To me, hybrids make intuitive sense. Why not recover some of the energy that will otherwise be converted to heat by the brakes?
But some people hate hybrids. And for them CNW’s ‘Dust to Dust Automotive Energy Report’ has been a godsend. It claims that once you consider all of the energy costs that go into a vehicle, from development through manufacture, ownership, and disposal, that hybrids cost far more than ordinary cars. Compared to the Prius, a hyper-pricey, gas-swilling Porsche Cayenne is allegedly less wasteful.
I haven’t written a critique of this study, because the findings are so obviously off-base that it didn’t seem worth the time and energy. But it keeps getting cited, most recently by an otherwise excellent blog I just stumbled across, A Car is Not a Refrigerator.
So it seems a critique is necessary after all.
Blogger Car “Dude” Alan usefully posts not only CNW’s cost per mile figures, but also the estimated life of each car. He’s actually posted the numbers from last year’s study, not this year’s, but I’ll assume that the projected lifetime hasn’t changed much. CNW states that their margin of error could be as wide as 15 percent. Wishful thinking.
The least expensive car, allegedly, is the Scion xB. It is projected to cost 0.492 dollars (love the precision to three decimal places!) over a lifetime of 189,000 miles. A little math finds a total cost of $92,988. And this is the cheapest car to own, by a good margin. Five cars from the bottom we’re already at 0.70 dollars per mile. And the lowly Chevolet Malibu, one of the least expensive “lower mid-range” cars? $1.962 per mile. Muliply by the projected lifetime of 163,000 miles, and we’ve got a lifetime cost of $319,806.
Let’s assume these cars will be driven 12,000 miles per year. Then that Malibu costs $23,544 per year. Own two similarly mid-level cars? Then apparently you’re paying about $46,000 each year to buy them and keep them going.
How can CNW issue a report with these numbers, and keep a straight face? Not just once, but now for the second straight year? These numbers aren’t just off. They’re so far off that the study was clearly based on extreme assumptions that, based on the results, should not have been made. (These assumptions discussed in a subsequent blog entry.)
Yes, they’ve calculated the amount of energy required, then converted this into dollars based on the current cost of energy. But in the capitalist system within which we live, virtually all costs end up reflected in the price to the customer. No one is heavily subsidizing General Motors’ electric bill. Or the energy bills of its suppliers. Or the energy bills of its employees. GM pays its employees and suppliers (who pay their employees), and GM’s customers pay GM.
So when I see CNW’s claim that the Toyota Prius costs $2.865 per mile, while a Porsche Cayenne costs $2.539, I’m not buying it. Few Porsche owners can afford to spend over $30,000 per year per vehicle, much less the average Prius owner. Put another way, they’re saying that it costs more to operate a Prius for a single year than Toyota charges for the car.
Just because a report says something you like to hear doesn’t mean it’s true.