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Bengt Halvorson at The Car Connection has posted a critical look at the controversy over the total and complete environmental cost of hybrid vehicles. Yes, they do offer better fuel economy and lower overall emissions, but some critics and analysts say recycling and production costs--including the mining of materials needed for batteries--create an overall larger environmental footprint than a gas-guzzling Hummer.

Much of this debate falls back on a study from CNW Marketing Research that states hybrids use more energy in their lifetime than a large SUV. This dust-to-dust analysis has been blasted by an official at the Union of Concerned Scientists, saying the study was contradicted by MIT and other scientific communities. Toyota has also rejected the study, saying it doesn't reflect the data the automaker has compiled in its lifecycle analysis.

I won't go into all the points raised in Halvorson's lengthy story, which offers the argument that environmental damage and energy are not synonymous. But the biggest problem with engaging in a serious debate is that CNWMR won't release its data or methodology from its report for critical peer review. Meanwhile, the report's conclusions are often stated as fact throughout conservative and anti-environmental commentary.

[Source: Bengt Halvorson /The Car Connection]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      How is CNWMR not releasing their methodology any different than the global warming fanatics citing junk science as reason for hysteria. Yes I am a republican actually a conservative- so let the bashing begin. However, these environmentalist wackos do the same thing that MIT and the so-called "other scientific communities" do everyday. They say that global warming is definitely caused by man. When you ask them for their science behind it they either say "you're the reason why the earth is being destroyed" our they cite junk science from 20 years ago (BTW they were worried about global cooling in the 70's). In other words they can't really prove that man is responsible for the warming of the earth. So basically CNWMR is doing the same thing yet basing their conclusions on pretty much common sense. The Li-ion batteries in laptops are highly toxic and need to be disposed of properly so they do not contaminate the environment. The prius uses the same kind of batteries (Li-ion). Are we supposed to believe that since Toyota is a "green" company they must have designed their batteries differently? Well that may be true to an extent- they are still Li-ion no matter how you slice it. So if one has to be recycled in a special process and the other is the same thing then ifso-facto your precious Prius may not be as "green" as you think. Sorry to be a bit long winded but the whole global warming "debate" really gets me fired up.
      • 6 Years Ago
      @8) Solar panels are not all that powerful, especially at the scale of moving a car. Have you ever seen the college-project solar cars? Huge, uber-lightweight, entirely areodynamic, and covered entirely with solar cells.

      Second, putting turbines on the front would cause more drag than could be compensated for by the energy produced (law of conservation of energy). Otherwise we could just use that new power to go faster, generate more power, and ... blah blah blah.

      Third "dirty" power plants? Get your mind out of the 1900's. Power plants run much cleaner than cars, and with scrubbing the exhaust gasses they run more efficiently with less C02 / energy than a car ever could. Not to mention with the rise of solar, wind, and nuclear even that is no longer a concern.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I recently saw the CNW "study" cited again in a major Australian newspaper. Since the CNW release (and since this blog post) Dr. Peter Gleick at the Pacific Institute (and MacArthur Fellow) released a major critique that can be found at http://www.pacinst.org/topics/integrity_of_science/case_studies/hummer_versus_prius.html. In conjunction with his study, the Rocky Mountain Institute ran an LCA of the Prius and the Hummer using Argonne National Lab's respected GREET model, and found unequivocably in favor of the Prius. This can be located at https://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Transportation/T07-01_DustToDust.pdf.
      • 7 Years Ago
      #2 Brad, The Prius uses NiMH batteries and not Lithium-ion. Also, neither battery is that toxic with regards to disposal. Perhaps you are thinking of Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries, which are very toxic.

      Good battery overview here: http://www.batteryuniversity.com/partone-21.htm
      • 7 Years Ago

      The difference is this:

      1) Some greens might quote junk science on a specific point about global warming, but the overwhelming majority of real science supports their ultimate point: human-caused global warming appears to be real and accelerating.

      2) There is no real science that supports the point CNW is attempting to make, and a lot of real science that contradicts it.

      That's the difference. It's not a tit-for-tat thing, you know. Nobody wins if we fight junk science with more junk science and call it even.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Good point Rodney, taking it beyond the prius and hummer.

      Toyota claims they carefully recycle most of the content of their batteries into other products at their own special facility. This still leaves open the question of what happens with the part that can not be recycled - hopefully "greenly" disposed of.

      The technology that makes sense to me is electric cars that are charged not just by plugging in but also with solar cells on the car for recharging during the day (while stuck in traffic) and wind turbines in the front end that could make use of the 60mph wind resistance on the highway, even at night; this would allow for longer ranges with smaller batteries and avoid using dirty power plants. I think this could actually be done now although it would get more efficient and cheaper over time. Developing solar and wind energy to do this economically and efficiently and clean up the grid is what makes sense to me. I'd be interested in any downside.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Okay Brad, go ahead and take the word of Market Researchers over Scientists and Engineers on scientific matters all you want. You can really trust those market analysts to really understand these scientific topics, and to report on them truthfully. Those lousy scientists on the other hand are all looking for their 15 minutes of fame. They spent the majority of their life going to school just so they could see their name in that scientific journal, not because they're actually passionate about what they've spent their life studying.

      Besides! It was below 0˚C yesterday, global warming is obviously a hoax...

      Tell me Brad, what did you study at school?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Most of you are missing the real point. There are many smaller and efficient non hybrid cars that are almost as fuel efficient and much "greener" than the Prius. But the Prius has become a symbol- one that is possibly missleading. We would be much better off if millions of people drove the scion than if millions drove the prius. It is not what the Toyota's and environmentalist's "MARKET RESEARCHERS" would have you believe it is. Just because you are told or feel you're doing the "right" it doesn't make it so. Do you want to "send a message" or actually do something to help?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I am so tired of that study. People read it uncritically and at first glance it sounds like it might be slightly plausible, so they trumpet it everywhere. Until you actually think about it, that is. But no one seems to.

      A little bit like the "controversy" over global warming...