Does getting a fuel efficient Prius make you drive more?

Discussion in 'Prius, Hybrid, EV and Alt-Fuel News' started by kgall, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. kgall

    kgall Active Member

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    from Ezra Klein's Wonkblog, washingtonpost.com, 3/26/12


    Does the Prius actually save gas? A closer look at the ‘rebound effect’ - The Washington Post


    Lots of issues, such as who drives which car--but an interesting stab at the problem:

    "There’s a long-standing debate among energy wonks over what’s known as the “rebound effect.†The idea, simply put, is that trying to boost energy efficiency might prove counterproductive if people just take advantage of the savings by using even more energy. So, for example, if a person buys a Prius, there’s a possibility that he or she could just negate much of the fuel savings by driving more.
    [​IMG]
    (CO2Scorecard) David Owens, a New Yorker staff writer, was a notable proponent of this view in his recent book, “The Conundrum.†Yet new research from Shakeb Afsah and Kendyl Salcito of CO2Scorecard suggests that the rebound effect might not be a huge concern for fuel-efficient cars after all. The two compared a sample of 4,208 Prius owners in California against 4.8 million other drivers in the state. And what they found is that Prius drivers only drive, on average, about 0.5 percent more per year. That’s not decisive (what you’d really want is a randomized controlled trial), but it’s suggestive."
     
  2. Codyroo

    Codyroo Senior Member

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    Or

    1) People will drive the more fuel efficient car in preference to driving their less fuel efficient car.

    2) People might be willing to take a road trip vs a "staycation" because the cost of transportation is less.

    3) People might find themselves in a situation (job change) where they have a longer commute and purchase a tool (Prius) that is better suited for the job.
     
  3. sdtundra

    sdtundra Senior Member

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    I drive more when my friends and I hang out or need to go somewhere because my friends mostly drive 2 door cars (3 Integra's, Civic Si) or uncomfortable 4 door cars (Lancer Evo, Subaru STI) and the one that has room for 4 comfortably gets 14mpg because its a lifted F150 Supercrew. They give me gas money or buy my food if we go somewhere..last week, drove 3 others to get Mexican food, engine was still warm as I had just pulled in, total trip was 49mpg and I got an $8 meal out of it..dinner paid and everyone's happy.
     
  4. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    since purchasing my first prius in 04, my attention to energy use has gone up and consequently, i drive as little as possible, consolidate my trips and walk/bike when i can.
     
  5. SageBrush

    SageBrush Senior Member

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    When our first Prius arrived home in 2004, I would develop OCD jitters whenever my wife drove the car's MPG to below 50, and take the car out just to bump the MPG back up. It was obviously a stupid thing to do, and I stopped after I came up with a better solution: I took away her keys. :eek: (just kidding)

    The study questioning whether a more fuel efficient (FE) vehicle leads people to drive more is methodologically flawed, since they have not excluded or controlled for selection basis in the high FE group. That is, people who drive a lot would be more inclined to buy the FE choice.

    That said, I tend to think Prius owners like Bisco below offset those people who drive a FE car more because the fuel is cheap (enough.) I almost convinced an acquaintance to buy a Prius rather than an Accord some years ago. For her the most compelling reason to buy the Prius (and accept its compromises) was to renew the drive trips she had been forced to forgo as fuel prices rose beyond her means to accommodate. Her approach to fuel prices and car fuel economy I think is very common: a fuel cost 'budget' exists, and so long as it meets driving requirements/wants, additional fuel economy has a low(er) priority. If the FE car is bought to stay within budget but driving was not curtailed before the purchase, then no jump in driving miles happens. If driving wants were unfulfilled due to budget excess or in order to stay in budget, then driving increases with the FE car.
     
  6. frodoz737

    frodoz737 Top Wrench

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    I drive more now than I did my 10 MPG truck, because I can afford to.
     
  7. Keiichi

    Keiichi Active Member

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    To be honest, I do not believe having a more Fuel Efficient car has made me 'drive' more. I have driven the same way I have, going to where I need to. While I did do one extra trip to let someone check out my new car and how it was, that was about it. Most of my driving has been the standard commute and side trips that I did need to take.

