Hybrids Stuck in Neutral

Until hybrid prices come down, you’re better off buying a conventional auto. Pro or con?

Pro: Still a False Economy

Let me preface this missive by saying hybrids are wonderful technology and one of the best innovations we have seen in automaking in decades. The idea of saving fuel with hardware derived mostly from off the shelf is very smart.

But here’s why I don’t recommend them to most consumers. While they save fuel, they simply don’t save enough fuel. Even the new hybrid Toyota (TM) Camry—which costs only about $2,000 to $3,000 more than a conventional Camry, depending on options—saves $460 in gas a year if you drive the typical 15,000 miles and pay $2.50 a gallon. It would take four to six years to get your money back.

The Camry hybrid offers more value than most, since it’s engineered for fuel economy. But even the Camry hybrid has a tough time paying off. Also on the market are a slew of hybrids engineered—quite inexplicably—for power. The zippy Honda (HMC) Accord hybrid, billed as the fastest Accord ever, gets a less-than-impressive 27 miles per gallon from the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest testing. I drove it for a week and got 23 mpg. No wonder sales have dropped 60% this year. Toyota makes several Lexus hybrids that emphasize power over fuel economy, and they’re not selling well, either.

For a couple of decades, automakers have put technological advancements in engines, transmissions, and weight reduction to make bigger SUVs or faster luxury sedans. But fuel economy hasn’t improved nearly as much over the past 15 years. By using hybrid systems to burn rubber—as opposed to burning less gasoline—the carmakers have done the same thing.

Meanwhile, hybrids have generated so much hype that many consumers and policymakers are ignoring other fuel-saving solutions. Diesel gets the bum’s rush in the U.S. from all but a few Europhiles and a minority of automakers. The U.S. is ignoring new clean diesels because many people feel the debate has ended and hybrid technology has won the day. But ask Honda executives, who now see that hybrids are the solution for cars the size of a Civic or smaller. They now say diesel works best for the rest.

But it won’t be here in more models until the end of the decade. In the meantime, if you’re edgy over the bill at the pump, try downsizing. I drive a Mini Cooper S and get 27 mpg. I know, you can’t wedge your spouse and four children into a Camry, let alone a Mini. I hear this all the time. But the Census Bureau says the average family has 3.18 people. Most folks can trade their existing vehicles for something smaller.

Until gasoline gets a lot more expensive—thus enabling hybrids to earn their keep—or the technology gets cheaper, a smaller vehicle is the only way to save gas money without paying too much to do it.

Con: Ready to Accelerate

The market for hybrids is changing, yes. But rather than running out of steam, it’s edging closer toward the mainstream. A raft of new models and changes in the tactics dealers are using to sell more gas-electrics make now the best time to buy a new hybrid.

Practically speaking, hybrids still provide the best fuel economy. According to the EPA, the Toyota Prius returns 51 to 60 miles per gallon. The next-most-efficient midsize nonhybrid, the Nissan (NSANY) Versa, earns a paltry 30 to 34 mpg. The most efficient SUV on the market is also a hybrid—the Ford (F) Escape, which improves fuel economy by about 25% over its conventionally powered competitors.

Tax incentives—which can amount to upward of $3,000 on certain models—make most hybrids an ideal buy. At least 37 states plus the District of Columbia offer additional financial credits and perks for hybrid owners. (Credits are slated to be halved in April for Toyota’s vehicles, making March a good time to buy. But tax breaks for models from other makers will stay the same through the rest of the year.)

Consumers can enjoy a myriad of other perks as well. Many state governments permit hybrid vehicles in high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes even if the driver is alone. Some municipalities and private organizations provide free or reduced parking for hybrids. Many corporations now also provide cash incentives to employees who purchase a hybrid.

Still, some of the best dollars-and-sense deals on the market right now are hybrid cars. The Ford Escape Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Toyota Prius all rank as best deals in their size class for the month of March, according to IntelliChoice. Edmunds.com reports that dealer incentives have shot up to an average of $2,000 per vehicle this month. In many cases, that means the premium consumers pay for a hybrid has dropped to just about $1,000.

That said, a car’s incentives don’t always need a dollar sign attached to them. Hybrids pump far fewer greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere each year than nonhybrids do. A Prius pumps nearly a 40% lower volume of harmful emissions into the atmosphere than the relatively efficient Mini compact does.

Gas prices, too, are on the upswing, getting primed for their seasonal rise. AAA recently reported that unleaded is up 32 cents per gallon this month alone. Buy a hybrid now, and you can leave gas-guzzling chumps in the dust when summer prices hit their peaks.

Reader Comments

Gary

What is amazing to me is this: In 1985 I bought a brand new 3-cyl. Chevy Sprint for $6,700. The car got 55 mpg and didn't have to be a hybrid to get it. The Honda Civic in 1985 got 60 mpg and cost about $8,700. My Sprint would go 80 miles an hour all day long on the freeway and still get 50 mpg. If I drove 60 to 65 mph, I could get 60 mpg. Why we need a 400-hp hybrid with enough extra crap on it to travel to Mars is beyond me. No car manufacturers offer basic transportation anymore. It's high-end luxury or nothing. That's why we can't get a "green" car for cheap; the automakers won't build it. There is no commitment to ending this oil debacle.

Doubter

Con. Not only are hybrids more expensive but also their cradle-to-grave costs for the environment exceed those of normal cars. The disposal of the batteries is the culprit. There are about 1,000 pounds of lead and several hundred pounds of hydrochloric acid that will be disposed of in landfills. If you are really concerned, just buy a 60-mpg European car that works with ethanol.

Going Green

Forget the cost-benefit analysis on these types of vehicles. That's the short-sighted approach, which is what got us into this environmental mess to begin with. Rather, hybrids and alternative fuel sources are about doing what's right: reducing consumption of a nonrenewable resource and leaving the smallest possible impact on this planet. No, I am not a bleeding-heart left-leaning tree hugger—just one person trying to do what's right for a change, not what's right just for me.

Walter S

I am all for using less energy, but I don't think hybrids are a good solution until the issue of battery manufacture and disposal are addressed. Instead, drive a smaller, lighter car, keep it well-maintained, and keep your foot off the floor mat.

Tam Emerick

I strongly believe the 100 mpg car is a manual-transmission-equipped diesel with a super overdrive gear. The technology already exists, but the demand does not.

Nicolas Lehotzky

For general information, batteries are 90% recyclable. Hybrid technology is way better for the environment than regular combustion vehicles. However, as someone said, a 400 horsepower super luxury Lexus hybrid car doesn't have anything green to it anymore.

Rich

The reason fuel economy hasn't improved a lot over the past 15 years is that the market hasn't demanded it. Americans have always liked large, powerful cars.

Tony H

I agree that comparing miles per gallon, hybrids don't save enough gas to justify their added costs. However, how often do you see heavy SUVs crawling at 10 mph on congested highways? Under such conditions, the savings in gas are enormous. In stop-and-go city driving, my Lexus RX400h uses 1/3 the gas of my old car, an Acura 3.5RL. It even beat out my niece's Honda Civic. Hybrid technology is still in its infancy; in time, we will see lower costs and even higher efficiencies.

Ed Gultom

Hybrid? Diesel? In Southern California, it's not only about getting the best miles per gallon but also trying to beat freeway traffic. Until they allow me to drive in carpool lanes to and from work in a diesel-powered car, I'm sticking with hybrid.

D'term Series

All the anti-hybrid whining sounds like a ploy from the Big Three. They're losing their more-profitable gas guzzlers, so they're looking for ways to debase hybrids cars.

Dave

India is selling a car that runs on compressed air and gets 100 miles to the gallon. No pollution. When it gets to the United States, I will buy it. Again, our so called well-informed CEOs just do not get it. How can they? They make millions and do not have to worry about money to drive around. They truly cannot relate to the market.

NRK

Gary is right. Where is the basic fuel-efficient transportation? My wife's Sprint averaged 52 mpg for life. For luxury, my Mercedes diesel 300 long body (read: very heavy) gets around 30 mpg, and the new Mercedes diesels approach 40 mpg.

Caveman

Pro. The truth is that hybrids do cost more today, and paybacks are exceedingly long. The higher up-front price is acceptable as it is the early adopters who pave the way for the future. I believe we will have hybrid family vehicles capable of 100 mpg in the next five years (a production vehicle). And, that's largely thanks to today's hybrid drivers. I also believe the new clean diesel options available in the next year will be excellent options for fuel savings and a positive environmental impact. In the future, a diesel hybrid may prove even greater in reducing emissions while providing a pleasurable driving experience. Either way, the future is very exciting. I just don't see how a person can go "con" on this topic. Maybe you are "con," because you can't pay up for today's options. Don't think tomorrow's options won't make huge inroads into cleaner and cheaper vehicles that perform well. Can you make do in a hybrid Highlander or do you have to have a Hemi Durango? Does everyone in the household need an SUV, or could you go with an SUV and a Honda Fit/Cooper Mini? I think the "cons" are being very short-sighted.

Bob

Diesel? It still costs as much as gas, and what is the savings, other than higher mpg? Even clean diesel...so the wait goes on.

scott

Everyone, just wait for plug-in hybrids that store their energy in green batteries such as ethanol or sugar. It's already been proven that ethanol batteries (not ethanol combustion) store at least five times more energy than the toxic, metal lithium ion batteries in today's hybrids. By the time plug-in hybrids arrive with green batteries, so will superefficient, low-cost, nanotech-based solar arrays. So the power we use to charge up our cars will be just as green, and eventually free. I'm surprised how many people can't see where technology is headed.

Jason

Very obvious that those who don't own a hybrid (and who believe the pro opinion) have no clue what they are talking about. With a hybrid, you save gas when you are moving slowly—as in stuck in traffic. You are not wasting gas, unlike those in all other vehicles (remember, you waste more gas sitting around than moving). Trust me, when your 52-mpg hybrid is stuck in traffic—or in my case, not stuck in traffic, because I live in California and can use the carpool lane—you are nowhere near as wasteful as those driving all other nonhybrid cars.

And 100 mpg does exist in hybrids. They are called plug-in hybrids. The cost will come down. The major players are waking up to the possibilities.

It cracks me up how the so-called experts forget basic economics. Diversity is always best for the consumer. A hybrid gives you diversity on fuel; the others do not. Therefore you will always ride the wave of rising and falling energy prices—unlike those stuck on one fuel source.

Finally, the hybrid discussion reminds me of the PC discussion back in the 1980s. Now the PC is everywhere, which they said could never happen.

Charlie

Thinking the four-cylinder engine would provide good gas mileage, I bought a Chrysler PT Cruiser, but it failed. It averaged 17 mpg. Disgusted, I purchased a Toyota Prius. On the highway, I have been getting 51 mpg and around town 47 mpg. I bought not just for the gas savings but also for Toyota's reliability and safety track record. Gas in West Virginia today is $2.69 per gallon. I should come out the winner over the long haul.

