High hopes remain for hybrids
Wiesenfelder points out that these EPA figures are almost consistently wrong. "They don't accurately tell you what gas mileage you're going to get and consumers don't tend to know what their fuel economy is -- they think in terms of how often they fill up instead of how much fuel they are burning."
a hybrid may be the right thing to do, but
it probably won't save you money in the
-- Joe Wiesenfelder, senior editor, Cars.com.
Savvy consumers who follow these ratings
will be pleased to know that the EPA has introduced
mileage-calculation system that applies
to all 2008 model-year vehicles. The hope
is that these standards will force manufacturers
to lower their efficiency claims on their
hybrid vehicles, and therefore provide a more
accurate mileage representation for consumers.
Still, hybrids don't make sense for everyone. "A lot of it depends on one's individual driving habits," Wiesenfelder says.
Hybrids are much more efficient for city driving than they are on
the highways. Wiesenfelder notes that street
driving makes the most of capturing that energy
that is then transformed into electricity,
which recharges the batteries and increases
the number of miles that are traveled per
gallon of gasoline. Hybrids actually perform
best when idling or stuck in traffic; in contrast,
speeding, hard braking and hard acceleration
will not help even a hybrid driver from paying
more visits to the gas pump. The uncertain
cost of replacing those battery packs several
years down the road also may eat into any
Can hybrids save the planet?
Ultimately, people buy hybrids for reasons
other than lowering their gas costs. "People
buy cars for psychological reasons. They buy
cars that make them feel good," says
Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and
executive market analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
"Hybrids are no different -- people buy
these cars because of their environmental
and geopolitical beliefs."
A recent survey of Toyota Prius owners backs
up Nerad's claim. More than 50 percent of
Prius owners surveyed by CNW Marketing Research
this spring said their primary motivation
for buying the Prius was, "It makes a
statement about me." Only a third of
Prius owners cited that reason just three
years ago, according to CNW, which tracks
the buying trends of consumers.
Of course, there are other environmentally
friendly answers to achieving higher fuel
economy, such as not using foreign sources
of oil and using clean diesel and ethanol,
Nerad says. While the market analyst says
he's pro-hybrid, he's not wearing rose-colored
glasses. "I respect the engineering and
the reasons to consider hybrids,'' says Nerad.
"I think people are buying them for good