(CU Independent illustration/Adam Milner)
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Driving is one of my favorite activities. The open road makes me feel free, and I use it as an opportunity to get to know my city as well as myself. The engine’s whirl and the sunlight pouring down on me through the sunroof bring me peace.
That is until a Prius turns in front of me.
The popular Toyota’s ugly, aerodynamic ass is inches in front of my bumper, all up in my grill both literally and figuratively, going five miles under the speed limit. In fact, it’s so close to my car I can clearly read its plethora of bumper stickers that tell me two facts: One, I’m a terrible person for at least four different reasons, ranging from being close-minded to an oil-monger, and two, I should vote for Obama in the 2008 election.
Now, if I wanted to poke fun at bumper stickers, I could have a heyday with the Subaru Outback. However, my hatred goes far beyond that.
First off, let’s address that 3,000 pound tree sitting in the room and talk about the Prius’s environmental impact as a hybrid. Yes, the Prius gets ridiculously good gas mileage, and yes, it’s helping reduce the amount of pollution in the air. Yet it seems like a typical Prius-driver thinks one’s environmental impact is solely determined by gas mileage. As it turns out, that’s not the case at all.
According to various sources, ranging from Wired magazine to the BBC’s “Top Gear,” the process of making a Prius is worse for the environment than making a Hummer. Yes, a Prius will pay off the extra debt quite quickly—about 1,000 miles after it hits the road—but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing.
A Prius takes a lot of resources, especially for its big, fancy battery. Again, while it more than pays for itself in the long run, it’s far from saving the planet. For example, look at how many Prius vehicles sit in the Park-and-Ride down on Table Mesa. It clearly looks like most of that fuel efficiency is stuck in the resource-sucking battery at the parking garage, while giant trucks and old, inefficient vehicles clutter the road.
Wouldn’t it be far more logical to drive a used car 10 blocks, just to park it? Or better yet, wouldn’t it be better to bike? Buying a Prius just to park it adds insult to injury caused by the acid rain from the mountains where the battery’s nickel is harvested.
Unfortunately, talking about the vehicle’s environmental impact is just the beginning. A lot of its story has nothing to do with what it does on the road.
Let’s go ahead and pretend the hybrid factor is still optimal for vehicles (or better yet, let’s pretend the far superior clean diesel engine doesn’t exist) and talk about the little Toyota’s image. There are plenty of hybrids out there that are far more comfortable, useful and affordable. Why do people continue to choose the ugly, small and over-priced Prius? Because they like the image associated with it.
There are so many cars on the market, it should take weeks to do enough research and test driving to find one that’s right. However, judging by how many people buy a Prius,
it seems people are skipping that step, or else we would see a lot more hybrid Civics and diesel Jettas. Instead, they hear it’s good for the planet, they know they will look environmental when they drive it and they like being fashionable.
Yep, that’s right. The Prius is nothing more than a fashion statement.
My decade-old car is far from being in perfect shape, and it doesn’t give off an image of any kind. It has lots of features and I’m quite comfortable, even though my passengers can often be heard screaming, “My legs, my legs!” in the back seat. Anyway, the bottom line is I get about 10 miles less to the gallon than the Prius. So, assuming I’m not carting around my 6-foot-plus friends, I’m doing my part for the planet. When my car’s low production cost and environmental cost is considered, I believe it’s safe to say I’m downright eco-friendly.
The difference? People around me won’t know, but I’m OK with that because I saved thousands of dollars and I won’t have to worry about what to do with my plus-sized battery in 10 years.
There is plenty more about the Prius that gets to me, but I’ll end my rant now. The truth is if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the Toyota Prius is what’s taking the path.
If you want to keep the environment in mind when purchasing a vehicle in the future, don’t assume the Prius is the answer. Take a look at smaller cars, more practical transportation and diesel vehicles. There are plenty of suitable alternatives to the mainstream alternative vehicle.
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Cameron Naish at Cameron.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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