Bob

Diesel has less energy loss, thus allowing it to be more efficient than gas. The chemical composition of gas allows for less of it to be used. If Congress could get involved, we could all use farm diesels, but we would have to own 40-acre lots. It would still have to be somehow farm-related, thus taking taxes off diesels. Also, diesels with the newer filtration are much more green than those from the 1970s.

drmark

Today the price of gas in Southern California is about $3.13 per gallon for regular. Our newly purchased Toyota Camry Hybrid is looking better every day.

Howard

For far too many people, the choice isn't "Which is best for the environment?" It's "Can I afford this?" Until the purchase price of hybrids is basically equal to or less than other options, a lot of people really don't have a choice.

diane offineer, canon city, colorado

It is all well and good to try to discuss hybrid, electric, nano-solar, diesel blah, blah, blah. Where is mass transit? That is the true solution and has been in Europe and Japan for decades. A car takes more resources and causes more pollution. Stop buying new cars every year. I have a 300 Mercedes (pre-dumbing-down of Daimler) that gets 26 mpg. Better than the so-called green cars. Stands up better to crashes and will outlast any and every new car produced during the 20 years previous or in the future.

david

To those that save a lot of cash by choosing the cheapest, not most efficient solution, I hope you can build a nice raft using your money for when the oceans rise after the ice caps melt. People who drive inefficient cars because they are cheaper to buy are making us all pay in the end.

Greg

I have driven a hybrid vehicle since 2000, before any tax credits were even considered. I first owned a Honda Insight, which sat on the dealer's lot for more than a year; no one wanted hybrids then. I got so many questions from people when I was on road trips—I could get 700 miles per 9.5 gallon fill-ups. I now own a Civic hybrid and have no problem getting the sticker rating. I believe it is how you drive more than the car you drive. If only people could learn to drive green. You don't have to always be in a race to get from point A to point B. Take your time, and you will undoubtedly get there maybe 1 minute behind a lead foot.

Dan

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know how long the batteries actually last and what the cost of replacement is? My understanding a few years ago is that the break-even point, because of the cost of the batteries, was somewhere around 10 years and after that, you would actually start seeing a very small savings. Personally, I will gladly purchase a gasoline-powered vehicle that meets my needs and is as fuel efficient as possible, and let someone else eat the costs of supporting the car manufacturers in their quest for more money...er I mean more destructive cars...er better hybrids. One last point on the plug-ins: Where's the electricity coming from? Nuclear power plants?

mike

Who ever thought a car was an investment anyway? Anyone ever compared something other than mpg? My hybrid burns zero gas at a stoplight and zero emissions. So that is infinitely less gas than a nonhybrid. If you are trying to save money by purchasing a car, you are an idiot. If you want to consume less and pollute less, then go for the hybrid. I guess those in it for the money can buy a gas vehicle and carbon credits, right?

jack myers

I would like to see a car built with decent pick-up power, possibly 50 miles to a gallon, top-end speed of about 80 mph. I believe it could be done using a smaller engine. Also would like a V-4 engine. Inline 4s just don't have the reputation of V engines. I would like to see V-4 engines in the smaller cars on the road now. I believe this would be a good selling point for American cars.

Stephanie

You have to start somewhere, and I would think people who buy a hybrid should be applauded for their efforts to fight global warming. We traded in our very sleek little sports car to buy a hybrid, because we are well aware of the effects of emissions on our environment and could no longer live with the guilt of driving a high-emissions vehicle. For most of us, buying a hybrid has nothing to do with money, but since we're on the subject: We refill our hybrid with fuel every 400 miles, and with gas at $3.30/gallon in California, there is no argument about the money we are saving. Did you include the $2,200 you get back from the government in your calculations? Did you include the free HOV/Carpool lane stickers that the government throws in as well? If you're looking for a bigger vehicle than your Mini-S, Mr. Welch, why don't you try riding the bus?

Liger

Solutions:

1. One person, one car. Two people, two cars. Tax up the wazoo persons who own more than one car.

2. More 4-cylinder cars, please.

3. Eliminate 89 gasoline. What a waste. Make more of 87 and 91 with the resources that make 89.

Marcy

I drive a Lexus 400h and love it. It has all the safety features I wanted in a car, and I have driven 5 miles in stop and go traffic without the gas engine ever kicking in. Also, I love the reliability of a Lexus. I have owned my car for a year and a half; the only time it has been in the shop was for the oil to be changed. I can't say the same thing about the American-made vehicles I have owned.

Buzz

The real payback in hybrids is the better fuel economy. It will never make total economic sense, in the near future anyway. It is interesting that there is no emphasis placed on learning to drive more economically via slower acceleration, less-aggressive breaking, etc.

Lou

I have a Civic hybrid. I paid $19,995, and its current value is $20,000 (at 2.5 years old). Not bad. I bought it because the air pollution is greatly reduced, compared to American cars. That I can ride in the HOV lane and that it averages 42.5 mpg (I can get up to 55 freeway and about 35 in town) is just a bonus. We need to clean up the air as well as use less gas. Also, in rush hour stop-and-go (which our HOV lanes still manage to have), it shuts off on the stops, hence no pollution, unlike the American cars that cause the air over the freeways to turn brown/orange every morning and evening.

Joe

What gets lost in all the talk about mileage per dollar is air pollution. The hybrid emits much, much less air pollution than a gasoline or diesel car. That is an extremely important factor in places like L.A. where air pollution is a serious problem. How do you put a price tag on that? (P.S. A Toyota Prius and similar-sized hybrids ride much better than a 3-banger Chevy Sprint. You can have your cake and eat it, too.)

Frank

Hybrid tax credit hype! We purchased a 2006 Toyota Prius in January 2006 for fuel economy and low environmental impact. The steep price was partially to be off-set by an expected $3,150 Alternative Motor Vehicle Tax credit. Unfortunately, the credit was pinned to the Alternative Minimum Tax, so with our middle class income and three kids in college, our AMV Credit was zero. Ouch.

Santiago B. Tejada

It is not about "break-even point" but about "offer-demand." It will surely transform the market if 1 million buyers buy a hybrid rather than a conventional gas car. The lower and lower demand for fossil fuels will surely benefit us all.

Daniel

Personally, I think the guy with the three-cylinder idea was headed in the right direction. The emissions have to be competitive, no matter what they say. Especially with the new motor technology! There is just one catch that seems to be eluding everyone. Think about it, for every gallon of gas you pump, the government gets 50 to 60 cents (roughly). If the taxes are not collected that way, then they have to come from somewhere.

Dave

Downsizing is something we all need to do. Why is it that I see more large SUV's with one person inside than I do Honda Civics, or other compacts on the road? People need to get over the status or power symbol aspects of driving a large SUV and do their part to conserve energy. Even if you can afford to drive a car that gets 15 mpg, it doesn't mean that you should. I just went from a large car that got about 24 mpg to one that gets 40 mpg, and love it. I recommend that everyone look into doing the same.

john k.

Okay, I've read most of the comments, and a few of them have touched the subject. We have the technology, but the powers that be in Detroit are out of touch, greedy political toadies. I bought a behemoth of a car, (by today's standards), a 1981 Olds Cutlass, new, with a diesel (V-8) and at 60 to 65 mph on the highway, it would get 34 mpg. I don't want to see Detroit put itself out of business, but that is where it is headed unless it wakes up.

Roger

Currently in Europe, GM produces the Opel Astra, available with a turbo diesel/hybrid engine. It gets more than 70 mpg and 0-62 mph in under 8 seconds. But the plan is to bring it to the U.S. as a Saturn, and only with a gasoline 4-banger. Combine the Europe only turbodiesel/hybrid car with biodiesel fuel and the U.S. could end its dependence on foreign oil. Why isn't GM offering us a choice?

Mike

It's not about how much I will save or how long it takes to recoup my costs, its about helping the country. It's about not having to import so much foreign oil. It's about not having to worry about a future with oil shortages. Oil shortages will be here in our lifetime, whether the talking-heads think so or not.

Roger

Currently in Europe, GM produces the Opel Astra available with a turbo diesel/hybrid engine. It gets more than 70 mpg and 0-62 mph in under 8 seconds. But the plan is to bring it to the U.S. as a Saturn, but only with a gasoline 4-banger. Combine the Europe-only turbodiesel/hybrid car with biodiesel fuel, and the U.S. could end its dependence on foreign oil. Why isn't GM offering us a choice?

Chris

Doubter, you are confused in three different ways.

-- First, virtually all hybrid gas/electric cars on the road today use nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, just like those rechargeable AA batteries you probably use in your digital camera. They do not have toxic materials in them, much less lead or hydrochloric acid.

-- Second, if you were thinking of lead/acid batteries used for standard 12-volt car batteries, they use sulfuric acid, not hydrochloric.

-- Third, you stated "Con" at the beginning of your comment. Your comment was entirely negative on hybrid cars, which means that you take a "Pro" position on the article's leading statement.

Mark

Look into the Tesla—all electric with a 250-mile radius on a 4-hour charge off of your average AC plug. If you pair that with a solar array at home for folks in sunny SoCal, you could cut greenhouse gases by reducing both oil consumption and putting power back into the grid. It's not just about mpg; you have to look at the entire way you live.

Lance

Simply put, hydrogen is the only alternative fuel that is both Middle East- and greenhouse gas-free. So get off the dime and do whatever it takes to get us there.

In my opinion we are wasting our time discussing hybrids and E85 as an alternative fuel. Hybrids and E85 simply maintain the status quo for the oil companies who will no doubt control the refining process, distribution, and pricing of methanol. Simply stated, we need to free ourselves from our reliance on the Middle East and as long as we are driving vehicles that burn gas, that won’t happen.

If you are going to talk alternative fuels, wise up and change the model completely. We have in our possession today, nuclear technology in the form of Generation 4 reactors that can be harnessed to produce clean (greenhouse gas-free) electricity that is free from risk of meltdown or nuclear proliferation. Furthermore, high temperature Gen 4 reactors can be harnessed to produce an unlimited supply of hydrogen at a price point that is reasonably close to that of gasoline, or where gasoline will be 24 months from now. I know that hydrogen poses many challenges, but let's put the power of this country behind it as we did with the National Highway Program, the New Deal, and the race to the moon, and let’s get it done

Paul

My wife and I purchased an '06 Honda Civic hybrid and we are sooooo happy we did. It gets 45 mpg. Our gas bill has dropped big time in comparison to when we had a Honda Pilot.

We received money back from our taxes in addition to the $120 a month in savings. I believe it cost close to 3k more for the hybrid version of the Civic, and at this rate, we will make that up in about two years. The hybrid also came with more features which adds to the value anyway, like a kick-ass navigation system.

I also get to drive in the HOV lane which reduces my commute time down a half hour each way!

Hello! Time = $$$$ and less frustration. How about that extra half hour of sleep in the morning. FANTASTIC!! Oh by the way, did I mention that I'm helping the earth?


Buying a Civic Hybrid was the absolute best decision we have made for our family.

