Iain Murray, in a more than slightly peculiar column for Tech Central Station, reports on (or perceives) something of a consumer backlash on hybrid gas-electric automobiles, such as the Honda Civic hybrid, the upcoming Ford Escape hybrid SUV and my own beloved Toyota Prius. Hybrid adopters, Murray says, are "very different from conventional car owners" in Green, eco-pessimistic, Al Gore-like ways (note the grinchy-green-Gore graphic that accompanies the story) for which he cites a recent J.D. Power report:
'Issues on which the owners of hybrid-electric cars hold extreme positions are: interest in helping reduce vehicle pollution, willingness to pay extra for "green" products, and thinking of oneself as an avid recycler. Owners of hybrid-electric cars also have the most extreme expectations that fuel prices will be higher in the future.'
[Funny, that's not what I saw when I looked in the mirror this morning.] Murray goes on to suggest that the claimed mileage gains through hybrid technology are overstated:
[E]ven those who already own hybrid electric vehicles are beginning to turn restive. It seems, for instance, that the owners are simply not getting the fuel efficiency they thought they were buying. John DiPietro, a road test editor of the automotive website Edmunds.com, explained in a recent article on wired.com ("Hybrid Mileage Comes Up Short", May 11, 2004) that hybrid drivers hardly ever experience the actual miles per gallon advertised by the EPA (Brock Yates alerted TCS readers to this issue back in 2002). Most automobiles would have actual miles per gallon performance of approximately 75 to 87 percent of the EPA's rating. However, data from Consumer Reports' extensive road tests suggest that the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius averaged well under 60 percent of the EPA's reported miles per gallon when operating on city streets. The Civic Hybrid was getting only 26 mpg in the city.
I'll let pass without comment the odd hairpin turn (to the left or the right you may judge for yourselves) that Murray skids into at the end of the column, in which the hybrid question as such is abandoned in favor of the assertion that "lack of access to affordable automobiles [is] contributing to the black-white employment differential".
Now, it is a fact universally acknowledged that one of the chief temptations lying in wait for proprietors of weblogs is to generalize shamelessly from personal experience. I am not immune to that temptation. Friends, for whatever it may be worth to you, I remain entirely pleased with my own 2001 model Prius, which is fast approaching its 39,000th mile and is averaging 46.5 miles to the gallon. I drive it up hill and down, running air conditioners, radios and even headlights, and have not found that it requires any peculiar driving techniques in order to achieve that mileage. I cannot speak to the merit or demerits of the Civic hybrid -- Honda's hybrid design approach differs significantly from Toyota's -- but the Prius is certainly worthy of your consideration. Consumer Reports has spoken highly of the current version of the Prius, and prefers it to the Honda. (Ford has built its Escape hybrid SUV around technology licensed from Toyota.)
Coming soon: the Hybrid Hummer, with something to appeal to everyone. It runs on a combination of gasoline and electric power, but the electricity will be provided by small nuclear plant in the trunk . . . .
Update 6/24/04: A somewhat revised version of Iain Murray's article is now available through The American Enterprise.