A report just released by CNW Marketing Research is shaking up many a tree hugger today. CNW’s research concluded that a hybrid vehicle will have a higher energy cost per mile travelled through the life of the vehicle than many larger and less “green” vehicles; what CNW terms the “Dust to Dust” cost of a vehicle.
CNW’s findings show that the Chevrolet Suburban has an energy cost per mile of $3.134, while a Toyota Prius
, the darling of the hybrid crowd, comes in at $3.249. Obviously the Prius can go much farther than the Suburban on a gallon of gasoline, but according to the CNW report, that is only part of the equation, as you must also factor in the energy required to build the vehicle, service it through its lifetime, and recycle its parts at the end.
As you can guess, the green crowd isn’t taking this news sitting down, and are firing back with their own statistics. But this news kind of confirms the feeling I’ve had toward hybrids from the get-go; they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. They may save a little on fuel, but not nearly enough to justify the higher sticker price, the higher maintenance costs, and the higher cost to retire them. I’m no bean counter, but I know there is much more to the cost of a vehicle than its mpg figures.
What CNW is telling us is likely very true, but my theory is that the higher energy cost of running a hybrid is more the early adopter penalty than anything else. The automotive industry has been building internal combustion-powered rides for a long time, and the methods for building, maintaining, and retiring those vehicles is well established. Right now we’re still on the steep side of the learning curve for more energy efficient means of transport. I’m betting that the vehicles that we’ll end up with on the downhill slope of that curve won’t look or operate anything like what we drive today. Hybrids are just a baby step in the right direction.