I've heard this rumor a few times (example). The argument is that it takes energy to make the car, and when you take into account how long each car will last on the road, driving Prius's over a large number of miles will end up requiring more energy than if you had driven Hummers over that many miles.

This argument sounds dubious to me. Is there any validity to this claim?


1 Answer 1


The Straight Dope reports that while the full environmental impact is hard to measure, there is not much evidence to support the "Hummers are better for the environment than the Prius" claim:

The cause of the controversy seems to be a report called "Dust to Dust" by Oregon-based CNW Marketing Research. The report claims a Prius has a higher lifetime energy cost than a Hummer, an assertion cited by George Will in 2007 in his syndicated newspaper column. But the report is ludicrous. It evidently was self-published, lists no authors, quotes no technical literature, never explains its methodology, and contains numerous unsupported and often bizarre assertions.

Slate's Green Lantern also has a go at answering this question, and comes to much the same conclusion.

  • 3
    of course just measuring "energy cost" isn't going to provide the whole picture. There's also chemical pollution from things like heavy metals, complex carbohydrates, etc. during all stages of manufacturing, lifecycle, and recycling/deposition of the vehicle to take into account.
    – jwenting
    Aug 16, 2011 at 11:05
  • 3
    We will not know the full environmental impact of battery cars until they are sold by the hundreds of millions, just like fossil fuel cars. They all pollute, before, during and after they are gone from the roads. My bet is they are worse than fossil cars.
    – Moab
    Aug 17, 2011 at 3:05
  • Also, selling any functional car to purchase a new, more environmentally friendly car, is a net harm for the environment. The environmental consequences of driving that gas-guzzler for another ten years are less then the impact of building and driving a brand new Prius. Dec 7, 2012 at 19:00
  • 6
    @Moab "My bet is they are worse than fossil cars." So which logical fallacy did you commit there? Personal Incredulity? Anecdotal?
    – BryanH
    Jan 29, 2013 at 20:21

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