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Dec 20, 2008

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008


If You Can Find a Better Hybrid...
Current mood: peeved

"...Buy It."

Ok, maybe that’s note quite what Lee Iacocca used to say.  But you know he would (if wasn’t off selling electric bicycles).  It was a silly thing to say on the face of it, of course there were better cars than the Chrysler K-cars with the ubiquitous (or is it iniquitous?) aluminum head 2.2.  But if I have to "Buy It", then I have to think about getting my money’s worth - is that other car really a better value?  So, in an odd step for a marketing campaign, Mr Iacocca actually invited rational evaluation!

Marketing folks typically don’t do this, especially with cars; especially when there’s a good fad going around.  The fad could be fins, or do-all off-road-capable SUVs, or it could go as far as a religious movement - like the new "green" economy.

Yes, my children, you no longer need to smear black ash on your forehead to display how ashamed you are for what you’re going to keep on doing after Lent, you can now paste a green logo on the hindquarters of your car to show that you are a bad person for daring to pursue expedient self-directed transportation.  You could also use that tag to show how you’re making a real change - but you probably aren’t.

Here’s a piece comparing two cars - one which tries to do everything at once, then apoligize for itself; the other stays more focused on its job, and uses lots of little techniques to do the job efficiently and well.

"Toyota Prius proves a gas guzzler in a race with the BMW 520d"
"The Toyota hybrid is hailed as an eco-paragon, so how does it fare against a big BMW? To find out our correspondents go on a run to Geneva.
The Prius, like the iPod, is more than a piece of clever technology. It symbolises something bigger – a responsible attitude, a healthier way of living."
"...are transport and tax planners – here and in the US – being fair to the people who drive conventional cars? The official fuel consumption figure for the Prius – supplied by Toyota itself – is 65.7mpg in mixed motoring. That’s a claim not supported by many of the letter writers to The Sunday Times who say they get nearer to 50mpg. If our readers are right and the official figure is wrong it has important implications, not least of which is that people driving frugal diesels are getting a raw deal. .. -->include file="m63-article-related-attachements.html"-->

To find out we set a challenge: to drive a Prius to Geneva using motorways and town driving. The direct route is 460 miles but we drove almost 100 miles further to give the Prius the advantage of running in urban conditions where its petrol-electric drivetrain comes into its own.

We took along a conventionally powered car – a diesel BMW executive saloon – for comparison and drove both cars an identical number of miles (545)."

"The 520d is not startlingly quick, but it will reach 62mph in 8.3sec. As for the claimed top speed of 144mph, I didn’t get the chance to test it to its limit but I think it would have struggled to reach that. Nonetheless, it cruised happily at the French autoroute limit (dry conditions) of 78mph towards the champagne region.

As I did so, I noted with slight satisfaction that Jason was having difficulty keeping up, so I cut my speed. Had I been really serious about saving fuel I could have also switched off the air-conditioning and the stereo but I was more concerned about making this a real-world test."

"No sooner had we left the offices of The Sunday Times in London than my eyes locked limpet-like on the trip computer readout that tells you how many mpg you are achieving. This was to become my obsession over the next 545 miles as I battled to nudge the Prius into performing somewhere close to Toyota’s claim of 65mpg-plus motoring.

By the time we reached the Channel tunnel the display revealed that I had averaged 55mpg. Hopefully things would improve on the long, uninterrupted roads in France. They didn’t – despite the fact that I didn’t use the air-conditioning and avoided turning on the stereo in an effort to conserve power."
..." Coasting down the mountain into Geneva my Prius averaged 99.9mpg for a full 10 minutes. It was the highlight of my journey and improved my overall average fuel economy by a full 2mpg. But it was not enough. For all my defensive driving, slippery bodywork and hybrid technology, my average fuel consumption was 48.1mpg. I’d lost to a Beemer and I was disappointed; I had never driven so slowly or carefully for so long in my life. I’m considering buying a V8 Range Rover and opening my own oil well in protest."

Yeah, the pricey heavy luxo-boat spanked the (still overpriced, overweight) budget family car.  Why?  An earnest comprhensive effort at effciency, instead of a dramatic expensive gesture.

When someone builds a seriosu hybrid, I’ll be first in line.  But putting a small electric motor onto a large conventional I/C engine does not do it.  The engine doesn’t really get to stay at peak efficiency (the whole point of a hybrid!) and the gain from regenerative braking was never that big of an advantage (for most users certainly).  No, the current mass market hybrids add significant complication without gaining substantial efficiency or usability.  Sure, they do claim material fuel economy gains on contrived tests, but at levels that a 1988 Civic HX made 20 years ago.

US automakers and policy makers have been steadfast on pursing real fundamental advances, not a few % at a time, for hundreds of dollars per car, but 20+% leaps at a time at comparable unit costs.  (Note that a fuel cell completely bypasses the fundamental efficiency limits of any combustion engine - a 50% gain right there!)

So, y’all can use your hybrid tax credits to buy oil company protest signs, I’ll keep on driving a car that weighs 400 lb less than a Prius, cost 2/3 what it did new (and just $4k to me used), and gets me 35 mpg all day long with a 12 year old motor.  Oh, and should I need to do some real work, or serious play, there’s a pickup truck with trailer hitch and 4 wheel drive waiting for me.  There’s real efficiency - using the right tool for the job.

9:45 AM - 1 Comments - 2 Kudos - Add Comment - Edit - Remove -


very interesting. image. it seems to always come down to a want/desire/need to portray a certain image...

Posted by Cynthia on Mar 19, 2008 11:22 AM
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