P A STANLEY

I own an '05 Prius that averages 52 mpg in winter and 58 mpg in summer, interstate driving and town, and I plan to buy another one in about 147,000 miles.

James

I used to own a 2000 Honda Insight with a 5-speed stick. On several trips I got 100 mpg and I could average 66 mpg at 55 mph with the AC on. This was on an uncongested highway. I always wondered what the mpg would have been if it had had a diesel motor instead of the gas three-cylinder.

Hal

Isn't the advantage of a real hybrid(not the phony ones which burn just as much gas as any clunker)the fact that thermovoltaic technology produces electricity so you don't have to plug it in? A plug-in just produces pollution from a stationary power station burning coal, oil, or whatever.
Please! Someone enlighten me.

Pro

Gas costs well over $3 per gallon around San Francisco. I'm predicting $3.85 by Memorial Day. At these prices, the hybrid premium will be offset quickly.

Another development that will help hybrids will be the advent of ultra-thin solar panels on vehicle hoods and roofs. Pull into a sunny parking spot with low batteries and several hours later leave topped off. In states like California where workers can park in sunshine all day, short-trip fuel economy will soar.

JayRay

As has been mentioned, but not enough, hybrids use almost zero fuel when stopped or moving slowly. Compared to other vehicles in traffic jams or waiting at red lights, hybrids are literally a breath of fresh air.

Of course, I'm completely baffled that modern non-hybrid cars don't shut off their engines automatically when stopped. With that incredibly simple update to existing technology, we'd burn a helluva lot less fuel.

Gary

The author cites numbers of $2K to $3K more for a Camry hybrid and $2.50 a gallon. Well I got a $2,600 direct IRS refund for my Camry and gas is about $3.00 a gallon. My insurance company, Farmers, gives me a discount for owning a hybrid.

I get 38 mpg on the road and 28 mpg around town, and I put much less pollution into the air. I absolutely love it!

Lou

I buy and keep cars and am still driving the '87 El Camino I purchased new and restored, and the '64 Fairlane I bought 34 years ago. As far as hybrids go, what are their long-term maintenance costs? How much will I pay in the long run to maintain one? Not 5 or 10 years, but 15-20 years? As for reliability, I don't see any more 20+ year-old Japanese cars on the road than domestics...Toyota seems to have the reputation Chevrolet had when I was a kid.

dc

Hybrid-Schmybrid, it's all the same. Until we get all cars downsized, no one wants to drive a small car and get clobbered by 50% of the vehicles on the road, which are SUVs—not to mention the tractor trailers, buses, even deer. We either all downsize, or it will never happen.

Bob A.

For me, reducing fuel consumption is NOT just about an economic payback. We, as a nation, must cut off the flow of our gasoline money to terrorists through our oil producing mid-east "friends."

The good part of our hybrid story is that our Prius is so much fun to drive: so practical and reliable. We love it. Yes, 45 mpg for 15,000 miles of local and trip driving is also fun.

After five diesels, I see no future for them with the current fuel cost disadvatage which more than offsets the increase in engery per gallon.

Burning food for motor fuel is the worst mistake we have ever made and it will bite us in the rear.

Current hybrid technology alone could solve our imported oil addiction if every car, truck, and locomotive used it. Oh the beauty of recovering energy from braking and coasting!!!!

Frances

I get physically ill when I smell diesel. I cannot ride in a diesel-powered bus or car. To get in or behind a diesel vehicle and smell the fumes makes me ill for days. So please don't try to sell me on diesel as being a good alternative to gasoline.

Bruhno

I had a 1971 Ford Pinto and drove 65 mph and got 35 mpg.

Joseph M.

Pro.

Driving A Prius Hybrid Costs Less Than Taking A Public Bus.

I was talking with a friend yesterday and realized I drive less than
50 miles each day, about 98% of the time. With gas prices at just
over $3.00 per gallon($3.11 to be exact, local ARCO station, and the
Prius runs great on this stuff), and I'm getting just over 50 miles to
each gallon of gasoline. And with the day pass(bus pass) at the price
of $3.00 a day, puts a big smile on my face. Now of course this
doesn't include upkeep of the Prius, but after all it's a Toyota,
built to last.

Gasoline savings is not the only plus on this car. Test drive one. The Prius is the most amazing and comfortable drive I've ever had. Speed, smoothness, no gears shifting in the continuously variable transmission. This car is from the future, and you can buy one today, not someday. And yes, when the plug-in hybrids come out, I will buy one(from Toyota), and add solar panels too!

Frank Gamwell

Yet again, another bunch of opinions from people who have not researched or cared enough to understand the whole hybrid story. So let me say from the beginning, both my wife and I drive Priuses. She gets 46 mpg, and I have a lifetime 51 mpg (nearly all city driving). In Los Angeles, we can drive in the carpool lane and park on meters for nothing. How much is that worth? Never mind the fact that I got a $3K deduction from the IRS. On top of all that, I sold my older Prius for the same price that I bought it for. My wife had a Chrysler before her Prius, and that depreciated from $38K to $11K in 3 years. Before anybody talks about car economics, please think through the whole picture.

Michael

If you drive mostly freeways, hybrids won't help you at present. If you drive mostly in town, they are a godsend. We own two 2002 Prius cars, and each gets upward of 45 mpg around town, even with short trips. No conventional car even comes close, not even diesels.

George

A few years ago, I put a gallon of ethyl alcohol in my gas tank with 5 gallons of gasoline. I went down to Washington State's testing station, and they would not pass my car in their test, because they could not find any hydrocarbon emissions. Their test machines don't like clean fuel, and the people running the test believe you have to have hydrocarbons to pass. I put more gas in my tank, and it passed the test. Does that make any sense?

Jason

This is all BS. The auto manufacturers can and have made fuel-efficient cars. In the 1990s, GM made an electric car that I would buy right now if it were available. The problem was it was too good; it had an 80-mile range and a speed of up to 80 mph. Maintenance was next to nothing, and it charged from your 120-volt house circuit. Try finding the DVD Who Kill the Electric Car. Until we the consumers stop buying this BS, it will not change.

Dan

Consumers have demanded gas guzzling behemoths for years, and the auto industry has obliged them. Consumers are largely responsible for the slow to no progress toward greater energy efficiency. "Build it, and they will come" is not going to be successful. When consumers decide to get serious about saving energy, the industry will have to respond. I will continue to buy used fuel-efficient conventional cars. I will not buy a new sport utility vehicle but rather a used minivan. I clearly remember the first time OPEC slammed the industrialized world. One would imagine that 30 years later, foreign oil dependence would have been remedied, but the majority has not demanded it.

WAYNE

The best deals in some markets is a used hybrid. A 2004 Honda civic (5-speed) with 25,000 miles can be had for $16,000. Pump up the tires to 40 pounds, and avoid ethanol if you can; it gets fewer miles per gallon. And it is easy to top 50 mpg if you keep the speed down. There is no free lunch when it comes to bigger and faster. And then you can save gas, so Nascar can waste it.

glenn

Good debate. For background, our Prius does not have 1,000 pounds of lead acid battery to dispose of at the end of its life cycle. It has far fewer pounds, of NiCad recyclable batteries.

Michelle

I get so tired of hearing the argument that hybrids "don't save enough fuel." Not everything revolves around money. I'm quite willing to pay a premium for a car that saves a nonrenewable resource and puts less pollution into the environment, just as I'm willing to pay a little extra for fair-trade food and clothes. I'm not in this to save money; I'm trying to be a responsible consumer and not exploit the environment or people along the way. People are far too short-sighted when they look at a hybrid and say, "How can this benefit me?" I'm trying to think beyond my own little world and base my actions on how I'm affecting the world around me.

Jean

Okay guys, which car should I buy for an 18 year old starting at a four-year college in Iowa next fall? He will be almost solely driving home on highways, maybe 150 miles a week. E-85 is available there. What are the trade-offs in terms of safety, fuel economy, reliability, insurance premiums, and repair costs? They tell me four-wheel drive is a must because of the extreme winter driving conditions there.

George P

My wife and I have purchased two Prius hybrids. The first was a 2003, and the second is a 2006. We purchased both cars principally because they pollute a lot less than a regular automobile. And, they are comfortable and good to drive. The fact that they use a lot less gasoline is a bonus. Because of the way we drive, we generally get mileage in the 50s on the highway and in the 40s around town. And, since we have had the 2003 since it was new, and for so many miles, I figure that we have paid for the extra the Prius cost us. We are willing to spend some of our money to help the environment. It really is the right thing to do for ourselves and for the generations that will come after us.

Ed

I simply bought a 2003 Standard Honda Civic LX with 5-speed manual and can squeeze 42 mpg on the highway. It was pretty cheap @ $13K to 14K (can't remember). No battery disposal, good for 400,000 miles, and it's pretty fast. What's the confusion? My last Honda went 350,000 cruel miles (3 kids learning how to drive), and I drove it until I couldn't stand it anymore, and gave it to my kid, who is still driving it.

Janet

Just purchased my second Prius and love driving it. The gas mileage averages around 47/48 mpg in regular driving and would do better in stop and go traffic. Got caught in traffic in Seattle recently and drove stop and go around 10-12 miles per hour for twenty miles. Did not use a drop of gasoline! The electric battery kept us rolling at that low speed.

When Detroit allows the technology (which already exists) to let its autos all get a possible 40 mpg, the U.S. will have no dependence on foreign oil at all. When will we stop letting big oil and the auto companies in this country set the rules? Quit buying their big gas guzzlers.

Brad

Oil companies tell us the Earth isn't warming and even hire people to generate confusion. Won't automakers do the same? Beware of the con-writers. I have a Prius and love it. Yeah, I paid a bit more, but 100k miles later, I've hardly spent a cent on maintenance. I mean, sometimes you work with lazy people and work harder to pick up their slack. So some of us pay a bit more to kick-start the industry. If 200k of us paid 1k more than we should have on the Prius, and $200 million was all it took to make every automaker in the country start working on hybrids? Bargain compared to Bush's $1.2 billion investment in hydrogen. It's like an elective tax.

Stephen

I'd be happy to buy a hybrid that can seat 6 or 7 people and is optimized for fuel economy instead of power. There's only one 7-seater hybrid in North America, the Toyota Highlander, and it costs $55,000.00 in Canada; it's totally loaded and gets middling gas mileage. I'm a typical family guy that sometimes has to shuttle the soccer team or my aging in-laws about. The first automaker to put a plaiI'd be happy to buy a hybrid that can seat 6 or 7 people and is optimized for fuel economy instead of power. There's only one 7-seater hybrid in North America, the Toyota Highlander, and it costs $55,000 in Canada; it's totally loaded and gets middling gas mileage. I'm a typical family guy who sometimes has to shuttle the soccer team or my aging in-laws about. The first automaker to put a plain jane hybrid minivan on the market will get my business. I'm sure that millions of people would agree. So Big Three, what's the problem?n jane hybrid minivan on the market will get my business. I'm sure that millions of people would agree - so Big Three what's the problem?

