Saturday, November 17, 2007

What is the True Fuel Cost?

In today's Post & Courier, Jim Parker writes about the conversion of a standard hybrid Toyota Prius (image) into a plug-in hybrid Prius. [By the way, what is the plural of Prius...Priuses or Priusi?] The plug-in versions require $40-50,00 upgrades in the battery system as well as a system for plugging into the electrical power grid. These plug-in versions tout fuel economy of 100 mpg as well as reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.

As environmental educators with a 3-year-old, standard hybrid Prius [50 mpg overall: husband's 53 mpg averaged with wife's 47 mpg] in the staff parking lot, we are pleased to see reporting on the conservation of fuel resources and the reduction of harmful greenhouse gases. However, we think it is important to point out that the plug-in Prius does not get 100 mpg and a reduction in greenhouse gases in all parts of our country. In our area our electricity is generated by burning fossil fuel in the form of coal. The mining, transportation, and burning of that coal needs to be factored into the equation to provide an honest evaluation of the fossil fuel savings and greenhouse gas reduction for a plug-in Prius. Additionally, as reported in the P&C and this blog, the burning of that coal has introduced hazardous amounts of mercury into our local waters and fish-eating population. The 100 mpg claims are more accurate where electricity is generated from renewable resources, such as hydroelectric or wind power sources.

Audubon South Carolina supports alternate power sources and technologies that reduce fossil fuel consumption. Part of our job is to present these options and possibilities to our audience as ways to preserve our energy resources and reduce the degradation of our environmental systems. The solutions are not easy. However, we feel it is important to present all the information (pros and cons) to ensure that our audience can make honest evaluations regarding the issues. Therefore, the use of coal to generate the electricity that powers the plug-in Prius battery needs to be presented as a cost in order for the "fuel savings/greenhouse gas reduction" equation to balance. Doing so will produce a less-than 100 mpg value with respect to fossil fuel consumption, which is still better than the vast majority of vehicles on the road. However, simply shifting the power input to another fossil fuel is ultimately not the answer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But hybrid technology paves the way for plug-in hybrid technology which paves the way for all-electric vehicles.increase miles per gallon, fuel saver, increase gas

mileageStill, hybrids run on gasoline, increase miles per gallon, fuel saver, increase gas mileage which is not an alternative to gasoline no matter