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http://www.thecarconnection.com/Auto_News/Daily_Edition/Daily_Edition_Apr_3_2006.S173.A10227.html


Hybrid advocates trumpet the environmental benefits of the gas-electric vehicles. But a new study says that the overall energy picture for hybrid vehicles isn't as favorable as it seems. CNW Marketing Research, of Bandon, Ore., says that when the total cost of hybrids to the environment is calculated, including factors like recycling batteries into a "dollars per lifetime mile" figure, hybrids come up short against gas-powered vehicles. CNW's energy cost per mile driven figured that the most "energy expensive" vehicle from 2005 is the Maybach at $11.58 per mile, while the Scion xB checks in at the bottom of the scale, at $0.48 a mile. Some hybrids, like the Honda Accord Hybrid, actually get higher lifetime costs than their gas counterparts: the Hybrid Accord has an energy cost per mile of $3.29 while the gas version's is $2.18. CNW accounts for the differences by citing the investments in lightweight materials along with the cost of recycling batteries. The auto industry as a whole, CNW says, has an average dollar per lifetime mile of $2.28; GM's HUMMER H3's figure was $1.949 per mile, lower than the Honda Civic at $2.42 a mile. "If a consumer is concerned about fuel economy because of family budgets or depleting oil supplies, it is perfectly logical to consider buying high-fuel-economy vehicles," says Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, Inc. "But if the concern is the broader issues such as environmental impact of energy usage, some high-mileage vehicles actually cost society more than conventional or even larger models over their lifetime."
 

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Of course, no mention is made of future benefits, which really must be taken into account. While research can go on in the lab - nothing replaces field testing and the modifications made because of it. Eventually the hybrid cars will become more environmentally friendly than their gas counterparts ...
 

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Well, there are several kinds of "costs" that need to be factored in.
1. Cost to the consumer in terms of hard cash - Yes its true that the hybrid vehicles appear to put a bigger dent on the owner's bank account. But this can be attributed to being a relatively new technology. As they continue to develop and refine the technology, costs will eventually go down.

2. Cost to the environment - Which would you prefer:
A. Vehicles with slightly expensive lifetime maintenance but future generations will be breathing clean air.
B. Vehicles with cheaper lifetime maintenance but future generations will be wearing gas masks.

My example above may be a bit exaggerated, but its just to show a point. Sometimes higher cash costs may be worth it - when the long term, bigger picture is factored in.
Given that hybrid vehicles are not the single solution to the world's pollution problems, if it can make a significant dent in pollution production then its all good.

Also, "Beware of the Spin" (Not our local member here, I'm referring to media spin)
Some (if not all) of the oil companies covertly spend large sums of money to spin public opinion away from hybrid/alternative fuel sources.
They know that if alternative fuel vehicles become mainstream, it will jeopardize their business.
 

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DesertCruiser said:
Well, there are several kinds of "costs" that need to be factored in.
1. Cost to the consumer in terms of hard cash - Yes its true that the hybrid vehicles appear to put a bigger dent on the owner's bank account. But this can be attributed to being a relatively new technology. As they continue to develop and refine the technology, costs will eventually go down.

2. Cost to the environment - Which would you prefer:
A. Vehicles with slightly expensive lifetime maintenance but future generations will be breathing clean air.
B. Vehicles with cheaper lifetime maintenance but future generations will be wearing gas masks.

My example above may be a bit exaggerated, but its just to show a point. Sometimes higher cash costs may be worth it - when the long term, bigger picture is factored in.
Given that hybrid vehicles are not the single solution to the world's pollution problems, if it can make a significant dent in pollution production then its all good.

