The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 23, 2004

Features


Hybrid Cars: a Breed Apart

(Part 1 of 2)

Quiz: What car won the Motor Trend 2004 Car of the Year Award?
1. BMW Z4
2. Cadillac XLR
3. Jaguar XJ8/XJR
4. Toyota Prius (hybrid)

(see below for answer)

Personal transportation decisions warrant special concern because of the huge environmental impact of automobiles. When buying a car, make sure it is the right size and the most fuel-efficient (and therefore usually the least polluting) in its class. Every gallon of gasoline burned up in an automobile engine emits 20 pounds of CO2 .

Hybrid gasoline-electric car sales have been zooming lately, so expect long waiting lists. The small gas engine and the electric motor work in combination to provide better fuel economy and much cleaner emissions than a conventional gasoline engine. Hybrids recharge their batteries during braking, so they never need to be plugged in. The batteries provide extra acceleration , and allow the gasoline motor to shut off whenever the car stops. Unlike old electric cars, hybrids can go normal highway speeds. Surprisingly, most owners cite the car's drivability (handling, technology, style), not high gas mileage, as the number one reason they like their car (according to www.hybridcars.com.)

Currently, three models of hybrids are available: the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, and Honda Insight. The 2004 Toyota Prius, a five-seater getting 51/60 mpg, was named Motor Trend's 2004 Car of the Year (answer to quiz). Compared to the 2003 Prius, it is slightly larger, has better acceleration, and even gets higher gas mileage. The newer Honda Civic hybrid five-seat sedan, first out as a 2003 model, gets 46/51 mpg. AutoWeek magazine has called it "America's Best Economy Car." The Honda Insight, a two-seat coupe with a lightweight aluminum-alloy body, gets 60/66 mpg. All three of these models take regular unleaded gasoline, and have a base price of about $20,000. As an extra incentive, hybrid car owners qualify for a one-time $2,000 Clean-Fuel Vehicle federal tax deduction.

For SUV lovers, Ford will start selling the hybrid Escape SUV at the end of 2004. It will have the same features as the current conventional V-6 Escape (e.g., acceleration, cargo capacity) while achieving 35 mpg during city driving instead of the current 19 mpg. To show support for this first domestic hybrid venture, sign up at www.fordvehicles.com/escapehybrid. The Lexus RX 330 small luxury SUV is to be sold in late 2004, when hybrid pickup trucks will likely be released also.

To tell automakers to make more fuel-efficient cars, take the "clean car pledge" at http://actionnetwork.org/campaign/clean_car_pledge.


2004 The Carlisle Mosquito