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Hybrids not enviro-friendly?! Looking for credibility of this study...

My wife and I like to consider ourselves environmentally 'conscious'. We recycle and compost whenever possible, use energy-saving fluorescent bulbs, buy energy-saving appliances, subsidize our greenhouse gas emissions through a clean-air program, etc.. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

The next step in our attempt to do our part to help the environment, was to buy a hybrid vehicle. We spent months researching the environmental impact of specific models, fuel economy and safety ratings, and came to a decision - we were going to buy an '07 Camry Hybrid. Until recently.

While checking reviews and doing other research, I came across a study completed by CNW Research (Marketing/Research Firm) out of Oregon. The study involved collecting data pertaining to the energy cost per vehicle, from production to disposal. The report is called the "'Dust to Dust' Automotive Energy Report", and the results are translated into 'dollars per lifetime mile' for all new vehicles sold in the US in 2006. Essentially, this report confirms the amount of energy consumed over the lifetime of a vehicle (to produce, distribute, drive, dispose of, etc.) and therefore the environmental impact.

We were shocked to see that hybrids did not fare well in this report. Here are a few examples (showing energy cost per lifetime mile):

Maybach - $11.582 - *HIGHEST*
Honda Accord Hybrid - $3.295
Toyota Prius - $3.239
Honda Civic Hybrid - $3.238
Ford Expedition - $3.058
Hummer H2 - $3.027
Honda Civic (non-hybrid) - $2.420

INDUSTRY STRAIGHT AVERAGE - $2.281

Honda Accord (non-hybrid) - $2.180
Toyota Camry (non-hybrid) - $1.954
Toyota Tacoma - $1.147
Jeep Liberty - $1.099
Scion xB - $0.478 - *LOWEST*

As you can see, the non-hybrid vehicles scored much better than their hybrid counterparts. It sort of makes sense when you take into account energy usage during production and distribution, fuel economy (small factor, so it seems), energy required to dismantle and dispose of the vehicle, etc., and consider that driving a hybrid may reduce greenhouse gases in the area you drive it, but essentially export pollution to other areas (ie. where the vehicle is built, shipped or disposed of).

Why would we buy a Camry Hybrid, when it's non-hybrid counterpart appears to be much more environmentally 'friendly'?

Other than reading the report itself, we haven't read/heard much about it, and we are really interested in knowing what other people have to say.

Report: http://cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/

We're really looking forward to getting some feedback as to the credibility and legitimacy of this report!
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Comments

  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    That study has already been trashed by people all over the world. Their data is wrong, their assumptions are false.

    Move along people - nothing to see here....
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,681
    The study has only been trashed by pro hybrid bloggers not liking the results. The study makes a lot of sense and is probably the most extensive ever done. It is obvious that some here would like it to go away. Until a more comprehensive study comes along I say it is the one to use.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Um, No, it has been trashed by way more than hybrid bloggers.

    This result runs contrary to all other research in the area.

    The conclusions appear to be very different from the results of several other rigorous, scientifically-reviewed studies of the lifecycle impact of vehicles (e.g. Argonne National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

    · Example 1: These studies conclude that the majority (80-85%) of the total lifetime energy use of a vehicle comes from the driving stage, with the remainder coming from the remaining stages of a vehicle life, whereas the CNW study shows these percentages to be reversed.

    · Example 2: Two Toyota models mentioned in the report, the Scion xA and xB sold only in the USA, are engineered with the same processes, built on the same assembly line, transported and shipped together, distributed through the same dealer network, have the same engines and transmissions, are about the same weight (within 50 lbs.), and have very similar fuel consumption ratings (one just over 35 mpg combined, the other just below 35), yet the CNW study shows the lifetime energy use of these vehicles to be very different (53 per cent).

    · Example 3: The CNW study states that hybrids require more lifetime energy than even large SUVs. Toyota’s internal analysis does conclude that there is more energy required in the materials production stage for a hybrid, but that this is overwhelmingly made up for in the driving stage (the 80-85% stage), causing the hybrid to have a significantly lower lifetime energy use.

    There are also basic factual errors in the report, for example CNW claim that the hybrid batteries are not recycled.

    In truth Toyota and sister brand Lexus have a comprehensive battery recycling program in place and has been recycling Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries since the RAV4 Electric Vehicle was introduced in 1998. Every part of the battery, from the precious metals to the plastic, plates, steel case, and the wiring, is recycled. To ensure that batteries come back to Toyota, each battery has a phone number on it to call for recycling information.

    Toyota and other environmentally conscious car makers have been using life cycle assessment for many years to evaluate various advanced vehicle technologies. Toyota, along with many others, believes that the best way to judge the environmental impact of a vehicle is to do a full evaluation of all the inputs and outputs in every stage of its life. The lifetime energy use is just one of the many things to look at.

    The debate is not helped by sensationalistic reporting of an uncorroborated and unrepresentative piece of marketing research carried out in North America.