Also, "Beware of the Spin" (Not our local member here, I'm referring to media spin)
Some (if not all) of the oil companies covertly spend large sums of money to spin public opinion away from hybrid/alternative fuel sources.
They know that if alternative fuel vehicles become mainstream, it will jeopardize their business.
In reference to # 2, are you sure there is less cost to the environment? did you ever think that maybe all those specialized materials do more damage to the environment than origianlly thought? what about the batteries? those are sure to do a lot of damage to the environment when they are recycled
 

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wb6vpm said:
In reference to # 2, are you sure there is less cost to the environment? did you ever think that maybe all those specialized materials do more damage to the environment than origianlly thought? what about the batteries? those are sure to do a lot of damage to the environment when they are recycled
As I said, the technology is still relatively new.
The manufacturers will always look for ways to make the manufacturing costs cheaper as the technology provides.
Government regulations and consumer advocates will also try to ensure that the products meet environmental safety standards.
However, if the technology stagnates (due to lack of demand/interest) then there will be no incentive for auto-makers to further enhance the technology.

When cars first came out, consider what the technology offered at the time.
Look at how far they have come now. Once enough data is gathered on a certain aspect (safety, economy, etc), more development is targeted towards it so that the products perform and behave better.
 

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wb6vpm said:
In reference to # 2, are you sure there is less cost to the environment? did you ever think that maybe all those specialized materials do more damage to the environment than origianlly thought? what about the batteries? those are sure to do a lot of damage to the environment when they are recycled
Exactly! Doesn't the World Solar Challenge* also use some type of environmental analysis for their cars taking into account the industrial techniques used for making the solar cells, body, canopy, tires, etc ...?



*I had to look up the name but it's the all solar car race in Australia - now a bi-annual event
 

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'Disposable' cars are much harder on the environment than cars (and trucks) that have the potential to run well for many years.

In figuring the lifecycle costs of a car, the energy needed to run the thing is one of the smallest and cheapest 'inputs' into the equation.

The main problem with complex vehicles and small vehicles is that they are too small to recycle efficiently. Yup, too small to bother with. The only way plastics and metals recycling can be run for a profit is to do it in high volumes.

Big vehicles obviously have a lot of material to recycle, much of it easily reclaimed rubber and steel. Small vehicles have minimal amounts of steel and rubber. Engines and trannys from large cars can be recycled as repair parts for other vehicles, small vehicles are almost never donor cars for engines and trannys (exceptions acknowledged).

The plastic and other light-weight materials that make up so much of the structure of an econobox that the car has to be picked apart by (high-cost) hand labor where with large vehicles you can use a crusher and high-strength magnetics to separate things out.

Adding hand-labor to the mix creates all kinds of environmental problems with the dust, fibers, and chemicals stirred up when a car is torn apart. This can be contained in a building that is remotely-operated. If you've got people involved, you need to supply hazmat suits and clean air and ingress/egress routes that are unrestricted (open doors).

Add to this the fact that carbon fiber and similar plastics are NOT recyclable and are themselves considered hazardous waste when the binding resins are cracked (letting the carbon and other fibers spew out into the air much like asbestos) you start to get the idea about how to figure lifecycle build, buy, energy and recycling costs into the true cost of a car.

So, not only are large cars easier to recycle, they last (staving off the recycling costs), on the average (again, exceptions acknowledged), far longer than a tin-skinned econobox. So you've only had to build a large car once, and recycle it once while in those same miles you need to build and throw away (not recycle) an econobox 2-3 times.

Looking at the hybrids, you have a heavier, more complex vehicle that is improving on 'standard' MPG figures by what, 15%?? And that is only valid while the vehicle is on the street. You are going to be spending more energy to make the vehicle and more to recycle it, probably more than has been saved by the (slightly) reduced on-the-road energy costs. Add lead-acid (or heaven help us, lithium) batteries and you have a rolling environmental disaster waiting to happen. Do some google searches and see what happens when 1200 lbs of lithium oxide is burned in an urban setting. Or what the safe disposal requirements are for that much LiO. Or, for you LNG freaks, 150 gallons of LNG in a fuel-air explosion.

One more thing. Lots of the 'high-mpg' cars are made in third world **** holes with minimal to no environmental protections. Did you know that the car most loved by the sandal-wearing environmentalist, the Subaru, was until about 3 years ago, made using steel from the most polluting plant in the world and was painted using solvent-based paints in open air paint bays? If you look at those factors an 8 Cyl Crown Vic is, over the lifetime of the car, less injurious to the environment than a Subaru.

