Not so Green...??

Submitted: Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 10:10
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Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage
By Chris Demorro

The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them, their ultimate ‘green car’ is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer.
Before we delve into the seedy underworld of hybrids, you must first understand how a hybrid works. For this, we will use the most popular hybrid on the market, the Toyota Prius.
The Prius is powered by not one, but two engines: a standard 76 horsepower, 1.5-liter gas engine found in most cars today and a battery- powered engine that deals out 67 horsepower and a whooping 295ft/lbs of torque, below 2000 revolutions per minute. Essentially, the Toyota Synergy Drive system, as it is so called, propels the car from a dead stop to up to 30mph. This is where the largest percent of gas is consumed. As any physics major can tell you, it takes more energy to get an object moving than to keep it moving. The battery is recharged through the braking system, as well as when the gasoline engine takes over anywhere north of 30mph. It seems like a great energy efficient and environmentally sound car, right?
You would be right if you went by the old government EPA estimates, which netted the Prius an incredible 60 miles per gallon in the city and 51 miles per gallon on the highway. Unfortunately for Toyota, the government realized how unrealistic their EPA tests were, which consisted of highway speeds limited to 55mph and acceleration of only 3.3 mph per second. The new tests which affect all 2008 models give a much more realistic rating with highway speeds of 80mph and acceleration of 8mph per second. This has dropped the Prius’s EPA down by 25 percent to an average of 45mpg. This now puts the Toyota within spitting distance of cars like the Chevy Aveo, which costs less then half what the Prius costs.
However, if that was the only issue with the Prius, I wouldn’t be writing this article. It gets much worse.
Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.
The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius’ battery and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually. Dubbed the Superstack, the plague-factory has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario, becoming every environmentalist’s nightmare.
“The acid rain around Sudbury was so bad it destroyed all the plants and the soil slid down off the hillside,” said Canadian Greenpeace energy-coordinator David Martin during an interview with Mail, a British-based newspaper.
All of this would be bad enough in and of itself; however, the journey to make a hybrid doesn’t end there. The nickel produced by this disastrous plant is shipped via massive container ship to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel hops over to China to produce ‘nickel foam.’ From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the completed batteries are shipped to the United States, finalizing the around-the-world trip required to produce a single Prius battery. Are these not sounding less and less like environmentally sound cars and more like a farce?
Wait, I haven’t even got to the best part yet.
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.
Through a study by CNW Marketing called “Dust to Dust,” the total combined energy is taken from all the electrical, fuel, transportation, materials (metal, plastic, etc) and hundreds of other factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle. The Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles - the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.
The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use less combined energy doing it.
So, if you are really an environmentalist - ditch the Prius. Instead, buy one of the most economical cars available - a Toyota Scion xB. The Scion only costs a paltry $0.48 per mile to put on the road. If you are still obsessed over gas mileage - buy a Chevy Aveo and fix that lead foot.

One last fun fact for you: it takes five years to offset the premium price of a Prius. Meaning, you have to wait 60 months to save any money over a non-hybrid car because of lower gas expenses.

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Reply By: Ted (Cairns) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 10:58

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 10:58
Thanks for putting this article up. It is a farce. Small diesels sold in Europe routinely use less than 4L/100km (highway) and less than 6 (city). I had a 1990 (!) 1.6D which achieved those figures. That's with old (indirect injection) technology, and a simple 4 cylinder N/A diesel.

I suppose from the manufacturer's perspective: 1, the same profit percentage on a $15,000 sale price as opposed to $45,000 brings in three times more $$$; 2, US do not like diesels (97% or so of sales are petrol, oops "gas"); 3, "hybrid" and "electric" sound good to the average punter.

Just my thoughts...
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Follow Up By: Peter 2 - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:17

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:17
As 'gas' prices rise over there though they are slowly changing over to diesel especially in utes, 4wd's and small trucks.
Trouble is that the 'greenies' sound good to the general public which leads to decisions being made like some sydney councils which now charge parking permits according to the size of the engine in you vehicle.
Environmental cost doesn't come into it!

