even one example of someone getting their battery replaced on the Prius. Most cars have 3 year/36,000 mile warranties. Does that mean the whole car needs to be replaced after 36,000 miles? Regardless, the amount of energy to make new batteries is inconsequential to driving a vehicle.
    ——-
    “Don’t confuse your personal preferences and situation with norms.”
    IF YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED THE NORMS ARE KILLING US.

    One, stop shouting.
    Two, I’m not dead. You’re not dead.
    Three, you are completely misrepresenting my comment. It has nothing to do with your problem with “technology fetishism” and the average wasteful behavior of a person. The norm to which I was referring is the general patterns one can observe in contrast to one’s specific situation. Too many people project their own quirky set of arrangements onto society as a whole. For example, just because I can tolerate and am capable of biking 100 miles in 20 below weather doesn’t mean I should then start bitching about why no one else does it, or, even more absurdly, thinking that such things are the norm.
    Capice?

  • Hllboy

    I would buy a hybrid the day the H2 or H3 hybrid arrives. Till then, it is just a vacuum. Prius is for charlatans.

  • Diesel lover

    Why does everyone talk hybrids?!? It is all hype! I drive a modest German automobile that has a small diesel engine and I get 43 mpg in the city with the radio and air conditioner blasting. On the highway cruising 75 mph I get 47 mpg, and my car with four real sized adults has enough umph to pass anything (well keeping it under 110 mph, but then it runs out of gearing).
    Lifetime for the car and engine well, I have not been able to find this out, but I have seen similar volkswagons with the same diesel engine approaching 1 million miles. Hmmmm, what do you think your hybrids will look like with that high a mileage.
    Oh, and I can run biodiesel if I want, or stick with supporting big oil companies. The engine is not so picky that it has to have a particular fuel.

  • alan

    I’m not sure I understood the BTU’s of the fuel. When you say…
    “Gasoline contains 113,500 BTU (0.1134 mmBTU) per gallon”
    Is that the energy that the gallon will release? Or is it the energy required to get that gallon of gas into the car?
    I hope it’s the second as that’s the number that would be relevant for this calculation. Can someone confirm?

  • Anonymous

    If the average price of a new vehicle is $30,000, that means that at least half of the buyers can afford it.

    You have just confused average with median.

    For example, if four people buy new cars for $12k, $15k, $18k, and $75k the average sale price was $30k, but only one of the four buyers could have bought a $22k car instead without raising additional funds. A median price would have allowed you to say that half of car buyers could afford the Prius.

  • Anonymous

    So, I should buy a new car every year because the new car is more efficient, and junk the old one? I think the question needs to be restated: If my primary concern is energy, how long should I hold on to my current car before buying a new one? What factors should I consider before making that decision? To simplify, assume that everyone has this optimal behavior, ie, everybody buys a new car according to these rules so nobody is going to buy your used car and continue driving it.

  • Anonymous

    >By dividing the expected lifespan of a vehicle (160,000) by its average MPG we can determine the gallons of gasoline used over that lifetime.
    Is this reasonable science? I ask because I expected the fuel economy of a vehicle to trend downward over it’s lifetime, due to piston ring wear, clearances etc.
    The actual graph is probably a downward slope as the miles rack up. Just a thought.

  • Anonymous

    The Prius is not comparable to the much smaller Yaris and is still larger than the Civic – especially in legroom.

    Prius – 46 mpg
    Yaris – 31 mpg
    Civic – 29 mpg


    I just purchased a new Toyota. I test drove both the Prius and the Yaris, and bought a Yaris. It was nearly $10,000 cheaper, is not smaller on the inside (I’m 6’3″ and have no trouble at all) and get 44 mpg highway, 38 mpg combo, and 35 mpg city. I would have to drive the Prius a long time to justify the additional $10,000 purchase price based on fuel savings alone.

  • John

    I didn’t read all of the comments to see if it was mentioned, but has anyone considered how much energy is used to manufacture a new car and the environmental impact of that? Also, how about the disposal of the old vehicle? Fuel usage is only a portion of the full environmental impact.

  • Joe

    I would approach the problem from a different angle. From the information above it looks like it take roughly the equivalent of 1000 gallons of gasoline to produce a new Prius (113.322 mmBTU / 113,500BTU).
    Currently I drive an old ’91 Nissan Sentra that gets roughly 30MPG. So we can again roughly approximate that a new Prius gets about 2X the mileage I am getting. I fill up twice a month @ 8 gallons each so I use 16 gallons X 12 months = 192 gallons of gas a year. With a Prius I would use half of that, or 96 gallons a year. So if I buy and drive a new Prius it will take me almost ten and a half years before I have paid off the original energy debt used in making the new Prius (1000 gals/96 gals/yr = 10.41 years). So for the next decade I can drive my old car guilt-free, knowing that the Prius driver next to me has a lot of energy debt to work off before he is as clean as I am.

