Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Truly Greener Vehicle is SkyActiv Blue

Today I am going to compare the 2013 Mazda3 SkyActiv and the 2013 Toyota Prius Two.

"Why would you do that, Dave?", you say.

"Well...", I say.

You then interrupt me to say, "The Mazda3 has more power, better handling, and is more fun to drive.  It's not really a fair comparison!  You're not being very kind to the poor Prius."

"Well..." I start to say, waiting for you to interrupt again, but this time you're looking at me like I'm crazy.  No really, your mouth is hanging open, your eyes darting back and forth...I digress. "I'm going to explain why it's also a more economically and environmentally sound choice, not just more fun to drive."

Let's set aside all the things that we Mazda-ites love about our cars (handling, reliability, fun, ZoomZoom).  Instead, let's just look at cost/fuel economy.  On the surface the Prius is the winner with an EPA combined average of 50 mpg.  The poor Mazda3 iSport w/SkyActiv is only rated at a combined 32 mpg.  However the MSRP for the Prius Two is $24,765, and the Mazda3 is $20,020 (both prices include destination fees and are the base trim level for the better fuel economy).  Taking into account the MSRP's, the EPA Combined MPG ratings, and $3.95 per gallon gasoline, let's see how they stack up financially...

As you can see, it would take 7.12 years for the Prius to draw even with the Mazda3 economically (MSRP and fuel costs).  This doesn't even take into account other vehicle costs.  So let's look at the difference using's 5 year cost to own number (

So taking into account other costs, we almost double the amount of years it takes the Prius to merely equal the Mazda3 SkyActiv.  That also puts it outside of the 8 year/100,000 mile warranty on the Prius battery.

"But Dave!", you shout, "I don't care about the money.  I want the get the Prius because it's good for the environment!".

This brings a few things to mind for me.  First, why are you yelling at me?  Second, is the Prius really all that green?  Well, here is information on the magical journey the Prius takes on the way to the Showroom.
  • The battery packs are either NiMH (Nickel) or Lithium-Ion and these metals put 10 times the amount of sulfer-oxide emissions than conventional vehicles.
  • The Lithium or the Nickel is mined in China, where they don't particularly worry about environmental hazards (take a look at the news and their air pollution).  It used to be mined in Ontario, Canada. 
  • The metal is then shipped via big boat to Europe to be refined, before then being shipped to China (again on big boats) to be made into a foam-like material.
  • It is then sent to Japan to be made into the battery and put in the vehicles.  Which are then shipped to the United States.  On a big boat.
And yes, other vehicles also get materials and finished products shipped by big boat.  But thanks to the extra processes required to make the Prius battery packs, these things are not equal.

It's these types of issues that prompted Mazda to take a more gradual approach to increasing fuel economy. Will we ever have a hybrid or an EV?  Probably.  But I'm willing to bet that the Mazda Executives will tell (or have told) the Mazda Engineers the same thing they told them before developing the SkyActiv systems.  Hit the MPG goal, but don't sacrifice power, handling, safety, or driving experience.

So SkyActiv Mazda owners, stand tall and be proud.  You're driving fun cars for the environment!