I drive a real Hummer, a Humvee which is still going strong at 20 years old!
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Follow Up By: troopyman - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:26

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:26
I hope you realise that when i win lotto i will be buying that hummer off you .
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Follow Up By: Peter 2 - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 15:38

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 15:38
Ha ha I think I'd be on my deathbed before selling.
There is one for sale at the moment still in LHD so you would have to have it converted to RHD if anywhere except NT.
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Reply By: troopyman - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:11

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:11
The wife just bought a new corolla and the money we save on fuel by me driving it around town and just using the troopy for going to work and back and 4wding pays for the corolla . The corolla would have to last at least 10 years though for this to be true .
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Reply By: Member - Vince B (NSW) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:15

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:15
What a great article.

I work at a smash repair firm &we have a damaged Pirus there at present. The car has to be sent back to a Toyota dealer to disconnect the electrical system (can cause a fatal shock if shorted out!!!).

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Reply By: KSV. - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:29

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:29
I always been advocating that smaller simple and lighter car (like Echo or Mirage) are heaps better regarding environment then hybrid ones (although example with Hummer is a bit overstretch IMHO). Now is more – new “super-green” breed about to emerge – hydrogen driven car (Honda and BMW about to be ready to release ones very soon). “Our cars exhaust only pure water” is their motto. But, please, do not full yourself! To make hydrogen we need break water and only one feasible way to do it today is to use electricity. And where electricity came from? Yep burning coal and contribute to 70 or so percent of pollution. So hydrogen powered car WILL not reduce pollution, but in fact increase it (loses here and there inevitable), although shifts it to “other place”. Question only is where you can shift it if it is global? At this point of development there is only one way to become cleaner – nuclear energy.
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Follow Up By: troopyman - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:36

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:36
Nuclear energy . Oh please.............No nuclear power stations in australia ever is my motto .
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:48

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:48

nuclear (nookyoular) is clearly the way to go.
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Follow Up By: KSV. - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:46

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:46

I always been wondering why vast majority so negative to ward nuclear energy? Because of Chernobyl? But Chernobyl happens not because nuclear energy as a such, but because it been treated disrespectful. France, for example, generate 70 odd percent of their energy (in the centre of Europe!!!) from nuclear plant and everything going OK. Fact is nuclear energy at this moment is a bit more expensive then coal one - this is why it is not so fast growing. But as I said above for humans at this stage of developing there is no other way. You can even forget about pollution – coal simply will be gone earlier or later. And Australia is blessed country from nuclear energy prospective of view – we have biggest amount of Uranium and plus we have enormous amount of space to built them. So I fail to see any reason why greenes exercise so much paranoia toward nuclear energy and keep their eyes closed on fact how much rubbish coal burner exhaust! And it is not only carbon dioxide, but lots and lots of very “environmentally friendly” substances!
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Follow Up By: F4Phantom - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 15:53

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 15:53
I was FOR nuclear for ages but now I am slightly against it unless someone can overcome my issues. Obviously in terms of polution they are the best, 1 cubic metre of waste per reactor per year, this is miniscule compared with the millions of tonns of green house gasses from a coal station. So if we can store the waste for a quarter of a million we end up with something close to exsisting background levels of radiation. The problem is for us that is a very long time and I am not so sure this is feasable because there are so many unknowns. On top of this (and this point is the killer for me) nuke is not what I call a long term solution anyway as we only have 100 yrs of uranium not including breeders and I think there is a question of how good these are. Some say breeders can give us 1000 years of nuke, in this case I say lets get into the glowing stuff and make it happen, but for 100 years of power, we then have to redo all the hard work again and come up with another world wide solution and still pay the very long term price of waste. I say put all our eggs in a solution that can last forever, say renewables (i know i know they suck at almost everything) and with the right amount of money and development it may be possible.
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Follow Up By: troopyman - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 16:10

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 16:10
I have to ask how many 100s of billions of dollars would nuclear cost . Why not spend that on solar and wind power .
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Follow Up By: KSV. - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 16:11

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 16:11
Hi F4Phantom!

I don’t believe you right about restricted amount of uranium – AFAIK it virtually endless. Different story though how easy to get it from ore and from this point of view we have some limitation based on current technologies. Even then firstly coal not endless either and secondly we in Australia have biggest amount of uranium, so why sell it to other country when we can use it here? And even if uranium sources very restricted nuclear power still the future. They just have to figure out how to make controlled nuclear fusion (join of nuclei) instead of uranium-based nuclear fission (splitting nuclei). And I am absolutely positive it will happens, just give them time.