Bob

Don't get me wrong, I drive a Prius and adore it. HOWEVER... don't count on that tax credit. As I and many others are discovering this tax season, very few people who thought they'd be getting it will actually benefit to the extent they expected. First of all, it only reduces tax liability down to zero, and no further. So if you would have ended up owing $39 in taxes, then $39 is all the benefit you'll get. Don't get me wrong; I drive a Prius and adore it. Nonetheless, don't count on that tax credit. As I and many others are discovering this tax season, very few people who thought they'd be getting it will actually benefit to the extent they expected. First of all, it only reduces tax liability down to zero, and no further. So if you would have ended up owing $39 in taxes, then $39 is all the benefit you'll get. But much more awful is the fact that for those hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax computation scam, there is absolutely no benefit whatsoever. This was a way for Washington to claim that they were investing in alternative energies without actually doing so. Again, I'm still glad I got the Prius, and after a year of driving it, still get a big kick out of it every day. But for most of us, that tax credit is completely bogus.But much more awful is the fact that for those hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax computation scam, there is absolutely no benefit whatsoever. This was a way for Washington to claim that they were investing in alternative energies without actually doing so. Again, I'm still glad I got the Prius, and after a year of driving it, still get a big kick out of it every day. But for most of us, that tax credit is completely bogus.

Omar

Hybrid vs. internal combustion is really just a debate on the lesser of two evils. The energy used to refine, transport, and store petroleum is wasteful enough to render the internal combustion engine obsolete. Not to mention oil used to lubricate these engines often ends up in storm drains and waterways as well as petroleum-based additives and cleaning agents. Gasoline leaking from underground storage tanks and the very air we breathe is polluted by benzene from gasoline-burning engines. It's time to invoke the wisdom of one of our forefathers, Ben Franklin, and go electric.

Jeff

Really, check out the MDI air car. The only emission is cool filtered air. Imagine that. I've been reading that
compressed air vehicles have been used in mines for 100 years, and horsepower is not a problem. I understand that New York had a pneumatic trolly for years around the turn of the century. The MDI air car sells for under $15,000.

just me

I could care less about gas mileage. I want power. I don’t want your gas miser car. If I cant get up a hill because the engine is too small simply to get better gas mileage why would I waste my time on it? I I could care less about gas mileage. I want power. I don't want your gas miser car. If I can't get up a hill because the engine is too small simply to get better gas mileage, why would I waste my time on it? I would be willing to bet most of the people buying an economy car never go into the country or into the mountains where a 4-wheel drive vehicle is crucial. Your economy car won't cut it. I'll tell you what: You give me a vehicle that does what I want it to and still gets your fuel mileage, and I will think about it. Just one problem: That vehicle is impossible, because you can't have both. I want the big trucks because if you hit me, I am dead on impact in those tiny cars or the car is totaled. I don't really care about the luxury vehicles. All you people that buy into the global warming scam are wasting your time and your money, but I would rather you spend your money on it instead of me. I know this will make most of you angry, and I really don't care, but I thought I would put my two cents in anyway just because.would be willing to bet most of people buying an economy car never go into the country or into the mountains where a 4 wheel drive vehicle is crucial. Your economy car won’t cut it. I tell you what: you give me a vehicle that does what I want it to and still gets your fuel mileage and I will think about it. Just one problem: that vehicle is impossible because you can’t have both. I want the big trucks because if you hit me I am dead on impact in those tiny cars or the car is totaled. I don’t really care about the luxury vehicles. All you people that buy into the global warming scam are wasting your time and your money, but I would rather you spend your money on it instead of me. I know this will make most of you angry, and I really don’t care, but I thought I would put my two cents in anyway just because.

Jason

Quote from Dave: "India is selling a car that runs on compressed air and gets 100 miles to the gallon. No pollution."

Not true on the "no pollution" claim. Where's the energy come from to compress the air in the first place? A power plant, probably coal or oil fired. Introduce enough vehicles like this, and you'll need to produce more energy to run the compressors to fill the air tanks, leading to probably either very little reduction in pollution, or potentially, an increase.

Ron

I think everyone has basically said the same thing that I have found: The Big Three are out of touch with the reality of the market.

I recently had to replace my aging 1987 Aerostar minivan when it was stolen. I drive at least 100 to 150 kilometers per day (1.6 kilometers per mile) in and around Vancouver, which has similar traffic to L.A. without the benefit of a decent highway system. Our gas currently is $1.10 (CDN)/litre, which works out to about $3.61(US)/gallon. I tried to find a van that was fuel efficient, smallish, and yet still a truck in its carrying capacities. It does not exist in the North American market. I looked at several hybrids, but they cannot do the job. What I did find is that there are quite a few people bringing in exactly this kind of vehicle from Asia. I know this, because I see them driving these righthand-drive diesel-powered minivans on almost a daily basis.

If there are that many people willing to go through the hassle of actually importing this kind of vehicle, can you imagine how many would buy them if they were readily available? As for me, I decided to get a Ford 3-litre V6 Ranger pickup that really doesn't work given that I live in a rain forest. The mileage isn't bad, but I am hoping that by the end of my 3-year lease, someone will have a vehicle that can do what I need.

Larry

I own a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid which I drive to and from work in Phoenix, 43 miles each way. The bottom line—the car cost about $1,500 more than the Honda Civic EX and has similar features. I average between 46 and 48 mpg, cause virtually zero emissions, have extremely low maintenance costs, and now in Arizona can use the HOV lane. As the guy says on the radio: buying one is "the biggest no-brainer on earth."

Rich

It's not about getting your money back!

Greg H.

I consider the battery depletion and disposal problems in the current hybrids to be a real "deal killer" in the long run. Why not use compressed air for the regenerative braking systems in our hybrids? Google up "Compressed Air Vehicle;" the Europeans and Africans are way ahead of our stodgy domestic automakers.

Dave

Doubter, the batteries in a hybrid are not lead-acid. They're NiMH, and they can be recycled just like 90+% of the lead-acid batteries in regular cars are (instead of going into landfill).

Also, for those who remember the Sprint or the Civic HX, or other high mileage cars, remember, those were very lightweight cars and they could barely get out of their own way. In addition to our Prius, we also own a Honda Insight. That is an equally small, lightweight car (lots of aluminum in the frame and body) in which I can get 60+ mpg all day long (and not just on the highway). But our Prius has almost as much interior space as a Camry...for a car of that room and utility, I don't expect its mileage to equal that of the Insight.

Patrick

Until the Big Three start thinking out of the box and produce vehicles that consumers want, they will continue to lose the market share to Toyota and Honda. I haven't owned an American car since 1999 and don't see one worth buying other than a Corvette or Caddy, and you know how efficient they are. My philosophy is a small car, lightweight (2600 lbs or less), would be a start.

jim

The issue should not be what commuter car to drive, but rather why we shouldn't commute at all. Telecommuting by working from home is a viable solution to energy dependence and pollution issues, and only a fraction of those who could telecommute do so now.

Carl Fox

Or you could do like I did—buy a $500.00 yes five-hundred-dollar '89 Ford Festiva (read Kia). I routinely get 38.5 mpg, and on a long trip (partly over mountains). You couldn't pry this car from my dead fingers.

destry

If you're looking for a car, look up the new Tesla, 100% electric, 0 to 60 in four seconds with a top speed of 135 mph. It can go 250 miles per charge with recharging at 3.5 hours. That's about 1 cent per mile and the batteries have a 100,000 mile life span. The price tag is way out of reach at $95,000 right now, but hopefully they will see the light and make cars that are more affordable in the near future. As far as gas or hybrids go, you're never going to see any real improvement, our government makes too much in taxes off gas and and other fuel sources to ever give that up.

Tom R

I own a 2005 Prius, which I bought new. I've put almost 50,000 miles on it doing my daily commute, and have been consistently averaging over 50 mpg, which is double what my old car averaged. Considering the number of miles I drive annually and the cost of gas currently, I expect to come out ahead over the life of the car. The Prius is comfortable, reliable, safe, and fun. When a plug-in version is available, I'll be waiting in line to buy one.

Craig

I'm pro hybrid. Today's models are more expensive—new tech always is—but that will improve, as will the savings they offer.

I expect to see hybrid cars in another generation that can be plugged in, have solar panel-coated roofs, and get 100+ mpg.

I'm looking forward to these cars. They'll greatly reduce our dependence on imported fuels and be better for air quality. I think hybrids are going to be winners all the way around.

Heloise

Why are so many people idling in the fast-food drive-thrus? Why do drive-thrus still exist? Why do so many people elect heavier automatic transmissions over lighter manual transmissions? Why do so many people still speed on highways? Bottom line is that almost nobody really cares about green yet. Not even Al Gore, who sits on Apple's board of directors—to greener utensils for the cafeterias. There are bigger and lower-hanging fruits in these efforts.

Chris

While everyone is looking to one side, many have overlooked the greenest of fuels: hydrogen. Some manufacturers even are offering a home station allowing the owner of a hydrogen-powered vehicle to make his or her own fuel from water—remember H2O? There is only one detail: How will governments be able to collect their cherished taxes?
So we will never see the day of hydrogen-powered vehicles on a mass-production scale. Fear of loss of income and greed will not allow any
government to let its beloved income disappear into thin air. So any true solution to the greenhouse gases will never be resolved and the future from a human standpoint will indeed be bleak.

Neal

In May, 2004 we traded an Isuzu Trooper, which averaged about 17 mpg overall, for a new Prius. 50,000 miles later the Prius averages 48 mpg overall. We calculate 1,900 gallons of gasoline we have not used and over $4,000 we have not sent to oil-producing countries that hate us.

We love our Hybrid.

Pcakes

Way to go, Caveman! We have a Liberty and have a MINI on the way. Why does it matter whether you have a low-polluting, low-gas-guzzling car, or a hybrid? Either one is a step in the right direction. Buying traditional cars and whining about automakers' non-actions is not. Production of alternative-fuel vehicles on a mass scale will not happen until there is proof (read: sales) to auto companies that there is demand.

TransAm

It serves them right (them being the Big Three U.S. automakers).

They had the technology to improve gas mileage decades ago, but decided to just rest on their laurels and do nothing about it—all the while collecting more money from their rising SUV sales and kickbacks from the oil companies.

Toyota and Honda stuck their necks out there first, acting like guinea pigs for hybrid technology in cars. They deserve the #1/#2 car sales spot because of their "do the right thing" attitude and not a "do what's easiest, least risky, and makes us the most profit" attitude that seems to be ingrained among the Big Three. I don't feel sorry for American car companies at all, only the hard-working blue collar American assembly-line workers who are the first to get laid off in order to save the CEO's summer homes and yachts. With more and more foreign car company manufacturing being done on U.S. soil now maybe workers could get a job with a rival car company that cares about more than just the bottom line. Yes, I'm pissed at those fat, greedy CEO's who are without conscience.

I just purchased a Toyota Camry hybrid and love it! Even if I do only break even from the money I save on gas versus the initial extra cost of the car purchase, it's satisfying to know that I'm doing my part as a member of the human race, sticking it to "The Man" and helping the environment (however insignificant the detractors seem to purport).

