Are Hybrids Bunk?

By on May 21, 2008

Our friends at Jalopnik had themselves a hot Question Of The Day today that dovetails nicely with a recent discussion here at Gadgetopia; Are Hybrids Bunk? Some pretty opinionated opining going on there. Hybrids in general — and the Prius in particular — are like Macs in a way; they’re either loved or hated by most people, and many who love them can be pretty rabid about it.

I guess I’d fall into the hate column on this subject. My thought is that today’s hybrids are a waste; basically over-teched toys that return a miniscule increase in gas mileage from a comparatively massive increase in complexity and cost. To me a true hybrid would be a much better solution — an electric motor driving the wheels with a small bank of batteries to hold enough of a charge to get you up to speed, and a small gas or diesel motor driving a generator to provide enough power for cruising speeds & keep the batteries topped off. Same concept as a modern diesel electric railroad locomotive, just scaled down a bit.

So, how about you? Do today’s hybrid vehicles do anything for you? Are they the greatest thing since the threshing machine, a transitional step on the way to something better, or are they a total joke? Or are we about to get into a bloody war of words over the previous paragraph?

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  1. I’m with you. The current crop of hybrids are a fad.

    To get me excited, mileage would have to get into the 50s at the least, and really into the 60s to consider switching.

    We were talking yesterday about how people get excited about mileage in the low 40s, like with the Smart Car. I don’t understand this when you can get into the high 30s now from a Toyota Corolla or a Yaris, and that would probably rise to the 40s if you drive conservatively. You can get either of those for about $10K.

    Alexanda Paul (of Baywatch fame) is a big environmentalist and wrote a column promoting plug-in hybrids. She wrote this about the Prius (a gas hybrid):

    Am I supposed to be amazed when a car gets 43 miles per gallon?

    She has a point. As we wrote the other day, Geos were getting 46 mpg in 1996, and little Civics were getting around that in the 1980s.

  2. My ’92 Miata gets 32 mpg and is a blast to drive.

    I’m not that impressed with the mileage a Prius gets either. The thing that I think is really stupid is the GMC Yukon Hybrid, or a $105,000 Lexus Hybrid. Why do you need a hybrid if you can spend six figures on a car? Can’t afford the gas?

  3. My daughter’s 1995 Civic DX can get 50mpg with the AC running (with her at the wheel; my lead foot probably wouldn’t fare that well).

    Somebody on the Jalopnik thread said that the Civic is more of a mid-size car these days, and the same is true of a lot of used-to-be efficient models. Cars have gotten fatter in the last 15 years, yet it seems the manufacturers haven’t done much to make the engines more efficient. I know they were doing what the buying public wanted them to do, but still, a steady increase in efficiency should’ve been at least an afterthought. Now they play catchup, and try to sell us hybrids as a stopgap.

    And Jason is absolutely right; anybody that can spend six figures on a hybrid luxocruiser is only doing it to impress his buddies at the club.

  4. To me the importance in hybrids is not so much in the actual gas savings but in showing car manufactures that there is actually a market for this, and that there is money to be made by thinking not just about bigger more powerful engines, but also about fuel-efficiency.

    It’s a very small step in the right direction.

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