The Toyota Prius is one of the most popular mass-produced hybrid cars in the world. It’s hard to believe that anything mass produced can be eco-friendly at the same time. For instance, the nickel used in the batteries is mined in Canada, shipped to Europe for refinement, shipped to China to be turned into foam, and then shipped to Japan where it’s put in the cars.
With large tankers and planes involved in shipping, the production of the Prius causes more damage to the environment than just about any other car over its lifespan. The damage occurs before it reaches the consumer.
Shortsightedness of what eco-friendly means
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In 2016, Cars.com awarded the title “eco-friendly car of the year” to the Toyota Prius, citing its EPA-estimated gas mileage as 53/46/50 (city/highway/combined). That theoretical gas mileage sounds fantastic, although that’s not what happens in the real world.
The British TV show, Top Gear, experimented with a Prius and a BMW M3. Both cars were driven around a racetrack, and in the end, the BMW got better gas mileage. While the Prius got 17.2 mpg, the BMW got 19.4 mpg. Why?
The Prius weighs over 3,000 pounds, but lacks power. Its hybrid system uses an 80 horsepower electric motor at slow speeds, and adds 97 horsepower from its 1.8-liter four-cylinder when it’s moving faster. Combined, the 137 horsepower for a 3,000-pound vehicle is insufficient. Therefore, while both cars raced around the track, the Prius had to continually drive as fast as possible. The BMW only had to keep up.
Even if the Prius got 100 mpg, good gas mileage is only a small part of what makes a car eco-friendly; it’s not the whole story.
What does eco-friendly really mean?
We hear the term often, but what does it really mean?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides this simple definition of eco-friendly: something that isn’t environmentally harmful. By this definition, in order for the Prius to truly be eco-friendly, it needs to be harmless to the environment.
It’s fair to say that for a car to be considered eco-friendly, it should be eco-friendly from its inception, throughout its production, and while used by the consumer. If the environment is harmed during any of these phases, it’s not eco-friendly.
Consumer use of the Prius
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The Prius isn’t harmless to the environment when in use; although it’s a hybrid, it still runs on gasoline and requires the use of toxic chemicals like oil, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. Additionally, at the end of its lifecycle, a Prius will end up in the scrapyard.
Is your Prius powered by dirty energy?
Electricity is electricity whether it’s generated by wind, solar, or coal. By itself, electricity appears to be a “clean” source of energy, but only from the consumer’s point of view. How electricity is generated determines whether it’s clean or dirty.
If you recharge your Prius from an electrical outlet powered by the grid, your Prius is likely being powered by dirty electricity. The power grid in the US utilizes coal for 37% of power. It’s been known for decades that producing electricity with coal and natural gas pollutes the soil, water, and air and creates greenhouse gasses.
How clean is your electricity grid?
Harmful emissions aren’t limited to vehicles powered by gas and diesel. While electric cars have no tailpipe emissions, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) points out emissions related to electricity generation. Although the Prius is a hybrid, this information applies to its electric side.
The UCS advocates the Prius not because it’s harmless, but because it’s the cleanest compromise in a dirty world.
While the Prius doesn’t fully meet the definition of eco-friendly, if you’re willing to take some risks, it can be a good car:
- The body of a Prius crumples easily in an accident, so having full coverage is imperative. The chance of injury in an accident is great. Be prepared to talk to a personal injury lawyer if you’re involved in an accident and the other driver is underinsured. Buying underinsured motorist coverage from your insurance provider is important when you drive a Prius.
- A Prius doesn’t run on those $85 batteries your mechanic has lying around the garage. If you need a new battery, expect to spend between $1,500-$2,500. Prices have been dropping in recent years, but they’re still ten times more expensive than what you’re used to.
Perhaps what draws people to the Prius isn’t really about the environment, but rather, the opportunity to save money on fuel. There’s nothing wrong with that; however, if your goal is to save the environment, check out Toyota’s newest electric car. It runs on a unique fuel source for those who are serious about clean energy.
Article Submitted By Community Writer