Arlain

When are the people of the U.S. going to start putting the blame where it really lies? The car companies of the world are obviously paid off by the oil companies to make non-fuel-efficient cars.The technology has been there for decades to create non-hybrid cars that will get 100 mpg. The Government knows this but turns its back. (You know they get paid off as well.) It will have to be up to us as consumers to make a stand. I remember seeing a documentary on a Vovlo full-size sedan back in the 80's that never made it to production that got 100 mpg but when the company was asked why they pulled it off of the production schedule their answer was "well, since gas prices have come down a bit we don't believe that the people want a 100 mpg car."

Money talks (and we know who has all of the money).

Ralph

I bought a Chevy Sprint Metro in 1987 for $6,650. I drove it 307,000 miles with very little maintenance. 100,000 miles on a set of tires and I averaged almost 50 mpg for the 300,000 miles. It would get as high as 57 mpg. The only problem was Consumer Reports is anti-GM and bad-mouthed the car.

Ben

Automakers build what there is a market for. Example: I purchased a brand new 40-mpg Saturn SL Special Edition in 2002 for only $10,300 because they couldn't give them away at the time. The public didn't want a "small, fuel-efficient" car. So the next model year, in order to try and give buyers what they wanted, Saturn switched to the ION model, not a bigger car but with a bigger "zippier" engine that got about 4 mpg less than the previous year.

Read any new-car review. Buyers want cars with "peppy" engines much more than they want fuel economy. Now I'm in a new 2006 Scion Xb which consistently is gettting 34 mpg. But guess what? The new 2008 Scion Xb coming out has a much larger engine, is a bigger vehicle, is heavier and sure to get less mpg. Manufacturers build what we will buy!

chris

A two-liter engine is considered to large in Europe; why does anyone (aside from police and trucking) need a larger engine than that? Here in Southern California the things to have are lifted SUVs or pickups with gigantic off-road tires. But rare are the times when you see them actually hauling something.

Gui

What ever happened to the Chevy Sprint/Geo Metro that got 55 mpg?
We need to begin to design and develop bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly residential areas. And instead of living in your McMansion in the country try moving closer to work to lessen consumption of your fuel of choice: gas, E85, diesel, or whatever.

Paul

As Honda Civic Hybrid owners, I will say my wife and I made the best choice in purchasing this car.

The Pro article neglects to mention the Civic's 44 - 51 mpg stats as posted. I get 44 to the gallon with mine, and I'm loving it.

I also love the High Occupancy Vehicle lane priveleges. I gain a half an hour's commute time each way every day. That's an extra half hour's sleep in the morning, ladies and gents. Let's not ignore cutting in half the sheer stress factor of a longer commute.

Cost. We paid almost $3,000 more for the hybrid upgrade from the regular Civic. I also got a chunk of money back this year, and will every other year from here on out, as I understand it. I'm saving about $150 to $175 per month since ditching the Honda Pilot. That's about $2,000 a year cash in the ole wallet.

So I'll make up that extra money easily in two years.

Not to mention the Hybrid comes with more options like a kick-ass navigator for one.

Did I mention my wife and I are helping the planet? Just a little something to be proud of, I guess you could say.

Why people are not driving this car, or a similar one is beyond me. Wake up America!

Phil

I bought a Toyota Yaris this year and absolutely love it. First let me start off by saying that I continually monitor my gas mileage, and my car yields a notable 40 to 42 mpg. I have no problem saying that after tax, registration, title, license, etc., I paid $12,677 for a 2007. My savings from gas and low payments are thousands from the nearest competitor. I read about you people getting 50 to 60 mpg with nonhybrids, and frankly I'm quite jealous. The Yaris is far better than the Nissan Versa, which the article mistakenly printed was the best nonhybrid. Currently, I'm in college and paying every cent along the way, so I needed a vehicle that reflected my personality but was affordable. I will buy a hybrid after this car no longer serves my purpose.

I bought this car for four good reasons: green value, reliable brand, cost, and most important, to speak with my actions. I refuse to buy from the Big Three, because they have disgusted me greatly with their actions regarding environmental concern. It's ironic that many Toyotas are actually just as American as GMs and more so than Fords. I buy foreign, because I commend Toyota for taking the steps they have toward improving mpg and emissions; therefore they deserve monetary compensation along with recognition. Everyone has to adapt and make sacrifices to prevent further environmental deterioration. Everyone has the power to do something either financially or with other personal actions. I criticize, because I'm pitching in and expect others to do the same. This problem is bigger than we are, so please think beyond yourself for a moment, to providing future generations with a world as beautiful as it is today. Although you and I may not live to see what unfolds, we have the responsibility of taking measures to reducing our impact on this great land. Freedom means nothing if you have no place in which to be free. If you took the time to read my comment fully, I thank you.

Big Bob

Surprising. Toyota and Honda begin with inspiring hybrid tech on the small vehicles (equals mpg), then move on to heavier vehicles (de-emphasizing mpg for power). Darn! They wised up to the dumb U.S. power-is-God big-is-my-Constitutional-right insanity. Sad. I can't control other people, but many a time I've wanted to pull over towering Suburban and Escalade drivers and communicate to them how I appreciate their draining of the fuel supply and creating higher prices for all. Geez! (Any gray matter out there?)

Larry C. Field

I have been reading all the pro and con arguments with more than some amusement. Should I drive a Prius or Insight or Mini or some other tin-can weeniemobile to "save the planet"? Well, before I get into it, let me first say that the last time I checked, this was still somewhat of a free country—people can and should be able to drive whatever they want: If some well-meaning but sadly misinformed individuals get their jollies by squeezing into an undersized pop can on wheels for the good of "Mother Earth," well, more power to them. But as far as I'm concerned, I will continue to ride in comfort and stretch my legs out, with a big smile on my face, without the slightest twinge of conscience or guilt, as I blow by in my 413-cubic-inch 350-horsepower 1964 Imperial, with my foot firmly planted on the go pedal. And an even bigger smile will cross my face when I think about the fact that, as these people sit with their head bent over, all scrunched up in a vehicle so small it takes the jaws of life to extract them from the miserable thing, that it's costing them about $3.50 per mile while I, on the other hand, only lay out about half that driving my 1967 Dodge Coronet—and my vehicle will still be around years later for me to enjoy, long after these underpowered buzz bombs wind up on the environmentally friendly junk heap. Gas was meant to burn, people. So watch out for me. I'll be the one with the Honda stuffed in my Imperial's trunk.

Dave

I have a two Prius' in my family. My sister and my parents. While my parents do not drive enough to see the full benefit of the "60" MPG, they still get about double what their Camry Wagon used to get. My sister on the other hand has been able to get in the 50 MPG range.
EffI have a two Priuses in my family, my sister's and my parents'. While my parents do not drive enough to see the full benefit of the "60" mpg, they still get about double what their Camry wagon used to get. My sister, on the other hand, has been able to get in the 50-mpg range.

Efficiency has always been considered a good thing, except in America, where waste is apparently in style. Even the author of the anti-hybrid argument concedes that the car will save you enough fuel to pay for the difference in price in 3 to 4 years. Why is this exceedingly long? Why do Americans have to bury their cars in the grave so fast? The old Camry we had was in good condition after 14 years of driving. That would give us approximately $460 x 10 years of savings on a $25,000 car. That's about a 250% return on investment (assuming a hybrid costs $2,000 more) over the life of the car.

BTW, I also install solar power systems, and the batteries used in hybrids and most solar power systems are not only rechargeable but also recyclable. The lead and sulfuric acid used in normal car batteries are not used in hybrid cars (but they're recyclable, too). They are too heavy.iciency has always been considered a good thing except in America, where waste is apparently in style. Even the author of the "anti-hybrid" argument concedes that the car will save you enough fuel to pay for the difference in price in 3-4 years. Why is this EXCEEDINGLY long????!? Why do Americans have to bury their cars in the grave so fast? The old camry we had was in good condition after 14 years of driving. That would give us approximately $460x10 years of savings on a $25k car. That's about a 250% return on investment (assuming a hybrid costs $2000 more) over the life of the car.
BTW I also install solar power systems, and the batteries used in hybrids and most solar power systems are not only rechargeable, but recyclable. The lead and sulfuric acid used in normal car batteries are NOT used in hybrid cars. (but they're recyclable too!)
They are too heavy.

Jeff

All batteries have a specific service life, but I never hear what it is for the average hybrid. Does anyone know how long the batteries last before they need to be replaced, and what is the cost for a full change-out? For those of us who keep our cars 10+ years, it's important to weigh in the replacement costs over the life of the car.

Don

Hey Charlie,
The cheap gas (regular) is $3.12 here in California, almost 50 cents higher. For manufacturers, it's all about the money.

Dana

I have the only domestic-made hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape. I get 30 to 32 mpg around the burbs and 28 to 30 mpg on the highway. I only have to change my oil every 13,000 miles. When the electric engine is running, there's no pollution. Not to mention I feel great about driving it. Now how many suburban stay-at-home moms driving those big honkin' Envoys and Durangos can say that?

Terry

You could have your fancy bells and whistles and double the mileage if the automakers would just use a different transmission setup.

Jozsef

Hybrids, ethanol, bio-diesel, all that beating around the bush (no pun intended). There is technology available for transportation called fuel-cell. The process has been around for 100 years, the military is using it for power, and the space industry is using it for a deep-space power source. It is my opinion that Honda and Toyota will beat Detroit to the punch, and they will take us into the hydrogen technology future. What ever happened to American ingenuity?

Frank

Note that even in the con discussion by Matt Vella, diesel gets not even a mention. The VW diesels do get a "for real" 40+ mpg on routine-highway and rural-road driving. It's a much better deal than the gasoline vehicles, and starts to approach the hybrids. The VW Jetta is a nice car with good acceleration, solid feel, and plenty of amenities, all built on well-established reliable technology. And no, I don't work for VW. I'm just a happy customer.

Keith

Too many times this comparison is made based on hypothetical situations (e.g., nonhybrid vs. hybrid Camry) as opposed to reality. The real question to ask is, what will you save if you trade in your current vehicle for something else?

In 2005, I switched from a Grand Prix to a Prius. Besides the obvious of getting a new car instead of one 5 years old, I lost nothing in terms of interior space, still have a reliable car (note: lifelong Pontiac driver, and never had a problem with reliability), and spent almost $2,000 less on gas in 2005 alone. Throw in 2006, and I'm way ahead on total fuel savings. That's the only number that counts in my personal bank account.

If you're going to wait for this administration and the CEOs in Detroit who make $20 million a year to worry about you, don't hold your breath, because that shade of blue doesn't look good on anyone. The key is to make a switch—hybrid, clean diesel, smaller second car, or even a smaller SUV—and start considering fuel efficiency when purchasing a new vehicle.