  • Anonymous

    It takes over 30k gallons of fresh water to make your average new car. That alone is a good reason to drive your used car until the wheels fall off as opposed to going out and buying a new car…The argument this article is making is similar to saying “hey, widgets are on sale for 10% off one, or 20% off when you purchase 10…we only need one, but we’ll save more if we buy 10! lets buy more to save more!” A prius gets 40+mpg a civic or corolla (any year) gets 30-40mpg…does buying a prius for that extra 10-15 mpg really justify not driving your 94 civic lx for another 10 years? I’d argue not…but you can spin it easily the other way…

  • Ross

    There are two critical issues behing overlooked in the debate about the Toyota Prius:

    1) They are ugly. Serious, dog-choking ugly.
    2) Almost everyone who drives one is a sanctimonious jerk.

    Congratulations on proving that Prius is more efficient than an H2. Maybe next you could tackle the greenness of grass or moisture levels of water.

  • Anonymous

    PLUS…let’s not forget that not all countries are stupid and generate their electricity from coal/gas.
    So if the car was built in a country where electricity comes from nuclear or hydroelectric the difference is even bigger…

  • Anonymous

    If the average price of a new vehicle is $30,000, that means that at least half of the buyers can afford it.

    Um. No. They are completely unrelated. The average price of a yacht is $1,600,000. Can half the buyers afford that?

    This article’s analysis is brain dead. The best thing to do is drive your current car as efficiently as possible until it is completely useless, then crush it so there won’t be a subsequent owner to put fuel into it, and then to buy some kind of very efficient vehicle.

    Comparing the energy required to make a vehicle -that’s already been made- with that of a new hybrid or what have you is not valid. You can’t un-expend the energy that went into making that old vehicle.

    Choosing to -not- buy a new car (of any kind) keeps all the energy required to make that car un-spent. Another big win!

    Can a real economist weigh in?

  • Anonymous

    I have a ’89 Corolla SR5 that’s _carburated_ and it gets 44 mpg highway and about 35 city with my driving pretty hard and at 80+ mph. I got it for $600. I’ll take that over a prius any day considering:
    – it’s probably a lot quicker than a prius
    – it’s a lot more fun to drive
    – it handles better
    – my batteries won’t die and cost $$$$$$ to replace
    – I don’t look like a retard driving it
    – it gets pretty close to the same gas mileage
    – it has flip up lights
    – and it doesn’t look retarded

  • William The Great

    Diesel.
    I get 53mpg, *maybe* 46 in the winter, but that’s rare. I use biodiesel. I have a lead foot. My fuel is almost carbon-neutral. I’ll get 300,000 miles out of this engine. It’s ~33% more efficient than the equivelant gas engine. I just don’t understand why people haven’t caught on to this.

  • Darrel

    Back to the original posting… I’m not sure adding up all the weight and counting that against the vehicle makes sense. A lot of old vehicles are recycled. Is the embedded energy in the ANL GREET models based on new material (from the ground) or from recycled. It seems like a car can be described as having a materials distribution (like in the original post), but each material has a recycled percentage

  • Suzanne

    Joe’s analysis is the correct one (assuming his numbers are correct, which I didn’t check). Just assume you’re starting off 1000 gallons in the hole.
    In my case, I bought a new Prius earlier this year. Aside from the gas mileage, it fits my family (2 adults, 3 kids) much more comfortably than the ’93 Accord I used to drive (but which was hard for me to give up, as it still ran fine). This is our family car (and when I’m not using it, my husband is, as it is more fuel-efficient than his ’93 Mazda 626), and I seem to be putting a lot more miles on it than Joe puts on his car. So for me, I figure I’m saving roughly 200 gallons a year. So that’s 5 years to pay back the cost of manufacturing the car, and after that it’s all net positive. Since I plan on keeping my Prius longer (hopefully much longer) than 5 years, it looks like I did the right thing by buying the Prius.
    The only risk (other than a car accident) is if sometime in the next 5 years they come out w/ a car that is significantly more efficient than the Prius. Well, we’ll almost certainly want to replace my husband’s 17yo car some time in the next few years (we’re hoping to be able to hold out for a plug-in hybrid, since we recently put solar panels on our roof!), and then the more efficient car will get the lion’s share of our family miles. That will extend the time it takes to pay off our Prius’s energy debt, but we’ll still probably keep it long enough to make it worthwhile.

