I went out to lunch with a guy I work with the other day. I work for a company that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shell. The oil company. I drive a Prius.
That's right. It's like Jam Master Jay used to say about drug dealers: "The coolest drug dealers don't use the stuff they sell."
So anyway, this guy was telling me that he read an article
that said that the nickel in the batteries used on the Prius was bad for the environment. I can imagine. It's a metal mined out of the earth, and from what I've seen of mining, there's not a lot of good
stories coming out of that industry as a whole.
I'm pretty sure the article was picked up by USA Today. Because that guy reads USA Today every day. My mother-in-law called my wife yesterday and cited the same article.
Whenever an article or news story puts the Prius in a bad light, people just fester
to put it in my face. Maybe they think that everyone who drives a Prius is smarmy about it. There may be times when I have
been smarmy about it. But it usually stems from people making comments to me about it first:
"Oh, you got a Prius? I heard it costs like $10,000 to replace the battery in those things."
"What kind of gas mileage do you get? Did you hear that they don't really get as much gas mileage as they say?"
"Oh, my car gets 40 miles to the gallon."
We'll cover all of these statements and maybe more below.
So let's take a look at Chris Demorro's editorial. Let's remember that it was an editorial
written for his community college's media and communication's club
called The Recorder. Editorial
, in this case, means its mostly his opinion and therefore he doesn't have to site resources.
First paragraph: "...‘green car’ is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer."
If you own a Prius, you do not own a car made in America. It is made in Japan and is therefore an import.
Therefore, the car is not a source of some of the worst pollution in North America. Since it wasn't made here - it doesn't pollute here.
Most people seem to choose imports over cars made in the U.S. based on workmanship. For some reason, this does not apply to Jaguar owners. Jaguars are notoriously known to have lots of defects. The difference with me and my choice of import was that I was not only looking for workmanship, but a way to reduce my environmental footprint.
Let's discuss the nickel pollution thing some more. According to this fine web site,
nickel use falls into the following:In the United States, large amounts of nickel (42% of consumption in 2001) are used in the specialty steel industry for stainless steel and related alloys. Thirty-eight percent of annual nickel use is in nonferrous alloys (or mixed with metals other than steel) and superalloys (metal mixtures designed to withstand extremely high temperatures and/or pressures, or to have high electrical conductivity). Nickel is used as a coating on other metals to slow down corrosion. Nickel coatings accounts for 14% of nickel use.
The remaining 6% of the annual nickel use is for a variety of purposes including the production of coins, nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries; as a catalyst for certain chemical reactions; and, as a colorant, nickel is added to glass to give it a green color.
Rechargeable nickel-hydride batteries are widely used for cellular phones, video cameras, and other electronic devices. Nickel-cadmium batteries are used primarily to power cordless tools and appliances.
So, 6% of all nickel used is for batteries. While I agree, and apparently Toyota does, too, they're switching to Lithium Ion technology for the 2008 Prius. So this is already a moot point. Wanna bet that Mr. Demorro wrote his opinion on a laptop? Nice Ni-Cad battery, there. Don't forget the one in your cell phone.
Toyota offers $200 for recycled batteries, and they recycle the entire battery, according to the FAQ on the Prius.
I've seen the articles about the new EPA mileage estimates. All I can say is that now the estimates are truer. Instead of getting 60 mpg in town and 51 mpg on the highway, the car should average 46 mpg. For the record, if I'm the only one driving the car, I can get around 51.7 mpg on a full tank of gas. My wife likes to drive the car, but she doesn't pay as close attention to how she drives it as much as I do (It's like playing a videogame and trying to get high score. She doesn't like videogames). Therefore, I end up usually getting around 46-48 mpg on one tank. What Demorro doesn't mention is that these mileage stickers will only be required on cars that weigh less than 8,500 pounds. Why? Afraid that someone won't buy a car that only gets 8 mpg?
Maybe I should get a Chevy Aveo because the mileage is in "spitting distance?" The new EPA listing for the Aveo is 26 mpg. That's 19 mpg less than the Prius. Plus the Aveo is a glorified golf cart. The Prius is roomier than you think. Ask someone who owns one to show you the hatch. I can put more stuff in there than I can in my 2002 Saturn SW-200.
The "Dust-to-dust" study is from a marketing firm, not a science journal. It arrives at an artificially high cost for the Prius by assigning it an arbitrary lifespan of 100k miles, and a Hummer 300k miles. There's Prius being used as cabs that have 200k on them now. And, insofar as a car lasting, what car do you expect to repair less? A Toyota Prius or a GM Hummer? You can check Consumer Reports for the answer to that one. A good analysis of the flaws in dust-to-dust is available online.
The Sudbury info is seriously outdated, and the comment about moon buggies (like, when did NASA test moon buggies?) ought to have given the author a clue. Sudbury was polluted by a century of mining (1870 on). In fact, some of Sudbury’s nickel went into making the Statue of Liberty. Currently, the mine is owned by INCO (not Toyota), and produces 100,000 tons of nickel a year, of which Toyota buys 1% (1000 tons).
The Mail on Sunday newspaper, which ran the story the college article is a thin re-write of (visible here), used a stock photo from 1994 to illustrate the pollution (visible here). There were, of course, no Prius in existence or being manufactured in 1994. Sudbury is no longer as polluted, as INCO and the city have planted over 8 million trees there since 1979. The best history online of the Sudbury devastation/reforestation comes from GM Canada (the trees were all cut down in 1871 to help rebuild Chicago after the fire), and it provides telling photos of some of the reclamation from 1979 to present.
The acid rain problem David Martin of Greenpeace is talking about in is the situation pre 1972. INCO on regreening and SO2 emissions.
My main reasons for owning the Prius are: 1) To reduce my environmental footprint. I may not make a huge gas savings, but I'm definitely using less gas than my '93 Saturn wagon, and I'm emitting less air pollution with the hybrid; 2) Do my part to reduce my dependency on foreign oil; and 3) Have a car that I can drive my family around in on long trips and save money on gas that way.
There may be other cars out there that get decent gas mileage. There's a guy at work who gets 45 mpg with his Geo Metro. That's great. But have you ever driven a Geo? Think glorified Yugo.
I would tend to think that this Chris Demorro guy doesn't see himself as an environmentalist. He probably thinks that all people who buy Priuses think they're going to make money back on it. I know that for a fact this is the case in California, where Priuses have a special state-given sticker that allows single people to drive in the car pool lanes. In some instances, people make $4,000 more if they have one of these stickers on their car, as I saw in an article in Tuesday's USA Today.
Hey Chris, I think I hear your friends over at the keg calling you over to do another keg stand. Better get on it.
Special thanks to WALL OF CHEESE for some of the links above.
Labels: Batteries, Chris Demorro, Hummer, Nickel, Prius, The Recorder