The Greenest Vehicle

For your consideration:

Back in 1999 I got a pickup truck. I bought two 1979 Chevy 1500 pickup trucks, neither of which was running.

I bought new mounts, took the bed from one and the cab from the other, ground out the rust, had a friend weld some new metal where it rusted, and put on two coats of primer. I had the smallblock 400 partially rebuilt, and installed a manual transmission that I got from that garage that they had torn from a wrecked vehicle. I scavenged the junk yard for additional parts, and used what I could off the two salvage trucks. Mechanically, it was restored to new condition. Everything mechanical was rebuilt, and consumables like cab and bed mounts were the only new parts.

Maybe it got 16 miles to the gallon. When I completed it it had 76,000 miles on it. I sold it with about 125,000. I used it in snow, to plow and to haul, and do other heavy work. I lent it to whoever needed it. It cost me about $2200 to make and I sold it with plow for $1,000. I know for a fact it’s still in service.

There were many many times when I just drove the truck for the hell of it, sometimes on trips. I wasn’t making use of the bed or anything. Let’s say half of those miles were like that, when any vehicle, particularly a more fuel efficient vehicle would have sufficed.


Now, I beleive, and would like to argue that that truck was more efficient and green than any new vehicle I could have bought. I would go further and argue that if all I did with it was commute and never used it for utility it would still have been more efficient.

Let’s say I had bought a Prius. There would have been one new vehicle on the road. The demand for new vehicles would have increased by one. Instead, every single resource in that vehicle was recycled to the extent possible instead of junked.

The manufacturing savings in driving a recycled/rebuilt old vehicle no matter how inneficient it was far exceeded the MPG saving available had a new. albeit extremely efficient vehicle been purchased in its stead. This would be true even if I had driven it 100,000 miles.

Is this in fact accurate?

I am trying to cultivate an environmental ethic as follows: I hate this disposable culture where we always get new stuff. When I buy something now, I look to try to buy the last thing of that kind I will ever need to buy, or at least the most durable. This is sound environmentalism.

For example, the WOLF Stove I own is not the most efficient. However, I have the expectation that it will last as long as I own and live in my house.

I bought a brand new Kubota tractor. It was expensive and not all that efficient, but I have the expectation that it will outlive me. My previous tractor was built in 1948 and I traded it not because it was worn out but because it’s high center of gravity made it unsuitable and dangerous for my current home. Somebody else is using it now. While neither is particularly gas efficient I think they make up for it in their durability. They don’t need to be replaced.

I don’t think we can consume our way to environmental nirvana any more than we can drill our way out of an oil shortage.

With cars for example, I think that we are unduly focussed on MPG. While important that ethic fails compared to the environmental cost of manufacturing a new vehicle.

I agree with you.

The first tenet of green architecture is: don’t build a new building if you don’t need to.

You’ve put your finger on the Prius fallacy. Most of the environmental cost of a motor vehicle is in the manufacture, not running the thing.

Now, I’d like to have a cite for this, but I think the fact is notorious.

Which rather misses the point. There is no “answer”, no single thing we can do that will make it all hunky-dory. It is not simply building a “greener” car, but a greener culture. If your gestures are in pursuit of that end, the Goddess will reward you with cheerful and obedient children, none of whom will major in art history.

In all likely hood your 79 pickup produced more smog emissions parked than a new car does driving down the highway.
by todays’ standards a 79 is a very dirty vehicle.

In one sense, it’s correct that it costs a lot of energy to put a new car on the road, be it an SUV or a hybrid. The first and most important R, after all, is Reduce. But it’s not practical to expect everyone to drive the same vehicle for 30 years. People like new cars, and they’re going to buy them when their old one breaks down or becomes impractical for their current use.

Practical environmentalism is about recognizing what people are going to do and guiding them to make sound, green choices that are in their own interest when they have the opportunity.

I don’t necessarily disagree with you, and in fact we tend to live this way ourselves. But I think your reasoning breaks down a bit when it comes to cars.

Cars already are well recycled and reused items - the average one will have two or three owners and last around a decade. At right about that point, as it becomes uneconomical to keep the beast on the road, the thing is junked, and the used auto parts industry makes very efficient use of the parts that are in good condition so that people can keep their own heaps on the road.

The glass, rubber, and metal that cannot be parted is recycled at considerable rates. This is especially true of steel, where the recycling rate is about 75%.

A throwaway culture is to be decried, but eventually we all need to get rid of things. Facilitating the efficient use of our stuff after we ditch it is not only environmentally sound but very market friendly, and I think we all approve of these measures.

Yes reuse is in general a good thing in the ‘green’ sense, but why rebuild such a gas hog/ CO2 spewer, why not rebuild a vw rabbit diesel or something and buy a new snow shovel.

Just sayin’

People who need trucks need them, and I don’t fault them for owning them. I come from a part of the country where the truck beds generally got chipped and dented over the years from hauling various things, and the tires and wheel wells generally showed their share of mud.

Now, having a shiny and pristine F-150 in downtown DC is a bit silly, but no sillier than lots of other things that people do.

