Hybrids aren't so green after all
Trying to decide if you should buy a hybrid to do your bit for the environment? The decision just got more complicated.
A new study shows that over the lifetime of a vehiclefrom the moment it is conceptualized at a design studio until it ends up in the scrap heaphybrids actually consume a lot more energy than even big SUVs. One reason is that hybrids contain more moving parts than conventional vehicles, which require more energy to manufacture and process. In addition to an internal combustion engine, for instance, hybrids also have an electric motor and a sizable battery pack. That adds to disposal costs, too, once the car has run its last mileespecially for the lead-acid batteries.
The study, by consulting firm CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore., analyzed hundreds of variables that contribute to energy costsincluding the fuel they burn while being driveninto an index that measures the energy cost per mile for more than 300 vehicles. All five hybrids on the listthe Toyota Prius, the Honda Accord and Civic hybrids, the Honda Insight, and the Ford Escape hybridperform below average. For all vehicles, the average was $2.28 of energy consumption per mile. The Prius hybrid came in at $3.25 per mile, even though it is one of the highest-mileage cars in the world, getting about 45 miles per gallon in real-world driving. The Honda Accord hybrid consumed $3.30 of energy per mile, about the same as the hulking Ford Excursion SUV. The conventional Accord came in at just $2.18 per mile.
The data don't change anything about the equation an average buyer faces when deciding whether a hybrid makes financial sense. Hybrids typically cost about $2,000 to $3,000 more than similarly equipped conventional models. They get better mileage, but in normal driving it takes about seven years before the savings at the pump offset the higher price.
But for car buyers concerned about the overall environmental implications of the car they choose to drive, the CNW study should cause some rethinking. There's not a single hybrid among the 10 most energy-efficient cars, for instance. But the Scion xB, at the top of the list, requires just 48 cents of energy per mileabout one seventh as costly as a Priusand the Ford Escort, at No. 2, just 57 cents. At the other end of the list, there are few surprises. The $380,000 Maybach ultraluxe chariot is the least energy-efficient vehicle, requiring $11.58 worth of energy per mile.
The top and bottom 10:
|Most energy efficient||Cost per mile|
|Least energy efficient||Cost per mile|
|Audi Allroad Quattro||$5.60|
|Lexus LS 430||$4.73|
|Porsche Carrera GT||$4.53|
Source: CNW Marketing Research