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Green Jeeps? Polluting hybrids? What?

Posted by TheGreen on 03/13 at 04:39 PM

Just when you start to figure things out, something comes along and messes it all up. Like the environment, for example.

Like most folks, I have equated gas milage with how eco-friendly a vehicle is. It’s a simple approach, where a hybrid car is better for the planet than say, a gas-guzzling SUV.

Wrong. Or so they are now saying.

According to US-based CNW Research, those high-tech, high fuel milage cars and trucks are in fact worse for the environment than their low tech cousins, if you stand back and look at the big picture. That’s what they did, looking at some 300 vehicles as they go from the drawing board to the assembly line to life on the road and off into oblivion. Or from “dust to dust,” as they said.

CNW did the kind of mind-numbing research that would drive most sane people crazy, looking at over 4,000 variables in the life cycles of each vehicle. There’s a lot of energy used to design, build, sell and operate a vehicle, and at the end you have to dispose of it.They really got into the details: The US made Honda Accord is built by folks who drive to work, at an average cost of $1.92 per day. Meanwhile their Japanese colleagues building the same car take public take public transit, at a cost of 18 cents per day.

There are other considerations: How much of the car is made from recycled materials? Where is it made? How far does it have to go to get to the consumer? How specialized are all the doohickeys and thingamajigs? How expensive is the energy used to build it?
The bad news is that the hybrid vehicles cost a lot more, consuming up to ten times more energy over their lifespans. It starts with a lot of energy going into designing the things, and those costs (easily over a billion dollars per model) haven’t been absorbed yet by the number of vehicles made. The result: Development energy costs for a Toyota Prius are about $29,000, compared to $2,600 for a Toyota Corolla, because the Corolla has been around for about 40 years or so.
To make it understandable, CNW calculated it out in cost-per-mile. The damage: A Toyota Prius costs an average of $2.62 per mile, while the Corolla costs 72 cents a mile. A Mercedes-Benz Maybach costs $15.84 per mile.

On the low end, the Jeep Wrangler, in all of its boxy, clunky glory, costs 71 cents per mile, the cheapest available in Canada. Because it’s been pretty much the same for the last 60 years little energy is spent on design, and almost all of its parts can be recycled.

Others on the top ten list include the Toyota Corolla and Echo, the Chevy Aveo, Hyundai Elantra and Accent, Kia Spectra Ford Focus and the Honda Fit, which comes in at number ten, at 91 cents per mile driven. Other than the Wrangler these are all small, cars that sip fuel. And none of them on the list waste a lot of time and effort on high tech doodads.

I’m still not sure what to make of all of this, except to say that appearances can be deceiving. That and the fact that while the car dealers are trying to play the green card on their customers, I think I’d be better off stretching a little more life out of the car I have until I figure this out.
For a look at the report go to:

About the author: TheGreen