Larry

The comment that "the disposal of the batteries is the culprit. There are about 1,000 pounds of lead and several hundred pounds of hydrochloric acid that will be disposed of in landfills" shows extraordinary ignorance. The hybrids on the market today don't use lead batteries; they use nickel-metal-hydride, and all of the manufacturers have recycling programs and pay bounties for returned batteries. There is more lead in a conventional car than in a hybrid. And the acid in a lead-acid battery is sulfuric, not hydrochloric.

Glen G

Buy a Corvette with 400 horsepower and 29 mpg. That's like getting your cake and eating it, too.

Jim

This debate is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. For a significant reduction in fuel usage, the cost of the fuel must go up. Market forces will take care of what we drive and then make new technology available. Establish a minimum fuel cost of $3.50 per gallon today, and increase it 5% a year for a decade. The market for gas guzzlers will dry up overnight.

Jack

Hybrid? Two motors and an expensive battery pack. When people start crashing these cars, and the insurance companies see the huge cost of repairs, they will pass them on to the drivers and add to the already high cost of a hybrid. Clean diesel is the way. Miles per gallon and all the power you need.

wes

Even my big Harley-Davidson gets around 46 mpg, and is more fun than those dorky-looking hybrids.

Arnold

Hybrids are not the answer to our problems of dependency on oil or global warming. Fuel cell (hydrogen-based) vehicles are here, and we need to focus our attention on building the infrastructure necessary to support them throughout the country. Also, diversity is not always the best thing for consumers, since it usually results in divided attention and lower quality.

Joe

I own a 2003 Honda Civic hybrid. It has good power and is fun to drive. It holds 13 gallons of fuel and has no problem getting 600 miles per tank in town. I'm 74 years old and love my hybrid.

Virgil

How about improving mass transit? More people will take it if it is available. How about shifting work hours to reduce traffic? Just addressing fuel economy in the long term won't be enough.

HANS

Plug-in hybrids seem like the best solution for slow-driving traffic conditions and the grocery store trip, which might be made on all electric drive.

KathyK1960

I bought a Honda Civic Hybrid, and I love my car. It has good pickup, comfortable seating, and good air conditioning, and I average 38 miles to the gallon. Yes, it did cost more than the standard Civic, but it is just as safe and is greener for the environment. I have no regrets and will seek out another Civic Hybrid when I need a new car (10 years from now.)

Dave Armstrong

I have a 2004 Suburban that gets a whopping 19 mpg on the freeway, and fits me, my wife, and four kids. I have a 2003 Honda Insight that averages 56 mpg that we use for most of the day-to-day driving when all of us don't need to go. I've had two other suburbans that averaged 20+ mpg and a Volkswagen Jetta Diesel that averaged 48 mpg. When will we see the TDI diesel coupled with the hybrid technology? I'd buy it in a heartbeat. When will we see the CNG from China and India? Gas in Wisconsin was $2.68 yesterday. I would like to see a Suburban-like vehicle with diesel/hybrid technology that will fit a larger family.

Bill

One simple action will reduce dependence on foreign oil and promote consumers to be efficient with their gasoline use: Raise the price of gasoline.

If the action is accomplished by a tax, monies could be applied to improved roads and, more important, effective mass transit. Moreover, consumers will want and own more-fuel-efficient cars.

Finally, you can't fault the auto companies for manufacturing and selling the cars consumers demand. It's their corporate mission.

Mark R.

Why is it that the pro people always pull out their mental calculator and fuss over how long you will have to own a hybrid to achieve "payback?" They seem to expect the cost will be zero for all that fabulous technology. I can't think of a single other option people put on their cars that is free. People pay a few thousand dollars to have leather seats and other ego-pleasing options, but they're not prepared to pay the same to have hybrid technology reduce their impact on the planet. It kind of reduces my confidence and respect for the masses.

John

The purpose of hybrid technology is not just saving gasoline. There are many benefits:

1. It lowers exhaust emissions.
2. It saves natural resources by using less gasoline and needing fewer brake replacements because of the regenerative braking system.
3. It is becoming more affordable, and offers tax credits.
4. It saves time by reducing the number of trips to the gas station.
5. It uses fewer mechanical parts, which further protects the environment by conserving natural resources.
6. It is quieter.
7. It is environmentally friendly, with recyclable batteries and materials.

Surely, there are many older or diesel vehicles that get good mileage. However, as you can see from the list, it is not just about fuel economy. Also, surely most of us don't need a 400+ horsepower hybrid car; the performance hybrid's purpose is to show that you can get power without sacrificing mileage at the same time. An example is V8 power with a V6 engine and fuel economy from the Lexus GS450h or V12 performance from a V8 on the Lexus LS600hL.

Gary2

You know, in the early 1980s, 8-cylinder cars were traded in for 4- and 6-cylinder vehicles. The net result was an increase in oil dependency by about 10,000 barrels a day. The perceived reduction in fuel costs actually increased the desire to use more fuel. If you want to see the future of say, ethanol, look at the amount of petro-based fertilizer it takes to produce corn suitable for this venture (corn is a voracious absorber of fertilizers). I don't see anyone jumping on this, and apparently the damage to soil by constantly stripping it of nutrients to grow corn goes by the wayside. The only way to grow plants properly is to feed them. In this case, big oil wins in the fields and in the gas stations. The only way to force the desired change is to stop buying American-made vehicles. A lack of interest in Detroit will force a wake-up call, and they will produce cars comparable to imports in reliability and efficiency—or they simply won't exist. Let them go under without a bail-out, and then let's talk about how much oil is required to sustain our military as it exists today. Do you really think there will be hydrogen-powered or ethanol-powered tanks? Wake up and smell the fumes.

Jim

I have also heard of these plug-in hybrids. That would be interesting. I live in a second-story apartment, and my parking lot is a little far away. I would need several extension cords. I have done a lot of research on fuel efficiency. I have heard that in Canada, they have a lot of propane-powered vehicles. However, from what I have gathered here in the U.S.A., they artificially inflate the price of propane so that we will not use it for vehicles. As for hydrogen fuel-cell technology, I doubt it will ever be practical. I strongly believe the cars of the distant future will be electric. I once heard of a car that ran on water, and you put some kind of tablet into the water. That would never sell, because they can't make money on water. There was also an experimental Cadillac that got 70 mpg back in the 1970s.

What I am trying to say, folks, is this: The technology for a green car has existed for years. In fact, I'm sure they could mass-produce them tomorrow if they wanted to. The minute an auto manufacturer does that, what do you think the oil industry is going to do to it? It is all about money. The auto manufacturers try to come up with ways to make money and keep having the oil industry make money.

On a final note, look at GM. It dismantled its EV1 factory and bought the Hummer line. What is wrong with that picture? The EV1s were working, and everyone loved them (except the oil companies).

When Florida is underwater and you have to put on sunscreen just to walk to the mail box, maybe you'll start to see environmentally friendly vehicles. I often wonder what would happen if the U.S. just stopped buying all foreign oil suddenly?

Elizabeth

I realize the debate is over hybrid vs. conventional, but I still must put in a plug for getting out of your car and finding a different way to get there! Sure, this will not help the 90% of Americans who've set up their lives so that they are car-dependent, but it's a start. As one who has chosen to work, bank, and grocery-shop within biking distance from home, I'm appalled at how few of us cyclists are out on the roads.

Tracy

I think higher fuel economy standards are a big part of the answer. The article points out how higher standards are being dodged. Let technology drive the answer, not taxes. Of course, as soon as those higher mileage cars are built (which will be lighter in weight), the safety police will scream that they are dangerous in a crash. The painfully stupid political debate will continue.

Tom

Bought a gently used made-in-America Saturn SL1 series automatic. Put about 175,000 miles on it before passing it on to a family member, and it's still in daily use. It averaged 36 mpg at 70 to 75 mph, and 30+ in mixed driving. Bought another gently used Saturn SL2 automatic with an upgraded engine. Still getting 36+ mpg, and I expect to get 200,000+ miles out of it. Each vehicle cost less than one-third that of a diesel or hybrid. I looked at both. Batteries have been, are now, and will continue to be, a massive problem for hybrids and electrics.

P.S: My Suburban 4x4 is used for heavy towing, and gets around 20 mpg highway when not towing.

Wade Gowen

I think that 99% of people have missed the boat, including the experts. I drive a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta diesel. It gets 45 mpg out of the box, and I have modified it to run on pure vegetable oil for an extra $1,500. Many of the arguments revolve around the high cost of producing ethanol. It does not cost much to produce plain vegetable oil. Am I missing something here?

Ken

Compressed natural gas (CNG) is so abundant that we usually burn it off as we pump oil out of the ground, and world reserves are estimated to be more than 10 times that of oil. In California, you can buy a CNG Civic and refill it at your house overnight. We need to get it through our collective heads that this is a viable alternative to gasoline and food-derived ethanol—not to mention DOA hydrogen fuel cells. Diesel, while much more efficient, will ultimately suffer the same fate as gasoline since it comes from the same source. I know natural gas will run out, too, someday but let's hope that by then, hydrogen generation will be efficient, and the CNG infrastructure can be used to deliver it to our vehicles with relatively few modifications. Those who think we can rely on gasoline and hybrids are kidding themselves.

Davud Wofsey

I am the inventor of the supersonic spark plug U.S. Pat. 5,610,470. I have many customers who have increased their fuel mileage and power with the simple application of standard spark plugs with the sonic modification. This is simple technology that the automotive companies do not want.
Dave Wofsey
Inventor

econguy

Gary, thanks for the reality check. What we need is more product choice incorporating a little better technology each model year (i.e., Prius and Volt). Let consumers decide. I fail to see the cost and tech barriers to a plug-in hybrid with a slightly larger NiMh battery pack, a plug, and possibly a small, thin film solar panel on the roof (as an optional item of course). This is not a great leap from what we already know about the current model Prius. Get on with it, guys, and bring back the tax credits to stimulate the market for a few more years. The tax revenue cost is a drop in the bucket compared to federal outlays for idiotic mass transit projects and related hype and EPA carrot-and-stick lunacy driving irrational local planning without debate.

Avskier

Here's my experience with my 2001 Prius, which I bought new: I had 75,000 miles on it last summer (2006) when the computer died. I simply steered to the side of the road, called AAA, and had it towed to my local Toyota dealer here in Lancaster, Calif. I expected a huge bill but was more than pleasantly surprised when they replaced the computer (normally a $1,500 fee) and charged me only a small fee for a link fitting. The bottom line? Too bad the U.S. Big Three couldn't provide the same. It's called reliability and service. BTW, the battery pack is still going strong, and the dealer said it would live way past 100,000 miles. And I've more than made up the price difference here in California with gas at Costco and Sam's at $3.11 for regular. Best car I've ever owned.

Brian

My 2003 Toyota Prius hybrid gets only 45 city (instead of 52 city, 45 highway) mpg of gasoline because of the added ethanol I am forced to buy in metro Denver.

ron

I can't believe I just read, "When the electric engine is running, there's no pollution." Right, and when you turn your head away from a stabbing, there's no crime.

