I (Maynard) am a real-world green. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Don’t waste, don’t be a glutton. Who could argue with that?
Unfortunately, policies that pass for “green” in the political world are more often than not merely an excuse for cronyism and control, and to hell with the environment and the nation and the world. The political greens are like hypocrite preachers that are in it for the money; the ones that end up giving religion a bad name. The greens become, like a corrupt preacher, and like the NAACP, and like a lot of others, just another shakedown crew spouting empty rhetoric while they line their pockets and demand pointless sacrifices from the rest of us.
So…let’s look at some true, respectable “green”.
The Green Car Institute has released its highlights for 2014. Here’s their list: :
- MERCEDES-BENZ SMART ELECTRIC DRIVE CONVERTIBLE / COUPE (Electric (Li-ion bat.))
- TOYOTA PRIUS C (1.5L 4, auto)
- NISSAN LEAF (Electric (Li-ion bat.))
- TOYOTA PRIUS (1.8L 4, auto)
- HONDA CIVIC HYBRID (1.5L 4, auto)
- LEXUS CT 200H (1.8L 4, auto)
- TOYOTA PRIUS PLUG-IN HYBRID (Electric (Li-ion bat.) / 1.8L 4, auto CVT)
- MITSUBISHI MIRAGE (1.2L 3, auto)
- HONDA CIVIC NATURAL GAS (1.8L 4, auto [CNG])
- HONDA INSIGHT (1.3L 4, auto)
- MERCEDES-BENZ SMART FORTWO CONVERTIBLE / COUPE (1.0L 3, auto)
- VOLKSWAGEN JETTA HYBRID (1.4L 4, auto)
These rankings are based upon the calculated “Green Scores“. They take into account the greater footprint of each vehicle, both in its use and in the resources that went into manufacturing it.
The thing that jumps out at me about that list is what you don’t see. In particular, you don’t see American cars. And even more in particular, you don’t see those cars whose manufacturing gets specially subsidized, directly and indirectly (such as the Chevy Volt or the Tesla). (Yes, a couple of foreign entries in that list give the buyer a plug-in tax credit.)
Here’s the Edmunds report on the new list. Edmunds notes:
One car conspicuously absent from the top-tier rankings is the all-electric Tesla Model S. Because the rating system uses vehicle and battery weight to help estimate emissions at the manufacturing level, the emissions charged against the 5,000-pound car with its 1,000-pound battery pack “are significant compared to the other electric vehicles,” said Shruti Vaidyanathan, ACEEE’s lead vehicle analyst.
As a result, the Model S with the large 85 kilowatt-hour battery scored 22 points lower on the ACEE’s 100-point scale than the industry-leading Smart ED, while the Model S with the smaller 60 kwh battery did only slightly better at 38 points — the same score as that garnered by the conventionally powered six-cylinder Porsche Carrera S.
But…but….but I thought the Tesla was green?
Here’s a hint, boys and girls, and it should be obvious: A car that costs more than three times as much as a normal car (even with subsidies) can never be green. The huge price of these cars is an indicator of how many resources it “ate” before it ever saw the light of day. Even if that car gets 100 mpg, it will never make up the deficit. A true “green” car won’t have that price premium, because its manufacturing footprint will be normal.
Last year, I contemplated a replacement for my 19-year-old Saturn, and settled on a Toyota Prius C. This model, while selling at a premium above conventional small hatchbacks, really does get you better than 50 mpg in real-world everyday use. It’s second on the Green Car list, right behind the electric SmartCar — which isn’t much more practical than a golf cart. (Green Car calculates the real-world range of the electric SmartCar is about 35 miles in New York City driving.)
So the Japanese company sold me the true green car, and it’s affordable and economical and useful.
And my Prius C is unsubsidized. Washington doesn’t pay Toyota to make it, or me to buy it. I have to dig into my own pocket.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rich Yuppie Studmuffin over here is driving his Tesla Roadster. This gentleman is being subsidized (by you and me!) to zoom around town picking up floozies and bimbos.
Yes, our goofy old Uncle Sugar pays Studmuffin to buy the car, and it pays Tesla to make it. And the rest of the car companies pay big tributes to Tesla to buy some of those “zero emissions credits” that the government makes them acquire.
So if not for Uncle Sugar, the Tesla wouldn’t exist, and Studmuffin would have to pay for his studmobile (and probably for his girls) just like the rest of us. There’s your redistribution of wealth.
Here’s an interesting article in Forbes about the economics of subsidies: “If Tesla Would Stop Selling Cars, We’d All Save Some Money”.
First of all, let’s stipulate that the Tesla model S is a pretty cool looking car, that the high-end version accelerates like a rocket, and that its massive, low center of gravity pretty much inures it against a rollover…
…The public is still on the hook for Tesla, and will be for the foreseeable future.