    FE cars will somewhat affect the range of the car, but the simple fact of it all, people will fuel up a car at whatever mpg or range it has and will go as often or little regardless of the MPG. The people who are really penny pinching will be more mindful of their gas usage, so they may be more inclined not to drive as often, only to reduce the need, but they will not use a car 'more' if they were a penny pincher also. If they were inclined to do that, it seemed 'counter' to trying to save money by using more gas just cause you have a fuel efficient.

    Edit - And the guy who replied right before I posted... Proves counter to my point... <.<
     
  8. nerfer

    nerfer A young senior member

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    I drive less.
    For me it's not about MPG (miles per gallon) it's about GPM (gallons per month). I got a job closer to home, and then I got the Prius, and then the job actually moved even closer to home (but there's rumors that might be changing soon).

    So over about 18 months time I went from 48 gallons/month down to about 15 gpm.

    This debate is nothing new BTW. Look up Jevons Paradox, written in 1865 about coal usage. He was worried about 'peak coal' in Great Britain, which actually did happen but wasn't as disastrous as he thought it might be because oil was used for transportation by then (but it still put a big damper on their steel industry and caused a recession in England).

    The net effect is that you get more work done per unit energy, so even if you do end up using the same amount of gasoline, it still makes sense to get a fuel-efficient vehicle. Now you can take the kids to Yellowstone or something instead of wasting that gas going back and forth to the grocery store every week. Or do like me, and spend less gas altogether, while still taking the same summer trips as before.
     
  9. nerfer

    nerfer A young senior member

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    Well, frodoz went from a 10mpg truck to 50 mpg car, so unless he's actually driving 5x as much as before, he's still using less gasoline.
     
  10. frodoz737

    frodoz737 Top Wrench

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    $100 every 4 days vs $37 every two weeks (appx). I can afford to drive when I want and still save money. :)
     
  11. Spaz

    Spaz Junior Member

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    I drive about the same as I used to but in my case I get a lot less pissed when I have to take a stupid errand. I'm always doing some type of project and it would always get to me when I would have to drive 25 min to home depot and back for a drill bit, screw, or single piece of wood. Most of the time that trip was just under a quarter of a tank...

    ADR6350 ?
     
  12. M8s

    M8s Retired and Lovin' It

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    Exactly. If you use 50% less fuel but drive 10% more, there is still a significant net reduction in fuel use.

    Another reason more miles are accumulated on a Prius: We're asked (or expected) to drive when we go out with our friends because our cars are so fuel efficient. It reminds me of an observation made by a good friend who is a recovering alcoholic (hasn't had a drink in 25 years). He's always asked to drive to dinner and parties as he is the perfect "designated driver."
     
  13. wick1ert

    wick1ert Senior Member

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    Same situation for me. If there's just one other person, he usually gives me gas money. If there's more, I'll usually get dinner or drinks from them when we get there to compensate.

    The trip to Cedar Point with 1 or 2 other people and me driving typically goes: They pay gas, I cover tolls and the small 3-5 galls to finish the drive home. It's like 480 miles each way, plus trips when we get there for meals/food, then the trip back home. Usually works out in my favor, except I get the tiredness from having to concentrate on driving for 8 hours.
     
  14. hill

    hill High Fiber Member

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    ZOMBIE THREAD ALERT:
    :p
    um - the seargh tool can be your friend ~
    Ya see - the disadvantage of being around PC for ages & ages is that you've heard it all before ... & sometimes, multiple times. Maybe this can be merged?

    http://priuschat.com/forums/gen-ii-...prius-owners-drive-more-because-good-mpg.html

    Or, in a couple more decades, if I get alzheimer's, it won't mater.

     
  15. The Electric Me

    The Electric Me Go Speed Go!

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    I think a problem with a study like this, and a discussion like this, is that people look at the initial question and then apply it to their "personal" habits.

    So you get a lot of people going either, "I own a Prius and I don't feel I'm driving more" or "I own a Prius, and I do think I drive more".

    But since I believe there are two distinct reasons people drive, which would be "need based" and "leisure based"...I think it all get's blurred. Need based driving is far less likely to be adjusted regardless of what you are currently driving or gas prices. Leisure based driving? I think may fluctuate, but not so much in relationship to the efficiency of the vehicle you are driving but more to the cost advertised at the local pump.

    I'd assume EVERYONE on some level buying a Prius appreciates greater fuel efficiency. But whether that translates into driving more or less, probably depends on the individual.

