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Prius vs. Hummer

Quick, which has a smaller total impact on the environment?

Well, you know if the answer was the Prius, I wouldn’t be posting this. Dog bites man, and all that.

It turns out that, factoring in all costs, that the Hummer is more Gaia-friendly than the Prius. The punch line? Its not even close.

When you pool together all the combined energy it takes to drive and build a Toyota Prius, the flagship car of energy fanatics, it takes almost 50 percent more energy than a Hummer – the Prius’s arch nemesis.

More proof, if any was needed, that much of the modern environmental movement is about being seen to care, rather than actually accomplishing anything.

34 comments to Prius vs. Hummer

  • Max

    There is pair of antique hippy vegan eco shop owners in Northern Wisconsin who own a Prius. They just made a trip to Nicaragua (by greenhouse gas belching commercial airline) to arrange buying some craft pottery from happy natives luxuriating in their close to nature poverty (authenticity! authenticity!).

    The pottery is made in traditional wood fired kilns. They burn hardwoods. They cut down forests. They pollute.

    I guess driving a Prius is appropriate.

  • Wild Pegasus

    I could never figure out how the hybrid cars were supposed to be more environmentally conscious when the driver was riding around with hundreds of pounds of toxic batteries. What do you do when a car is spewing gallons of battery acid in an accident?

    – Josh

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    the modern environmental movement is about being seen to care, rather than actually accomplishing anything

    Of course. South Park addressed this in their episode Smug Alert!, and I recall a discussion on Samizdata a year or two back where someone (I believe it was A_t), upon a discussion of SUVs, smugly informed us how he drove an old Volvo. Several of us proceeded to jump on him hard with both feet, showing him how the old hippie cars, and really any very old car, are far, far worse than any modern “gas-guzzler”.

    He had never even bothered to put one second’s thought into whether his old Volvo was clean–it was all about image. Old Volvos were perceived as caring and clean, and that’s all that mattered.

    Caring about the environment is, for many, a fad. And they put as much thought into it as they do for whether Brittney Spears is terrible or whether leg warmers are ridiculous.

  • dearieme

    Where can I buy a Hummer with a Prius engine/battery combination?

  • Julian Taylor

    It is a great source of amusement in the UK since Red Ken Livingstone introduced the congestion charge that one of the few vehicles exempt from not only from the charge but also from any parking charges in Westminster, and also from Gordon The Gecko’s promised tax increases on SUV’s, is the Lexus RX – an SUV powered by the Prius engine. Apparently this is the same vehicle driven by the oily David Cameron although a friend recently told me that Cameron could not bear to drive an eco-friendly vehicle so he just has the “Lexus RX Hybrid” sticker on an nomal Lexus SUV – something that would not surprise me in the least.

  • A driveby commentator

    Mr. Dean. The comparison is between the H3 and the Prius. Not the H2 or the H1.

    And, according to this article

    (apologies for the large chunk of text. Context IS important in this instance.)

    When You Assume…
    Determining the 4,000 data points, obtaining the relevant data, and processing the data to produce a final dollar per mile cost for the vehicles, required—obviously—some assumptions. Perhaps the most critical one was the anticipated number of miles to be driven by each car. For example, CNW set the number of expected lifetime miles for a Prius at 100,000 miles, which, according to CNW President Art Spinella, was based on public statements from Toyota. In an interview with the podcast “The Watt,” Spinella admitted that, “If you can drive the Prius 200,000 miles, and do the same levels of costs and repairs, the cost per mile obviously comes down dramatically.”

    As you might expect, the media had a field day with the study. CNW’s press releases were picked up from New York to Hong Kong. The impression left by the media coverage was to cast doubts on the real benefits of hybrids. In all fairness, it was not Spinella’s fault that journalists were not nearly as thorough in representing the report as CNW was in their research.

    If reporters had dug a little deeper, they would have clearly seen what the podcast interview exposed: the Hummer H3 looks a whole lot better than the hybrids because it uses “crude old technology that has long ago been paid for,” according to Spinella. On the other hand, the hybrids are new and complex, and the cost of the R&D energy required to make the necessary transformation of our cars from oversized, high-emissions gas guzzlers to something new and better has not yet been amortized over any significant period of time.

