The Toyota Prius has been named the Green Car of the Year for the last five years by Consumer Reports, and the EPA says it gets a whopping 46 miles per gallon.
With gas prices so insanely high, the hybrid appears to be a great way for a driver to be friendly to the environment and lower her carbon footprint, but a recent report argues otherwise.
CNW Marketing Research’s second annual “Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles from Concept to Disposal” report concludes that the overall environmental impact of the Prius is significantly higher than many SUVs and other nonhybrid cars because the automobile's fuel economy is not the largest factor in its impact.
The study added up all energy needed to design, build, ship, drive and dispose of a vehicle throughout its lifetime. The data is then translated to a dollar figure. According to findings, the Prius costs $2.19 per mile over its expected life span of 100,000 miles. There are 156 cars with lower per mile cost than the Prius, including pickup trucks and SUVs such as the Toyota Tacoma ($.97), Jeep Liberty ($1.11), Ford Explorer ($1.87), Dodge Durango ($1.69) and Jeep Wrangler ($.65).
The top factor in determining a car's environmental cost-per-mile is its recyclability. Because hybrids are newer technology, their parts are less reusable in other makes and models. For example, each Prius battery is made of 32 pounds of nickel. The environmental cost of mining the nickel and the cost of recycling the nickel batteries are significant because there is not a massive industry, as there is for regular batteries.
Overall, the CNW study found that newer technology, while it may be environmentally friendly in theory, can do more harm than good until the technology becomes more widespread. Hopefully other tech can catch up to these superior engines.