    I think the better question, and easier to answer question is "Does Fuel Cost, affect the amount of driving you do?"

    I have a LOT of non-Prius driving friends. With Large Pacific NW Pick-ups. When fuel prices rise? What I observe is an increase first in complaining. Followed by an upturn in blaming some entity. And only lastly, perhaps a choice to reduce driving.

    Can driving a Prius give you a bigger cushion before the increase at the pump really starts to affect your potential fuel budget? Certainly, I would think. Isn't that at least one of the reasons a lot of Prius drivers buy a Prius?

    I mean in all my years in Prius Chat I have never read a "Newbie" post that said, "My First Prius! and I don't care what the MPG's are, I bought it because I like everything else about it...".

    That being said. I think it takes a lot of impetus to change habit. Even my friends that complain when gas prices rise, will continue to fill up as long as possible and "need based" drive. They might think twice on weekends about a long road trip, but even then? As long as they can...they will drive.

    But conversely? That same human nature that makes habit changing difficult, I think works in Prius's and thus the enviroments favor. I don't think a lot of people are "conciously" going to decide to drive more. They just might not cancel the same trip to the coast they were going to make at $3.50 a gallon, now that it is $4.25 a gallon.

    But my personal observation is neither will most of my gas guzzling friends. The difference being, once arriving at the coast? They will spend an extra 10 minutes complaining about how much the trip cost them.

    If it makes anyone feel better? I usually get a snide or dirty comment or two about my 30 mpg Honda Fit. Like somehow I magically got to the Coast for free. Even though maybe I'm only getting 10-15 mpg better than their big truck.

    I shudder the potential reaction if I get a Prius.

    But in anycase, I think fuel prices impact how much everyone drives, far more directly than "what" people drive. We can make choices to buy and obtain vehicles that are more or less fuel efficient, but most of us have little control as individuals over the ultimate price at the pump.

    Even with fluctations in recent years, Gasoline has yet to really rise to a point where most of my Big Truck friends really made any tangible changes to their lifestyles.

    If we break $5.00 a gallon? Maybe I'll see it. Until then? The pain at the pump, hasn't been enough to make the less efficient drive less, I assume the Prius efficient aren't conversely in mass- driving more.
     
  16. Skoorbmax

    Skoorbmax Senior Member

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    For me it does a small bit, but not that much. More than anything it just removes the annoyance of wondering if I should make a trip or not.

    Some would say oh look now you drive more so you're not saving any gas...and even if that were true (it's not, since I haven't doubled my miles), yeah now I'm driving more, which means more convenience, not having to combine trips, etc. unless I want to.
     
  17. ksstathead

    ksstathead Active Member

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    Ditto
     
  18. lamebums

    lamebums Member

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    I may drive slightly more because of carpooling, etc. but I usually get compensated for it in gas, food, etc.

    The real benefit of being the carpool driver? 1 Prius getting 50+ MPG instead of 3-4 guzzlers getting 20 each.
     
  19. F8L

    F8L Protecting Habitat & AG Lands

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    Another way to look at this is how driving more yet using less fuel overall affects the economy. If people choose to stay home because they cannot afford fuel they wii likely spend the excess money on other goods be it a new tv or gardening supplies. That is good for the economy. If they drive a fuel efficient car and travel more, they spend less on fuel and bring new money into the region they are traveling to.

    The lack of snowfall in the Sierra Nevada region has greatly impacted the local economy of those towns that cater to travelers, snowshoers and skiers. They rely on people wanting to get out of town for the day or weekend. A fuel efficient vehicle allows people the freedom to go places thus improving the economy and the U.S. Happiness Index.
     
  20. roflwaffle

    roflwaffle Member

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    It's very depressing when a writer for a prestigious publication like the WP can't do five minutes of research and figure out the difference between the rebound effect, which is an observation that some (not all) energy efficiency gains will be offset by increased use.

    Rebound effect (conservation) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    And the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate, which is a special case of the rebound effect where the increase in usage actually offsets all increases in efficiency.

    The first is fairly common in certain areas, and it just implies that energy efficiency increases won't be optimal. The second is relatively rare. IIRC, the last time we saw a case where an efficiency improvement increase energy consumption was in electricity use in the 20s/30s or something.
     
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