  • Steve

    Agreed, 100%. Well written indeed
    ______________
    http://www.FreeOpenMoko.com

  • TRK

    Is that the energy that the gallon will release? Or is it the energy required to get that gallon of gas into the car?
    I hope it’s the second as that’s the number that would be relevant for this calculation. Can someone confirm?Actually the relevant number would be the combined total of the energy required to get/refine the gas and the actual energy in the gas itself.
    The energy required to make the car go is really both.
    As for Prius – there is a great South Park episode “Smug Alert” that reflects my feelings on this conversation perfectly.
    Diesel is a great option especially the newer engines that use greater control of the air/fuel mixture. The biggest drawback in the US has been our diesel fuel standards which have allowed for very dirty fuel. If half as much “energy” was put into biodeisel as has been put into ethanol production we would be in a much better spot.
    Hybrid diesels would be the best IC option by far
    Probably getting close to 100mpg if done correctly

  • Anonymous

    You have just confused average with median.
    No. I understand the difference.
    For example, if four people buy new cars for $12k, $15k, $18k, and $75k the average sale price was $30k, but only one of the four buyers could have bought a $22k car instead without raising additional funds.
    Gee, thanks for the simpleton math lesson, but it has nothing to do with anything. Edmunds put the average (mean) price of a new vehicle at $29,000 in 2004. It is naturally higher three years later, so I said $30K.
    Given a large enough pool of data with little expectation of too many extreme outliers on one end, the mean approximates the median. The times you see big discrepencies between mean and median in large populations are with things like income and wealth. Doesn’t apply as much to vehicles, and certainly doesn’t apply in this case, since the Edmunds numbers are certainly sales-weighted.
    It also doesn’t change the substance of what I said, since the Prius is significantly below the average price, so even if the mean exceeds the median, it’s highly improbably that the mean is $8,000 less than the median, though please offer contrary data to prove this hypothesis wrong.
    ———-
    Why does everyone talk hybrids?!? It is all hype! I drive a modest German automobile that has a small diesel yada yada yada yak yak yak
    Diesel zombies sure like to tell tall tales. It runs on fairy dust aka biodiesel. Only flowers and happy dreams come from the tailpipe of these wondrous green machines. Hybrids are all hype! they say. They just can’t stand that there are a variety of solutions in the world.
    ———–
    So, I should buy a new car every year because the new car is more efficient, and junk the old one?
    No one claimed that. Please read an article before making silly comments like that.
    I think the question needs to be restated: If my primary concern is energy, how long should I hold on to my current car before buying a new one?
    That was the question and Pablo answered it well.
    ————
    I just purchased a new Toyota. I test drove both the Prius and the Yaris, and bought a Yaris. It was nearly $10,000 cheaper, is not smaller on the inside (I’m 6’3″ and have no trouble at all) and get 44 mpg highway, 38 mpg combo, and 35 mpg city. I would have to drive the Prius a long time to justify the additional $10,000 purchase price based on fuel savings alone.
    Ignoring for the moment that you’re comparing a bare bones little econobox with a well-appointed midsize vehicle, let’s see what the simple payback is.
    Yaris – 31 mpg (not 38)
    Prius – 46 mpg
    Gasoline – $3.09/gallon
    Edmunds TMV for the Yaris – 11,902
    Edmunds TMV for the Prius – 21,318
    less tax credit of $787.50
    Net TMV for Prius – 20,531
    Price difference, Prius-Yaris = 8,629
    Gas cost per mile, Yaris – 10.0 cents
    Gas cost per mile, Prius – 6.7 cents
    Difference – 3.3 cents per mile
    Payback – 265,000 miles
    It’s plausible that the Prius could last that long, so it has a simple economic rationality (since fuel economy benefits are embedded into resale value, so you recoup the money whether you sell it or not).
    In the process, you also keep 67,200 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere, have far lower tailpipe emissions, and send less money to oil producers, in addition to helping drive down costs on a modern technology which radically improves the environmental impact of an internal combustion vehicle.
    ————–
    I didn’t read all of the comments to see if it was mentioned, but has anyone considered how much energy is used to manufacture a new car and the environmental impact of that?
    You apparently didn’t read the article, either, since that’s exactly what it’s about.
    ————-
    1) They are ugly. Serious, dog-choking ugly.
    2) Almost everyone who drives one is a sanctimonious jerk.