Be sure to remember the environmental transport costs too. A RoRo with 2000 cars from South Korea to San Diego might be using a tad more fuel than a set of trains running Explorers from St. Louis to Miami or Seattle. Trains have US-EPA environmental standards to adhere to while marine bunker fuel is pretty damned bad for the air. Trains tend to run full at all times while that Hyundai RoRo is going to head back to Pusan empty.

As I've written before, until people and the news magazines learn to figure the costs of EVERYTHING that goes into a product from the mining of raw materials to the construction and then the efficiency of recycling, then any argument about 'my 40 mpg beats your 20 mpg' is a pile of horse pucky.
 

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While I agree with most of the facts you've presented I must point out that without sales of hybrid vehicles the technology will never get off the ground or will take much longer to get there. Manufacturers will bear the brunt of R&D only so long without some type of return. In addition, many technologies look great in a lab or on a test track but it's been shown time and again that only true field testing will expose all the problems. As manufacturers solve more of these problems and continue building the vehicles they will get better and more efficient. That's not some pipe dream or wishful thinking - it's the way technology and manufacturing have worked for the last century. Give it time - after all it took 55 years to go from the Model-T to the 426 Hemi.

On the non-battery recycling issues there have to be changes in the way cars are put together or in the consumer mind-set. I think manufacturers and government have both given up on changing the consumer - though that's the biggest area for improvement. But experiments in 3rd world countries with "recyclable" cars are showing potential for a change in the manufacture of vehicles. Those vehicles are designed to be broken down for recycling at the end of their life and, as such, reduce the pollution involved in producing the raw material needed to build them. There is some pollution involved in the recycling process but overall it's a decrease in emissions. This is relatively new, though - only time will tell. And I wouldn't want to subject any of those recycle cars to a US crash test. :) Maybe in 20-30 years ...
 

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I really do wish all the haters (magazines, etc) would go away. While it is good to constructively look at issues critically, they should be more objective in that things will improve over time. Like many of you have already said, the technology is in its infancy.

Imagine if after ENIAC was first built people decided that it was too complex so computers should be done away with, we possibly wouldn't even be conversing with each other online.

Seems like only the auto industry suffers from this. You really don't see all the haters in the media talking crap about new technology from Apple, Microsoft, etc. They report it like it's the next best thing! But when it comes to the auto industry, it's ALWAYS negative. Negative about the current costs of Ethanol, negative about the cost of hybrids, negative about everything.

I see the early adaptors of hybrids as pioneers in that they are at least encouraging companies to keep looking for improvements in hybrid technology or even do away with hybrid and go fully non-gasoline altogether. I certainly would love to see an affordable vehicle that didn't cost me $30 per week to operate (and climbing).
 

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The gummint just needs to get out of the way. Er, that is the monied environmental lobbies need to get out of the way and stop pushing their pet projects.

Just need ONE simple law mandating a fleet-wide average of 30 MPG. Plenty of room for 10 mpg Hummers, 20 mpg Corvettes (actually a 'vett gets 25+ these days) and theoretical 80 mpg 3G treps. Do that and we can tell the Middle East to drink their own oil as it drops to $20/bbl.

No exemptions, no pushing for pet technologies, just a simple mandatory target. The market and VC people and mfgrs will sort it out as long as no third party pushes Turkey Methane or LNG or pure electric at the expense of other tech. Define the desired end state and let the best engineers on the planet work on the problem.
 

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Supply and demand, that's all it takes.

30 mpg as a fleet average would, in 5 years or so, reduce US oil imports so that ALL imports from the middle east could be halted. What would supply & demand do to the price of oil then?
 

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the problem would be that there are 30 other countries that are willing to pay the prices (china being one of 'em)
 

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If you're talking about the CAFE standards it's already at 27.5 for cars and is scheduled to be 23.5 for light trucks (<8500#) by 2010.
Light trucks account for just under half of new vehicles sold.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/infosheets/petroleumproductsconsumption.html

As the above link shows only ~45% of our oil usage is in "motor gas", yet we import ~55% of our oil. So even if we all stopped driving tomorrow we'd still need to import oil ...
 
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