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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    I've been a long time fan of the Prius (own one myself), but I've been reading a number of articles that seem pretty well thought out, that claim the Prius has a net negative impact on the environment. Slashdot is running an interesting story that summarizes a lot of these points, including a link to a group that claims the Prius would get BETTER gas mileage without the hybrid parts.

    Not sure what to think here, but the arguments they make are somewhat convincing. Anyone here better versed in cars to sort the facts from the fiction?


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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    This is kind of a loaded topic, but I'll try to answer without getting into the politics of it. The Prius does get better gas mileage, but some of the materials are kind of nasty to produce and transport. To really figure out the better environmental impact, you'd have to determine how much fuel you're saving over the life of your car (which will vary depending on how much you drive it), versus how much additional pollution you'd be generating by buying a Prius to begin with. Then figure out which is worse. I don't have any of the figures at hand, but I strongly suspect the additional impact from both carbon emissions and gasoline production costs would outweigh the heavy metal mining.

    Regarding "give the Prius a regular engine and it'll run even better..." I seriously doubt that. If that really were the case, Honda would have done that with its hybrid version and tried to steal Toyota's market. It's pretty apparent that there's a lot of money to be made in fuel-efficient cars. The fact that nobody's done it yet suggests to me that there's some engineering reason it can't be done.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Telonius View Post
    This is kind of a loaded topic, but I'll try to answer without getting into the politics of it.
    I kind of see it as a scientific question politics shouldn't enter at all.

    Regarding "give the Prius a regular engine and it'll run even better..." I seriously doubt that. If that really were the case, Honda would have done that with its hybrid version and tried to steal Toyota's market. It's pretty apparent that there's a lot of money to be made in fuel-efficient cars. The fact that nobody's done it yet suggests to me that there's some engineering reason it can't be done.
    I think the argument is that most of the gas gains are from the car being lighter, so ditching the electric engine and all of the weight of the battery and dual drive train would make it better, as the hybrid engine adds very little (to nothing) to the fuel performance.


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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Old honda civics can get 50 mpg and such, and thats with gasoline engines.

    The problem with manufacturing is that we either take a look at the end result and compare that to benchmarks, or we look at the process and compare that to other processes.

    In the first case, the mpg rating of a Prius is obviously much higher than a Hummer (extreme example) so obviously the Prius is therefor more environmentally friendly. But when looking at the process you may not end up with the same result.

    The problem with hybrids in general is the battery. They all use metals that are reactive and require large amounts of energy to produce and can be hazardous to the environment when disposed of, then if you look at the recycling cost this adds even more money into the equation.

    In general I don't like the term 'carbon footprint' because as an engineer I think it has too much buzzword and hype behind it compared to actual statistics. Because it is such a new idea there aren't standards to be measured against so each person can take a different view of the matter. In such cases people can say the Hummer (which gets about 9 mpg) is actually more environmentally friendly than the Prius (which gets 60 mpg). I don't doubt that depending on how you look at the process of building/life/death(recyclying) cycle for a vehicle that in some cases the Hummer will actually win.

    Partially I blame the fact that we spout 'global warming' as a huge threat to society, and I believe it is in fact a problem (the data doesn't lie) the problem is that we have unsuccessfully developed models that take our current data and predict outcomes. For instance, the sun inself is at a low point in power output, which we would expect should cool the planet, but instead its warming up. We almost exclusively tie this to the fact that gasoline engines produce CO2 which is a greenhouse gas and the end result is that if we eliminate CO2 production we can stop global warming. (the latter I don't believe to be entirely true)

    Personally I think we need to take a look at many of the processes in general, specific, measurable terms and make small improvements to them to actually save the environment.

    Specifically on topic, I like two solutions to our transportation problem, either a) more cars that are exclusively diesel powered (no hybrids) of which we use biodiesel from a switchgrass or algae process because they are much more effective than biodiesel from corn or sugarbeet or any other biomass or b) switch to exclusively electric vehicles that are plug in at home but powered by renewable energy sources, wind, tide, solar, or clean nuclear power (or fusion when we get there).

    Enjoy.

    PS: I also have no glorious notion of 'saving the planet' the planet will be fine, we will all be gone.
    Last edited by RandomLogic; 2008-04-03 at 12:30 PM.

