Leasing Prius Reaps Huge Savings for Canadian University

Award-winning student study sees $20,000 savings in four years to University of Waterloo over current Volvo lease

Published: 16-Jan-2004

Robin Sano, a third-year environmental engineering student at UW, recently received recognition for his year-long thesis by the Office of Energy Efficiency. Sano's report discusses the financial and environmental feasibility of replacing the two Volvos the university currently leases for UW's president and a vice president's with the gas-electric hybrid Toyota Prius. The report has earned him a nomination for the National Energy Efficiency Awards. The Energy Efficiency Awards are awarded annually by the Office of Energy Efficiency to commend people who contribute to the conservation of energy on a national scale.

Sano is the only student to receive the prestigious award this year. For his efforts he will be awarded a $2,000 prize and the recognition of being the sole student winner.

Sano's report highlights the differences and similarities in features, performance and fuel efficiency of the president's 2003 Volvo XC70, and the vice president's 2003 Volvo S60. The result of Sano's extensive comparison is that the switch to a 2003 Toyota Prius would not result in a large amount of performance or feature reduction, and provide massive financial benefits.

The Toyota Prius is a hybrid vehicle combining a traditional gasoline engine with an innovative electric engine. The two engines collaborate to accelerate the vehicle and maintain speed. When braking, the gas engine shuts off and the electric engine harnesses the momentum of the wheels to charge its battery. This close-knit relationship results in sharp increases in fuel efficiency, to the tune of 21 km per litre in the city, and 19 km per litre on the highway.

Sano proceeds to demonstrate the money saved on the cost of leasing the Prius over the current cost for the Volvo's. These savings escalate to over $20,000 after just four years. The cost, coupled with the fact that the Prius unleashes 66 per cent less carbon dioxide and 50 per cent less hydrocarbons, makes a convincing argument for switching vehicles.

Sano's plan for the two leaders' cars will take 18 months to implement and is still under consideration. UW president David Johnston said that, "[He] will compare the merits of the two vehicles." Johnston expressed his appreciation of Sano's report, referring to it as a "good piece of work." He also stated that the environmental and economic factors attributed to the Prius are impressive.

The report produced and prize won by Sano certainly gained a good deal of attention from both the local and national communities and he will be featured in Time magazine as the only student award winner for the Energy Efficiency Awards.

In the beginning, Sano had hoped for his report to bring about change for both the president and the vice president. For the future, he intends to pursue his proposed action and see it through. Sano also hopes that through effective national media coverage, the words and ideas behind his report will reach others and affect change within their lifestyles.

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