    Real solid argument there. You win today’s trophy.
    ————-
    hey are completely unrelated. The average price of a yacht is $1,600,000. Can half the buyers afford that?
    Reading comprehension not your strong suit, eh. I said half the NEW CAR buyers could afford to buy the average priced vehicle. Pay attention so you don’t make a fool of yourself.
    his article’s analysis is brain dead. The best thing to do is drive your current car as efficiently as possible until it is completely useless, then crush it so there won’t be a subsequent owner to put fuel into it, and then to buy some kind of very efficient vehicle.
    La La La! I can’t hear you! You people crack me up. All evidence to the countrary, you just double down on your dogma without a shred of tangible data to back it up.
    Can a real economist weigh in?
    I am one and any reasoned argument will elude your apprehension, clearly. Each of your statements is devoid of sense and ignores the things that Pablo already accounted for in his model.
    ———-
    have a ’89 Corolla SR5 that’s _carburated_ and it gets 44 mpg highway and about 35 city with my driving pretty hard and at 80+ mph. I got it for $600. I’ll take that over a prius any day considering:
    The Magical Car theory once more! The car is rated at 25 mpg for driving at legal speeds, yet somehow yours magically gets 40 mpg with your foot on the floor! Magic!
    - it’s probably a lot quicker than a prius
    It’s not.
    - it’s a lot more fun to drive
    Subjective and irrelevant.
    - it handles better
    Please tell us how many Gs it pulls and how many the Prius pulls. If it’s about your sense of how it feels, that it subjective and irrelevant.
    - my batteries won’t die and cost $$$$$$ to replace
    Your car doesn’t have a battery? Of course not. It’s Magic! Please show one Prius that has needed its hybrid battery pack replaced.
    - I don’t look like a retard driving it
    I bet you look like a retard no matter what you’re doing. You already mentioned the appearance thing before, as a forgetful retard would.
    - it gets pretty close to the same gas mileage
    It doesn’t get anywhere near the same gas mileage, and you already said that earlier. Repeating yourself again.
    - it has flip up lights
    Ooh. Flip up lights! Ooh.
    - and it doesn’t look retarded
    3rd time you’ve said that, Mr. Retarded.
    —————–
    Diesel. I get 53mpg, *maybe* 46 in the winter, but that’s rare. I use biodiesel.
    Hey – it’s Mr. Maguc Diesel posting under another name. William who drives with Biodiesel.

  • Joel

    You might want to take into account the fact that lighter vehicles tend to contain more aluminum and less iron, for a given mass. This is true of body panels, but especially true of engines and wheels. While the energy in aluminum comes with a much lower carbon footprint (a fair proportion of it is hydroelectric), this fact may still nudge your calculations somewhat.

  • Prius owner Wanabee

    I see lots of people accelerating as fast as they can and not talking thier foot off the gas until they are almost at the red light or stop sign.
    A light foot would go a long way to help reduce polluting and increasing miles per gallon.
    In terms of pollution the Prius is produces MUCH LESS than any regular car and esp. a Hummer which has no pollution controls on it!
    We nee to lean on the car makers to get them to make more fuel efficient cars, trucks, & SUV’s.
    There should be a pollution tax on non commercial trucks & SUV’s which pollute more than a compact 4 door car. Hybrid’s should be made so they can plug in to AC at home which could provide 100 miles per gallon results!

  • Anonymous

    Pablo should have chosen conventional vehicles, since all the hybrid haters here seem to miss the fundamental point of the model is about comparing new cars with old cars and at what point a new car would consume less net energy compared to the car it replaced.
    Instead, this turned into the typical hybrid bashing session with all the usual empty, false objections – miraculous diesel, ancient econoboxes, batteries that die and cost a fortune, little cars to big cars, etc. I’m surprised no one clutched their pearls to warn us of the “silent menace”, that Priuses are going to kill us all because they make no sound at all — just like an engine in space. Or that they will electrocute emergency workers. Or that they can’t do your taxes and give you footrubs and pick the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

  • http://www.odograph.com odograph

    The first thing to say, for all those who’ve missed it, is that there is a database run by the EPA – it contains real-world, user-reported, MPGs for all sorts of cars:
    EPA Shared MPG database
    Please, anyone writing a hybrid article, link to that and save some time.
    And anyone complaining about the Prius, please find a car there that averages, for many users, anywhere near the Prius in MPG.
    On Prius size … I fold down the seat and carry a mountain bike in the back of mine. If I didn’t have to do that, or carry a bike + camping gear for 3, maybe a smaller car would “feel” as big.

  • Ross

    > 1) They are ugly. Serious, dog-choking ugly.
    > 2) Almost everyone who drives one is a sanctimonious jerk.

    Real solid argument there. You win today’s trophy.


    You have sanctimoniously dismissed my arguments about being a sanctimonious jerk. Congratulations! You have simulaneously won and lost.

