Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Hummer is cheaper than a Prius?

If you pay attention to the hybrid vehicle products on the market, or environmental issues, you’ve probably seen or heard about this article, or the report which it cites:
http://www.reason.org/commentaries/dalmia_20060719.shtml (A libertarian site.)

I encourage you to read it, but I do not encourage you to believe anything it says. In my ever furthering pursuit of truth, I’ll explain why.

The article says essentially that over the life cycle of the vehicle, a Hummer costs less to own than a Prius.

Let us do a little figuring.

The first mistake the report makes is to assume certain things about the life cycle of the vehicles involved. In fact, the first mistake is the biggest. The report assumes that a Hummer will last 380,000 miles. Yeah, right. What was the last American car that lasted that long? Some Toyotas and Hondas can if well cared for, but American cars are definitely not known for their longevity. The report assumes that a Prius will last no longer than 109,000 miles. This is even more ridiculous than the Hummer is. Prii are warranted everywhere in the world for 100,000 miles, and everywhere in the world but the 49 non CARB states for 150,000 miles. Why would a car company warrantee a car up until the day it is expected to die? Half the cars would die before that day, they’d lose money out the wazoo. Additionally, there are already whole bunches of Prii that have before now exceeded the 100,000 mark. I don’t know of any Hummers that have exceeded the 200,000 mark. Therefore, lets for the sake of argument pretend that they can both last the same amount of time, because realistically they can, and lets go with an even 200,000.

According to GM’s website, a base model H2 costs $56,695 (more than half the price of my house.) A base model Prius costs $21,100 according to Toyota.

My research tells me that the average American drives about 12,000 miles per year, I don’t know if this is completely factually accurate, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it is.

According to dealers, (CBS News) about the best gas mileage you can expect from an H2 is 10 mpg. Consumeraffairs.com averages the Prius at about 43 mpg. Notice with both of these, I have taken neither the EPA figures nor the manufacturer figures because both of those are notoriously optimistic.

Now that we have our vital information, let’s do just a little life cycle assessment. We take the price, add to it the average number of miles and miles per gallon, assume at this point $3 per gallon of gasoline, cram all that into our trusty TI-83 Plus calculator and presto. At these numbers, both the vehicles should last around 16 years, the Prius during that time will incur a total cost of just over $35,000 while the Hummer will cost you $116,695. That’s right, the Hummer will cost more in gas that the machine itself, while the Prius for gas will cost several thousand less. Just for fun, I calculated the cost for my Corolla at 34 mpg and came up with almost $33,000. Of course, you will also have to factor in the fact that the Hummer uses around twice the oil per oil change, and tires that are just freaking huge and cost quite a bit.

The claim that “exotic metals” are more costly to recycle is completely bogus. The exotic metals contained in a Prius are not a whole lot more than aluminum in the hood and engine, and nickel in the battery. Soon Priuses will have Lithium in the battery. I’ve talked about this before, metals are the best paying back of all recycled materials. Listen to the news about metal prices, they are going way up. Metals can be recycled cheaply and easily and are worth a lot of money.

According to Wikipedia, the claim that a Hummer has a lower life cycle cost than a Prius has been debunked enough to be considered an urban legend. Hopefully, like other urban legends (see dishonest email posts) this will go away eventually. Even the company who published the report has since published newer yearly reports that show the Prius to be as much as 25% cheaper than some SUV’s.

Is a Prius more costly than a Chevy Aveo, certainly. But it also offers more. The Aveo doesn’t offer regenerative breaking or any other hybrid functionality. Hybrids are the future. For every gallon of gasoline you buy, the terrorists win.

The near future is littered with plans for more hybrids from many companies. Today’s spotlight: Phoenix Motorcars. They have a full electric SUV and small pickup they claim will be on the market soon. They have great battery technology and are not bad looking either. Ed Begley has one. Also keep an eye out for plug in Priuses and other cars, they are being tested as we speak and should be on the market soon.



Mary said...

LCA's are more about the carbon footprint not the cash footprint. Money doesn't matter if you're destroying the road you're on.

WiredForStereo said...

You must not read my blog often. If you are not going to improve the methane footprint, there is no use in improving the carbon footprint. Carbon is the celebrity, and no one notices that methane is 17 times more powerful as greenhouse gases go. Carbon does very little of global warming, less than 10 percent.

WiredForStereo said...

Additionally, this blog as it refers to personal cash footprint is all about the money. Few people will buy energy efficient technology unless it benefits them in the pocketbook eventually.