Thursday, April 20, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green

Saw a story on the NYtimes this morning about hybrid cars. This is something that I've been noticing over the last year or two; the over-glorification of hybrid technology instead of fuel efficiency as the real goal. As the writer of this article states, "As consumers and governments at every level climb onto the hybrid bandwagon, there is the very real danger of elevating the technology at the expense of the intended outcome — saving gas."

image from the always hilarious

He makes several worthy points about some of the tax breaks and benefits being proposed by Congress for drivers of hybrids, like solo hybrid drivers in the carpool lane, special parking spots, and huge tax credits for those that purchase them. So if you bought a brand new hyrbid that got 20 miles a gallon, you'd get huge benefits that you wouldn't if you merely had a Honda Civic that gets 40 miles a gallon. Isn't fuel efficiency supposed to be the point? The article states:
But just because a car has so-called hybrid technology doesn't mean it's doing more to help the environment or to reduce the country's dependence on imported oil any more than a nonhybrid car. The truth is, it depends on the hybrid and the nonhybrid cars you are comparing, as well as on how you use the vehicles. There are good hybrids and bad ones. Fuel-efficient conventional cars are often better than hybrid S.U.V.'s — just look at how many miles per gallon the vehicle gets.

Lately, right-minded people have been calling me and telling me they're thinking about buying the Lexus 400H, a new hybrid S.U.V. When I tell them that they'd get better mileage in some conventional S.U.V.'s, and even better mileage with a passenger car, they protest, "But it's a hybrid!" I remind them that the 21 miles per gallon I saw while driving the Lexus is not particularly brilliant, efficiency-wise — hybrid or not. Because the Lexus 400H is a relatively heavy car and because its electric motor is deployed to provide speed more than efficiency, it will never be a mileage champ.

I hope people are paying attention to columns like this one. Creating incentives for reducing car trips and increasing fuel efficiency should be the goal, rather than spending tons of money to get a brand new car that has big chrome "HYBRID" lettering on the back, letting everyone know how "green" you are.

Read the rest of the story. (login required, try