  • Tomas S

    Seems like the majority of the BTU’s used to produce a new car goes into the bodywork. Why not keep your old car and upgrade it with a new cleaner engine and more efficient transmission?
    I know that crate engines are quite expensive today but that’s probably because they’re not a volume product. I’d expect the to be much cheaper if volumes should go up with engine upgrade kits. I don’t think most cars today are that affected by rust that a 15-20 year old body would be considered useless.
    Just a thought.

  • she

    My 2001 Civic gets ave. 42mpg (city and highway) Is this an anomoly?
    I’ll be biding my time before I go elsewhere, because saying “my” energy is important too. How many human BTU’s are expended to earn the purchase price of a new energy saver?

  • Robert V

    Your figures are not bad but you should have included VW’s diesel Jetta, Golf, Bug and new Tiguan in your analysis as those automobiles promise to be the most fuel efficient in current production including Hybrids.
    Furthermore the energy debt of gasoline is GREATER than the energy debt of diesel fuel as gasoline must be cracked and that takes energy and it contains less BTU’s/gallon than diesel fuel.
    While the cost to produce diesel engines now is greater than gasoline engines, that cost becomes scalable once the market begins to be saturated. Furthermore the cost of diesel ownership is less as a diesel does not need electronic ignition tuning or support; that is a huge cost benefit over the life of the car. A further reduction in the carbon footprint of diesel.
    It is really too bad that the EPA can not give the same allowances for fuel efficient turbo-diesels that they grant for fuel hogging SUV’s. The emission problems can be solved but it requires a market demand for the manufacturers to go that extra mile. All I can say is thank god the Mercedes Engineers are committed to excellence in design.
    The big three just might start recovering U.S. market share if they started manufacturing what the consumer wants.

  • donee

    Hi All,
    On real world Prius highway mileage – 70 mph cruise control, indoor temp control set to 70 F, outdoor temperature 15 F, 20 mph side wind for 300 miles, 20 mph head wind for 84 miles – driving the car home across Wisconsin from the the dealarship where I bought it – 43 mpg. And this with a brand new engine, and with the brand new tires which were not even set to much more appropriate 42/40 psi. So, yea the Prius gets 40 highway mpg, at 15 degrees F and at 90 mph airspeed! My old 2000 Saturn SL2 in those conditions would be lucky to get 25 mpg!
    A more realistic Prius 65 mph highway cruisng fuel economy, in the summer, with no AC is 55 mpg – REAL WORLD. I have not had a tank below 59.0 mpg for the past 4 months (or 4000 miles), myself, including the hottest part of the Chicagoland summer using AC. But this is slow and go highway driving mostly, and cruising at 62 mph, unless traffic limited.
    So, no a 36 mpg highway car is not even in the same league on the highway as the Prius. My 2000 Saturn SL2 in the same daily driving as the Prius would be lucky to get 28 mpg. Both of these cars are nearly the same weight, and have the same size tires. The SL2 is a much smaller car however. Which makes the Prius achievement even more impressive.

  • SG

    This argument seems based on the assumption that increasing BTU increases GHG emissions. This is not necessarily the case. For example, compare the impact of a biodiesel (119,550 BTU/gal) and gasoline (116,090 BTU/gal). It is generally accepted that the impact of the latter, particularly in CO2, especially if made from WVO, is much lower.
    In addition, comparing the Prius to a new H2 is unfair. It would be interesting to compare the Prius to a more usual “old” car, such as the Saturn previously mentioned.
    Agreed also that all the emissions in the factory may not be similar for all manufacturers. Toyota, for example, is well respected in the industry for its efficient construction and distribution processes, which have a lower environmental impact than those used by some other manufacturers. Most Japanese and European marques have measures in place to maximise the use of non fossil fuels in their manufacturing processes.
    I suggest that the impact of the Prius will be less than the Saturn, but this will only be released after a few years operation. A more detailed carbon assessment will probably bear this out.

  • Billy F

    something I find interesting is that on the Toyota Highlander, the hybrid version isn’t better for the environment until around 60,000 miles because its mileage isn’t drastically better than the gas version and it requires more energy to produce. If Toyota, the Hybrid King struggles with this, I don’t have a lot of optimism for the GM/Ford SUV hybrids.
    Another thing I don’t understand is why there aren’t any major turbo/gas or turbodiesel hybrid models. The Jetta TDI gets 40/49 MPG and has gobs of torque. My Audi A4 (Quattro) is heavy, fast, and fun yet I don’t have much trouble getting 30 MPG in mixed driving (I think it’s rated at 34 highway…). It has a 1.98 liter turbocharged, direct engine that puts out 200 hp. These excellent German engines get great results from standard fuels and drivelines. Imagine them with a toyota-caliber hybrid system…

  • JD

    Does the GREET model take into account the inefficiency of the manufacturing process? In other words, yes, it may take 100.391 mmBTU to manufacture the materials in an average car, but the manufacturing processes required (melting steel, casting aluminum, etc) are much less than 100% efficient. This could potentially throw off your analysis by a very large amount and weaken your argument.

