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What's the verdict on the Prius?

I own a Toyota Prius and have been getting into debates over how environmentally friendly the car really is. I had one guy send me a link to an article that compares the Prius to a Hummer ans shows the hummer has a loew cost of ownership. This article is flawed in that it expectes a Hummer to last 300,000 miles and a Prius only 100,000 so that comparison is not fair.

I've listened to a great deal of podcasts on the prius and from what I hear it sounds like the manufacturing of the car is not very green (especially the battery) but that the low fuel usage makes up for that (and alot more) over a lifetime. Is that about right?

All opinions are welcome

Frank from Chicago

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

Do you believe that your Prius will last for 300K miles? It might, but it will likely require certain items that the Hummer will not. Replacement batteries, for example. The unknown technology makes the Prius a wild card in many respects. Hopefully, however, your acting as a test market will provide better information and technologies for the future.

The Hummer uses a technology that is well understood with respect to longevity. I wonder if they take into account the little things that have a tendency to break on this type of vehicle that companies like Honda and Toyota have traditionally made more reliable (window switches, for example).

The most commonly sited reason for purchasing a Prius, however, is to make a statement. (see as one of many examples, I can not find a reference to a poll that I read once).

In the end, you can claim that you do create a talking point and make a statement. Even if you do not use less energy now, it is likely that mass production and greater demand will provide for a better footprint in the future. Finally, this may lead to (or allow) better ways to power the cars in the future.

If the report is correct, so what if you waste more energy now... As long as you are not using a huge amount more with no chance of improvement/recovery in the future.

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

The Watt previously had a discussion on the CNW dust to dust analysis of different cars: perhaps it can be resurrected? From memory the Prius came up poorly due to some contentious issues. Because Toyota chose a (ridiculously?) conservative lifetime estimate of 100,000 miles for the Prius, CNW chose that too. Next CNW used the method of assigning all of the energy accrued during the design stage of a car (even including the energy expended by the design engineers coming to work, etc) and distributing it over the cars produced. As the Prius was very new in concept and few had been sold when the analysis was made this seemed an unrealistic procedure to me. I think they admitted that as new models and more Priuses were sold that this front loading per car would drop considerably. Finally they included a high recycling cost at the end of the Prius's life, presumably because of the high tech batteries. Again this seemed rather speculative to me.

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

This will get you started.

Calling the CNW report bogus would be an insult to bogus reports.

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

Including design in the analysis is valid, ignoring design is just silly. The hope, however, is that you recoup this on later designs that are hopefully easier because they become mainstream. If they chose to not include these figures on all cars, especially the car against which they are comparing, that is deeper than wrong.

The next version will recoup the costs with respect to design.

What is the state of recycling the materials used in a Prius?

Don't worry about the report. As with all things, your usage will vary. If most of your driving is highway, well, then you would have been just as well off (or better off) with something else. If you do a lot of city driving, a hybrid is difficult to beat. Your mix of driving will determine your return.

If people bother you too much, ride your bike, use public transportation when possible.

Although more energy was likely used for dust to dust to go from conception (meaning before design) to the death of the car, I had a few other thoughts on this...

1. The Prius is more popular than expected, so the design phase can be spread over more cars than they likely did in the report.

2. The type of energy used is different for driving (oil) than in manufacturing.

3. If someone makes fun of you,ask them if they believe in global warming. If they do not, a larger carbon footprint may not matter to them anyway.

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

Here's the podcast that I did with CNW (the people behind that report). There's also a transcript for that discussion. I would say the report is bogus. CNW somehow estimated the energy required to do R&D on the prius but didn't include the energy to do R&D on other vehicles and of course the fact that they assumed you would have to make 3 Prius' for every 1 Hummer is also flawed.

Here's some more opinions:

And slate recently wrote an article on this:

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

Nice links, by the way...

When I read the report, I was thinking, well, it looks mostly ok, but it left me wondering. The pod cast left me feeling better about the report being more accurate. I had not realized that in some sense, the numbers are not really related to money spent, but are more related carbon released (so to speak). Now, if I choose to simply not recycle the car, then I can reduce the "cost" because I do not expend energy attempting to recycle items that are difficult to recycle, but I will increase the "cost" because energy is expended dumping it in a landfill.

Items I think I learned.

- Those first people that purchased a Prius paid the hefty "cost" because they are burdened with the initial development. This seems like an OK assumption as long as you understand it.

- A few years out, the newer version will be less "costly" because of less development. What version of the Prius are we on? It should be down now.

- it had not occurred to me to consider the cost of repair; interesting. In an accident, the Hummer is much more likely to be repaired and the Prius totaled because it is much easier to destroy a little car, and big metal frames are harder to destroy.... Someone actually bothered to do a study on that. What a waste of money. "People in big vehicles suffer fewer injuries and can inflict a whole bunch of destruction on a smaller car when they hit it".

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

You are right, you can't compare Toyota with a Hummer, it's is not fair, they are both designed for different targets.As far as I am concerned I am a Toyota fan, I am sure there are still things to be handled specially at the green part but let's not forget that Toyota came with a revolutionary technology and Toyota parts are continuously improved.

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

You are right about that. When I think of Toyota, I think small with limited passengers. Looked at a Toyota that my wife LOVED, but one of our car seats had difficulty fitting because there was not enough depth. If I wanted tight turns and such without passengers, it would have been great. Of course, with the Prius, I need to be careful while tooling around places such as Rochester Michigan where they train blind people. Seems that blind people can not hear the Prius when it is stopped.

The Hummer may have a lot of room, and it is much safer in a crash, but eat drinks a lot of gas and rides closer to a truck. it is nice that you can see around you, even in areas where they have lots of trucks (think rural areas, texas, detroit, etc.... you probably know your own areas where you see a lot of SUVs).

Both are fun in their own way. For my own tastes, however, i would probably not purchase either as an only vehicle. I find the hummer too large, and most toyotas too small for the family. As it is, when I have any visitors, we have to run multiple cars just to fit everyone in the Buick. I hate that, and I really do not want a mini-van or other SUV type vehicle .

Re: What's the verdict on the Prius?

The Hummer uses a technology that is well understood with respect to longevity. I wonder if they take into account the little things that have a tendency to break on this type of vehicle that companies like Honda and Toyota have traditionally made more reliable (window switches, for example).


One rare, now the Prius seems to show up everywhere... including in animated TV shows. Plus, some comments on the new 2008 model, more real world gas milage, plus much, much less!