Bob Eicholz

My 2005 Prius gets more than 50 mpg on the freeway, has a shocking amount of room (hatchback and reasonable comfort for 5), nonexistent depreciation (a huge cost factor), good acceleration, comfortable leather seats, excellent crash protection, and amazing reliability. What's not to like? Maybe that's why it seems like very other car in S. Calif. is a Prius.

Chuck

Interesting debate. I agree with Terry that transmissions can be a great help in fuel mileage. We recently bought a Toyota Avalon. Nice, comfortable, luxurious car. With its 5-speed automatic, it gets about 25 mpg around town and as much as 30 highway if it is held to 70 mph or less; however, it doesn't like to go that slowly.

I am also wondering why there are no diesel hybrids on the road yet. Seems like a diesel operating in its most efficient range keeping a battery charged would be ideal.

Nicole C.

My first car was a 1992 Geo Metro. It averaged 50+ mpg and ran great. I'm an aggressive driver and had no problems with zipping around. I loved filling my tank, because it never cost me more than $10 (more like $25 now) to fill, and all my girlfriends would chip in. We used to joke when we heard the motor rev up that it sounded like an overtaxed Suzuki motorcycle. Now I drive a 2000 Chevy Malibu (I'm a Chevy Girl) with an average 25-30 mpg, and still have plenty of room for my family of five (for now) and plenty of zippy power. I will probably buy a Chevy Flex Fuel vehicle next. My husband drives a vehicle for a living, and that is where the gas bill hurts. I wish there would be more of a push to make service and transportation vehicles more fuel-efficient. Even with equipment maintenance allowance, there are still costs that are not recouped. Americans use more fuel transporting goods and services than in recreational or commuting driving. We need to have more efficient engineering of roadways and major transportation routes.

tim

My brother had a Chevy Caprice (a pretty big car) in the 1980s that had a small V-8 with an automatic transmission, and he was getting 28 mpg back then. For some strange reason, the mpg has gone down ever since. There was no real effort made by the government (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or Bush) to keep automakers upping the mpg on cars and SUVs. CAFE standards have not been increased, and SUVs and pickups should have been included. The only way to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels is to tax them out of existence. Look at cigarettes. It's amazing that over the past century, nothing great has been done to replace or eliminate the internal combustion engine. Hybrids, while interesting, have their own environmental issues, and they are pricey. Hydrogen, while clean, is difficult to produce and store. Hydrogen fuel cells may be the answer, yet there should be investment tax credits lining up to help marshal in a new technology and the infrastructure to support it.

Dan

Diesel is great, but I live in the North, and when the temperature drops below 0, ultralow sulfur diesel turns into Jell-O. All the additives on the market solve the problem, but they just raise the sulfur content again.

Chuck T

In 1995, I bought a brand new 4-cylinder Geo Metro that served me for 240,000 miles, and I sold it when I bought our Ford Windstar. I was getting a good solid 40 mpg while I owned it. This "disposable" car cost me $9,000, and I got more than my money's worth from it. Shortly after I bought the Windstar, I wanted to buy another Metro so I could use it as my commuter car. I found out that the new cars were only being sold to car rental agencies and no longer to the general public. Now, you can't buy one anymore.

The only "luxury" item this car had was a basic radio. That's it. I wish I had it back. I could drive that thing forever, and it still cost me next to nothing to fill up the 10-gallon fuel tank. Why was such a popular and successful, not to mention economical, vehicle discontinued? My guess is the manufacturer, like so many others, was bribed by the oil companies. This was 1995 technology. Why can't we revert to it today?

Jon

I have a 2002 Toyota Prius.
Good News: It has averaged 48 mpg. We have driven through mountains and big hills. This makes the electric motor kick in with full torque. We could generally out-accelerate many cars going up hills.
Bad News: Between 60,000 and 90,000 miles the car had $5,000 worth of repairs and maintenance. It has gone through 12 tires. I have been stranded on the side of the road and spent more money fixing this car than the four previous vehicles I've owned combined. Corporate Toyota could care less, even though they openly admit my car does not measure up to what they consider "Toyota" quality.

Gabe

Big oil runs the world. We have had the technology to use green energy sources for 40 years. "The Man" just hasn't figured out how to stay filthy rich and satisfy all of our environmental concerns. Lately, they are figuring out that 10 gallons @ $3 is equal to 20 gallons @ $1.50. Hmm..let's raise the price of fuel by 200% and increase fuel economy by 50%, and we'll really get filthy rich. I, for one, would like to know who the people are who wield so much power over our destiny. The rich get richer.

Bobz

Hey Bob Eichoiz,
What will you say when you have to pay $2,500 or more for a new battery pack at 80,000 miles? They don't last forever. They're kinda like a cell phone; they need charging more often, then you have to buy a new battery.

Mike

All this talk about batteries ending up in the land fill is bull. Batteries used in automotive applications are recycled. Federal and state laws are in place to control the disposal of such E-waste. There’s more personal E-waste introduced into land fills from the “not in tune with the environment bonehead” who does nothing just because it’s inconvenient to separate such waste and take it to a free collection point. As far as hybrids are concerned, current technology is pricy and isn’t the long-term solution, but gas isn’t getting cheaper and global warming is on the rise. Purchasing this technology is a way to send a signal about how we affect our environment and how others affect it. It signals we are not satisfied with their decision-making performance in many areas. It also helps the environment, consumes fewer resources, and gives one some bragging rights. Too many people run there mouth (easy) and never take action toward change (hard).

David E Beaster

If you're only considering cost-benefit factors, naturally the existing technology will prevail. After all, it was much cheaper owning a horse than buying an automobile 100 years ago. Sometimes you need to do what is the right thing for the future. Hybrids' time is now, and the technology will continue to improve based on the demand for these cars. If the American auto companies can't compete (without heavy lobbying to get their own way), then according to the rules of capitalism, they should be allowed to die on the vine.

Paul

Everyone who suggests raising the cost of fuel is the answer has ignored the point that federal and state government make huge profits from gas taxes. How is raising those profits with higher fuel costs going to increase their desire to lead auto manufacturers to produce gas efficient vehicles? The simple fact is that Americans love to drive. Raising the cost of fuel is not going to break that habit, just like increasing the cost of cigarettes has failed to reduce the number of smokers in this country. We all make financial decisions in our best interest, and unfortunately until the cost of alternate-fuel vehicles is equal to or less than gasoline-driven vehicles, the mass population is not going to make the investment. I recently purchased a Honda Accord, and I passed on the hybrid version because it came at a $3,000 premium. I had to make a decision based upon how much I could afford to spend today—not whether or not I could recoup that money 4 or 5 years from now. I believe in the market economy, and as auto manufacturers continue to see increased desire from consumers for more fuel-efficient vehicles, they will endeavor to produce them. Demand will eventually lead to supply, without any intervention from the government. We cannot legislate ourselves into fuel-efficient vehicles. The market will take care of itself. Watch and see. The first auto manufacturer to produce an alternate-fuel car or truck, which leads the world in sales over any other make or model in its class, will start a tidal wave of similar production. It is only a matter of time.

Jeff

Stephen,
There are high mileage (relatively speaking) 6 and 7 passenger vehicles available, but only in Europe. Mazda sells an M5 over there that is a diesel mini-minivan and seats 6 and gets 38.7 mpg if I remember correctly.

They were supposed to start selling it here this year (or last) but had to delay it because of new stricter emissions standards for diesels.

Here's a list someone had posted of European vehicles with high mileage. Many are smaller than the American public will buy, because of the relatively low gas prices here (Someone said they were paying $6.70/gallon when visiting Europe.), and the diesels aren't being sold here until they can reengineer them for our more stringent air pollution standards.

Honda Insight 2 seater (petrol) 80.0 mpg
Citroen C1 1398 M5 (diesel) 68.9 mpg
Toyota Aygo 1.4 D-4D 3 & 5 door (diesel) 68.9 mpg
Citroen C2 1398 M5 (diesel) 65.7 mpg
Citroen C3 1398 A5 (diesel) 65.7 mpg
FIAT Panda 1248 M5 (diesel) 65.7 mpg
Vauxhall Corsa 1248 MTA5 (diesel) 65.6 mpg
Audi A2 1422 M5 (diesel) 64.2 mpg
FORD Fiesta 1560 M5 (diesel) 64.2 mpg
Smart Forfour 1493 S/A6 (diesel) 64.2 mpg
Peugeot 206 1398 M5 (diesel) 64.1 mpg
Renault Clio 1461 M5 (diesel) 64.2 mpg
Citroen C3 1560 M5 (diesel) 64.2 mpg
Vauxhall Corsa 1248 M5 (diesel) 64.2 mpg
Hyundai Getz 1493 M5 (diesel) 62.8 mpg
Fiat Grande Punto 1248 M5 (diesel) 62.8 mpg
Ford Fiesta 1399 M5 (diesel) 62.8 mpg
Ford Fusion 1399 M5 (diesel) 62.8 mpg
Ford Fusion 1560 M5 (diesel) 62.8 mpg
Toyota Yaris 1364 5MT or Multi5 (diesel) 62.8 mpg
Renault Modus 1461 A5 or M5 (diesel) 62.6 mpg
Peugeot 206 SW 1398 M5 (diesel) 62.7 mpg
Peugeot 207 1398 M5 (diesel) 62.7 mpg
Peugeot 207 1560 M5 diesel) 62.7 mpg
Renault Megane 1461 M5 (diesel) 62.8 mpg
Citroen C1 998 M5 (petrol) 61.4 mpg
Toyota Aygo 998 M5 or Multi5 (petrol) 61.4 mpg
Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i 3 & 5 door (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Peugeot 107 1.0 (petrol) 61.3 mpg
Renault Modus 1.5 dCi 80 (JP0D05) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Mitsubishi Colt 1.5 AMT (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Skoda Fabia Hatch 1.4 TDI PD (75 bhp) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Skoda Fabia Estate 1.4 TDI PD (75 bhp) (diesel)61.4 mpg
Renault Clio MY 20061.5 dCi (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Ford Fusion 1.6 Duratorq TDCi (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Seat New Ibiza 1.4 TDI (80 PS) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
VW Polo 1.4 TDI PD (80 PS) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Nissan Micra 1.5 3/5 door (65 PS) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Honda Civic Hybrid 1.4 IMA ES (petrol) 61.4 mpg
Suzuki Swift 1.3 GLZ 3 door DDiS (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Vauxhall Corsa MY2005 1.3CDTi 16v5Door (diesel)61.4 mpg
Vauxhall Astra MY2005 1.7CDTi 16v 5Door(diesel)61.4 mpg
Smart Fortwo 698 SM6 (petrol) 60.1 mpg
Daihatsu Charade 989 M5 (petrol) 58.9 mpg
Vauxhall Corsa Corsa 998 MTA5 (petrol) 58.8 mpg
Smart Roadster 698 A6 (petrol) 57.6 mpg
Daihatsu Sirion 998 M5 (petrol) 56.5 mpg

ray

I almost bought a hybrid when I was looking for a decent car 2 years ago, but the unknown of the batteries in them made me go out and get a conventional car. Since my wife had a Hyundai Elantra and I saw the gas mileage on her car, I went out and got me a Sonata, V-6. I get 29 mpg at 70 mph, plenty of pep, and a very roomy interior (I'm 6'4"). Bottom line, I saved thousands of dollars over the price of a hybrid and still get the gas mileage I want. Europe has more than 300 models of cars that get upward of 40 mpg that are made or subsidized by America's automakers, so why can't the American public get them here? Money, money, money, greed.

duke

As the owners of a Prius for over a year who qualified for the $3,150 tax credit, we enjoy waiting at a traffic light with the engine off! And it stops when the brakes are applied, while the motor becomes a generator to recover the kinetic energy of the mass of car and contents. A final advantage of this vehicle is it is not required to have an emissions test. That is a fourteen buck cost that I will not miss.

