Is the Prius a technological marvel that will save the planet? Around here people clearly think so because the Prius is everywhere! I know I am going to make a lot of enemies here by being the one to point out that the Emperor has no clothes, but someone has to do it. I know that people love their Prius’. We as a culture have a love affair with the single occupancy vehicle and I am no exception. If you love the Prius, thats awesome, I love my Porsche too but neither is good for the planet. You need to stop fooling yourself into thinking you are doing something good for the environment by driving your Prius though, because you are not.
The “Zero Emissions” Fallacy
Electric and hybrid cars are NOT zero emissions as their marketing departments love to tout. All they do is transfer the pollution output from your rich neighborhood to someone’s who is poorer – NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) in action. The power does not come from the power-fairy, it comes from a dirty coal burning power plant that relies on strip mined coal for energy. Please read electric cars, eco-friendly?
The batteries in electric cars rely on a LOT of lithium and lithium is really messy and damaging to the planet to mine. Please read, EVs might be worse for environment than gas cars. Not only that the rare earths used to make the high output motors is messy environmentally to mine as well. Around the plant where the nickel in the Prius battery is mined and processed in Canada, pollution is so bad that it has made an entire dead zone around it where no plants nor animals live. Research compared the environmental impact of building a Prius and a Hummer (epitome of a planet-trashing car) and found the Prius to be worse.
Is the Prius a technological marvel? Well lets take a look at it. The whole purpose of the hybrid concept is to increase the gas mileage – thats it, plain and simple. If it doesn’t get better gas mileage then its not better for the planet and its a failure. Lets compare the modern Prius with its dozens of computers, high tech lithium batteries, and sophisticated regenerative braking to a car from 1977 – thats nearly 40 years ago:
Not only did the 1977 Volkswagen rabbit get better fuel economy than the Prius but required far less raw materials and virtually no toxic materials to make. Of course, lets not forget that the VW Rabbit was a lot cheaper as well. If you use the US Department of Labor Inflation Calculator, you see that todays cost of that $2,999 VW Rabbit would be $11,565. So, still think your Prius is a technological marvel? A car built 40 years ago got better gas mileage, was less harmful to the environment to build, and cost less than half as much. Seriously the engineers at Toyota should hang their heads in shame. Space age technology and a dozen gigahertz CPUs and they cant even get as good of gas mileage as a 40 year old carbureted car without a single CPU.
Want to save the planet?
If you really want to save the planet then consider the following options that are far better for the planet than an electric vehicle or a hybrid vehicle. The best option is not to own a car of any type, electric or gas. The planet’s resources cannot afford to move everyone around in single occupancy vehicles, no matter how “green” they are. Although as an engineer, I LOVE the amazing technology that electric cars and hybrids use, they are only distracting us from the real solution which is to get us out of our comfy single occupancy vehicles and into public transportation or onto bicycles. If you don’t have time for public transit or bikes then consider using Uber or doing daily rental of a car from a place like Zipcar when you really need it.
“But I CANT ride a bike or take public transportation because (excuse)”
Don’t confuse “can not” with “do not want to“, tough love, I know. You *could* make housing/work/school choices such that public transit or biking would be an option. If saving the planet is important to you then you will need to make some sacrifices. Its no different than fitness, if you want to be muscular, strong, and have ripped abs you have to make nutritional choices that you would rather not make and devote time to working out that you would rather spend watching movies. Decide what is most important to you and make your choices because you can’t have it all. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a Prius is a way to help the planet without making any sacrifices because its not. Do you really need to commute every day in your own car or are you willing to make some sacrifices to help save the planet – something to think about.