Hybrid Cars And Fuzzy Math

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The only fuzzy math in George F. Will's April 12 op-ed column, "Fuzzy Climate Math," came from his primary resource, CNW Marketing Research.

Alleging that the Hummer H3 is more environmentally friendly than a Toyota Prius, Mr. Will claimed that the mining and smelting of the "zinc" that is used in the "battery-powered second motor" causes significant environmental damage.

If Mr. Will had vetted the CNW study, he would have found that it has been discredited by Argonne National Laboratory, MIT, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others.

First, to state the basic facts correctly, the battery, not the motor, in the Prius contains nickel, not zinc.

Nickel has been mined in Sudbury, Ontario, since the late 1800s, and practices existing then have been abandoned for decades.

In fact, the Greater Sudbury Region has reclaimed its land and initiated stringent environmental controls on mining, and it aims to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions 97 percent by 2015.

Second, legitimate life-cycle analysis does indeed conclude that there is more energy required in the materials production stage for a hybrid over a conventional vehicle, but that this is overwhelmingly made up for in the driving stage. So, the hybrid has a significantly lower lifetime energy use.

Instead of squashing the innovative Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive technology with his Hummer, Mr. Will should have praised the free-enterprise system for producing such an elegant solution to the energy and environmental challenges we face.

That would be thinking globally and clearly.


Group Vice President

Corporate Communications

Toyota Motor Sales

Torrance, Calif.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company