Another common criticism of hybrids is that their batteries will be a pollution threat once they land in the junkyard. But hybrid advocates insist that the nickel-metal hydride batteries found in the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and other hybrids contain far fewer pollutants than the lead-acid varieties used in traditional cars. And initial worries that hybrid batteries would need replacement every few years have not borne out; Toyota says the batteries should go for 150,000 miles, which they predict to be the car’s life expectancy.
Spinella pegs the life of the typical Prius bought new today at only 100,000 miles, and contrasts that against a predicted 300,000 for Hummers—meaning that, though Hummers burn more gas and emit more pollutants, they will last much longer. Additionally, Spinella factors in the added production costs of including two separate engines in the Prius—one that runs on gas and the other on electricity.
Most environmentalists challenge Spinella’s conclusions. Jim Kliesch, research analyst with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which publishes a yearly rating of the “Greenest and Meanest” cars, says the CNW study contradicts many other studies, including those conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Carnegie Mellon, Argonne National Labs, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others that place the green-friendliness of the Prius and other hybrids head and shoulders above many other vehicles and certainly the Hummer.
Spinella is “way off the mark,” says Kliesch, and scolds CNW for not having “Dust to Dust” peer-reviewed for accuracy. “If you do some back-of-the-envelope calculations on their claims,” he says, “you’ll find that it takes about $286,500 in energy to produce and assemble a Prius, [which is] absurd.”
Toyota itself also disputes CNW’s findings. In a short rebuttal published in the Washington Post, Toyota vice-president Irv Miller said that the increased energy requirement to build a hybrid with two engines under the hood “is overwhelmingly made up for in the driving stage.”
CONTACTS: “Dust to Dust,” cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/; ACEEE, www.aceee.org.
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