    Podcaster Ben Kenney asked if the results from the study would be different if conducted again in 10 years. Spinella responded:

    “It would be totally different in three years. The hybrids will look significantly better. The new hybrids they are developing now—the new ones that I’ve seen, Prius III and Prius IV—are so much more simplified. They’ll do what the current versions do, but with far less complexity, lighter motors, more recyclable parts, and longer lasting components. The current Prius, for all intents and purposes, will be the Model T.”

  • lucklucky

    You dont contested anything ADC. Prious still polutes more than the Humvee.

    The only issue that is not adressed is what is the worse pollution since pollution isnt all equally bad .

  • R C Dean

    ADC, I have no doubt the Prius energy budget will look better in 10 years. That hardly refutes the fact that its current energy budget is rather steep.

    And in 10 years, I would expect that the energy budget for regular gas/diesel vehicles will also have improved. Why not? It has over the past 10 years.

    So in 10 years we will compare the improved Prius with the improved Hummer (not a 10 year old Hummer), and we will see what we will see.

    But it won’t affect the current comparison at all.

  • ADC

    Keep the facts straight, Mr. Dean. Please stop saying Hummer.

    The comparison was between an H3 and a Prius. Not the “Hummer”, the H1.

    The H3 is positively tiny compared to the H1.

    And frankly, I can’t see the Hummer (H1) being significantly more energy efficiant than it is now.

  • Oh will make sure to show the wife (to be) this thread when I want to buy an H3. I always play spot the Hummer (brand) when on the roads of the US. There are quite a few in Maine & NH it has to be said.

  • R C Dean

    ADC, where I come from (Dallas, where there are plenty of all three models on the road), the H1 (the military model) is called a Humvee, and the H2 and H3 are both referred to as Hummers. Nobody calls them by their model numbers.

    So try to focus, and not get distracted by meaningless trivia, mm’kay?

  • MarkE

    Apologies for going slightly off topic, but if you want a green 4×4 you might think about the Audi Q7, which actually burns less fuel than the Lexus GS450h, Apologies for going slightly off topic, but if you want a green 4×4 you might think about the Audi Q7, which actually burns less fuel than the Lexus GS450h, at least according to the Telegraph:


    How much is that going to irritate the average green?

  • MarkE

    How did I achieve that silly duplication? How did I achieve that silly duplication?

    I’m seeing double and it’s not even lunchtime!

  • dearieme

    That’s a neat trick. The facts don’t suit me so I will polish my crystal ball, announce what the facts will indubitably change to in 10 years time, and use those as if they were really facts. Perhaps W can use that trick on Iraq?

  • James

    ADC, where I come from (Dallas, where there are plenty of all three models on the road), the H1 (the military model) is called a Humvee, and the H2 and H3 are both referred to as Hummers. Nobody calls them by their model numbers.
    So try to focus, and not get distracted by meaningless trivia, mm’kay?

    Where I come from (Harrisburg, PA, where there are also plenty of all three models on the road), the H1 is called a Hummer, and the H2 and H3 are both referred to, well, as the “H2” and the “H3”. Local owners do use the correct model nomenclature when referring to the latter two models. It’s not difficult when the little chrome badges on the doors are there to remind us all what General Motors hath wrought (i.e., a tarted-up Tahoe or Colorado).

    Focused (not distracted),

  • I dunno, as entertainingly “Man bites Dog” as the article it, it has a whooole lotta iffy data in it.

    For starters, the CSW report assumes that the Priuses (Priusii?!) will only last to ~100,000 Miles, because they don’t have enough data on them yet to tell them how long they’ll last. That’s just half-assed.

    Secondly, the article ignored that fact that the Nickel in the batteries is almost fully recyclable for uses like making stainless steel.

    Finally, the description of the Ecological devastation of the Sudbury area (Where the Nickel for the batteries comes from), is grossly out of date. After a cleanup and improvements to mining practices in the 70’s and 80’s, the area is supposedly quite nice. (Yes the description is THAT out of date.)

    Now, as far as the Hummer thing goes: The Original Model is the “Hummvee”
    The H1, is the “Holy crap, that’s Ugly and stupid looking”
    The H2, is the “How could you have made the H1 worse?!?!”

    Just so we cleared that up.

  • Will someone, please, publish their data and back it with facts?

    You naysayers are full of conjecture and seems you’d rather curse the darkness than light a candle

    You granola heads who have the image of “caring” should start “doing”.

