The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 September 2006

Making the ponies drink less

Alternative powerplants are becoming increasingly attractive to American motorists, says J. D. Power and Associates, although some of them seem unclear on the concept:

According to the study, consumer expectations for alternative-fuel vehicles tend to be unrealistic. Those considering a hybrid expect to pay a premium of more than $5,000 and hope to achieve 28 more miles for every gallon of gasoline. The actual mileage improvement is closer to 9 mpg. The shortcomings of expectations aren't quite as drastic for diesel consumers who believe they will pay $2,800 more than a gas-powered car and derive 21 miles more for each gallon, but in actuality receive an increase of about 12 mpg.

Well, the actual mileage improvement is closer to 9 mpg on otherwise-similar vehicles, and it's at least possible that some of these folks are contemplating not just hybrids, but smaller hybrids.

Toyota's genius, I think, was building the Prius on its own platform, so it couldn't be directly compared to the Corolla or the Echo/Yaris or the Camry or anything else they sell over here. Honda's Insight was similarly dissimilar, but its penalty-box-on-wheels nature probably discouraged as many buyers as its alleged 55-mpg fuel economy attracted, and the car was dropped from Honda's US line for 2007. Meanwhile, you can get quite a luxe-ish Prius if the check you write is big enough, and I keep wondering when Lexus is going to get its own version in the $35-45k range. (Assuming they use the same bifurcated powerplant, they could call it something like CS150h.)

And the laws of physics are nowhere near being repealed: the chief enemy of gas mileage is sheer mass, and you shouldn't expect anything miraculous from a vehicle that weighs two and a half tons no matter what kind of technotrickery is pressed into service.

Posted at 8:39 AM to Driver's Seat