Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Truth About Hybrids

Not so great after all? Thetruthaboutcars.com claims:

Few people realize that a hybrid’s power train adds roughly 10% to the weight of a car. Even fewer realize that manufacturers try to offset the weight penalty-- and add to the hybrid’s headline-grabbing mileage figures-- by the extensive use of non-hybrid gas-saving technology. Engine shut-off at idle, electric power steering, harder and reduced rolling resistance tires (at the expense of comfort and traction), reduced option content, reduced engine performance, and, in the case of the Ford, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) all help raise the cars’ overall efficiency.

Of course, if gas mileage is the ultimate goal, all of these strategies could be applied to a “standard” car. A non-hybrid model with the equivalent modifications would significantly narrow the mileage gap with its hybrid sibling. In fact, in normal use, the margin between truly comparable hybrid and non-hybrid cars could be less than 10%-- hardly enough to justify the extra purchase price. And, lest we forget, the hybrid’s gas-saving advantage is not without its own particular environmental costs…

Of course, none of these gas-saving technologies ARE applied to non-hybrid cars, so some of this point is moot.



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