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Just cycle? takes all the problems out of it teehee

    The only problem i have with the prius is its sooooo biiiggg its trying to be enviromentally friendly and yet its still like driving a house... plus ive heard similar stories to yourself about the prius from separate sources...
    *runs off and hides*

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranna View Post
    Just cycle? takes all the problems out of it teehee

    The only problem i have with the prius is its sooooo biiiggg its trying to be enviromentally friendly and yet its still like driving a house... plus ive heard similar stories to yourself about the prius from separate sources...
    The prius is like driving a house? I don't see it. It's a midsize sedan; hardly comparable to a Ford Excursion, much less a house.

    Now, I wouldn't argue that it probably handles like a house, but that doesn't really have anything to do with being enviromentally friendly.
    Last edited by Jack Squat; 2008-04-03 at 02:49 PM.

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    To get best gas millage:

    Drive a smaller car.

    It's pretty simple, really.

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    It's not that big of a car by American standards. Outside of America, it's a pretty big car.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by RandomLogic View Post
    b) switch to exclusively electric vehicles that are plug in at home but powered by renewable energy sources, wind, tide, solar, or clean nuclear power (or fusion when we get there).
    I like what they've done in Iceland: hydrogen-fueled cars are more viable as they have plenty of geothermal energy available to run the H2 production. It's not perfect or systematic throughout the country yet, to my knowledge, but I think it's a neat idea.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    A Prius? It's a frickin' lunchbox! If you stick out your arm you'll turn! /JeffDunhamImpersonation

    Other than that, I think they're nifty lil' buggers.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    If by "environmentally friendly" you mean:

    ...that the factory who created that car was run entirely off of electricity generated by wind, solar, or other non-fossil fuel/nuclear power
    ...that the materials used to create the car were purchased from suppliers who do not rape the land for what they sell
    ...that the car contains no off-gassing materials known to be harmful
    ...that the car runs on a fuel source which has absolutely no negative environmental impact (hint: not gas, or electricity sucked off of a fossil-fuel-burning grid)
    ...that it contains no harmful chemicals that will leach into the soil once the car is disposed of at the end of it's life-cycle and is made from 100% biodegradable materials

    ... then no. Probably not. Hell even if it did you'd probably still hit a squirrel with it. All depends on how you define environmentally friendly. There's a heck of a lot of green-washing these days.

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    'course, with Trog's assessment, the only thing that could be considered environmentally friendly is walking around stark naked. Which, depending on who you are, is either very, very environmentally friendly or downright painful.

    Saying that, and not having read the article, If we assume that a hummer gets 20 mpg and a prius gets 60 (highway, average for both), and I think the hummer estimate's high, then it takes three people driving priuses to equal the CO2 output of one Hummer. Which means that they're putting less CO2 in the atmosphere, which I take to be a good thing in general. I find it difficult to comprehend that production would be that degrading, especially taking into account that other cars do have batteries (whether or not they're similar I don't know)
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue 7 View Post
    'course, with Trog's assessment, the only thing that could be considered environmentally friendly is walking around stark naked. Which, depending on who you are, is either very, very environmentally friendly or downright painful.

    Saying that, and not having read the article, If we assume that a hummer gets 20 mpg and a prius gets 60 (highway, average for both), and I think the hummer estimate's high, then it takes three people driving priuses to equal the CO2 output of one Hummer. Which means that they're putting less CO2 in the atmosphere, which I take to be a good thing in general. I find it difficult to comprehend that production would be that degrading, especially taking into account that other cars do have batteries (whether or not they're similar I don't know)
    Wait...a Hummer gets better gas mileage than my little 4 cylinder Wrangler ( about 15 mpg)? I know my Jeep isn't the best, but unless you're talking about the new, smaller, H3, I would guess your estimate is a little bit off.

    the H1 and H2 gets about 12 MPG highway, haven't really looked at the H3, but it does make sense that it'd get closer to 20.

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    I'm sorry. Here's your thread back. I overreacted then fell off the internet.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Yay!

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lilly View Post
    I'm sorry. Here's your thread back. I overreacted then fell off the internet.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranna View Post
    Just cycle? takes all the problems out of it teehee

    The only problem i have with the prius is its sooooo biiiggg its trying to be enviromentally friendly and yet its still like driving a house... plus ive heard similar stories to yourself about the prius from separate sources...
    Prius's are fairly small, no larger than any other car. My dad has one, and it's a really amazing car. Aside from the whole saving money from gas part, it runs very smooth, has tons of space regardless of its size, and just overall is very well built.

