[UPDATE: To any of you Prius owners who think I'm an "idiot": Please read the end note below. Then, if you still don't get it, send me an email with your question. And, no, I do not own or drive an SUV.]
The last few days have been a little warmer than I’d like, and Al Gore now has me convinced that it’s all my fault. I really feel guilty, so it’s time to for me to take some action, preferably before my car’s butterfly effect causes another drought, hurricane, or glacier-melt.
Is it time for me to pony up for a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle—perhaps something like the Toyota Prius? After all, the Prius was given a new, distinctive shape two years ago by Toyota’s marketing department; a shape they want me to think would really turn some heads in my direction. [The body style overhaul was an ugliness injection, and was advertised as “aerodynamic”—but it fulfilled their unspoken agenda of giving Prius owners a subliminal badge of honor that says “Look at me, I’m saving the planet and you’re not”—without actually having to spell that out on a bumpersticker, window decal, or bobble-head doll.]
But during my rush-hour drive Tuesday afternoon, a light bulb went off in my head as I pondered the two vehicles in front of me driving side-by-side: a Toyota Prius and a Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer. After a brief-but-thorough conference with myself, I reached the tentative conclusion that the vehicle more deserving of the label “gas guzzler” was the Toyota Prius.
However, the skeptic in me demanded some fact-checking before I could settle on that conclusion. So after I got home, I did some internet research on the Prius and the Expedition—and sure enough, it ended up confirming my first impression. I thought some of you might like to examine my step-by-step fuel-efficiency analysis. It proves that the Prius was operating at a significantly lower fuel efficiency than the Expedition; in fact, it wasn't even close. Here it is...
Fuel Efficiency Analysis - Toyota Prius vs Ford Expedition "Eddie Bauer" - seen driving side-by-side in afternoon rush hour traffic, June 6, 2006:
Toyota Prius fuel efficiency
• Vehicle miles-per-gallon: 44
(...or 34, depending whether you believe Consumer Reports, or a disgruntled Prius owner.)
• Persons-per-vehicle: 1
(A male driver, probably returning home from work, smoking a cigarette that looked like a Marlboro or Camel Filter. Driver’s window was cracked two inches to provide negative pressure for exhausting exhaled tobacco smoke to atmosphere and flicking ash onto highway—an obvious waste of the vehicle’s A/C energy load. However, for purposes of this analysis, no penalty was assessed for that inefficiency.)
• Therefore, passenger miles-per-gallon = 44 x 1 = 44
Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer fuel efficiency
• Vehicle miles-per-gallon: 12 (from same Consumer Reports article)
• Persons-per-vehicle: 5
(A nonsmoking female driver plus four nonsmoking kids in soccer uniforms, probably going to soccer practice, carrying a cargo that was probably soccer equipment and a cooler of refreshments for the team. No way a Prius could have hauled all that cargo and personnel. Also, all windows were closed tight; none of the vehicle’s A/C energy was being wasted. However, for purposes of this analysis, no bonus was awarded for that efficiency.)
• Therefore, passenger miles-per-gallon = 12 x 5 = 60
Fuel efficiency conclusion, SUV vs. Prius:
The Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer (60 pmpg) was operating 36.4% more efficiently than the Toyota Prius (44 pmpg).
[...and if you believe the disgruntled Prius owner's 34-mpg, it's an even bigger blowout in favor of the SUV. Picture Seabiscuit versus Mister Ed.]
I’d say that soccer mom deserves a bumpersticker that says “I’m saving the planet.” And also a free calendar from the Sierra Club. Wouldn’t you?
Presumably, we can agree that passenger miles per gallon is a more appropriate measurement of fuel efficiency than vehicle miles per gallon. Otherwise:
• we’d have “LEV” lanes for low-energy vehicles, instead of “HOV” lanes for high-occupancy vehicles—but we don’t;
and besides that...
• we’d despise buses and trains more than we despise SUVs—but we don’t.
Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that passenger miles per gallon is the more appropriate measure.