Our real fuel savers are our two bikes. Push bikes, not motorized. They get many miles and keep us in shape as well. We used to commute on them about 8 miles each way before we retired. Fitness and health were rewards.
Finally, the hidden hazard is that if one's income triggers the AMT, the credit is no longer available. Rotten tax laws have unforeseen effects. BTW, the credit is now half as much and will become a quarter as much next week, I think.

Finally, only the consumer benefits from higher fuel economy. Oil companies, fuel dealers, governments, car dealers, and manufacturers all earn or tax more when we burn more fuel.

Dennis

I bought a 2007 Prius (traded in a 2006 Corolla) in December 2006. I have 3,600 miles on it, averaging right at 50 mpg and climbing, about 70% highway at 60 to 70 mph vs. 35 mpg in the Corolla. I bought it because of the feel-good factor (environment), the "cool" factor, and because I happen to like its looks and how it drives. And it's amazing how good I feel about sitting at a stoplight or inching along in a traffic jam knowing I'm not burning fuel. It's a fun car, although not a sports car, and gets the same mileage as the 1986 Chevy Sprint I bought new and drove to 140,000. If the carburetor on that one hadn't cratered and I couldn't find one or get it fixed, I'd probably still have it. I've been very disappointed by the American manufacturers' not producing cars like the Sprint/Metro over the last several years. I was very excited about the Yaris when I read about it in Europe, but that's not the version we get here. The carmakers supply what the majority of the people want, and the rest get left out. And yes, the Prius did cost three times as much as the Sprint, although 20 years later. There are various reasons people buy a hybrid, and saving money isn't high on the list. Does anyone else notice, here and everywhere else in the world, that those who have hybrids almost always like them very much and would buy another? I really like mine so far.

Nemo Del Rotten

You failed to mention the Prius hybrid, which I believe gets 60 miles a gallon. I believe that is a money saver to be had. All this talk of 27 miles a gallon isn't even what the hybrid generation is about. It's as if you blatantly ignored the fact that some models out there exist, and used crummy new models to blemish the existence of the hybrid effort.

Chris

Just drove 1,200 miles to buy a hybrid—hard to find a used one in Idaho. I went from a 2004 Nissan Xtrerra that got 18 mpg if I was lucky, to a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid averaging 33 mpg; it can hit 36 depending on my mood. I don’t see how doubling your gas mileage is not a good thing. With my hybrid, I went from more than $200 a month on gas to less than $100. Who wants a diesel? They’re loud. Another thing to think about is hybrids save more money when you don't race everywhere. If you have a lead foot, nothing will save you on gas.

jdcheng

It's interesting to see the pro and con arguments regarding hybrids, and I find myself having to add my own $0.02.

1) Hybrids will save gasoline, to a point. Batteries do have a finite life expectancy; just ask any corporate laptop owners how often they replace theirs. Oh, and conversion to plug-in hybrids, with their deeper cycles, will decrease that life span even further.

2) Expansion of hybrids outside of the small passenger car makes little sense from an environmental point of view. Having a 6,500-lb hybrid SUV for a single driver makes less sense than having a 3,000-lb conventional car. The energy to manufacture the rest seriously dilutes the potential gas savings of any vehicle that large—especially when the efficiency of the battery declines over time and becomes dead weight.

3) Currently, we do have a system in place to recycle automotive (read: lead-acid) batteries, as well as NiCd, because of the toxicity issues. We don't currently have the capacity to recycle lithium or NiMH on a U.S.-automotive-market-sized scale. And as the global availability of nickel is already near capacity (nickel prices are already higher), we would need a massive recycling effort to recover nickel out of the waste stream to improve that, if we continue to use NiMH in hybrids.

4) All those people claiming the tax, HOV, and parking benefits of a hybrid don't realize that this "benefit" will go away (and some are already) if hybrids ever make a 1% penetration into the U.S. auto market. Even California has stopped issuing HOV stickers to many hybrid owners (now have mpg requirements).

5) Those willing to pay more for hybrids do espouse a noble sentiment—one that I applaud. However, for the mass market, I'm not sure that those who presently drive 8-, 10-, 12-, or 14-year-old cars (and don't tell me we should just scrap all the old cars) will be willing to pay $1,200-$2,400 for a new battery pack; most likely, they will keep the current nonfunctional one, and the hybrid benefit will disappear.

6) Anyone who complains about diesels isn't aware of the newer developments in CRD fuel injection and emissions technology.

7) Bottom line: Any talk of reducing reliance on fossil fuels (regardless of source) will require a total-system reengineering, and that would mean greater telecommuting, changes in electricity infrastructure, and mass transit—not just hybrids. Yes, you may burn less gas parked on a California freeway, but you are still less efficient than moving in mass transit.

Unfortunately, any remedy will require significant political will to change America's car-centric culture.

Tim

Hybrids? Diesels? Something a lot more interesting might be coming for those of us who want to save on money and really reduce greenhouse gases. There is now a car on sale in Europe that works with compressed air. You can check it out at www.theaircar.com. It gets 200 miles on $2 or less of electricity

Larry Heaton

First, in the majority of cases, a personal vehicle (which by my definition is a somewhat organized pile of necessary junk) is not an investment.

Second, before purchasing my 2005 Prius, I owned a 1997 Ford Contour. It got an overall 27 mpg (I keep a record of all the gas I use). My Prius gets an overall mileage of 42 mpg. I believe that is more than a 50% increase in mpg. Now if every true American (I have not quite made that category) would purchase a vehicle that gets even 25% more miles to the gallon, the next time they trade, I—dumb as I am—would think that would make a significant difference in our overall needs in 5 to 10 years. I'll let the math boys figure that out.

Third, that argument about paying a premium for the hybrid and taking X number of years to pay it off is crap. If you can't afford $2,000 to $3,000 more for a greener, higher-mileage vehicle, then you should be looking at bicycles.—:Larry

William

To comment on the person who needs power in a vehicle because of country living, why not go the whole nine yards and ride a horse? That's how country folks got around before, right?

Mark D. MacLachlan

I purchased a 2005 Prius and love it. For $2.68, I was able to go to radio shack and purchase a push button that puts the vehicle into all electric mode. Instructions are out on the Internet, and it only takes about 1 hour to install. There are third-party add-ons that install in minutes. I love my hybrid so much we purchased a 2006 Toyota Hylander hybrid for my wife. It does not get as good a mileage as my Prius, but it is an economical way to have an SUV (which I need for pulling a trailer occasionally). Historically, I have always owned cars built by the Big Three U.S. manufacturers. They missed the boat on hybrids and have probably lost a customer forever. I can't wait for the plug-in hybrid modifications to come down in price. I will gladly go that route.

James Troscinski

I think that if the auto companies just stop selling vehicles in California alone, the pollution problem would be solved.

I am from Michigan and will try my hardest to not buy anything from these states involved in this politically motivated assault on American manufacturing.

As a scientist who still believes in the truth, I say none of this will stop any global warming or cooling.

jdcheng

Larry and Mark,
I'd be aware of how battery life span figures into your comparisons. Batteries degrade over time, and I'm not sure the efficiencies you get while they're new will be the same efficiencies you'll see in 5 to 10 years. Those efficiencies will drop significantly faster if you go the plug-in route, as driving pattern will deep-cycle the batteries more (something the current Toyota system tries to avoid).

Case in point: My 3-year-old IBM laptop has half the battery life it did when it was new, and I could get a newer laptop for only six times the price of a new battery pack (two batteries). I'm not sure everyone would be willing to pay $2,000 for a battery on a $12,000 car.

Marty Porter- Cookeville, TN

The best currently available technology today would be a plug-in diesel electric hybrid. I understand the diesel electric hybrids are available in Europe. We need those cars in the USA, with a plug-in upgrade. Those of us who run mostly highway miles would just drop the plug-in hybrid option--we don't need it, and it would be of no benefit to us.

Diesel engines with their higher torque and better fuel economy--and now with ultralow sulfur diesel--combined with the new fuel rail technology can offer plenty of power in a much smaller displacement engine than a gasoline engine, while being as clean as gasoline. If powered by biodiesel the energy cycle should be carbon-neutral.

A major opportunity that needs to be explored is the production of biodiesel from algae. We already know it can be down, but like hydrogen, may not be economically feasible. Although I've read that ultimately the entire fuel needs of the USA could be derived from algae-produced oils, and again should be carbon-neutral. The current pipeline infrastructure can be used to transport biodiesel, while ethanol cannot be used in the current pipelines and must be trucked or railed everywhere, which is much less efficient. Ethanol is a buy-off for predominately Republican constituents, and I can say that because I am one.

Hydrogen is a pipe dream at this point. Not saying we shouldn't research it, but it's not economically feasible at this point, and may never be, but you extreme environmentalists can keep dreaming about it. The economics are the driving factor. Save-the-planet slogans alone won't drive consumer choices.

Thanks for reading.

jerry rubin

Every gas saved is a war not fought. Every gas vapor not expelled is a child without asthma. That is why all of my family and some neighbors all have Toyota Priuses.

R Couturier

The problem with any fossil energy consumed by a car is that it creates distributed, hence unrecoverable pollution. The hydrogen fuel cell or the pure electric is exempt of pollution at the car level. But fortunately they would allow to displace the the creation of pollution to concentrated locations, the power plants, where it becomes possible to trap polluting elements of all sorts. Until the fuel-cell car gets its supporting infrastructure, and until batteries are developed to revive the appeal of the pure electric car, the best interim solution is the plug-in hybrid. With a sizable segment of the population living day-to-day routines, going to work, and back home, the operation of the cars in that segment should be essentially electric, hence polluting only at the factory that produces that electricity.

It seems to me that the reluctance of car manufacturers to produce plug-in hybrids may be their yielding to the pressures of the oil industry, seeing the consumption of gasoline falling overnight to more than one third.

samuelson76

One way or another, it's clear people should buy cars with reasonable engines: low consumption and good performance; or a hybrid car.

Jun

I had an '87 Renault Alliance that cost $6k brand new back in the mid '80s. On a bad day, I could get only 45 miles per gallon. Whatever happened to the economical cars they made back then? And they're not even hybrid.

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