  • dimdim

    Toyota, for example, is well respected in the industry for its efficient construction and distribution processes, which have a lower environmental impact than those used by some other manufacturers.

  • dimdim

    Toyota, for example, is well respected in the industry for its efficient construction and distribution processes, which have a lower environmental impact than those used by some other manufacturers.

  • Anonymous

    Assuming the 100MMBTU (31826 kWh) figure for making a car is correct, then based on an average European electricity mix of Coal, Oil, Gas, Hydro, Nuclear, Wind, Solar that generates around 600g CO2 / kWh (whether it is 500 or 750 does not matter too much in this analysis) to produce your vehicle 19 tonnes of CO2 are emitted. A modern new small diesel car producing 120g C02/km needs to drive 159000 km to produce the same CO2. So even if your old car does a really poor 240g C02/km then if you can drive it 100000miles more before it produces more C02 than buying a new car. Sure if the old car does not have a particle filter, catalytic converter etc, it will still produce more conventional “pollution”. But in terms of current emphasis on C02 I would disagree that trading your old car in is more “environmentally friendly”. Like another contributor noted we live in a throw away society mainly because the value of a persons work is so much more valued than a natural resource – and that is wrong. People are replaceable!
    By the way even a sporty electric car using 0.2kWh/km of electricity is going to emit during running 120g C02/km. The problem will always exist with electricity unless you have a truly renewable prime source.

  • Anonymous

    Making a diesel engine today is almost as expensive as making a turbo gasoline engine, or barely 500$ more than a regular gas engine. Here in europe, most cars today are diesel ones.
    As for how green diesels are.. we call them “squids”, because when you push them hard (traffic lights..) they release a small black cloud.
    Some people complain saying that new luxury hybrids are not “green”. They were not designed to be green, but incredibly smooth.. and they certainly are.

  • geeaea

    (we’re hoping to be able to hold out for a plug-in hybrid, since we recently put solar panels on our roof!),
    Lady ..to even say that you’re wasting more energy than 80% of the population. Move out of the McMansion and buy a rowhome/townhouse ..give up the ipods for the kids and make them learn some life skills.

  • geeaea

    (we’re hoping to be able to hold out for a plug-in hybrid, since we recently put solar panels on our roof!),
    Lady ..to even say that you’re wasting more energy than 80% of the population. Move out of the McMansion and buy a rowhome/townhouse ..give up the ipods for the kids and make them learn some life skills.
    Nature’s way of saying you make way too much money

  • wb

    I am just going to buy a $40,000 hummer h2 for approximately $21,000. Lets see… If I am spending $4000 a year on gas, but I am saving roughly $18,000-$20,000 off of the initial price, and I keep the SUV for about 5 years…
    I still come out saving roughly $10,000. How is this?? Well… considering your average FUN to drive car (not economy car) gets about 23 mpg or less, the fact that I am saving twenty grand off of my luxury vehicle outweighs the savings in gas. Besides, my weekend car gets 27 mpg, does 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, has a 13.2 second quarter mile, and handles better than any car on the road. Can you say screw an economy car anyone? Too bad there aren’t more car companies that crank out cars with those numbers. Anyways, I am going to take full advantage of this gas scare and get a hummer and SAVE money!

  • brazos2

    And don’t forget insurance rates. For example, to insure a new Civic cost more than a new Ford truck. Appears it’s safety rating is the pits.
    And diesel is NOT imported, all made right here in the USA,. So why is it’s cost so much higher than gas fuel?

  • Kristina

    I didn’t have the energy to read all of these comments, but I did the analysis myself considering USED cars (why did the author even mention used cars since he did the analysis for only new cars? And a Hummer and two SUVs vs. a hybrid… hmm, fair comparison much?). The proper way to do the analysis is to consider marginal energy used in a new hybrid vs. a used car for the remainder of their lifespans. And when you consider a relatively middle-of-the-road used car with 50K miles on it already that gets about 30 mpg, then it will use less energy over the remainder of its lifespan (160K miles) than the hybrid. When you consider older cars that have many more miles on them, the difference can be staggering. So if the main conclusion here was: ‘don’t buy a new hummer or SUV, buy a hybrid’ then that’s fine. But he is completely wrong to say ‘buy a new hybrid over a used car.’ He gives you all of the relevant data in the article, so you can do this analysis yourself for whichever used car you’d like to compare a hybrid to.