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Follow Up By: KSV. - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 16:27

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 16:27
Hi troopyman!

Just because they not endless and no so green. I have calculated some time ago that if I like to be completely solar-powered, then I have to cover whole roof of my house with solar panels. Cost enormous amount and I still dependent from weather, Why do you recon even in remote desert Australia regions they still use diesel generators instead of fully relay on Sun? Now mind you that households consume drop in ocean comparing to industry (aluminum in particular). We have to cover half of our desert with expensive solar panels to satisfy demand and create enormous storage system to be able to use electricity over nights. And where will desert sun-loving creatures live if we cover their habitats with panels? Also manufacturing of those panels not super-friendly to environment either. Sun is good as supplemental source of energy, but it took it millions of years to concentrate those energy into oil and coal and we about to exhaust those reserves in couple of hundreds years.

Wind very much the same – huge investments involved, very weather dependent, not enough power unless virtually everything became covered by mills and plus certain danger for birds.

I am not saying that sun and wind should be completely discarded, but I am saying that their recourses not as big as our energy demands that will only increase in future. Nuclear fusion only one endless source of power (actually this is exactly what happens inside Sun).

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Follow Up By: F4Phantom - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 19:01

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 19:01
I agree with solar and wind that they are both very much limited, but how about my personal favourite TIDAL POWER!!!! I think this is very much an idea that works. Consistant tides, massive moving bodies of water and massive amounts of energy. I think this really could save the world. Well at least parts of the world near water. There are hundreds of ideas using the sea for power, if we put billions into that then how could it fail.

nuke - ok we have unlimited supply that I accept on face value. That means we can make power stations which last and can be upgraded for say 150 years. That is longer term thinking. Ziggy on ABC said according to his report we have 100 years of U so I would have to read a bit and get to the bottom of this. Disposal will either ba solved in a neat little package one day or plague humanity forever.

As a side note, there is a place in the middle east where the background (natural) radiation is higher than chynobal and people have been living there with no larger risks of anything inc cancer for hundreds of years, turns out the human body can adapt to radiation over generations, but thats what evolution does so its hardly suprising. Maybe this is our answer, make coffe tables out of spend nuke rods and hope our kids adapt.
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Follow Up By: KSV. - Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 08:23

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 08:23

Tidal energy actually worst of all. Yep, there is enormous amount, but it small difference in high tide and low tide make it incredibly difficult to extract. On efficient hydro electro station water need to be dropped for 10 or more meters to be efficient (more is better), while in tides we have a miter as most (excluding very few narrow fiords where it can be much higher). In additional energy can be extracted only twice per day, thus temporary storing it even bigger problem then with solar. And finally it would required to bastardize hundreds of kilometers of shores and this ultimately spell total doom to fragile local ecosystems.

Among all sources of traditional “renewable” energy sun probably the best and most reliable. There is another enormous source of energy that almost not explored at all – massive heat ball inside planet Earth. This is real killer, but no-one know yet how to harness it.

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Follow Up By: F4Phantom - Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 09:09

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 09:09
Ok by tidal i was actually more thinking of waves, I have seen some very positive wave power machines which dont damage eco systems, they have a tethered power line into shore over to an anchor point and thats it.

I saw a doco called 'journey to the centre of the earth', it turns out its not hot at all and a race of people actually live there so I suppose thats not an option.
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Follow Up By: Member - Oldplodder (QLD) - Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 09:54

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 09:54

Have you seen the dust to dust cost of nuclear?
More energy to build than a coal plant, and what to do with the waste?

Has to be better like solar in it's various forms.
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Follow Up By: KSV. - Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 10:06

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 10:06
F4Phantom posted:

“I saw a doco called 'journey to the centre of the earth', it turns out its not hot at all and a race of people actually live there so I suppose thats not an option.”

Can you please elaborate? Immediately under Earth crust (10 to 20 km) liquid magma starts. It is very hot indeed – hot enough to melt stones. When due to geological movement crust get cracked we have volcanoes that expel those magma. Now top layer of magma actually much cooler (understandable) then subsequent laters.

