About the Prius
People have said that it sounds as though I dislike the Prius. I hope to clear that up. The Prius represents many clever ideas, and excellent execution, from a company that has an excellent record in both areas. It is fun to examine, and enlightening to study. I applaud the accomplishment. My argument is that two representations often made about the design need to be examined.
First, there is the assertion that the car is environmentally superior to other designs. It may be, but one can ask about a life-cycle environmental cost that may be fairly high. It remains to be seen how well we recycle these car parts. If we do not substantially change how we deal with out of service vehicles, then the back-end environmental cost may be higher than for other cars due to the exceptional amount of nickel and other materials best kept out of the waste stream. This may be leveraged by the shorter service life of these cars. I see many 80’s Toyotas still working fairly well, while the population of gen one priuses (’01-’03) seems to have plummeted. There is also a question about the environmental cost of manufacture: again, the mining of the nickel is an additional cost on top of what the environmental costs are of making an ordinary car.
Second, much of the “virtue” of the car is ascribed to the “hybridness”. This seems hard to support. Other slow, aerodynamic cars have also had great fuel economy- think of the mid eighties Honda CR-X HF – great numbers, at time better than a Prius. And earlier, the Citroen DS cars – very slippery, very french, and great on fuel. To tease out the value, we need an internal combustion only Prius, tuned to deliver similar performance. It would have far less weight to push around. A million of these would give the world a nice test. That would be great science, but it will not happen.
In summary, I admire the car, but think issues related to the car are under discussed. In the meantime, there are millions here, and millions more coming. The public has voted in favor, in a big way.