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03-11-2005 05:42 AM #1
Reality check- hybrids, fuel efficiency
Well, some people think hybrids are the greatest thing since sliced bread. And maybe they have a point . But let's get something straight. When you are driving a hybrid, you are not "saving the planet".
In Europe they have much higher fuel economy than the US on average. The average German car gets 40 miles per gallon. Yet they don't have many hybrids over there . The Prius has sold very poorly in Europe. So how do they get the good economy, then?
1) Smaller cars appropriate to their needs. Europeans don't buy a pickup just to drive to work. I lived in the UK in the late 80's and the only people with pickups lived in rural areas, and they never drove them for commuting. SUV's were nonexistant, except for some Land Rovers that a few people in rural areas or workers used (to actually haul things). Now days its pretty much the same.
A car about the same size as a Honda Civic is considered a "midsize" car in Europe. In the US, it's considered small, but in Europe it would be considered a family car. Cars the size of a Honda Insight are very common.
2) More efficient engines. Lean burn gasoline and diesel engines. And lots of turbochargers. Turbochargers aren't just for performance cars, they capture waste energy from the engine and enhance the efficiency. It's far more cost effective to build a turborcharged engine than to build a hybrid.
Also, it should be pointed out that riding a bus is far more energy efficient than driving a hybrid ever will be. Sure, not everybody wants to ride a bus, but you are saving more fuel and emiting less greenhouse gasses than driving around even in a hybrid.
So what's my point? Toyota has the Prius. It's got alot of technical gee whiz stuff. But if they were serious about "saving the planet", every car they built would be a hybrid. Instead, Toyota and other automakers want to use hybrids to raise their CAFE average so they can sell more gas guzzlers at a profit (Toyota even tried to petition CARB in California to let them offset Prius sales with more Land Cruiser and large SUV and truck sales- but they failed). Or they want to apply the HSD technology to gas guzzlers, and make them only a little less gas guzzling so they can meet CAFE standards while continuing to sell oversized, overweight, ill-handling SUV's to the public.
Prius is a big marketting plus for Toyota. It attracts customers to dealerships and gives Toyota a good image with the public, enhancing the prestige for every single car they sell. When they don't have a Prius on hand, they can always try to sell them something else, too. Again, if they were serious about selling cars with the HSD and inccreasing the fuel economy, they would be making lots of small hybrid cars, not SUV's. Instead, only a small fraction of all cars they make are hybrids. Their next planned hybrid is a large SUV that will consume more gas than many smaller cars or station wagons. Ford's first hybrid was a small SUV that barely gets the gas mileage of a small station wagon like the Toyota Matrix. Dodge's first "hybrids" were large trucks with very poor fuel economy. SUV's and trucks every where, but this is hardly energy efficiency. One guy driving to work in an overweight, overpowered hybrid car or SUV is not saving the planet.