Have a look here for example



France make 70% electricity by nuclear.
Waste? Burry it instead of inhaling as we do with coal burners.

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Follow Up By: F4Phantom - Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 13:08

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 13:08
Serg, all I can say is that you need alot more credable evidence than this science your touting. "Earth crust (10 to 20 km)" I regulary drive 20km or more, this proves that I am comparing perfectly legitimate facts with other totally irrelivent facts that dont correspond in any way.

I strongly suggest you view this quality documentry,
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Follow Up By: KSV. - Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 13:27

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 13:27
Sorry, F4Phantom, ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?

Did you notice this?
Genre: Adventure / Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Also have you read plot summary?
Remake of Jules Verne's classic story finds adventurers (Treat Williams, Jeremy London, Hugh Keays-Byrne) seeking a mysterious hidden land. They are joined by the wife (Tushka Bergen) of another man (Bryan Brown), who had previously gone on a similar expedition and disappeared.

Mate, it is fiction, not documentary! I LOVE Jules Verne and have read all his books being teenager, but I never thought in my life that anyone would refer to them as to scientific facts!

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Follow Up By: F4Phantom - Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 14:20

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 at 14:20
KSV, Sure we can claim this is or this isnt science fact but really we just dont know just how many people live under the earth. The people in the earth may indeed, as you suggest, be exposed to temperatures far greater than us, temperatures hot enough to melt stones - somewhere in the vicintity of 40 to 45 deg C. While I agree this is very hot, the human body could have adapted to this environment over 10's of years, possibly without inverter airconditioners or even evaporative coolers.

Of course we will all have egg on our faces if it turns out no people live under the earth and its made up of four main layers consisting of an iron core (Fe) at 4300C an outer core of decaying radioactive elecments, a mantle at 1000C which allows slow plastic deformation and a cold rocky crust of the lighest elements all formed with the rest of the solar system about 4.54 b yrs ago.

Sorry mate, the only logical conclusion is a tunnel somewhere....... probably near dubbo as this is half way between melbourne and brisbane.
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Reply By: Alan H - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:34

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:34
My brother drives a hybrid Lexus of some kind and is always banging on about how green it is, but I've always suspected that most of the bull surrounding global warming and "green" vehicles is all just part of the gravy train where hordes of pollies, bureaucraps and the "environmentally concerned" types can jet around the world to discuss it.
This they do in exotic locations and consume vast amounts of fuel, food, electricity etc. and come to no agreement whatsoever except where to hold the next gabfest!

We need another vehicle for the cook (wife) but I'll stick with my diesel Defender and buy something reasonable for her and they can stuff their environmentally friendly vehicles where the sun don't shine.
Happy motoring.
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Follow Up By: troopyman - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:39

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:39
Oh , ok so there is no such thing as global warming then . Thanks for that .
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Follow Up By: Alan H - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:48

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:48
That's not what I said, obviously there is but I don't like the huge bandwagon that's been created by it and the bull and deception that goes with it. Hybrid cars are part of that deception.
We all should be endevouring to keep pollution to the minimum and having gabfests to talk about it but never actually do anything about it, isn't the way.
"Carbon credits"? Just a way of allowing polluters to purchase credits from non polluters and carry on polluting!
That could only make sense to a politician concerned with his own future after politics where he can slip into a nice little sinecure maybe with the Global Warming industry.
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:49

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 11:49
No there's not.

Global warming is an urban myth.
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Follow Up By: troopyman - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:07

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:07
Ok Alan H , i see what you are saying now . Sorry my mistake .
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Follow Up By: Member - Royce- Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:25

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:25
1. There is some evidence that "Global Warming" is occuring. ... but to cover themselves followers of this faith now call it "Climate Change"
2. There is a THEORY that human activity is in part causing the possible warming.
3. There is also a theory that IF humans are causing SOME of the global warming then it MAY be possible to slow the effect we are having.
4. The THEORY is that Global Warming will be a bad thing.
5. Today...... I'm wet and cold and could do with a couple of degrees more warmth!

Cheers Royce
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Reply By: Member - John (Vic) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:09

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:09
I also have always wondered how green those battery cars are.
Particularly what they need to do with all the nickel and other heavy metal crap that resides within those batteries.