First, there’s the $7500 taxback bonus that every buyer gets and every taxpayer pays. Then there are generous state subsidies ($2500 in California, $4000 in Illinois—the bluer the state, the more the taxpayers get gouged), all paid to people forking out $63K (plus taxes) for the base version, to roughly $100K for the really quick one…
…Tesla didn’t generate a profit by selling sexy cars, but rather by selling sleazy emissions “credits,” mandated by the state of California’s electric vehicle requirements. The competition, like Honda, doesn’t have a mass market plug-in to meet the mandate and therefore must buy the credits from Tesla, the only company that does. The bill for last quarter was $68 million. Absent this shakedown of potential car buyers, Tesla would have lost $57 million, or $11,400 per car. As the company sold 5,000 cars in the quarter, though, $13,600 per car was paid by other manufacturers, who are going to pass at least some of that cost on to buyers of their products. Folks in the new car market are likely paying a bit more than simply the direct tax subsidy.
Which would all be well and good if we were actually saving the planet. But, as you see, the subsidized Tesla is more like the Star Trek Doomsday Machine.
So the ordinary people struggle to buy their frugal cars, while their tax dollars pay for rich yuppies to buy planet-destroying toys. Then the politicians pat themselves on the back for all the good they’ve done, while they wallow with their cronies in the only sort of green they really care about: Money.
(To be clear: Plug-in vehicles do have their place, and you see that some of them do qualify as “green”. Electric cars with smaller battery packs are useful where their limited range is adequate, and especially good for vehicles that start and stop a lot. And it’s good that they don’t require gasoline; they “burn” whatever powers the electric plants. In a two-car family, having a Nissan Leaf for that second car might work nicely. But until/unless we hit a major breakthrough in battery technology and cost, a plug-in car with significant range will be cost-prohibitive.)
(And finally, I’d like to challenge the perception that a Prius is somehow fundamentally “liberal”. The idea of burning less gas, saving money, and sending fewer dollars to terrorists should appeal across the spectrum. Yes, and even producing less carbon dioxide; why not? My only lament is we have to go to Japan to get the Prius, because our own boys are too busy finding more ways to suck money out of Uncle Sugar’s endless trough.)
My husband and I have owned four Priuses because they are awesome, get great gas mileage, have had fewer mechanical issues than any other cars we have ever owned and can fit a TON of stuff in them. They are just the best cars. Our first Prius did not require its first set of new brakes until it had over 100K on it!!! Unbelievable! I’ve never seen cars with such reliability.
Yeah, a hybrid doesn’t wear out the brakes much because as much as possible of the braking energy goes into generating electricity to recharge the battery, instead of just wearing down the brake shoes like on a conventional car. And because of the electric motor, a hybrid has no need for a starter; another failure-prone component in a conventional car. And no belts to break, because the components are electric.
Maynard, you seem to know a lot about cars. Can you come over and change our oil? Thanks 🙂
Btw, who are those two clowns in the Obama Clown Car?
Dunno who the test drivers are, but that’s the new car (soon to be the only car) sold by Government Motors, the Obama-mandated “Puss-E”. You might as well buy it, ’cause you’re paying for it anyway.
Think I saw the silver version in Road and Track magazine, but they called it the “Coff-N” and it comes with a pair of TOTUS’s, one for each passenger, clearly visible in the photo.
Might be wrong but I think the reason Toyota has a 10 year head start in hybrids is that Detroit was told by our government to make pure battery cars. Now they’ve relented too late – advantage Toyota. The cost of having political overlords heading the private sector includes future opportunity. Desperation to make up for lost ground with the same structure usually compounds the mistakes. If not for government intervention we might be driving hybrid GTO’s which would be nice.
Those dudes in the O Bubble car must have just seen the Richard Simmons video and are on their way to sign up for insurance.
Sure, the government’s attempts to pick winners and losers is part of the problem. GM, under political pressure, poured a fortune into the EV1. Advocates still romanticize that car (they made a film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”). And this is indeed neat stuff; it’s just not a winning formula, and it can’t be until/unless there’s a battery breakthrough. So we wasted our efforts on cool toys, while the Japanese built a practical car. But do we learn anything? No, of course not, our politicians know better. For example, A123 Systems was a rat hole to dump down hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and Obama got a photo op and the Koreans and Chinese took our money. We are insane. Don’t get me started.
As a reward for their fuel efficient, cost and mission effective cars, Tokyo just got a foot of global warming. The heaviest snowfall in 45 years. Many car accidents and depressed voter turnout for the gubernatorial election. http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/106516.php
War against car freedom takes an ugly turn. A sinkhole has engulfed 8 corvettes at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. http://www.wkrn.com/story/24702089/kentucky-sinkhole
I like Maynard’s articles however I will take a contrarian point of view. First I would never buy a car with a big battery in it. A Volkswagen diesel gets the same mileage without the battery. It is also my understanding Toyota loses money on the sale of a Prius so, if true it is subsidized by the buyers of it’s other models which still turn a profit in spite of the government’s interference. I have rented them and it is not a bad car in my opinion, however the government should stay the fuck out of our lives and let the free market determine the the most efficient technologies.
Re the German car for the masses, Volkswagon Beetle: Along with the bloody piece of Hitler’s sofa, the auction house is also going to auction starting today, Patton’s funeral flag, a Japanese flag signed by prisoners awaiting war crimes trials including Tojo, and a hand-carved wooden plaque given at the Wolfsburg plant in 1940 to Ferdinand Porsche who designed the VW Beetle. Porsche “…was a member of the Nazi Party and SS, and also designed many of Germany’s tanks. He was held as a war criminal by the French for over 20 months….”