Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Little Confession

As much as I love the Foxmobile and know it was the best choice for our family, I still have Prius envy. Every time I see a Prius pass by (every eleventh car in Seattle--I counted), I think of the gas we would save and more importantly, the message we would send if we had our very own Prius: that we are tree-hugging, war-hating*, trash-recycling liberals and proud of it. But alas, even a five-year-old Prius would have cost more than our brand new Rondo, and without the sixth and seventh seats in back. I suppose I'll just have to start a blog in order to broadcast my liberal haughtiness.


*I'm not sure, but I think all Priuses come equipped with anti-war and/or anti-Bush bumper stickers.

17 comments:

Th. said...

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Priuses are all hype. Their nickel battery means it takes huge amounts of carbon to build one in the first place and, as they don't save that much more fuel over any other fuel-efficient machine, the time it would take to break even, carbonwise, is pretty lengthy. If you buy a ten-year-old fuel efficient nonhybrid, the Prius will never catch up and will result in a net carbon loss.

Owning a Prius is more about feeling good about yourself than helping the environment.

Which isn't to say the technology won't make a difference someday. But these days, not so much.

Mr. Fob said...

Considering that a Prius gets an average of 45 mpg and the very best nonhybrids of its class get at most an average of 28-30, it sure seems like "that much more" to me. I don't know anything about the carbon needed to build a nickel battery versus the carbon needed to build whatever kind of battery a nonhybrid car has, though. Does the math work out such that buying a ten-year-old car and owning it for another five to ten years, then buying another ten-year-old car, is more efficient than buying a new Prius and owning it a total of fifteen to twenty? I'm confused as to what exactly is factoring into this.

At any rate, a large motivating factor in buying a new car now is that I'm scared of owning vehicles that are approaching ten years old or more--too many bad experiences with cars my family owned while I was growing up. It occurs to me that this isn't a particularly green attitude to have toward car ownership, but it's not like my seven-year-old car went straight to the dump--someone who actually knows something about making cars continue to work will buy it now.

Mr. Fob said...

Having done ten minutes of research now, I have a (barely) more informed opinion:

I'm not convinced. This article says the advantage of buying a ten-year-old car is that the carbon cost of building it has already been paid off, so to speak. The problem with that logic is that it is very individual-centric. Yes, by buying a used car I'm not the cause of it being built, but it was still built. The damage was still done. If there's a study showing that people buying hybrids is leading to more new cars being built or to old cars going more quickly to the junkyard, then I'd be more convinced.

As for comparing new hybrids versus new nonhybrids, doing the math based on the numbers in this article suggests that the difference in building a hybrid and building an equivalent nonhybrid is about 20,000,000 BTU, which would get eaten up in less than 200 gallons (at 113,500 BTU per gallon). At a difference of 15 mpg, (an average of 30 versus an average of 45), that takes only 3000 miles to make up the greater cost of building the hybrid. 3000 miles is less than three months for most people.

Mr. Fob said...

In summary:

If you're determined to buy an old car, why not buy a seven-year-old Prius? It's been around since '01, I'm pretty sure.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

"Prius envy" eh?

I'm sorry, I just had to. It was too easy.

Mr. Fob said...

Oh, rest assured that was exactly what I intended.

Th. said...

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The problem with any issue is that the longer we look at it, the more complex it becomes. And the more complex, the less easy to find One Right Answer.

Myself, I don't think I can stomach the idea of buying an actually new car. Lady Steed may someday post on the Buy organic! Throw away all your own stuff! insensibility of the green movement so I'll leave that for her, the main point is true: old stuff is more green than new stuff in almost every case. With cars, if the old car is fuel efficient, the green choice is clearly the old car.

That said, we're ready for a nearly new car. Old cars do have their drawbacks and I'm ready for something that matches our needs better and doesn't have 753 things wrong with it. (That number's just an estimate. The Lapper probably has a lot more things wrong with it that I don't know about. But it still gets good mileage and has extremely low emissions.)

Another thing is how little we drive. We're keeping well under 5000 miles a year at present. At that rate, it makes more since to keep a used '58 Buick than to buy even a used Prius. Why bother? Let someone else buy it.

I would like a hybrid though--I lust after their silence. If the hybrid Accords were more readily available (and cheaper), I would be examining that possibility very closely.

Keep us updated on how you like your new Kia. It looks about the same size as the Mazda5? That's what we're considering.

Mr. Fob said...

Don't be silly; the One Right Answer is whatever I say it is.

Yeah, the Rondo is about the same size as the M5, and gets more or less the same gas mileage. After three days we're still happy with it. :)

Curiously, why are you more interested in a hybrid Accord than a Prius?

Th. said...

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Size. The Prius is so bitty. No chance for expanding to three kids with a Prius.

Mr. Fob said...

It does have about 7 more cubic feet of interior space, but it also gets about 15 mpg less on the highway, 25 less in the city. It really isn't much better than the regular Accord at all.

Mr. Fob said...

Oh, and the Accord has 53.5 inches of rear hip room versus the Prius's 51.9. So about an inch and a half, which isn't much but can make a difference when trying to fit another car seat in. I think you'll be happy with the M5--it really is a cool vehicle.

Mr. said...

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We've liked it a lot. And the 2008 was just that much cooler than the 2007 which is part of the reason we haven't bought a car yet--we're hoping to score a 2008 used in a few months.

Mr. Fob said...

The 2008 gets better mileage than the 2007.

Th. said...

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Exactly. And it's peppier. What better combination?

Mr. Fob said...

A hybrid Mazda 5?

Th. said...

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Oh. And there you go.

(if it's a year old)

Mr. Fob said...

Or ten!