Monday, May 5, 2008

Green Cars will turn the world Brown too

Heil to the mighty Prius.. now featuring cute kitty exhaust!"

The so-called "Green Revolution" must affect people's brains in some odd way as to make them short-sighted and arrogant. The movement for conservation and preservation of nature is something I support, however, there are smart ways to save... and then there are ways that feel good but are just plain dumb. One of my greatest pet peeves is people's new attitudes towards the new generation of alternate energy cars, which fall into three categories: Electric Battery Hybrids (Toyota Prius), Plug-in Hybrids (Chevrolet Volt), and the Hydrogen Car (BMW Hydrogen 7). I will tackle each of these abominations in a separate post so stay tuned!

Day One: Electric Battery Hybrids

Wow, this seems like the perfect answer! Less emissions AND greater fuel economy... what more could you ask for?! It must work by magic, making the evil oilman go away and the ozone will be effected a lot less! Wow!

OK.. now seriously, if you just bought that happy go-lucky picturethen you haven't thought this idea out. The whole idea behind this car is how great it is for the environment but what about that little magical device that makes the car so 'wonderful', the BATTERY? Now someone remind me.. what are batteries filled with? what are they made out of? Right... plastic and acid. Plastic doesn't exactly evaporate into thin air when you're done using it.. it sits in a dump for a couple thousand years and breaks down very, very slowly. The acid could be neutralized if disposed of properly using more chemicals which also take a bunch of energy.. which has to come from somewhere.. right? Hmm...

Another thing, those batteries are worth about 8,000 buckaroos (or USD, for those not familiar with the term). The warranty on the car only covers the battery for four years.. during that period if you have a problem they just throw it out and replace it... doesn't seem as eco-friendly as simply getting your car fixed with a hammer and wrenches. After the warranty period if the battery goes out, you've totaled you car. You are up carbon-footprint creek without a paddle.

Finally, let's face it.. most people buying Priuses are not doing it for fuel economy, in fact only 37% said that was their motivation. According to a survey written up in the New York Times in 2007 (link below), the main reason people bought the Prius was for making a statement about themselves. Hmm... so do owners care about the environment or do they just want to put a smug smile and lambaste everyone about how they've done "part to save the rain forests and save the web-footed orange pigeon." If people are so into the carbon off-sets business ought to also pay-up for all the energy consumed just to make your fancy vehicle which includes the factory, the workers, their vehicles which got them to work, their homes - (they need to live somewhere, right?), their families, etc...

Toyota Prius Review

Look at me Factor.. B, personally I think it looks forgettable but folks go ga-ga over it for some reason
Interior.. D, for goodness sakes the glued on the vents and the interior is made of cheap plastic!

Overall.. F, A eco-friendly vehicle that's actually worse for the environment in the long run.. wonderful!


Maynard, Micheline; Nick Bunkley and Mary M. Chapman contributing. "Say 'Hybrid' and Many People will Hear 'Prius.'" The New York Times, via, 2007-07-04. Retrieved on 2007-08-13.


Anonymous said...

I think you forget the fact that lithium batteries and acid batteries are recyclable. So are most plastics. And while the Prius may not be the end of oil addiction it is a step in the right direction to reducing dependence on oil and decreasing our carbon emissions.

Brian said...

Wow.... Gotta love ignorance eh?
Tell me, how is EVERY car made? wait for it... that's right THE SAME WAY - in a "factory, [and] the workers, [with] their vehicles which got them to work,[.] their homes, [etc]". LOL! You make it sound like the Prius is special?
But seriously folks. Almost every single part of ANY car can be recycled in someway. YES, even the batteries. And in the VERY off chance (Prius' used as Taxis in Chicago that have well over 250k on them) that the NiMH battery of a Prius DOES die, yes, it's recycled too.
Do some research before you go blasting something that's over twice as efficient and has a 2 sec faster 0-60 time than a Honda Civic... as you so elegantly put it: "Hmm..."

Strong Moderate said...

Hmm.. let's put it this way Brian.. you must not be able to read or you just can't comprehend what was actually being written in the sentence you quoted/butchered.

Furthermore, the point what I was saying is that it isn't how fast/reliable they are but how in the long run they are just as energy draining as many other cars.

Brian said...