    I bought a 2003 Prius plain and simple, to save on gas, which saves on money. I have almost 150000 miles on it and I’m getting 48 mpg and havent done anything but change the oil and a few tires.

    Keep driving your hummers, your priuses. Global oil is peaking or has peaked. Those of us who are actually DOING something will have the last laugh.

    Oh, my electric bill is rarely $20 a month, and Im a real freak, I have strawbales around my foundation.

  • Keep driving your hummers, your priuses. Global oil is peaking or has peaked. Those of us who are actually DOING something will have the last laugh.

    I could not care less if you want to give yourself a warm fuzzy glow by ‘doing something’, just as long as what you are doing does not involve trying to compel me to do the same thing.

    When the price of oil (of which there is actually still a hell of a lot of) gets to a certain point, fuel cells and other technologies will be viable because they make economic sense, not because they are ‘green’. It is all nothing markets cannot solve. Hell it is not really a ‘problem’ at all.

  • Those of us who are actually DOING something will have the last laugh.

    Doing what, exactly? The whole point of this post was to ask whether whatever it is we are doing serves our purpose, or defeats it?

  • R C Dean

    For starters, the CSW report assumes that the Priuses (Priusii?!) will only last to ~100,000 Miles, because they don’t have enough data on them yet to tell them how long they’ll last.

    Yeah, I saw that.

    I seem to remember reading that the 100K figure is tied to the life of the battery, which is something they have a pretty high degree of confidence about. Once the battery goes, your car is essentially totalled (replacement cost of battery exceeds value of car).

  • As a Libertarian and conservative, forcing folks to do the right thing isn’t the way to go about doing things.

    Did I say i got it to give myself a fuzzy glow? Read my post: TO SAVE MONEY (hence, a characteristic of being conservative).

    We will never run out of oil, we are reaching refining capacity in the US and, US reserves has peaked. When will world reserves peak? That is the question. Then, we’ll see the free market do its thing.

    I’m practicing conservation because, first, I want to save money. Second, wasting resources isn’t cool. I want my descendents praising me for my conservatism versus cursing us for wasting their future.

  • David

    Let me begin by saying that I did not buy a Prius for environmentalist feel-goodism. I strongly doubt anthropogenic global warming, and I’m not yet convinced by peak oil theory.

    I bought a Prius because I drive 350-375 miles per week, and was tired of filling up every 4 or 5 days.

    Not only is the CNW study flawed by the 100,000 cutoff, but it assumes only 44 mpg. That may be what many Prius drivers get, but like every other car, it all depends on how one drives it. I slow down well ahead of a red light, accelerate moderately (when traffic flow and courtesy permits), and rarely go above 55 mph. My mpg is 48-50 in winter, mid-50s spring and fall, and up to 58 in the summer (that is with AC running).

    I went from filling up every 300-330 miles, to every 425 (winter) -525 (summer) miles, and that is, on average, 9 gal. per fillup.

  • Midwesterner

    I wish they would resurrect the VW Rabbit diesel pickup truck. 45-50 mpg. 15 gallon tank. Fast. Quick. Quite nimble. Comfortable. Lots of cargo space. Outstanding in snow (the weight is all on the drive/steering axle). And no doubt green to build. I miss that truck, but it got too rusty.

  • Vic

    Hah! I got ya’ll beat. My motorcycle gets 55 mpg and I do burnouts at stoplights. 😉

  • jon

    The idea that PRICE can regulate environmental issues is so FLAWED.

    A pity you’ll take some more years to understand.

  • Gretch

    There’s alot of talk about ‘compelling’ people to be conservationists. I don’t think we should require anyone by law to drive a particular type of vehicle, but I do believe we should do 2 things: first, gas prices should reflect the true cost to society of using it and those taxes should in all fairness be graduated to benefit those who use less. If you can’t afford to pay to fill up your Hummer, suck it up and buy a minivan. Second, those who drive Hummers should be placed at the top of the draft list. Like your Hummer enough to go to war to keep it? Because I’m tired of watching my friends and family members go to war so you can be conspicuosly consumptive spoiled little brats.

  • Ted Mooney

    A GM product is going to last 3.7 times as many miles as a Toyota? That’s your first clue how utterly bogus that report is. The more they issue addendums to try to explain that silliness, the sillier they sound.

    When I hit the “brakes” on my Highlander Hybrid and watch the battery fill up, most of the energy recovered, I understand why it gets nearly twice the MPG of my smaller, slower, Jeep. I can hardly stand to drive a non-hybrid anymore.

