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~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0004 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [email@example.com]
In This Issue:
— Is the American Automobile Association (AAA) Evil?
Did you know that AAA works as a pro-highway, anti-environmental lobbyist.
— Hybrids and EPA Fuel Economy Numbers
Stories about disappointing fuel economy for hybrids are hitting the press.
— Interview Excerpts from Hybrid Cars eBook
Quick quotes from Walter McManus from J.D. Powers, Sam Williams of the Prius Yahoo Group, and Dave Hermance from Toyota. McManus says, “hybrid drivers have a level of education higher than any group of car drivers that I’ve ever seen.”
— Competing Technologies – Hydrogen, Clean Diesel, and Full Electric
Hydrogen is at least twenty years away. Diesel exhaust causes cancer. And full electric programs from major car makers are dead.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The last several weeks have been a whirlwind of activity related to hybrid cars: gas prices are up and hybrid cars are in the news. Please accept my apologies for the long delay in sending out this latest issue of the Hybrid Cars Newsletter. During the delay, I’ve been very busy researching and creating content for hybridcars.com. In this issue, I’ll guide you to and through new pages on the site, and share some of the insight I’ve gained in the process.
The most time-consuming aspect of this research has been the completion of nine interviews with leaders in the field of hybrid cars. I’ve spoken with an automobile market researcher, a scientific specialist in clean transportation, the moderator of the Prius Yahoo group, the North American lead of Toyota’s hybrid program, and others.
I’m working to edit transcripts of these interviews into an easy-to-read downloadable book for the site. That’s taking some time, but I hope I can offer this “Hybrid Car eBook” sometime this summer. Let me know if you would spend ten bucks for about one hundred pages of great content about hybrid cars, how they work, who’s buying them, and where the technology is going.
Copenhagen and Its Free Bikes
This newsletter is delayed also because I went on a two-week vacation to Denmark. The streets of Copenhagen have large abundant bike lanes. It was wonderful to see people of all ages getting around town (and getting great exercise). As gas prices in the U.S. continue to climb toward European levels, it will be a great challenge for Americans to give up their large cars and switch to healthier ways to get around.
Copenhagen may serve as a good case study on how a city can provide the means for this change. For example, all across the city, you see bike kiosks that allow you to deposit a tenty-krone coin (about three bucks) and remove a one-speed bike from a chain (hooked up like a shopping cart). Use the bike as long as you like. When you reach your destination, return your bike to the kiosk, chain it back up, and get your three dollars back. That could never work in the U.S., right? Well, our congested polluted streets, loaded with drivers with “road-rage”, aren’t working either.
Is AAA Evil?
The challenge of reducing the number of cars and highways, and increasing greener alternatives, is not helped when you have powerful lobbyists pressuring Congress to keep building those roads instead of seeking more innovative environmentally friendly alternatives. I just learned that AAA, the American Automobile Association, works as a pro-highway, anti-environmental lobbyist. Even though they are a not-for-profit, they function like any other big business, selling billions of dollars worth of goods and services.
I just stopped my AAA membership for roadside service and went with the Better World Club, which provides the same roadside emergency services while donating money to environmental causes instead of lobbying against them. I spoke with the folks at the Better World Club, who are adding a free extra month of roadside assistance service to readers of this newsletter and hybridcars.com. Use this promotional code when you sign up: HDCR0312
> Read more about what’s wrong with AAA
Is this some sinister plot to deceive hybrid car buyers who might expect to get sixty-plus mpg? Luckily, the May issue of Motor Trend explained how the EPA testing works, and why all cars—not just hybrids—don’t get the EPA numbers. Hybrid drivers are buying their cars for the big fuel economy numbers, so they care when the numbers don’t stack up. And the hybrids apparently are more subject to variables not considered in the EPA evaluation. The bottom line is that you should expect these average numbers (approximately):
- 40 mpg for the Honda Civic Hybrid
- Mid-40s mpg for the Prius
- 50 mpg for the Honda Insight
> See a summary of the Motor Trend article
> Read about the four reasons not to buy a hybrid
Interview Excerpts from Hybrid Cars eBook: Who’s buying hybrids?
As I mentioned in the intro, I’m editing my recent interviews for the hybridcars.com. I thought you might like to see a few of the excerpts.
Walter McManus, Executive Director of Global Forecasting, J.D. Powers and Associates, on the average hybrid car buyer:
“Today, the folks who buy hybrid cars and those that intend to buy them—and I can say this because I have a PhD.—tend to be over-educated. They have a level of education higher than any group of car drivers that I’ve ever seen. They have higher income, much higher than the average car buyer—like $100,000 a year versus $85,000 a year. They’re more likely to be female. They’re actually a few years older than the average car buyer. The average is like forty something. They tend to drive fewer miles on average. Probably the most distinguishing feature is that they are willing to pay more for a green product.”
Sam Williams, Prius Yahoo Group Moderator, on the average Prius driver:
“Prius owners, I find, tend to be very interesting people—interested in a lot of different things. They get these cars not just as a means to get from one place to another. Some of them are making a statement. For some of them, me included, it’s very practical as a brilliant technology. It just makes a lot of sense to recover energy when you step on the brakes and to get high mileage.”
Dave Hermance, Toyota’s Executive Engineer for Environmental Engineering on the possibility of a car running 80 or 90 miles per gallon:
“It’s unlikely that you can get thermodynamically to 80 or 90 miles to the gallon with gasoline. You might be able to do it with diesel and hybridization. But you’ll probably wind up doing it in a much lighter vehicle. Right now the U.S. market will not embrace it. They won’t go for fuel economy, and they won’t embrace any compromise of the performance level they’re getting today. In fact, they want more performance with each successive model. So the probability of doing that in the U.S. market is not high; in some other markets, perhaps. Toyota, in all the markets it sells in, is market-driven, and the U.S. market is fairly clearly saying, ‘we don’t give a damn about fuel economy,’ with some exceptions.”
Competing Technologies – Hydrogen, Clean Diesel, and Full Electric
I’m adding pages to hybridcars.com that give an overview of automotive technologies that might give hybrids a run for their money. After re-reading all the interviews, and spending hours on research, I still feel that hybrids are the way to go. Here’s what I learned about hydrogen, clean diesel, and full electrics. Soon, I’ll be adding pages about plug-in hybrids and ethanol.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell – A May 2004 feature story in Scientific American concludes that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are a long way off, will cost more to produce, will be a lot less safe and will ultimately be dirtier. The creation of the hydrogen fuel (via burning coal, for example) will be responsible for more overall greenhouse gas emissions than conventional internal combustion engines.
Full Electric – Ford, GM, Honda, and Toyota have all scrapped their "EV" programs, saying there’s just no market for electric cars. At a mock funeral for their electric cars, a group of EV drivers expressed their condolences. One participant said, "unfortunately, very few Americans had a chance to drive an electric car before it was canceled."
Clean Diesel – Diesel vehicles are very efficient, but they are a lot dirtier. In fact, the American Lung Association published reports showing that diesel exhaust is listed as a known carcinogen, and is a powerful respiratory irritant that may lead to shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, and coughing. The tiniest diesel particles are thought to penetrate deeper into the lungs and pose greater noncancer health risks than the larger particles.
Well, that’s it for this issue. I hope you found some interesting information. With the release of the Ford Escape Hybrid coming in July, I’ll be working on pulling together as much solid information about the Escape, the Lexus SUV hybrid, and the Highlander SUV for the next issue. As always, thanks for your interest, and please send feedback about the site and newsletter. In the meantime, think seriously about dropping AAA.
Until the next time, happy driving.
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