Diesel Rabbits have their place, but their utility is severely limited by their size. And this is why we have such a multitude of vehicles, to handle these different tasks we have for them.

How about a diesel Rabbit pickup? :wink:

Nah, most of them re-ore-ified years ago. :frowning:

I was thinking aloud last night about doing a breakeven analysis comparing buying and operating a Ford Crown Vic that was a couple years old and had done its initial depreciating versus buying and operating a new econobox. “With a warranty,” added my wife, who knows how mechanically inept I am. Haven’t done it yet.

People don’t know the difference between a want and a need.

Your argument’s missing the one essential comparison: between (a) the difference in gas consumption between a new Prius and a used low-mileage vehicle; and (b) the energy expenditure involved in producing a new car. (As Mr. Moto points out, most of a used car gets reused or recycled, so the raw materials are more of a minor concern.)

(a) can be calculated, but without (b), all you’ve got is speculation.

Good question. Shouldn’t you have at least taken a stab at answering it before starting this thread?

Again, how do you know? Your cite here is to your thinking.

The usual whack at environmentalists is that they want us to not consume the things we enjoy consuming - that they want us to freeze at 60° in the winter, and not buy stuff fun stuff.

To reverse that strawman is pretty audacious.

So you say. Again, your only cite is to your brilliant mind.

At any rate, nobody is saying “junk the energy hog you just bought last year, and replace it with a new Prius.”

They’re saying that when you do have to buy a new car, get a very energy-efficient car. Since it takes something like 15 years to turn over the nation’s automobile fleet, if we want everybody getting 40 mpg in 15 years, then we’d better start now. But the reason it takes 15 years is that nobody’s expecting people to junk fuel-inefficient but roadworthy cars and replace them with fuel-efficient new cars.

True, just like some people don’t know the difference between a generalization like “people” and the vaguer, but more accurate, “some people.” Just as some people have convinced themselves that they need something they only want, some people have recognized that yes, the do genuinely need that thing. Scylla’s work and lifestyle indicate he needs a truck often enough that he might as well own one. The people who borrow his truck recognize that they only need a truck now and then, and a Rabbit Diesel will serve their needs the rest of the time.

Y’know, I think you are the one whacking the strawman this time. Scylla is asking if his one-man recycling program is overall more efficient than trading his truck on the new Prius Pickup. I didn’t notice him describing his old pickup to something fun that the environmentalists want to take away from him and if he did we could get him for lying because there’s nothing fun about a '79 C1500. :smiley:

True sometimes. But if your job is to haul a couple of cattle to the auction or the slaughterhouse, I think you’ll discover pretty quickly what you have to have. And it won’t have a battery in the back.

Well, no: my point is that he’s implicitly suggesting that enviros are taking the exact opposite stand, when he says “I don’t think we can consume our way to environmental nirvana”.

If that’s all it is, then his OP belongs in MPSIMS or IMHO, because there’s really no debate: if all he’s talking about is a one-off instance of reusing (as in ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’) old stuff, that depends on his interest in and skill with old trucks that most people don’t have, then sure, he’s being efficient and environmental and all that.

But if there’s a larger debate here, then it’s in this implicit notion that enviros would have rather had him buy the Prius instead of building one roadworthy 1979 pickup out of two derelict 1979 pickups. That’s what the “I don’t think we can consume our way to environmental nirvana” bit seems to connect with.

Maybe I’m wrong, and Scylla has no larger point here, and it’s all about this one instance, with no larger implications. When he says so, and asks the mods to move this thread to the appropriate forum, I’ll retract the relevant words.

Actually, I have picked up that same vibe from some environmentalists, that if we really wanted to save the planet we’d all dump our regular cars and buy something greener. And “consuming our way to (fill in blank) nirvana” is the American Way.

Of course, then there are the ones who think anyone who doesn’t build and ride his own Bamboo Bicycle is a fascist, but they are crazy and can be ignored.

I believe the debate, without imagining, or just ignoring, Scyllla’s motives, is how he framed it, is it more friendly to the planet to repair an older vehicle than it is to buy a new one.

So, I can do whatever I want as long as I claim my motives are pure?
That is so cool!

Right, but in the long run is it less pollutive and harmful to drive that, or to manufacture a new more efficient car?

That would be pretty inefficient. Let’s say the Rabbit gets 50 mpg to the pickup’s 16.

The pickup truck can hold 100 bales of hay in a trip, the Rabbit 4. The pickup truck can also tow the trailer which can hold another 100.

That would mean that once every two weeks I would have had to make 50 trips of eighteen miles with the Rabbit, versus 1 with the truck. Like I said, about half the miles I drove it, the truck was doing truck work.

My driveway was 1/3 of a mile. From there it was two miles to the milk route that the state plowed. There was always a big pile of snow across the roadwhere the plow pushed the snow into the unplowed route.

While shoveling 2 1/3 miles would have been a hell of a workout, I was selfish and went with the plow.

I went with the truck because I lived on a farm and had use for one.

Define it for us, please.