We have gotten a number of inquiries asking for our take on the CNW study that claims that hybrid vehicles are a net-environmental loser due to the additional production and disposal costs. On the face of it, we are skeptical of their claims, but we are taking a close look at the report’s findings before we make an official reaction.
Our skepticism, is based on several previous studies undertaken by very well-respected analysts. We thought it would be helpful to point these out so everyone will understand that the CNW study does not exist in a vacuum.
- The 2001 MIT study called "On the Road in 2020: An Assessment of the Future of Transportation Technology" (.pdf) used a life cycle analysis that concluded that increasing fuel efficiency with hybrid technology, is a net energy and global warming pollution winner.
- Andrew Burnham, Michael Wang, and Paula Moon at the Center for Transportation Research of Argonne National Labs recently gave presentation called “Energy and Emission Effects of the Vehicle Cycle” at the 2006 SAE World Congress. One of the key the conclusions is “Total energy cycle energy use decreases for advanced powertrains & lightweight vehicles… Improved fuel economy offsets increase in vehicle cycle energy.”
- Heather L. MacLean and Lester B. Lave of Carnegie Mellon University published a 1998 life-cycle assessment which concluded that 85 percent of energy use associated with a conventional vehicle’s life cycle is attributable to operation. Only 15 percent is attributable to manufacturing and disposal. Given that, it seems implausible that a 50 mpg rated Honda Civic Hybrid could be worse for the environment than a 17 mpg rated Hummer H3, even if it took twice as much energy to make the hybrid and it is driven half as much before it is replaced.
Posted by: Don