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Remember that post from a few months ago about a Hummer being greener than a Prius? Well, the outfit that compared those two iconic vehicles, CNW Research, has gotten its study picked up in England (where the comparison is between a Jeep Cherokee and a Prius) and Toyota is responding by calling the study "Recycled Rubbish?".

I was skeptical of the Hummer = green claim at the time, and people certainly got to talking in the comments about the post. Now Toyota steps in and says CNW is wrong on a lot of fronts, from simple factual errors to larger methodical mistakes. It's important to remember that Toyota isn't an objective bystander in the debate, but I've got to their claims make sense to me.

You can read Toyota's entire argument after the jump.
Recycled Rubbish?

CNW Marketing Research Inc. – Study on Hybrid Efficiency
A number of UK publications have recently re-presented the results of an old study by a North American marketing research agency, CNW Research Inc. This study makes some surprising and uncorroborated claims about the total environmental impact of vehicles over the complete lifecycle (i.e. production – use – recycling).

The media have picked up on one particularly eye catching claim, namely that the Jeep Cherokee is cleaner than a Toyota Prius hybrid saloon. This result runs contrary to all other research in the area.

The "results" of the CNW study

As with any model, it is critical that the methodology is valid, the assumptions are sound, and the data accurate. The CNW study makes several assumptions which undermine the conclusions arrived at. Without a scientific peer review, it is impossible to comment on any of these factors.

What is clear, however, is that the conclusions appear to be very different from the results of several other rigorous, scientifically-reviewed studies of the lifecycle impact of vehicles (e.g. Argonne National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
  • Example 1: These studies conclude that the majority (80-85%) of the total lifetime energy use of a vehicle comes from the driving stage, with the remainder coming from the remaining stages of a vehicle life, whereas the CNW study shows these percentages to be reversed.
  • Example 2: Two Toyota models mentioned in the report, the Scion xA and xB sold only in the USA, are engineered with the same processes, built on the same assembly line, transported and shipped together, distributed through the same dealer network, have the same engines and transmissions, are about the same weight (within 50 lbs.), and have very similar fuel consumption ratings (one just over 35 mpg combined, the other just below 35), yet the CNW study shows the lifetime energy use of these vehicles to be very different (53 per cent).
  • Example 3: The CNW study states that hybrids require more lifetime energy than even large SUVs. Toyota's internal analysis does conclude that there is more energy required in the materials production stage for a hybrid, but that this is overwhelmingly made up for in the driving stage (the 80-85% stage), causing the hybrid to have a significantly lower lifetime energy use.
There are also basic factual errors in the report, for example CNW claim that the hybrid batteries are not recycled.

In truth Toyota and sister brand Lexus have a comprehensive battery recycling programme in place and has been recycling Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries since the RAV4 Electric Vehicle was introduced in 1998. Every part of the battery, from the precious metals to the plastic, plates, steel case, and the wiring, is recycled. To ensure that batteries come back to Toyota, each battery has a phone number on it to call for recycling information.

Toyota and other environmentally conscious car makers have been using life cycle assessment for many years to evaluate various advanced vehicle technologies. Toyota, along with many others, believes that the best way to judge the environmental impact of a vehicle is to do a full evaluation of all the inputs and outputs in every stage of its life. The lifetime energy use is just one of the many things to look at.

The environment and the role of the car in CO2 emissions are rightly a very important subject for debate. Toyota welcomes such debate. However, the debate is not helped by sensationalistic reporting of an uncorroborated and unrepresentative piece of marketing research carried out in North America.

Related:
[Source: Toyota]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      • 2 Months Ago
      Pedro Corre, the following link provides references to the Argonne, MIT, and other reports, and is the best single refutation of the CNW study I have yet seen:

      http://www.pacinst.org/topics/integrity_of_science/case_studies/hummer_vs_prius.pdf

      MrFurious, who has been forcing you to buy a Prius? Have you contacted the police? I can see why you are so furious if liberals are chasing you around forcing you to buy a hybrid. Shocking. As repentence for the error of all liberals everywhere, I myself will gladly call for the flaws in "An Inconvenient Truth" to be thoroughly analyzed and broadly publicized. Oops, looks like right-leaning media outlets already took care of that for us, so we're good there. The only annoying thing, though, is that despite any specific flaws in Mr. Gore's popular media presentation of the science of global warming, the vast majority of scientists still essentially agree with his conclusions. What are we to do about that? Ah, got it: let's create our *own* science that says what we want it to say! But again, the Heritage Foundation is already busy at work on that one, so we can just relax, kick on back, and keep on smirking at those smug liberals.

