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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Save the Earth, Drive a Ferrari

Amid the huffing and puffing on Capitol Hill and elsewhere about jacking corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) for new vehicles to 35 mpg by 2020 (or up to 50 mpg if you happen to live in California) while reducing tailpipe emissions to the level of an ant fart, it seems the world has overlooked this surprising statistic: Toyota Priuses are 78 times more toxic to the environment than Ferraris. Furthermore, they consume 78 times the amount of gasoline.

The Math

That’s right. While we’re sure to be called out on this by our more persnickety readers, the math breaks down thus:

Since the beginning of the 2004 model year, when the current Prius debuted, Ferrari has sold roughly 7900 cars in North America. Annual mileage for the average Ferrari is tough to estimate, as some are destined to remain zero-mile collectors’ items while others are daily drivers, but according to a Ferrari spokesman, Ferraris sold in North America get driven “right around 5000 miles per year for V-12 models, less with the V-8s.” Assuming, then, that the average Ferrari is driven 4500 miles per year, the total fleet mileage for this fresh herd of prancing horses is 35,550,000 miles per year (all too few of them with our hands on the reigns).

The average Ferrari CO2 emissions level hovers somewhere near 400 g/km, or 644 g/mile, according to Ferrari. Over the 35 million or so miles that the fleet of North American Ferraris will travel in the next year, they will be responsible for approximately 23 million kg of CO2. Fuel consumption, at an average of about 14 mpg combined for the Ferrari fleet, will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 million gallons of gas. Sound like a lot?

Look at how the Prius is pillaging Mother Earth. Since the 2004 model year, when Toyota introduced the current-generation Prius (and through November 2008), Toyota delivered 609,625 units. Toyota claims the average Prius is driven 15,000 miles per year, for a total fleet mileage of 9,144,375,000 miles annually. According to Toyota, the Prius coughs up a comparatively dainty 118 g/km, or 190 g/mile, of CO2, but with all those rolling doorstops on the road, that results in an atmosphere-choking 1.7 billion kg per annum, or roughly 78 times as much as the Ferrari set. And all the gas consumed over those nine billion or so miles, even at a combined 46 miles per gallon, still robs the earth of about 200 million gallons of gas, also 78 times as much as is consumed by Ferraris. Pigs.

Toyota, for its part, was glib when confronted with the facts. A Toyota spokesman, who declined to be named, said, “Ferraris are green? I thought they were all red.”

Just Kidding, Sort Of

Okay, we’re totally not serious. Suggesting that, between a Ferrari and a Prius, the premium-swilling prancing horse would be the most environmentally responsible option would be journalistically irresponsible, despite the 1.7 billion kilograms of CO2 that today’s Priuses will pump into the atmosphere over the next year, the 200 million gallons of gas they will consume, and the innumerable quantities of raw materials required to build them and their bespoke metal-heavy hybrid battery packs. Believe it or not, the Prius hardly makes a dent in the environmental picture while meeting the needs of far more commuters at far less expense to them as well as the earth on a per-mile basis than a Ferrari. Indeed, if every Prius driver switched into a Ferrari and drove it 15,000 miles per year, the overall picture would be far less green—but a lot more red.

We appreciate Toyota’s clear commitment to making the Prius the incredibly green vehicle it is, to say nothing of how much greener the all-new 2010 Prius will be when it launches next month at the NAIAS. But to us, these facts underscore that it’s not the cars themselves that are doing the damage, but the drivers. If we all drove less, it might matter less what we drive than how and how often. If we were all really smart about when we drove, we could save the world by driving Ferraris.

Hey, Environmentalists: Instead of Legislating the Prancing Horse into Extinction, Try Walking

We hope this fact is not lost on our lawmakers as they further their green-car agendas, the results of which could result in a de facto ban of exotics and super-luxury cars in many states, or at least exorbitant fines being slapped on them. Certainly, buyers of these cars are accustomed to exorbitant fines (six-to-seven-figure MSRPs and gas-guzzler taxes) already. But the added cost may be just enough of a deterrent to keep some customers away—particularly with the economy in the shape it’s in—and that could prompt Ferrari, Lamborghini, and other high-end makes out of the U.S. altogether.

If there’s one caveat, it’s that these states are not alone: European Union lawmakers recently approved an aggressive plan of their own to reduce CO2 emissions, and high-end carmakers are already bracing to deal with that. In any case, we hope that the folks in Washington D.C., Sacramento, and the EU keep things in perspective as they enact legislation that could quite possibly erase the most colorful and beautiful cars in the world from the automotive landscape.


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