How green can a car be?

I’ve relented to modern life. We need a car.

So the question is now, what kind of car? What car is really ‘green’? A Toyata Prius is currently the holy grail of green cars, but really, is it or any car ‘green’ in anything but colour and greenwash?

There was a survey by CNW Marketing Research found that a basic, old fuel guzzling jeep was better environmentally than a prius. Not in terms of running emmissions, but as ‘dust to dust’ comparison of manufacture, running and disposal costs. Now, I’d be the first to be cynical about anything sponsored by the American automotive industry (as I’ve heard this survey to be) however, there does seem to be some sense in all this. Lifecycle analysis is notoriusly difficult to do (think of the blue flower in the EU or that imfamous nappy comparison done by the environment agency in the UK). However, it does seem to make sense that a basic, no plastic, functional old jeep could over it’s whole lifespan have less impact than a new, plastic, decked out Prius.

But where does that leave me? Do I get an old (probably unreliable and definitely draughty) Jeep, or a Prius? Deisel (lower carbon dioxide emissions but worse for heavy metals at ground level) or a small petrol engine? Or maybe just try to get something that doesn’t cost a fortune to insure, tax, fill with fuel and maintain? Current thinking is on a small car, a few years old, maybe deisel (so that it could be run on cooking oil when peak oil really hits home), low tax, high MPG and as reliable as anything is in the modern world.

A new car is tempting for reliability, but how do you say to a manufacturer that you don’t want your car to have too much plastic? And then, is an old car more ethical than a new one? Everything seems to have an equal and an opposite. You think you’re doing right by getting a Prius, then it’s not. You think you’re being indulgent with a Jeep and then you’re forward thinking. Maybe it’s all the same thing in the end.

References:
CNW Marketing Research: http://cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/
http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070727.wreynolds0727/BNStory/robColumnsBlogs/home
http://www.whatgreencar.com/