      Mike, the link above should satisfy your need for greater detail on precisely why this report is, indeed, *fatally* flawed. As an aside, please note that your own summation of the topic is no more sufficient to justify your conclusion than this blog article's summation is sufficient to justify its conclusion. You are making the very same errors you declaim -- though you have upped the arrogance ante a good bit.

      Here's one of my favorite examples of why I am skeptical of this report. When first released, Art Spinella said that the 100k lifespan for the Prius came from Toyota itself, a claim that mystified many people (including Toyota). In his most recent statements, Art now says this figure is the mileage a driver is *likely* to put on a Prius during its lifetime, which I'm sure we'll all agree is a radically different metric (How miles it could be driven v. how many miles it is "likely" to be driven, whatever that means). So the basis for the number has changed completely, but ***the number itself has not changed at all***. Hmmm. Regardless of your personal ideological leanings, doesn't that strike you as just a wee bit peculiar? If one were uncharitable, one might even suggest that the report is arguing backwards from a desired conclusion.

      There may be other such shifting and dubiously founded assumptions in CNW's report, but you will never know because they will not publish their methodology. Their analysis *cannot be replicated*. As a basis for informed discussion, the report is therefore worthless. Its only value is as a cudgel to be wielded by people who appreciate its conclusions regardless of their worth.

      It's a pity, too, because the subject itself is a valuable one to explore. But I wonder, if a reliable entity were to study the issue and publish all its assumptions and methodology according to standard practices, encouraging peer review, etc., etc., and if that report were to come to the opposite conclusion -- that a hybrid is in fact better for the environment than a Hummer -- would anyone ever see it or read it or care? Say, if MIT or Argonne or some other reputable group of scientists were to study the issue . . .
      • 2 Months Ago
      The amusing part about this whole argument is that the righteous indignation held by Prius and other “green” car owners about the flaws in methodology and/or peer review is the same complaint other scientists have had on global warming studies. Yet, I doubt I’ll see many of these guys calling for the flaws in the specious “Inconvenient Truth” being analyzed.

      The simple fact is that we all want our cars to be a good value both environmentally and financially. However, environmentalism has become a political (and almost religious) issue to some. This means that anyone or anything that might challenge that viewpoint is subject to be targeted and destroyed. Look at the punitive actions called against scientists and climatologists who disagree with the man made global warming theory (some are advocating the revocation of their credentials).

      Personally, I’ll choose a vehicle that fits me. If I can get a hummer that suits my lifestyle and my budget, I’ll purchase it; if that turns out to be a Prius than I will choose it. What I reject is the “holier than thou” attitude held by some Prius owners that seems to state that I’m doing something wrong by purchasing a vehicle that fits me and not them.

      Someone asked, “Why all the rage towards people wanting to do something to benefit the environment?” I think it’s clearly a response to the fact that so many are trying to force their views down someone else’s throat. You want to drive a Prius? Go for it. Just don’t try and force everyone else to do the same. Don’t shake your finger at them for choosing a hummer or act as if you’re superior in some way. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. Give it time and the market will make the decision. If you force it, you’ll only get more people rebelling against this imposed political correctness.
      • 2 Months Ago
      It's about time that CNW Marketing was publicly spanked for this scam report. They have still yet to publish their methodology. That should throw red flags all over the place, if you know anything about how reliable studies are promolgated.

      What's most appalling is the way the press picked up the results of this "study" without any critical thought whatsoever. "Wow, that totally contradicts what everyone thinks. Guess I'll just publish it without checking the facts or comparing it to other similar studies by widely respected research institutions. It'll make a great headline."

      Sheesh. And they say we aren't descended from apes.
      • 2 Months Ago
      Toyota's Tsutsumi plant is one of the most environmentaly friendly in the world. The CO2 output per vehicle is much less then any of the plants the Big 3 manages. I don't understand this anger towards Hybrids/Toyota.

