Save Gas by Avoiding Hybrids?

Hybrids have become trendy because their two power sources—a gasoline engine and an electric motor—are touted as reducing carbon dioxide emissions and dependence on foreign oil. But do they? It depends a lot on your driving. If your driving is mostly around town, where the electric motor is most efficient and does most of the work, the Toyota Prius, which started the hybrid craze, really does get 40 or more miles per gallon. But Automobile Magazine found that Prius mileage “plummeted” on the Interstate, where it ran mostly on gasoline. If your driving is mostly on highways, you might save gas—as well as several thousand dollars—by buying a conventionally powered auto. According to Jamie Lincoln Kitman, a professional car tester, some hybrids, such as the Lexus 400H, do not even get mileage as good as conventional SUVs, and perform even poorer compared to regular passenger cars.

At highway speeds, hybrids are programmed to run mostly on their gasoline engines. They cannot be programmed otherwise because higher speeds quickly deplete the batteries. The two energy sources add extra weight, which not only diminishes the mileage obtained but also diminishes space for passengers and cargo.

Mr. Kitman concludes: “Pro-hybrid laws and incentives sound nice, but they might just end up subsidizing companies that have failed to develop truly fuel-efficient vehicles at the expense of those that have had the foresight to design their cars right in the first place.”

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