  • J Denmark

    Faulty calculation. The advanced metals and batteries in a Hybrid car uses MUCH more energy per pound than the more simple metals in a Hummer.
    Actually calculations show that a Hummer is more eco-friendly than an Toyota Prius because of that. So simply using their weight for your calculation completely misses that point.

  • Shawn

    The internet is serving its purpose as a way for people to get their untruths published. It’s sad that unlike on wikipedia, we can’t delete the totally mistaken comments. To spread lies, you used to have to be a media magnate, a Citizen Kane, now you can just be:
    J Denmark doesn’t know how to make steel for a Hummer apparently, or consider all the chromium and nickel in its wheels, bumper, etc. Hint: steel, which the Hummer has in spades, has lots of chromium in it, and some steel alloys (though not the body-steel) have lots of nickel in them. Much of the steel in both cars is made from recycled scrap. Guess which car uses a lot less?
    Josh calls cargo ships and trains “hugely inefficient.” About the only more efficient vehicles are bicycles, pound for pound. How dare he lump ships and trains in with planes, which are so inefficient…it’s obvious that Toyota doesn’t use them to ship Prius parts or any significant parts for any car. This study is not BS, it is scientific, unlike Josh’s comment.
    Unscientific statements like “My car is 20 years old and has 400000 miles on it, so this whole argument is wrong” are made by people who just don’t understand statistics.
    Kudos to people like Loren who understand the subtleties of the inferences…That it depends what the new Prius is replacing, and what happens to the replacement, and to the money of each affected party.
    All those people who make the “keep the junker” arguments, consider an easier to understand refutation: compact fluorescent light bulbs. Would you wait until your a-lamps burn out to replace them, or immediately replace them? If you wait, you are wasting your money, carbon emissions, and your ability to think beyond today. Run your analysis over a long enough time period, and you see that early adopters should be patted on the back, not denigrated. Of course, those already driving a better-than-average car, like a compact, should be allowed to be last in line, the worse cars getting replaced first…but, eventually, improve. Don’t defend your little 1990 clunkers forever, please.
    If you think a Prius mileage claims are overhyped, you haven’t seen side-by-side comparisons in the kind of stoplight driving so many people do. C’mon people, learn a little science. You must control variables if you have too many to make sense.
    But don’t worry, even posters with whom I mostly agree have made errors here:
    “If the average price of a new vehicle is $30,000, that means that at least half of the buyers can afford it.” Um, no…half of the buyers can afford the “median” price, not the “average price.” The median price is different (much lower, I think) than the average, since more cheap cars are sold than luxury cars. (Corrected by another poster July 18, 2007, but our arguments not accepted by orig poster.)
    Also, the batteries get recycled when you swap them on your Prius. It should also be noted that much of the Hummer gets recycled too, when you take it off the road (so take it off today!). Kudos to Darrel for noting the complexity of materials sourcing.
    Comments like “I don’t look like a retard driving it” show how people allow irrational arguments to enter here.
    Prius-owner-Wannabee, a Hummer *does* have a pollution control, at least one catalytic converter.

  • Shawn
  • Anonymous

    Should not the energy cost of recycling these vehicles also be taken into account.
    How much more energy does it take to recycle the much larger batteries in the hybrib? Also can all of the battery pack be economically recycled and used again?
    I also wonder if the argument matters anyway, seeing as hydroden power is on the way?

  • Brittany Perry

    I would like to know how fuel efficiency from a hummer effects our planet today? and I would like to know if it effected the earth when they first came out

  • Erin

    I am buying my first car. I can easily spend $15K, but may be able to stretch and get a new car for $17K. If I could afford a hybrid or had the dedication to maintain a car run on veggie oil, I’d do it. But these are a few cars I’ve seen in my price range: a 2006 VW Jetta ($14K), a 2007 Honda Civic Coupe ($13K), or a new 2009 Civic Coupe ($17.5). Which is the best choice for the environment? They all have similar gas milage, but the used cars have already been produced, thus is buying a used car a type recycling?

  • Erin

    Correction: the Jetta’s fuel efficiency is not as good. What about a Ford Focus or the Ford Fusion? I’m open to suggestions as well. What would you do?