    Other studies which REFUTE the CNW study:

    * The 2001 MIT study called "On the Road in 2020: An Assessment of the Future of Transportation Technology" (.pdf) used a life cycle analysis that concluded that increasing fuel efficiency with hybrid technology, is a net energy and global warming pollution winner.
    * Andrew Burnham, Michael Wang, and Paula Moon at the Center for Transportation Research of Argonne National Labs recently gave presentation called “Energy and Emission Effects of the Vehicle Cycle” at the 2006 SAE World Congress. One of the key the conclusions is “Total energy cycle energy use decreases for advanced powertrains & lightweight vehicles… Improved fuel economy offsets increase in vehicle cycle energy.”
    * Heather L. MacLean and Lester B. Lave of Carnegie Mellon University published a 1998 life-cycle assessment which concluded that 85 percent of energy use associated with a conventional vehicle’s life cycle is attributable to operation. Only 15 percent is attributable to manufacturing and disposal. Given that, it seems implausible that a 50 mpg rated Honda Civic Hybrid could be worse for the environment than a 17 mpg rated Hummer H3, even if it took twice as much energy to make the hybrid and it is driven half as much before it is replaced.

    Also - the CNW study used the ridiculous notion of comparing the Prius to the the Hummer by using a 300,000 mile lifetime figure on the Hummer but only 100,000 mile lifetime for the Prius. Now THAT'S really comparing apples to apples, Huh?
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,681
    Other studies which REFUTE the CNW study:

    How can studies done long before the CNW study refute? And Toyota in their study claims that the pollution in manufacturing and disposal far exceeds that which is put out in driving the vehicle. I would equate pollution as a direct result of energy expended. You have yet to show a study that refutes the study this person is concerned about in this thread. You have just stated bias that you and others share. Older studies may be used but do not address the study at hand. If Toyota would claim that the Prius is good out to 300k miles maybe it would have been included as such.
    Did you ever read the whole report or only the bits and pieces presented here on Edmund's?
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    This is a dead end conversation - that study is garbage and everyone knows it.

    That's why they won't release their data points for peer review.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Where is the rule that "only the newest study can be accurate?" What does the age of the study have to do with anything?

    And you said, "Toyota in their study claims that the pollution in manufacturing and disposal far exceeds that which is put out in driving the vehicle. I would equate pollution as a direct result of energy expended. You have yet to show a study that refutes the study this person is concerned about in this thread."

    Um, yes I did show the other studies. Just because they were done before CNW does not invalidate them.

    CNW invalidates itself by it's refusal to be peer evaluated.

    (Wait, what exactly is the peer for a paid-off garbage study company?) :shades:
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
    "Other studies which REFUTE the CNW study:"

    I think it would be useful to all if you provided links to the studies.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Well, I'm looking for the MIT study link. Found it:

    MIT Study

    The second study is a $14.00 download you can buy here:

    Vehicle-Cycle Energy and Emission Effects of Conventional and Advanced Vehicles

    The third study is summarized here:

    Automobiles: Manufacture vs. Use

    I know at least a couple of hybrid advocates who have personally e-mailed Art Spinella (the head of CNW Research) and he has been very defensive of his data, has called them childish names when they challenged his conclusions, and thus far he still refuses to provide his data for peer review.

    To come out and make these outrageous claims and then refuse to let others see and evaluate the data to see if their assumptions were scientifically correct is a joke.

    I can guarantee from the results that they were not.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,681
    So far all you have given is your own biased opinion on the CNW study. It is available at CNW. I would like to see where someone was able to pick it apart with some credible evidence. So far no one has. If you had read the 450+ page report you could give us an analysis along with facts that are valid to help make up our minds about the report. You have only looked at the list and claim it is wrong because it puts the hybrids in a poor light. Guess what there are many of us that consider the hybrid a poor choice for the environment. As well as a poor choice economically.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Gary you can slice it all you want, but the CNW study is FLAWED. Read my previous posts.

    Read the studies I just posted.

    CNW refuses to allow peer review - that is a dead-on sign that they are scared of the result.

    How is it reasonable to compare the lifetime energy of one car that goes 300,000 miles to that of a car which only goes 100,000 miles? Even YOU can see that flaw.

    And how about the Scion thing? The Scion xA and xB sold only in the USA, are engineered with the same processes, built on the same assembly line, transported and shipped together, distributed through the same dealer network, have the same engines and transmissions, are about the same weight (within 50 lbs.), and have very similar fuel consumption ratings (one just over 35 mpg combined, the other just below 35), yet the CNW study shows the lifetime energy use of these vehicles to be very different (53 per cent).

    What gives?

    It's BAD ASSUMPTIONS and a BAD STUDY.

    Accept that FACT and move on.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,681
    From your above study.

    if you are a person who considers toxic releases more important than energy use, then it is wiser to hold on to your existing car, in order to avoid promoting the manufacture of a new one.

