For Mileage and Cleaner Air

Is a hybrid in your future?

Hybrids are catching on and looking at the flavors they are now available in, America can have their SUVs and feel good about them too.

Critics of gas/electric hybrids said it would never happen. As the industry sells us muscle over ecology, many people are seeing the value in saving at the pump with gas prices well over two bucks, and a spin off of lower emissions and cleaner air.

In 2005, Toyota’s expanding, offering the Highlander Hybrid and the Lexus RX400h. Both are great platforms and very mainstream. We hope to report on them as mileage figures come out. Ford’s Escape Hybrid enters in a similar class, and is a standout in the lineup, from a consumption and emissions standpoint. Honda gives us the Accord this year, on top of impressive ratings and industry kudos for the Civic and Insight.

Entry level is around $20,000 with most of the SUVs ranging form $26,000 on up to the Lexus at around $40k. And other automakers are playing catch-up with news of 2006 entries from Nissan, and GMC’s Chevy and Saturn lines. Chevy does list the 2005 Silverado Hybrid, truck. Moving in the right direction, but mileage is not what you’d think it all could be.

All this information is great, but when it comes down to a purchase, what will you opt for? Ford’s Escape hybrid is a beauty, but priced next to a well-trimmed 2005 Mustang… where will your passion drive you? For me it’s a very hard decision. I think many of us face the same battle. A Prius is an incredible achievement. At $20k and a waiting list, can it compete with a Camry, that still gets 33mpg? Many of you say yes, and I see you on the roads with a grin from ear to ear.

And I certainly want to be fair to VW, who’s refined their diesel engines taking us from the rabbit of yore to very eco-responsible Golfs and Jetta Turbo diesels. I’ll save this for another article.

Toyota’s Prius and Honda’s Civics have proved that you can have a fun, peppy car and still get 40-50 miles per gallon. Both automakers have a waiting list to get to purchase one, and demand is driving competition. We are truly seeing a move in a positive direction.

But, before you think that reality, or sanity, is taking root in design departments, there is also considerable movement in the opposite direction. Take a look at what International, the folks who produce big rigs for the long haul call “The Ultimate Truck for Extreme Work and Extreme Play.” If anyone can out-Hummer the market it’s got to be these guys. At 21 feet long, 9 feet high, and a weight of just under 26,000 lbs., they tag the product as “ The Brilliance of Common Sense”.

This has got to be a joke, right? Did the Onion put this together? International rounds out the article, with an entire site devoted to Green Diesel Technology. Making buses and big rigs cleaner is a great idea, but a 13-ton SUV? And I’ve been feeling guilty about driving a Honda CRV.

As I try to make sense of performance and huge size that all the automakers are still selling, I think I’ve figured I out. It is simply escapism. Yes, friends, we can hop into our 12 mpg monster trucks, ease into the fine leather interiors and just pretend; Life is but a dream. There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home. Wake up already.

Are we at the dawn of a brave new world? Can we use technology to lessen our dependence on oil? Can we find alternatives, like hybrids to get us through the 21st century or are we here, as Sting puts it aptly, “…when the world is running down, take the best of what’s still around”.

Post Facto: Hybrids caught on in a big way. In 2021, since Biden claimed victory as President, gas prices have soared from $2 to $3, and it’s only March. We’ll see how rising prices effect future higher mileage alternatives.

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