"I was saying is that it isn't how fast/reliable they are but how in the long run they are just as energy draining as many other cars." - First off, you WERE questioning how reliable they were by your battery replacement comment. Furthermore, HOW are they just as energy draining? As I said, it is over TWICE as efficient (less energy "drain") as a Civic while being even faster and having nearly the same manufacturing process.
I am having difficulty seeing what you're getting at. All this seems like is an alternative propulsion bash. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Mr. Sustainable said...

The batteries need to be cleaner. Of that there can be no argument. The point of the Prius is its DRAMATIC reduction in tailpipe emissions. Those contribute to global warming much more than the construction, recycling and disposal of batteries. In smoggy areas, the Prius runs so cleanly that the tailpipe emissions are cleaner than the ambient air!

Strong Moderate said...

Brian, prepare to be corrected...

This is not just an "bash" article, it is meant to open people's eyes to just how "efficient" their Priuses are.
I don't know why you keep bringing up the speed of the Prius because at no point was there any mention to their performance.
I do however still stand by my point that if one looks at these hybrid-type vehicles in comparison to non-HEV you'll find that hidden energy cost will lead to a clearer picture as to just how similar they are in terms of energy consumption.

As to you, Mr. Sustainable,

Besides the link that your name sends me, I tend to agree with you on most of your points. The batteries need to be cleaner and more efficient and the tailpipe emissions are lower (at the cost of the battery production and "recycling") and I did find it very funny/depressing that the tailpipe emissions in big cities are cleaner than the air we breath. However, your post does not address the issue of energy costs outside of just the contribution to the emissions relating to the phenomena labeled global-warming such as energy source depletion.

Charles said...

Strong, you really should do some fact-checking, rather than publishing opinion that wants to look like fact. You do your readers a disservice when you do that.

The Prius traction battery is made up of around 160 individual cells connected in series (just like in a flashlight, only bigger). It's not that heavy -- figure about 20 laptop battery packs. IF one of those cells should fail (actual records show they don't) you'd replace the failed cell, not the entire package. One of the cells in laptop batteries fail in about 3-5 years, but that's because they go from full charge to dead when you use them. The Prius battery goes from 80% to 60% of full charge, and that's all it's allowed to do. The full power of the battery is never used.
$300 is the price any Toyota dealer will pay you for it so they can recycle it properly.

You forgot brake pads. They last almost the life of the car, since a different method is used to slow the vehicle (read the blog posts from Toyota mechanics who state they've never replaced a battery or brake pads on any Prius they've ever seen). At $500 a pop every 20,000 - 30,000 miles, that's worth something, too. It turns circles in a tiny radius that puts other cars to shame. It has more legroom than ANY car you can afford. Try it.

Personally, I don't like the 'A' pillars for visibility, but the windshield view is enormous.

By the way, since it sounds like you've never actually driven a Prius, let me bring you up to speed. It goes 0-60 in 10 seconds (not shabby at all). And when you're driving 40 and want to pass, the monster torque from the electric motor, combined with no shifting (since there's no transmission) for the engine means you pass that old gas-guzzler RIGHT NOW! The acceleration once you're already travelling really is a little spooky.

One of the biggest benefits is something that every car should have, but none do; an instant MPG indicator. When I take off from a light and see that my 50-mpg average has dropped to 8, I back off on the throttle a bit. Guzzlers beside me don't get that valuable feedback, so they fly off without looking back. (That's OK -- I get to see them again at the next light.)

As far as I'm concerned, given the choice between an ordinary car that has 20 times the pollution (and half or one-third or one-fourth the mileage) and a Prius . . . Well, you haven't checked your facts so you probably don't even know about that 20x thing, do you?

If you've got a better idea, I'd still like to hear it.

Strong Moderate said...

Charles, glad you could join the discussion.

I have driven the Toyota Prius and the interior is boring and cheap, the exterior is also boring and unoriginal. I am not here to debate the performance specs of the Prius, that isn't my point. If you would, please point me to a forum where I can debate it otherwise try to stay on topic.

I'm glad you brought up the battery topic actually. I was just reading here about some of the hidden energy costs and environmental costs of the Prius battery. According to the article, "The Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles - the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use less combined energy doing it."

The better idea I offer is that until a hybrid/alternative energy car is invented that is truly "green" from the second the materials for it are mined until the moment it sputters to an end we focus more on light and small economic cars that do little damage for the environment.

By the way, what is your thought on Toyota deciding not to build their Prius factory in San Francisco (or the US for that matter).