Hybrids Consume More Energy in Lifetime Than Chevrolet's Tahoe SUV
BANDON, Ore., March 31 -- As Americans become increasingly interested in fuel economy and global warming, they are beginning to make choices about the vehicles they drive based on fuel economy and to a lesser degree emissions.
But many of those choices aren't actually the best in terms of vehicle lifetime energy usage and the cost to society over the full lifetime of a car or truck.
CNW Marketing Research Inc. spent two years collecting data on the energy necessary to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage. This includes such minutia as plant to dealer fuel costs, employee driving distances, electricity usage per pound of material used in each vehicle and literally hundreds of other variables.
To put the data into understandable terms for consumers, it was translated into a "dollars per lifetime mile" figure. That is, the Energy Cost per mile driven.
The most Energy Expensive vehicle sold in the U.S. in calendar year 2005: Maybach at $11.58 per mile. The least expensive: Scion xB at $0.48 cents.
While neither of those figures is surprising, it is interesting that driving a hybrid vehicle costs more in terms of overall energy consumed than comparable non-hybrid vehicles.
For example, the Honda Accord Hybrid has an Energy Cost per Mile of $3.29 while the conventional Honda Accord is $2.18. Put simply, over the "Dust to Dust" lifetime of the Accord Hybrid, it will require about 50 percent more energy than the non-hybrid version.
One of the reasons hybrids cost more than non-hybrids is the manufacture, replacement and disposal of such items as batteries, electric motors (in addition to the conventional engine), lighter weight materials and complexity of the power package.
And while many consumers and environmentalists have targeted sport utility vehicles because of their lower fuel economy and/or perceived inefficiency as a means of transportation, the energy cost per mile shows at least some of that disdain is misplaced.
For example, while the industry average of all vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2005 was $2.28 cents per mile, the Hummer H3 (among most SUVs) was only $1.949 cents per mile. That figure is also lower than all currently offered hybrids and Honda Civic at $2.42 per mile.
"If a consumer is concerned about fuel economy because of family budgets or depleting oil supplies, it is perfectly logical to consider buying high- fuel-economy vehicles," says Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, Inc. "But if the concern is the broader issues such as environmental impact of energy usage, some high-mileage vehicles actually cost society more than conventional or even larger models over their lifetime.
"We believe this kind of data is important in a consumer's selection of transportation," says Spinella. "Basing purchase decisions solely on fuel economy or vehicle size does not get to the heart of the energy usage issue."
The goal of overall worldwide energy conservation and the cost to society in general -- not just the auto buyer -- can often be better addressed by being aware of a car or truck's "dust to dust" energy requirements, he said.
This study is not the end of the energy-usage discussion. "We hope to see a dialog begin that puts educated and aware consumers into energy policy decisions," Spinella said. "We undertook this research to see if perceptions (about energy efficiency) were true in the real world."