  • Krusty

    Alright everyone. Enough with the sweeping generalizations, please. I just bought a used 06 Prius. I had an 06 passat. I am not a sanctimonious jerk, nor am I a bleeding heart socialist liberal. I’m a moderate republican, and I’ve been in the military for almost 16 years.
    I bought the Prius because:
    1. I think our nation has better things to spend its money on than pissing CO2 into the air that came from American $ spent to line the pockets oil producing foreign countries.
    2. It’s fun to drive! Sitting through rush hour traffic is a lot less of a drag when you make a challenge of getting optimal performance out of the hybrid system. So far, I’m averaging 53 MPG and recently made my 18 mile commute at 60.2 MPG. – and I don’t drive like my grandmother, either.
    3. It’s cheap to maintain. Maintenance cost per mile is on the order of .04 per mile, compared to .09-.12 for my Passat.
    Here’s the down-side. Yeah, it’s ugly! In the month I’ve owned this car, I’ve been nearly run off the road twice…both times by angry dudes in big pickup trucks. That, along with the comments in this this blog highlight a couple of facts:
    1. For some reason, people seem to behave differently when driving their cars, compared to the way they would treat someone face to face.
    2. People are afraid of change, and they fear that this latest trend toward green stuff will cramp our style.
    Why can’t we have it both ways? GM, Ford, Dodge, How about making big pickup trucks that get 100 MPG?
    WTF? It’s a free country. You drive your gas guzzler – it’s your choice. I drive my prius. That’s mine. Fortunately, we all still have that choice.

  • christo930

    Nobody who drives a humvee is going to trade it in for a Prius. The much more likely gas savings is so small that is negated by the upfront energy usage of a new car. People who are driving big cars usually are doing so because they need one. I am 6’4″ 230 lbs and I seriously doubt I could even fit in a Prius. I would trade in my mid size for another midsize.

  • ABillionGallons

    Just saw a commercial that touted the “1 billion gallons” of gasoline saved by the Prius since inception. The U.S. alone utilizes 380 million gallons of gasoline per DAY… so all of this Prius stroking has resulted in a grand total of 2.63 days worth of saved gasoline. That 1 billion gallons offsets the production energy of a mere 346,860 individual Prius vehicles.

    In April of 2008, total Prius vehicles sold topped 1 million. Well over a year and a half ago. So, is that Prius really making a noticeable difference in saving the planet? We've gained 2.63 days worth of gasoline, but put out FAR more energy in producing them.

    As this article points out, the real benefit is use over time. However, by the time it catches up, and starts to conceivably move ahead, different technology will be available. The Prius is a marketing stop-gap between gasoline and either fuel cells or outright electric. Some sort of fuel cell will end up winning, as electric will still have that nasty carbon footprint problem and be a problem for areas like California when everyone out there sucks up electricity at the end of the day to recharge their cars. Think electricity is expensive today? Yeah… let's go to electric cars and a continued moratorium on nuclear power and see how well that works out. Wind energy is pricey… far more than you would believe, given the extraordinary maintenance costs and the environmental nuts that actually cause the wind turbines in areas to be totally shut down for three months for bird migrations. I wish I were kidding.

    Fuel cells are where the smart money will be. Keep your Prius and feel good about yourself. I have a 5 year old Taurus and no car payment. I don't buy new cars because it's just not smart money, and there's no way I'm ever buying a used hybrid.

  • ABillionGallons

    Just saw a commercial that touted the “1 billion gallons” of gasoline saved by the Prius since inception. The U.S. alone utilizes 380 million gallons of gasoline per DAY… so all of this Prius stroking has resulted in a grand total of 2.63 days worth of saved gasoline. That 1 billion gallons offsets the production energy of a mere 346,860 individual Prius vehicles.

    In April of 2008, total Prius vehicles sold topped 1 million. Well over a year and a half ago. So, is that Prius really making a noticeable difference in saving the planet? We've gained 2.63 days worth of gasoline, but put out FAR more energy in producing them.

    As this article points out, the real benefit is use over time. However, by the time it catches up, and starts to conceivably move ahead, different technology will be available. The Prius is a marketing stop-gap between gasoline and either fuel cells or outright electric. Some sort of fuel cell will end up winning, as electric will still have that nasty carbon footprint problem and be a problem for areas like California when everyone out there sucks up electricity at the end of the day to recharge their cars. Think electricity is expensive today? Yeah… let's go to electric cars and a continued moratorium on nuclear power and see how well that works out. Wind energy is pricey… far more than you would believe, given the extraordinary maintenance costs and the environmental nuts that actually cause the wind turbines in areas to be totally shut down for three months for bird migrations. I wish I were kidding.

    Fuel cells are where the smart money will be. Keep your Prius and feel good about yourself. I have a 5 year old Taurus and no car payment. I don't buy new cars because it's just not smart money, and there's no way I'm ever buying a used hybrid.

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