Sunday, 5 September 2010

Setting consumers and the environment straight

Do not buy this car.  In fact, do not even argue about this car with me.
The movement to become environmentally-friendly is in full swing in the developed world, and various industries are jumping onto the bandwagon in efforts to improve their various images.  Among them is the automotive industry, whose marketing tactics are not truthful half of the time.

The following two words leave a bad taste in my mouth: Toyota Prius.  The car is billed as a highly fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly car.  While I do like the fuel-efficient part, the praise stops here.  Forget about the car being environmentally-friendly, because the total environmental impact is similar to any V12-engined Lamborghini or petrol-powered Hummer.  There is the impact from normal manufacturing and driving, but then add the battery.  While current batteries have the ability to be recycled, the manufacture of such batteries only adds significantly to the Prius's environmental impact.  However, that is the least of the problems.

Performance wise, the car is a piece of crap.  James May from Top Gear puts it well:
So far, most electric cars have been appalling little plastic snot-boxes that take all night to recharge and then take half a minute to reach their maximum speed of forty. And then run out of juice miles from anywhere.
In detail, there is less than 100 horsepower under the bonnet without the electric motor.  Even worse is that there is only one forward gear; the fact that it is a planetary gear does not help.  Driving performance cannot be fine-tuned apart from that one gear, as the engine and transmission do more than accelerate the car.  But even under acceleration the car is still not very good: MPGomatic.com's 0–60 runs in both power and eco modes yield 9 and 10 seconds respectively.  Beyond that, there is simply insufficient power to push the Prius much farther in terms of speed.  In terms of handling, I dare someone to take the car for a lap time around the Nürburgring.

With the Prius, it is easy to get distracted from the task of driving with the car's immense features and options, which includes not needing to ever shift gears.  There are better cars that offer similar functionality, lesser environmental impact and better driving experiences.  Look no further than Audi's S and RS models, Mercedes-AMG and recent diesel-powered cars.  Look even further and find cars that have similar environmental impact to the Prius but are much superior in quality.
The king of all cars: Bugatti Veyron
The next time you, the reader, shop for cars, think carefully about the car you buy before the smart environmentalists start labelling you as a crackpot for buying a Prius.