    Edit: Just to start up the conversation again..
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lilly View Post
    I'm sorry. Here's your thread back. I overreacted then fell off the internet.
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    "Top Gear" answered this one last year. A Prius gets worse mpg and has worse performance than a VW Lupo. What it gives you is a feeling of impenetrable smugness (after "South Park").

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lilly View Post
    I'm sorry. Here's your thread back. I overreacted then fell off the internet.
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    On topic... the environmentally friendly aspect of hybrid cars are debateable. The batteries used in their construction use a process that is very environmentally unfriendly (I've heard areas around the factories described as "uninhabitable wastelands" several times). Arguably, this results in a greater negative impact than the benefit derived from lower gas consumption.

    However, I think that as the process of manufacturing the various parts is refined, it will become more eco-friendly. The only way to encourage such refinement is if the manufacturers are actually encouraged to do so on the market. Interpret that statement however you wish.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Hybrids aren't quite the scam that, say, corn-derived ethanol is (I'd say more, but I'd get dangerously political...). They do save fuel. Often no more than a diesel would (especially for "mild" hybrid systems), but a full-on Hybrid such as a Prius saves a huge load of fuel (about 15 mpg better than a comparatively sized Toyota Corolla - a nearly 50% increase).

    Problems:
    - You cannot turn anything into a green machine. While Hybrid trucks are around, and they save quite a bit of fuel in comparison to a non-hybrid truck, they will never turn a large car into a miser.
    What's more, we Americans are, as a rule, big people who drive long distances. A Tata Nano or even a Smart or Fiat 500 are just too small and not enough grunt for a long interstate commute, or for a car-based vacation. Granted, we often overdo things - case in point, the only people who could possibly need a Chevy Suburban or Ford Excursion are those who regularly cart 6-8 people (or their equivalent in cargo) AND tow a boat or trailer, on mild off-road conditions that a van couldn't handle well (and, really, they used to sell a minivan that could almost do that - the Chevy Astro/GMC Safari - but it was dropped years back). Some sort of compromise is needed...
    - Diesels are more efficient than gasoline, and may be enough to rival hybrids. The problems involved with a diesel are in part due to low quality of diesels in the past (earlier attempts to introduce diesel passenger cars in the US, especially by American automakers, were spectacular failures - thus people mistrust them), limited availability of "car" diesel pumps (truck diesel is common, about half the big trucks are diesels), different emissions standards (Diesels emit less CO2 but more Nitrous Oxide),
    - Aforementioned issues with batteries. Regular cars use lead-acid batteries, old-fashioned and by no means environmentally sound. Many Hybrids and electric cars use batteries more like laptop batteries - Nickel-Cadmium, Nickel-Metal-Hydride, or Lithium-Ion; the Prius uses Nickel-Metal-Hydride. These can be even worse. I'm hopeful that viral batteries or another alternative will crop up, but they're still a few years (at least) away.
    - Any hybrid will still need gasoline or diesel fuel, even "plug-in" hybrids require gas for any trip that isn't extremely short (reason that electric cars didn't succeed? Short range. Most gasoline automobiles go 300-400 miles and are "recharged" in a few minutes. The GM EV1 electric car had an ~80 mile range and took several hours to recharge - reasonable for a golf cart, but not for a car expected to go long distances).

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland St. Jude View Post
    I told you it was flat. (Also watch for that spot marked "Here there be dragons!" on the map.)
    Shouldn't that be "Here there be TROLLS?" Dragons can sometimes be bargained with, whereas trolls are always vile, despicable, and hungry.

    On the topic, no, the Prius isn't really environmentally friendly. On the other hand, it is better than a Hummer. Unless that hummer has 6 people in it and the Prius only has 1. Environmental friendliness isn't just about how much gas you use, but someone driving a fully loaded van is probably using less gas per person than an almost empty Prius.

    Add in that many Americans are large, either in the waist or just tall, and large cars become more appealing. On the other hand, I KNOW that a 6 foot 6 inch man can fit in a Mini Cooper, so smaller cars don't always end up uncomfy for those of us who can loom. If you are fat, cars will always be uncomfy.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    The normal gasoline engine on the prius ( I think its a 1.6L 4 Cylinder but I could be wrong because I dont own or plan to own one) may get decent gas milage but it is probably the same engine in that is in the Corolla of that year, so what you are pretty much buying when you get Prius is a Corolla+an 10,000 dollar battery and charging kit added.