    The manufacturing of a car is more polluting than the driving of it. All part of the "Dust to Dust" study. Just not nearly as comprehensive.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Yes, anyone with a lick of common sense knows the longer you drive a car, the better it is for the environment, unless it's a filthy 1980's diesel car or truck. (actually, the older a car get the more it pollutes, but that's another story altogether!)

    And the blanket statement of "the manufacturing of a car is more polluting than driving it" is not true in EVERY case.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,681
    How is it reasonable to compare the lifetime energy of one car that goes 300,000 miles to that of a car which only goes 100,000 miles? Even YOU can see that flaw.

    The study may be going by the manufacturers own LCA that considers the Prius a 150k mile throw-away. Until we have more data on the hybrids and longevity we have to accept that the life of the hybrid is equal to the life of the most expensive component, the battery. This generation of Prius is barely 3 years old. You cannot base a longevity study on only 3 years. Every time we point out problems with the first Prius that was sold here, you poo poo that as the old hybrid model. Well until the current Prius proves itself for 8 or more years we have no data to go on.

    Many people that are not as negative about the CNW report have also pointed out the large SUVs that have a better rating are not made with a lot of exotic metals and components. That should be factored in. I think the jury is still out on the CNW study. Only a few vigilantes would like to string up the folks that went to the trouble of doing the report. The same reaction came about when CR came out with a scathing report on the hybrids. They just buckled under to their highly pro hybrid customers. Either they lied in the first report or they lied on the second one. Cannot have it both ways.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,681
    True, not if you keep it long enough. Problem as I see it todays cars are not much good past the warranty. The automakers have a vested interest in you dumping the car before it needs expensive repair. They have managed to build them so it takes a specialist in each model to trouble shoot and repair. That gets rid of all the shops that used to be able to work on any vehicle with some expertise. They make the software for analysis so expensive it is not worth buying if you are an independent. All reasons to believe the older style low tech vehicles will cost less over the long haul.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    gary says, "All reasons to believe the older style low tech vehicles will cost less over the long haul."

    Gary, have we not been through that already in previous months/years/decades?

    Go ahead and follow that advice. It's good for about 4 more years.

    Modern cars are ADVANCED. They must be worked on by TRAINED TECHNICIANS. If Joe Mechanic wants to survive as a mom and pop car repair shop, he MUST INVEST in the computerized tools which can analyze these cars.

    And of course today's cars are not much good past the warranty - how much money can an automaker make if everyone keeps their cars for 15 years?
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Let's keep focused on the CNW report and leave CR out of this particular discussion, for now.

    It's only you who says hybrids are "throw away cars" Gary. I have not seen that written or said anywhere but from your fingers. That assumption alone is flawed. All cars have ends of life, and no car because of it's design alone is limited to a certain number of miles.

    So if you are doing a comparison of cars and trying to make ALL THINGS EQUAL, then you have to assign the same number of miles to EACH VEHICLE. The assumption that a Prius will only go 100,000 miles is about as laughable as assigning a 300,000 mile life to a Hummer !!!
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,681
    There you go again worrying more about the big mega corporations instead of us little guys. That is the very reason, if I am ever able to unload this GMC hybrid I would NEVER buy another hybrid vehicle with all that complexity and so little added benefit. I realize you like to buy a new car every couple years. I refuse to make payments to some fat cat banker.
  • PFFlyer@EdmundsPFFlyer@Edmunds Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,808
    We get it... you guys disagree. We're pretty far afield here from the original question. Think we might be able to get back to it without going around in the same circle again?

    PFFlyer@Edmunds

    Moderator - Hatchbacks & Hybrid Vehicles

  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    OK Gdub1973, here's to hoping you read all the posts with interest.

    Let me state my qualifications and then summarize what I have said so far in response to your original post.

    My employer leased a GM EV-1 car back a few years ago right before GM recalled them, and I drove that car several times for a total of 100+ miles. I loved it and wanted one !!

    I bought my first hybrid, a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid manual transmission, in July 2004 for $19,324. It was used with 4822 miles on it.

    I immediately found Edmunds and other hybrid websites and learned everything I could about hybrid cars.

    After about 24,000 miles in my HCH and a lifetime MPG of 48.1 MPG, I moved up to a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid for the additional interior room (my kids are 8 and 11 and growing fast.)

    So far my lifetime average is 36.2 and rising on the TCH after about 10K miles.

    Neither car has ever given me one lick of trouble.

    So I am a biased hybrid advocate, but biased only based on my solid and ever-expanding knowledge of the hybrid technology and my good experiences with both the Honda IMA system and the Toyota HSD system.

    I know for a fact all the criticism I have given the CNW study is true. They indeed compared apples to oranges and made several more bad assumptions, like the Scion problem. They refuse to submit their data and methods for peer analysis.

    Don't believe a word of that study.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
    "And of course today's cars are not much good past the warranty - how much money can an automaker make if everyone keeps their cars for 15 years?"

    Oh, I don't know, Honda has been in this ("cars last a long time") market niche for a couple of decades now, and they seem to make money pretty well.
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