Hybrid cars may not always be so eco-friendly

SF State is a commuter campus, which means many students use public transportation or drive to campus to attend classes. Some students find themselves feeling particularly “green” while driving to school in their hybrid electric vehicles, because it uses less fossil fuel than a standard vehicle. Unfortunately, hybrid electric vehicle owners aren’t asking questions regarding the true impact their car has on the environment. Many people don’t realize that hybrids can cause more harm to the planet than good.

Hybrid vehicles are automobiles that use two or more distinct power sources that allow the vehicle to function. The term “hybrid vehicle” most commonly refers to hybrid electric vehicles that combine an internal combustion engine, which uses gas, with one or more electric motors. These vehicles were built to recharge by capturing energy and reusing it or storing it.

By using less crude oil to power the car, the auto industry thought they were doing a great service for the environment. However, batteries are toxic and are not environmentally friendly.

The Toyota Prius made its U.S. debut in July 2000. Out of all the hybrid cars sold, the Toyota Prius holds the top spot. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, the Toyota Prius is the source for some of the worst pollution in northern America.

The nickel found in the battery of a Prius is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Canada, which has had a profound effect on the surrounding habitat and NASA has labeled the area as a ‘dead zone.’ The area surrounding the plant isn’t habitable to any living thing. According to NASA, the area is used to test moon rovers. Another environmentally detrimental result is that the toxic and pungent gas, sulfur dioxide, has spread outside the town to the whole northern part of the province. Acid rain was so bad it destroyed all plants and the soil in the area as well.

The production that is needed to make a hybrid battery is as environmentally unfriendly as it gets. The nickel produced by the Canadian plant is shipped to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel goes to China to produce ‘nickel foam.’ From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the completed batteries are shipped to the United States.

The carbon footprint attached to the making of a hybrid battery is extremely high, as can be seen by the frequent flyer miles the hybrid battery racks up.

According to a study called Dust to Dust, by CNW Marketing Research, Inc., the total combined energy needed to produce a Prius is greater than what it takes to make a Hummer. On average, a Prius costs $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles, which is the expected lifespan of a hybrid. A Hummer, costs $1.95 per mile over its lifetime of 300,000 miles, which means a Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and it uses almost 50 percent less combined energy, according to the NCPA.

It’s important to do some research when it comes to picking out any product that may sound environmentally friendly. The product you end up purchasing could end up doing more harm than good. An alternative to a hybrid car, or any car, is to take public transportation or ride a bike. The less carbon emissions you put out, the smaller your carbon footprint will be and in turn the better you will feel about trying to lessen the contribution of fossil fuels in the atmosphere.

Latest comments
  • Please do further research before you post mis-information. The information about a Prius being worse to the environment than the creation of a Hummer is false and has been proven so multiples times over the past few years, I believe.

    • Source?

      • The author of this article provides the source (unwittingly?) that refutes the Dust to Dust study, or at least calls it into serious question:

        “According to a study called Dust to Dust, by CNW Marketing Research, Inc., the total combined energy needed to produce a Prius is greater than what it takes to make a Hummer.”

        Click on that link, and read all about the problems with the study. It’s amazing that she sites an article that refutes the study as a way to supposedly support her use of the study. Look, I came upon this article in search of info on whether “green” care really are green, and I still have my doubts. But that study (and this article?) is useless in that endeavor.

  • Wow. Another zombie idea rears its ugly head. No matter how many times that totally discredited CNW report gets killed, someone just has to bring it back to life. I expect better from journalists…even student journalists.

  • This is a good lesson about the use of Google, even for journalists. First, the National Center for Policy Analysis isn’t the sort of disinterested party like a Consumer’s Union or Underwriter’s Laboratory. They’re an admittedly conservative, free-market group with a particular ax to grind.

    The information about the Prius batteries is a bit out of date, as the Prius is moving to Lithium batteries. Comparing the Prius to the Hummer is particularly amusing – and unreliable, as NCPA gives the Hummer a generous lifespan of 25 years, which is hilarious given Hummer driver’s propensity for accidents and tickets (Hummer drivers get 4.5 the number of tickets than average drivers, according to insurance industry research).

    To be sure, the environmental impact of making any car is greater than taking the bus or bicycling (or even buying a high-MPG used car…), but to label the Prius as doing more harm than good — that’s absurd.

    • Source please…or is your opinion gospel?

    • Science debunks the green car myth as well. Most things liberals believe do not pan out and they are the last ones to be honest about that.

