I was reading this article about cost-per-mile and ownership of hybrid cars over at 37 Signals and feel slightly vindicated.
I’ve been maintaining for a few years now that hybrid cars are not more energy efficient than other cars simply because they have lower fuel usage costs.
It’s great that we’re using less fuel in cars – I think mileage is a fantastic thing to continually improve. It means we use fewer gallons or litres of gas (or diesel) and can stretch our already stretched dollars more.
But to say that a low-mileage car is intrinsically better for the environment than any other car is fallacy. The cost in energy to product a far must be taken into consideration, as must the cost of maintaining and disposing of the vehicle.
I’ve used the same argument about wind power. By some reports, it takes more energy to create the carbon-fibre blades of a large three-blade wind generation tower than the tower will generate in the lifetime of those blades (no, I cannot find any corroborating link to this, but I read it somewhere, National Geographic, or Scientific American or something, I can’t remember). This is not energy efficiency. This is NOT good for the environment.
Cars are bad for the environment no matter how you slice it. In terms of energy cost per mile (or kilometer, for us metric types) bicycles have cars beat by several orders of magnitude. We can do better with cars. Can and should. There must be better solutions out there.
But to claim hybrids are better for the environment is wrong. As the article states, by all means buy a hybrid. Hybrids are shrewd business decisions. Lower your cost of ownership. Just stop waving your environmentalism flag in our faces while you drive by the rest of us at the petrol station.