The Not-Quite-Green Toyota Prius

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

The June 9 Business article "Toyota Wants New Prius to Be America's Next Top Model" called the Prius an "eco-icon" and said that it has allowed Americans to "advertise their eco-correctness." A Toyota spokesman was quoted as saying that many Prius buyers want to "make an environmental statement."

The Prius's reputation as a "green" car is completely undeserved. The culprit is its nickel metal hydride battery.

The nickel is mined in Sudbury, Ontario, and smelted nearby, doing damage to the local environment. The smelted nickel is shipped to Wales, where it is refined. Then it is sent to China to be made into nickel foam. Then it goes to Japan, where it is made into a battery. Then it goes into cars, some of which are shipped to the United States and some of which go to Europe. All of that seaborne transport consumes a lot of fossil fuel.

CNW Marketing rates cars on the combined energy needed "to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage." A Prius costs $2.87 per lifetime mile. By comparison, an H3 Hummer costs $2.07 per lifetime mile. Then there will be the problem of disposing of the used batteries.

This is not a "green" car; it is a "brown" one.

JAMES CLIVIE GOODWIN

Fairfax


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