  • Emp from the battery makes drivers sleepy. Potentially a serious hazard. Power lines cause tumors and cancer if you live close to them. The amps is bad exposure. Electric cars and hybrids are running on amps, not volts like your mobile phones and computers. Time will tell. And for some, they will be sorry.
    I

  • What nonsense. A Toyota Prius will undoubtedly be the car that lasts 300,000 miles plus, not the American made Hummer. Also, all cars need batteries. Also the day to day emissions of gas powered cars far outstrips the emissions involved in making a battery. This ranks as one of the most uninformed articles in recent history. Other than the Bush report that Iraq had WMD’s.

  • Wannabe journalist.

  • Do not know about the
    Hummer, but know a green car fanatic that got a $9,500 repair estimate on their
    Prius. None of these studies takes the carbon footprint of working an extra job
    to earn that absurd about of money to fix a car.

    They are outrageously
    expensive to fix even though they are reliable.
    Between to make ten repair trips with Kia and get it paid under warranty
    than one of these. Incidently, Kias are
    actually very reliable per Consumers Reports but you understand the point.

    This article confirms the
    basic premise – “green” cars are not so green.

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/does-hybrid-car-production-waste-offset-hybrid-benefits.htm

    • Did you even read your own source? It says, right there, on the first page:

      “But do the environmental impacts of hybrid vehicle production outweigh the long-term benefits of driving a cleaner running automobile? That answer is a resounding “no.” If you drive both a conventional and hybrid car for 160,000 miles (257,495 kilometers), the conventional vehicle requires far more energy to operate and emits far more greenhouse gases over its lifetime, significantly canceling out any imbalance during the production stage [source: Burnham et al].”

      In other words, the article confirms the *exact opposite* of your claim. Are Prius haters just flat out illiterate?

      • If you cared about the environment, you would not be driving 160,000 miles. I multi-source and am hardly illiterate. The point is that it is no slam dunk and it takes a lot of driving to be competitive environmentally. The disposal of these batteries is problematical, so we will see what the real deal is. One proven fact i that hybrids get considerably fewer miles per gallon than claimed, with numerous lawsuits. This is because dynamometers are designed around conventional vehicles and overstate the savings,

        • “I multi-source and am hardly illiterate”

          Bold words, coming from someone who cited a source that says the exact opposite of what he claims it says.

          “The disposal of these batteries is problematical”

          Oh, please. The battery bogeyman again? NiMH batteries are non-toxic, and fully recyclable. Toyota will even pay you $200 to take it back for recycling, because it’s actually profitable to recycle NiMH batteries.

          “One proven fact i that hybrids get considerably fewer miles per gallon than claimed”

          The EPA rates the Prius at 48 MPG highway/51 MPG city, while fuelly shows the aggregate average for the third generation to be 48 MPG. It gets pretty much exactly the same mileage as it claims.

          Seriously, if you’re going to hate on the Prius, at least do it for reasons that are actually true. Hating on it for long-disproven reasons just makes you a tool.

          • MAYBE YOU SHOULD BE DEFENDING TOYOTA IN THOSE LAWSUITS.
            Nickel mining is an environmental issue.
            Earlier, CR said not to buy a hybrid, though they are changing their tune. – Insurance rates are higher due to high costs of repair.
            – Often the rear seat cannot be folded down and the trunk is smaller. (implied – you need a larger vehicle or truck to carry what you could put in a non-hybrid equivalent with a more flexible interior.
            – The price premiium is not always worth it.

            I have some uber-green acquaintances – the whole family has Priuses – one had an issue and the dealer wanted $9,800 to fix it. Hardly economical.
            Look, to each his own, but eco-friendly is not always the slam-dunk enthusiastic marketers claim it to be.

          • “MAYBE YOU SHOULD BE DEFENDING TOYOTA IN THOSE LAWSUITS.”

            Anyone can file a lawsuit for anything if they like. That doesn’t mean those lawsuits have any merit – the concordance of fuelly’s data with the EPA’s fuel economy claims should make that abundantly clear.

            “Often the rear seat cannot be folded down and the trunk is smaller.”

            Both factually incorrect. The Prius’ rear seats CAN fold down, and the hatchback configuration lends itself to a trunk volume that is greater than most sedans. You can verify this for yourself by referencing the EPA’s cargo volume for the Prius.

            Besides, the lifecycle analyses have already proven that the Prius is, in fact, less harmful for the environment over its full lifecycle than a comparable conventional car. Stop hating on the car for reasons that aren’t even true.