    RandomLogic Old honda civics can get 50 mpg and such, and thats with gasoline engines.
    I would really love if you would show me the Civic that gets that kind of MPGs, my non modified car (a 1986 Corolla Levin Sprinter) gets about 30 and my other one that is heavily modified 2000 Ford Escort, that for all of you European drivers out there, I'm slowly transforming into an AWD turbo Cosworth gets about 15 MPG. With people comparing the Prius to the H2 ( Hummer) that is like comparing a tank to a tricycle when it comes to MPG, not only does the H2 weigh about 3 Priusi (That sounds right) it has a bigger engine and you can get it in a diesel platform and get decent gas milage with it.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    The Prius does not plug into the wall. Therefore there is no charging kit. Getting better gas mileage probably makes it more environmentally friendly than other cars.

    On the subject of the engine, you are getting a different engine that actually uses a different process from normal gasoline engines to burn more efficiently. As well, the "hybrid synergy drive" works with the driver to shut off the gasoline engine completely whenever possible and run just on the electric motors, which are charged via "regenerative breaking," which turn energy back from mechanical into... battery energy.(Sorry, it's been a while since my high school physics)

    I'm not trying to sound like a Toyota salesman, but I am surprised that no one has said any of these things yet.

    Finally, whether or not it is or isn't environmentally friendly depends on which problem you think is more important. If you think it's a bigger deal that we're dragging heavy metals out of the earth and making batteries out of them, then, no, it's not very enviro-friendly. If you think a run-away greenhouse effect is possible and or likely, then it is enviro-friendly. Most of the scientists agree right now that global warming is a more pertinent issue.

    However, I think that the energy(however unclean) used to make a Prius is probably negligible compared to the energy the Prius saves over it's lifetime. I, however, have no numbers here. Also, they could build a factory that ran only on clean nuclear(I doubt wind could generate enough power for a factory). Has anybody seen those Subaru ads about their "friendly" factory?
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    I didn't mean that it plugged into the wall i mean it has to have some sort of updated alternator or some other way of using the gasoline engine to recharge the batery or you would have to get new ones or whatever. But like I said I am not a Prius expert and never intend to be because I would much rather have my good old gas engine than anything.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Midnighter1021 View Post
    I would really love if you would show me the Civic that gets that kind of MPGs,
    Here, its the entire history of the mileage for the Civic, check out the multiple 50+'s http://www.mpgomatic.com/2007/10/16/...age-1978-2007/

    The H3 gets about 15 mpg on average. I was mistaken in my original post.

    One solution I really like is this http://www.afstrinity.com/ basically its a plug in hybrid, but along with batteries, they have a supercapacitor bank that allows for quick acceleration and recharging. They are also the first company I think that is actually doing hybrids properly, they claim an approximate 40 mile range on all electric power along with a 78 mph top speed (all electric mode I think) so that for the average person, it won't ever burn gas! Sure you have to plug it in at night, and yes, you still might get power to your home from coal, but its a step in the right direction.

    Also corn ethanol sucks, its the right direction for renewable fuels, but we need to step away from corn and quickly before we destroy LOTS of farmland for nothing.

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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    Thanks for that info Random, I was actually quite interested if anything has broken the 50 MPG benchmark yet. Just one more question, what is with all this hummer hate going on? True they aren't the most fuel efficient cars in the market but when you buy a hummer you aren't looking for fuel efficiency, instead you are looking for a car (aka a tank) that is probably one of the safest ever made ( for you not the person you hit), also has anyone ever seen the old Lamborghini off road vehicle? It has the same engine in it that the Countach does and a 63 Gallon fuel tank, and still only gets 10 MPG.

    ALL THE CIVICS THAT ARE OVER 50 ARE HYBRIDS!
    though they have gotten close, Peugot's 360 RC is great its a diesel supercar that gest 45 mpg while being under hard driving.
    Last edited by Midnighter1021; 2008-04-18 at 09:00 AM.
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    Default Re: Is the Prius Environmentally Friendly?

    No problem. Did you scroll down all the way? There were Civics back in the 80's that hit 50+ and were not hybrids.

    I dislike the H2 because its a bad piece of engineering. The original Hummers were all military grade and could take a beating and then some, the H2's are built on a Suburban chassis and are in general terrible all purpose vehicles, they have become more status symbols than anything. Also it weights more than 6000lbs which means that it is a tax write off for some people, but it also doesn't have to conform to some specific EPA regulations about emissions.

    Also check this out. AeroCivic basically some guy improved the aerodynamics of his old Civic hatchback and can get ridiculous mpg without any engine modifications. So there are lots of places to improve mpg efficiency without looking specifically at the power plant.

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