It may surprise some readers that I don't own a hybrid car. After all, I wrote a book on this technology, and have been touting it since at least 1999.
I think the Toyota Prius is the best bargain on the market today, and the public increasingly seems to agree. Before the decade is out, hybrid technology will be commonplace across the spectrum, from tiny compacts to huge SUVs.
(Speaking of the latter, General Motors is debuting the hybrid version of its full-sized Tahoe, with limited availability this fall. Environmentalists are finding it hard to love, even with up to 40 percent better fuel economy on the highway, because it's just so big. Even with hybrid drive, expect 20 mpg.)
Although I often drive test cars, which can be just about anything, the car my family and I actually bought for our own use is a 2007 Honda Fit. The Fit is still below the radar for many Americans. ("A Honda what?") But for $13,850 it's the little car that could. Fuel economy is 33 mpg in town, 38 on the highway, though those numbers are likely to go down somewhat with the Environmental Protection Agency's new rating system. By California's stringent standards, it's a low-emission vehicle (LEV).
Honda's Fit with daughter Maya. The new car arrives! (Jim Motavalli photo)
The Fit's rear seat offers amazing amounts of room, and it folds up in four separate ways, including flat to the floor. Even though it's much smaller than a Civic, I've helped people move with it.
The Fit may or may not be for you, but the point is that there's nothing magical about the word "hybrid." In the end, it's about fuel economy and emissions.
I was asked recently by Forbes online if I could recommend any luxury hybrid vehicles, and I was hard-pressed to offer a glowing assessment. The Lexus RX-400h and GS 450h use plenty of fossil fuel, even with hybrid drive. Will the Rocky Mountain Institute's Amory Lovins be driving the new Cadillac Escalade hybrid, due out in 2009? Unlikely, since Lovins' concept of the "hypercar" is ultralight, and the Escalade is huge and thirsty no matter what you do to it.
Are green-minded consumers really waiting for a hybrid version of the Cadillac Escalade?
With automotive green scores, it's the numbers that count. Take a look, there's the Fit at number four in the ratings, just above the Ford Escape Hybrid.
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