A Toyota Prius looking smug yesterday

A Toyota Prius looking smug yesterday

Hollywood loves the Toyota Prius for the green image it purveys to celebrities who have a carbon footprint several times that of the average citizen. Middle England loves the Toyota Prius because over a dinner party they can tell their neighbours they drive a hybrid car. I even like the Toyota Prius because it has raised awareness of hybrid technologies to the world, and brought them into the public consciousness. But is it as green as Toyota claim?

Well, the official CO2 figure for the Prius is 104 g/km, which is equivalent to 62.8 mpg (although Toyota actually claim 65.7 – someone in Japan has their maths wrong there). Now DEFRA in their guidelines to the carbon offsetting quality standard (which is soon to be released) says that reported g/km “factors must be uplifted by 15% to take into account ‘real-world’ driving conditions”. This is not Prius-specific, but does admit that even the government doesn’t believe the CO2 figures they use to tax us on.

With this uplift, the Prius would now be at 119.6g/km (54.6 mpg) which on the face of it seems more reasonable. In independent tests the Toyota has also failed to live up to its claimed efficiency, with What Car (1) recording 52mpg, The Sunday Times (2) recorded 48.1 mpg on a long journey and owners typically reporting between 53 & 54mpg. This gives us a worst of 48.1mpg and a best of 54mpg. Translating that into CO2, that’s 121 to 136 g/km of CO2. So not bad, but still 16-31% higher than Toyota claim (104 g/km) and very misleading.

It’s also worth remembering that a hybrid engine is only beneficial for lots of stop start driving. Running at constant speed there is no benefit over a normal engine, and in fact a disadvantage because you are carrying the extra weight of unused batteries and motor. It’s also worth noting that fuel consumption (and hence CO2) is all about your driving style and not what you drive. 91mpg was achieved by a chap called Will from Warwick Uni (3) in a VW polo Bluemotion, in excess of the claimed 74.3mpg and that included traffic on the M25. A Prius will also cost you more than an equivalent non-hybrid car, and the extra money you spend will take a long time to recoup (if ever). And if you were thinking about buying one to replace your old car, remember that means that somewhere another vehicle needs to be manufactured with all the raw materials that entails.

So, if you want to show people you care about the environment, enjoy looking smug at dinner parties or star in Hollywood blockbusters, then the Prius is the car for you. If you simply want to save fuel & money, lower your carbon footprint and actually do something for the environment, then improve your driving style and follow the example of Will from Warwick.

(1) www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/article-399074/The-great-mileage-rip-off.html

(2) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/used_car_reviews/article3552994.ece

(3) http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/nho/entry/911_mpg_in

Source: Clear analysis

Head of it's time?

Ahead of it's time

So someone asks you what the lowest CO2 of any car on sale on the UK is. Must be the Toyota Prius right? That’s been on sale since 2000 in saloon form and 2004 as a hatchback, long before anyone gave a monkey’s about CO2…

Well the most interesting thing is that the Prius was top of the class for just 2 years, and it superseded a car which produced 20% less CO2 than any car on sale today. Progress eh?

Between 2000 and 2005 (when it was no longer on sale), the cleanest car in the UK was a little-known, slightly strange looking vehicle called the Honda Insight. A hybrid ahead of its time, it produced just 80g/km. To put that in context, the Toyota Prius produces 104g/km. A good secondhand one will cost you from £4,000 now in the UK. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Insight)

The Toyota did indeed reign king of the clean cars for 2006 & 2007, but has recently dropped back to 3rd= place – a position that can only get worse until Toyota release the next generation Prius, promised for 2009/2010. Currently the lowest CO2 producers sold in the UK are the Ecomotion Seat Ibiza and the BlueMotion VW Polo, both from the VW group. So the current (as of the beginning of September 2008) top ten* are:

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 TDI 80PS Ecomotion (99 g/km CO2 – Diesel)

VOLKSWAGEN Polo 3 / 5 Door 1.4 TDI (80 PS) BLUEMOTION (99 g/km CO2 – Diesel)

MINI MINI Hatchback R56 MINI Cooper D Hatchback (104 g/km CO2 – Diesel)

TOYOTA Prius 1.5 VVT-i Hybrid (104 g/km CO2 – Petrol Hybrid)

CITROEN C1 1.0i 3 & 5 door (108 g/km CO2 – Petrol)

TOYOTA Aygo 1.0 VVT-i 3 & 5 door (108 g/km CO2 – Petrol)

CITROEN C1 1.4HDi (109 g/km CO2 – Diesel)

HONDA Civic Hybrid 1.4 IMA ES (109 g/km CO2 – Petrol Hybrid)

PEUGEOT 107 1.0 (68 bhp) (109 g/km CO2 – Petrol)

SKODA New Fabia 1.4 TDI 80PS Green-Line (109 g/km CO2 – Diesel)

*I have removed duplicates of the same car, for example with different bodyshells.

N.B. Electric cars such as the G-Wiz have been ignored, however they tend to be circa 65g/km if you take into account the production of electricity.