Green Update–>Hybrids Are “Hogwash”?

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Blogger tgriffith must have taken too much lithium last night. He decided to bash hybrids in order to convince you that certain used cars are cheaper (of course they are), better on gas mileage (umm, not really), and to be preferred because hybrid batteries are “depleting the earth of precious minerals.”

Hybrids, he says, are “designed to line the pockets of the companies that build them.” While, of course, the other products of those companies are not.

We write a lot about used cars on the CarGurus blog, and the point of that is to alert you to their values and benefits. Used cars are in no way an alternative to hybrids; they are a different animal and serve different needs and purposes. You could just as well argue that a used Ford Fusion Hybrid (above) is a better buying proposition than a new Mercedes CLS.

Compared to other similar cars (new or used), hybrids are more expensive. So why buy one? You would be silly to buy one to save the planet. You would not be silly to buy one to reduce emissions and help advance the technology for reducing our oil dependence.

The big auto companies are investing heavily in hybrids and electrics, because the handwriting is clearly on the wall. Government incentives help defray the high costs, but will not last forever. Costs will drop as technology and production practice improve. Some of us remember how expensive our first computers were.

Lithium mining in ChileThe argument that lithium is a precious resource is just not supported. There are large reserves in Bolivia (as we wrote about), Chile, China, Mexico, and elsewhere. Yes, there will be problems—political and otherwise—as always happens in mining. Transforming an entire industry like autos does not come without problems or costs. And other kinds of batteries are in the works.

Today on Autoblog Green, a writer made the obvious point that it’s much, much cheaper to keep your current vehicle (or buy used) than to shell out close to $30,000, the average price of a new car.

Of course, a 7-10 year old car is unlikely to be as efficient as a new car, especially one with a hybrid or electric powertrain. It certainly won’t have technologies like electric power steering, brake energy regeneration or automatic start-stop. An older car really makes the most sense for those people that don’t drive much and the energy to produce it has already been expended. [sic]

In other words, how you drive should determine in large measure what you drive. We’ll talk about that next week in regards to the Volt and the Leaf.

How do you come down on the benefits of driving a hybrid? Would a hybrid be worth the extra cost to you?


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Used Ford Fusion
Used Mercedes CLS


  1. The original article — or, more specifically, the one it ultimately links to — makes no claims regarding the rarity of Lithium.

    For reference, here is the link to the original:

    The relevant lines:

    Reuters reports that Japanese automakers have shown significant interest in a rare metal site at Canada’s Thor Lake in the Northwest Territories since China, the world’s largest producer of rare earth metals, limits materials exports and has been considering a total ban on allowing some materials to leave its borders.
    China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is considering an absolute ban on exports of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium – all of which are used in hybrid vehicle production. According to London’s Telegraph, no substitute has been found for the crucial ingredient of neodymium, used in electronics to enhance magnetic power.
    The Prius, like other hybrids, makes significant use of neodymium, which is used to produce the electric car motor magnets, not to mention wind turbine generators. Terbium and dysprosium are also used in small amounts, while lanthanum is used in the batteries.
    All four materials are considered rare earth metals, though certainly their use and demand is not relegated to just hybrid car batteries and electric motors. Still, each Prius uses about 2.2 lbs. of neodymium and each battery uses 22-33 lbs. of lanthanum, figures that will inevitably double as Toyota seeks to boost the Prius’ fuel efficiency.
    –end quote–

  2. A true environmentalist should buy used. Someone who just wants to look like one should by a hybrid.

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