  • Walt

    Uh, Ted… The BATTERY lasts 100k miles, not the CAR. Replacement batteries are $5k… and you just can’t dump the old batteries into the garbage can as they are toxic.

    Oh, and by the way, on AVERAGE you wont begin to save one penny on fuel costs for 5 years due to the inflated price of the car.

  • Ken

    The CNW study did not conclude that the Prius produced more pollution. Rather it concluded that the Prius had a higher overal energy cost over its expected lifetime, including such things as R&D costs, factory costs, etc. Of course, as one poster already mentioned, the results are highly skewed in favor of the Hummer (or really, any standard vehicle) by the fact that they use “old” technology already in existence (and hence already paid for). Additionally, the study gave no consideration to the volume of future Prius production. For example, the study says it took $100M to build the factory and you’ve only produced 10,000 cars to this point, so the factory cost per car is $10,000 (hypothetical numbers). This is disingenius at best. Obviously, Toyota is going to produce more vehicles. The Hummer did not have this handicap, since it is produced in existing factories.

    Long story short, the CNW analysis is a load of bunk based on faulty and often unstated assumptions. Those of you who believe it most likely do so because you desperately want to, not because of any rational analysis.

  • Andrew Dawson

    Whether you drive a Prius or a Hummer, you’re still traveling on a highway that’s a big part of a distorted transportation market.

    Tolling of roads is needed!

    Cheers, Andrew

  • Ted Mooney

    I understand the meaning of the word ‘luddite’ now, Walt. Thanks. How people can reject saving valuable energy with regenerative braking instead of turning it into heat pollution via brakes, defend the idea of idling and generating pollution in traffic when there is a great new alternative, defend an utterly ludicrous report, and explain to me the economics of my gas purchases vs. initial cost while in possession of none of the facts amazes me.

    It feels just great to see the mpg gauge consistently at 29-30 in a good sized Highlander SUV. Toyota sales (#1 in the world) continue to grow, they’ve announced that they will only make hybrids soon. Meanwhile GM sales are tanking because they are reactionaries.

  • Will

    Much of this debate falls back on a study from CNW Marketing Research that states hybrids use more energy in their lifetime than a large SUV. This dust-to-dust analysis has been blasted by an official at the Union of Concerned Scientists, saying the study was contradicted by MIT and other scientific communities. Toyota has also rejected the study, saying it doesn’t reflect the data the automaker has compiled in its lifecycle analysis.

    I won’t go into all the points raised in Halvorson’s lengthy story, which offers the argument that environmental damage and energy are not synonymous. But the biggest problem with engaging in a serious debate is that CNWMR won’t release its data or methodology from its report for critical peer review. Meanwhile, the report’s conclusions are often stated as fact throughout conservative and anti-environmental commentary.

  • Ryan

    I find it amazing that people are still hell-bent on proving the Hummer is more efficient that the Prius, whether in production or on the road is ridiculous. The whole report “Dust to Dust” has already been completely debunked as a fraudulent article motivated by an angry person who wanted more research done on other alternatives to help curb our insatiable petroleum appetite. They also refute all of the math done in the article. So every single bit of information once deemed as fact has been proven to be 100% false. In fact, they estimate that the total cost of energy to produce and own a Prius over it’s lifetime is less than buying a used Corolla (also a Toyota).

    Lastly, I want to state that the Hummer (H1-3) has more nickel in the frame than a Prius. So not only has the site in Canada where they mine the Nickel been cleaned up and in actually great shape environmentally, but the Hummer is more toxic sitting a scrap pile than a Prius.

    Personally, I see hybrids as stepping stones to better solutions rather than alternatives. Hybrids are not solutions, the same as E-85 fuels. If they are, then we’re really as stupid as they come and we deserve this and every other energy crisis that comes our way. The simple fact remains that we need do away with gasoline-driven vehicles altogether and save ourselves more headaches in the future. Methods on getting there are far more important than antiquated technologies and money uselessly pumped into wasteful behemoths like the Hummer that will not serve anything more than to give purpose to someone’s ego. Besides, GM is looking to shed the Hummer soon. This means they will no longer be made or sold to the highest bidder.

  • Chris

    Now that GM has sold the Hummer brand to China, I’m curious if all these Hummer fans will still buy a Chinese made Hummer?