Also wondered about the short life and large cost to replace those batteries.
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Follow Up By: Member - John (Vic) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:12

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:12
Sorry that should read.....resides within those batteries at end of life.
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Reply By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:49

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:49
Be careful. The CNW study has been around for a while and makes interesting reading. BUT, you should read some of the reviews of the study to put in in context. Main criticisms are that much of the source data used is rubbery at best and that as a 'scientific' study, it was not subject to any peer review as would normally be the case for a recognised piece of work. Some of the discussions on who funded the study are interesting as well, with strong suggestions that oil companies are behind it in some way.

I am not saying it is all wrong, but there can be a tendency to accept something which conforms to your own view of the world and run with it. Deliberate confusion isn't the sole domain of just one side of the climate change debate.

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Follow Up By: Scubaroo - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 21:30

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 21:30
Good followup Matt. One contentious point in that article is the nickel plant in Canada. Nickel has been produced at Sudbury for a CENTURY (it's actually an asteroid impact site!). A lot longer than the Prius has been around.

Funny how the Prius came out in 1997, but NASA was using the place in the late 60s. Toyota must have been stockpiling batteries in anticipation of building a hybrid car one day, eh? :)

Toyota purchases something like 1000 tonnes of nickel a year - less than 1% of the annual output from Sudbury. Yet the Prius cops the rap for 100 years of environmental damage.

No doubt the embodied emissions of the Prius are huge - but it's an innovation, and paves the way for a market to support the R&D that will result in truly sustainable travel. Think about who has to gain from an economical car like the Prius being labelled environmentally unfriendly - OIL companies.

All that said, some of the conventional modern turbo diesels leave Prius dead in the economy stakes. My bet is we will see hybrid diesels as the next evolution of the "green" car. Pure electric cars are only as good as the power plants that they're recharged from, and in a country powered by a large chunk of brown and black coal, they don't really rate very green in Australia.
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Follow Up By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 21:48

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 21:48
At the risk of starting a mutual admiration society, good points Scubaroo. My feeling on the Prius and the like is that they are probably not the answer and may even be worse than other options. But, despite all the talk, most Governments are reluctant to SERIOUSLY invest in more environmentally friendly options. The only way vehicle manufacturers will take it on is if the market demand exists, ie if the buyer dollars are there.

So the current crop of hybrids may just be the forerunners of a more permanent solution to more environmentally friendly and practical vehicles if the demand continues. A step in the right direction, but not the final solution perhaps?

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Reply By: Member - Pixie - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 14:41

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 14:41
I always question reports like this especially when these studies relate to oil companies, the gun lobby groups, cigarette companies or other large industries that heavily rely on existing technology and/orbehaviours.

That aside, if companies or industries do not make moves towards alternative technologies then where will we be in 20 years, 50 years or beyond that?
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Follow Up By: Member - Doug T (FNQ) - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 14:59

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 14:59
I wasn't going to make or add any comments re the post and I think this comment with link gets around that,
Yes it is always a good idea to study studies and comments, that's why I have my doubts on climate change , it's the reasons and political grandstanding on the subject taken up all over the world because a minority few thinks this and that , what mandkind cannot do is predict the future but we surely can study the past , just one subject is IVF , how wrong the anti IVF advocates were, the trouble is they stand in the way of progress with unfounded beliefs, that's why I will share this web link with you,


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Follow Up By: troopyman - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 16:18

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 16:18
Ok i looked at the link and thats what scientists have found out about past average earth temps . Scientists also say that we as humans are contributing to the carbon dioxide ommisions and they also say that this is causing climate change . So your point is ?
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Reply By: Crackles - Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 18:09

Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 18:09
Dont you just love statistics, you can make them say anything to suit one's cause.
"....a much more realistic rating with highway speeds of 80mph and acceleration of 8mph per second."
So since when has it been realistic to drive at 80mph or accellerate at 8mph per sec??? That's Zero to 100 kph in around 7.4 seconds!!
90 to 100kph & 18 seconds to accellerate to 100 as per the original test is far more realistic especially for a person driving a fuel efficient car not a sports car.
You have to wonder what the original authour of the study has to gain then compare that with the findings from Toyota then say the real answer lies somewhere in the midddle :-)
Cheers Craig.........................
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