Greg Prince's Blog

Musings and pontifications from a reality based progressive

Not adding up

Posted by Greg on May 18, 2009

A great review of the Honda Insight from the Times UK.

In a Prius the electric motor can, though almost never does, power the car on its own. In the Honda the electric motor is designed to “assist” the petrol engine, providing more get-up-and-go when the need arises. The net result is this: in a Prius the transformation from electricity to petrol is subtle. In the Honda there are all sorts of jerks and clunks.

And for what? For sure, you could get 60 or more mpg if you were careful. And that’s not bad for a spacious five-door hatchback. But for the same money

you could have a Golf diesel, which

will be even more economical. And hasn’t been built out of rice paper to keep costs down.

I cannot see how making a car with two motors costs the same in terms of resources as making a car with one.

The nickel for the battery has to come from somewhere. Canada, usually. It has to be shipped to Japan, not on a sailing boat, I presume. And then it must be converted, not in a tree house, into a battery, and then that battery must be transported, not on an ox cart, to the Insight production plant in Suzuka. And then the finished car has to be shipped, not by Thor Heyerdahl, to Britain, where it can be transported, not by wind, to the home of a man with a beard who thinks he’s doing the world a favour.

Why doesn’t he just buy a Range Rover, which is made from local components, just down the road? No, really — weird-beards buy locally produced meat and vegetables for eco-reasons. So why not apply the same logic to cars?

At this point you will probably dismiss what I’m saying as the rantings of a petrolhead, and think that I have my head in the sand.

That’s not true. While I have yet to be convinced that man’s 3% contribution to the planet’s greenhouse gases affects the climate, I do recognise that oil is a finite resource and that as it becomes more scarce, the political ramifications could well be dire. I therefore absolutely accept the urgent need for alternative fuels.

But let me be clear that hybrid cars are designed solely to milk the guilt genes of the smug and the foolish.

I’ve taken just a few bits from a significantly longer piece that you really owe it to yourself to read in full.

Hat tip to Timothy Sandefur

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