      Check it out, it's pretty impressive.
      http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/environmental_rep/06/download/pdf/e_fa08.pdf
      KW
      • 3 Years Ago
      Take that Jeremy Clarkson.
      • 2 Months Ago
      So let me get this straight? Is this the same Toyota that can't put a sticker on the Prius window to show the variation of fuel economy that the mass media are reporting? The same Toyota that “encourages” automobile magazines to focus reviews of their cars on quality and tactile experience rather than price or fuel economy lest the publication face decreased advertising? Toyota is to be believed when they answer third party research with an INTERNAL study? ROFL, I am simply amazed by how brainwashed the average "American Idiot" (Thank you Green Day) is. You will believe anything they say. Anyway I know just enough about materials, component manufacturing and recycling to know Toyota is stretching the truth. Like MPG? Like perceived quality? Like US auto work pay and benefits? I'll buy a Hummer and live a greener LIFE and save more than you blockheads will driving your little Propaganda mobile. Nothing is funnier than someone who buys a Prius for 150mile/day commute. Maybe you should move closer to work, you idiot? After work the Precious Prius carries them to their 5,000 sq-ft McMansion so they can proclaim how “green” he/she is. Dolts!
      • 8 Years Ago
      look...

      recycling TOXIC batteries takes ENERGY. LOTS OF ENERGY...

      Energy that comes from where? Power plants. How do powerplants make energy? By burning COAL & OIL.

      So a hybrid at best, is just delaying the burning of fossil fuels until its battery packs have to be recycled. Something that takes A LOT of energy (not only to recycle the battery, but to transport the batteries, handle them, keep track etc...).

      So a hybrid is cleaner then a prius. I concede that. But a hybrid being cleaner than a car of the same size? That isn't true. It pollutes more...

      DON'T BE FOOLED... Hybrids are just another way for automakers to delay hydrogen implementation... Something, unfortunately many stupid people of our country are letting occur and letting auto makers get away with...
      • 2 Months Ago
      Okay Nobs_here, Toyota does have a vested interest in this. But clearly, large SUVs use more energy than small hybrids. Even CNW's research shows this, if you read the actual report, but they deflected it in their press release by reporting *lifetime* cost, then claim that the average Tahoe, Suburban, Expedition will last over 270K miles, whereas the Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid will only last 109K miles. If they increased that to only 128K miles the SUVs lose their advantage. Several Prii have already been driven well over 200K miles on their original batteries, and given that the average hybrid is less than 4 years old, this lifetime estimate is severely flawed. You do have valid points in that your commute and your house are part of the energy equation as well. I use about 12 gallons/month, I think that is a more important figure than mpg). I put in good windows, a good furnace, even changed jobs for one closer to home, etc. Getting 50 mpg in my Prius as I do doesn't give me a right to be smug, but driving a smaller, more efficient car is still clearly the right thing to do (if you can't bike or walk to work).
      • 2 Months Ago

      "but I've got to their claims make sense to me."

      =>

      "but I've got to admit their claims make sense to me."

      ?
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Toyota and other environmentally conscious car makers..."

      Toyota may make the prius, xA, xB, corolla, etc. so lets forget about the Tundra, Sequioa, 4Runner, Highlander, Land Cruiser, all non-hybrid Lexi.

      Yep, they make the Prius they win, they are the greenest.
      • 8 Years Ago
      EDIT: "So a prius is cleaner then a hummer."
      • 2 Months Ago
      I am a surgeon, and while I am not an environmentalist I care a lot about the environment and the planet as a whole. I try to be open minded. Unfortunately the business of health care is an environmental disaster in my opinion. We use immense amounts of plastic, and due to biohazard, tends not to be recycled. Most of what I use in my day to day work is considered 'disposable' and most of it is incinerated. For the record I do not feel good about this.

      My parents have a business that they have spent a LOT of money making carbon neutral. The environmental push they have made has won them awards. And their business has prospered. They have recently bought a prius for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its percieved lower environmental impact. Whatever your stance on this issue, their business now makes a less negative impact on the environment than it did 2 years ago, and that is a good thing.

      I drive a subaru legacy/liberty. It is a great car, has the versatility I want so I can make the most of my time off, and has a great safety rating. It gets about 12-14L/100km. I have driven the prius, and have to admit it's not a bad car to drive. Not great, but not bad either. I'd rather drive my subaru.

      While I think the CNW study is fundamentally flawed, I can see both sides of the argument. I think the oil companies have done a lot of lobbying. I think toyota has too.

      The fact of the matter, however, is that someday in the alarmingly near future, we will run out of oil. (I admit we will probably never actually run out with not a drop ever to be found again, but oil will become so expensive that we simply won't have access to it).

      At that point, my car will become a lot less versatile. While the prius won't be too crash hot either, people such as my parents will argue (with considerable merit) that the technology that they supported, developed for the prius (and no doubt subsequent hybrids and hopefully non fossil fuel burning cars) is what will allow us to continue not just our love affair with the car, but to continue any form of powered transportation in the absence of accessible oil.

      I know it's not really the topic here, but excessive oil usage in our society is ultimately likely to be more to our detriment than developing non-fossil fuel transportation or recycling prius batteries.
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