Cancel
Advanced Search
KEYWORDS
CATEGORY
AUTHOR
MONTH

Please click here to take a brief survey

Upscale Hybrid Review
Jamais Cascio, 11 Mar 05

We've occasionally posted about the coming wave of "upscale" hybrids -- more expensive, more luxurious, less efficient than the Prius or Civic Hybrid -- and it looks like vehicles are finally reaching the showroom.

MSNBC has a review of the Lexus RX 400h, a hybrid SUV using the Toyota "Synergy Drive" (also found in the Prius). The 29 miles per gallon combined mileage isn't going to get a second glance from Prius or HCH owners, but is still 38% higher than the 21 mpg achieved by the non-hybrid RX 330. Remember the counter-intuitive math of fuel consumption: a driver choosing the 400h over the 330 will save around 1.3 gallons of gasoline every 100 miles, roughly the same savings seen by a driver choosing a 48 mpg Civic Hybrid over a 28 mpg non-hybrid Accord. Lexus 400h drivers may be overly-conscious of not wanting to look like they've made any sacrifices, but they're actually doing a better job of reducing emissions and gasoline dependence than they may realize.

Bookmark and Share


Comments

Well, yeah, but there's only so much we can do against the laws of physics. Big vehicles have eventually got to go, especially since they are an image/ego thing in 98% of cases (yet every SUV owner seems to think that he's part of that 2%), and the sooner the better.

SUVs are squared-out minivans.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 11 Mar 05

since they are an image/ego thing in 98% of cases

You must not live in the Midwest.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 11 Mar 05

OK, I'll bite. What are you saying here, that midwesterners need SUVs?


Posted by: odograph on 12 Mar 05

Yeah Joseph, please explain the particular conditions of the midwest.

I live in Quebec and our winter are quite a bit worse than yours. Our roads are in worse condition than yours (because of the winter and lack of budget), and yet I get around perfectly fine with a small front wheel-drive car, as do most people around here (the best selling cars here are the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 and Toyota Echo Hatchback).


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 12 Mar 05

OK, I'll bite. What are you saying here, that midwesterners need SUVs?

No, that there's some pretty big families here. Saying that 98% of SUVs are for ego is a little over the top.

It has nothing to do with the climate, but I should have known better to make that comment without clarification.

I was born in Colorado and grew up all around, including most of my childhood in the upper Midwest. I've never had a 4WD vehicle or felt the need for one.

I was simply referring to the people-carrying capacity of the vehicles.

People also buy them because it makes them feel safer and it certainly is safer in crashes with other vehicles because of size. And as more people bought these vehicles, it became a reinforcing cycle to simply protect oneself from other oversized vehicles.

So, people are making pragmatic decisions a lot of the time. I myself drive a little 1800 pound Civic, but I do because I know I'm a very good driver. But I certainly wouldn't recommend it to everyone.

And Mikhail, I don't think your winters in Quebec are any worse than ours (unless you may live in the northern part of the province), but your road and bridge infrastructure is pretty bad there. Montreal was one of the worst driving experiences of my life.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 12 Mar 05

I think a car or wagon with the same seating capacity is going to be more efficient, just by nature of the shape.

On the safety issue, I think the statistics still show you are more likely to suffer death or injury when riding in an SUV. (You are more likely to survive a particular crash, but more likely to crash in the first place.)

What you are really talking about is "perceived safety" which indeed part of the problem. People don't understand statistics.


Posted by: odograph on 12 Mar 05

If it was really about safety and carrying capacity, people would be buying minivans.

But since it's about image and ego, people are buying SUVs.

Which leads to my patented grounding-setence: "SUVs are squared-out minivans." (except less safe, more polluting, pricier and with a bigger profit margin to automakers)


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 12 Mar 05

I think the best of the "camouflaged minivans" are part of the solution really. I know someone who says "I would never drive a minivan," but she bought a Saturn VUE. It is an SUV to her, and it gets 27 mpg on real-world road trips.

(I noticed that the VUE's manual says "not for off-road use" - a bit of a difference between that and my old Cherokee's manual, which actually gave tips for climbing extreme grades off-road.)


Posted by: odograph on 12 Mar 05

On the safety issue, I think the statistics still show you are more likely to suffer death or injury when riding in an SUV.

Which is why I specifically said crashes with other vehicles. If you exclude rollovers, then SUVs are going to end up doing better.

A lot of crash statistics also have to do with driver behavior. A Civic will do well in real-world crash statistics, relative to what the car can physically handle relative to other vehicles. Minivans also tend to have the least fatalities per vehicle. But it has less to do with engineering and physics than it does with behavior.

What you are really talking about is "perceived safety" which indeed part of the problem. People don't understand statistics.

Statistics have little to do with psychology. Airplanes are safer than automobiles, from a statistical standpoint, but the sense of vulnerability and the likelihood that a mishap will be fatal lead to a sense of loss of control, therefore people are less afraid of driving than flying.

If you want to start railing against ego, then you're probably going into shaky territory, because I don't think there really are humans free of egotism. Some people express it through vehicle choices (and you don't have to buy an SUV to express ego - a Prius can be an equally egotistical expression of one's "moral superiority"),

It's a lot better to make good options for people and stop looking down on them for making the choices which are available to them. You'd be surprised how much respect you get from those "egotistical SUV drivers" if you respect their right to make choices on their own terms. As soon as you start making value judgments, you better make sure you live in a glass-free house yourself, and even then, people will still probably resent you for being judgmental.

And I'm not sure where you even have a sufficient argument by lumping all SUVs together. Some get superior mileage to certain automobiles, but you don't hear outcries against V-8 Jaguars, Mercedes, or even Ford Taurus wagons (one of which I used to own and got an abysmal 16 mpg).


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 12 Mar 05

I've owned SUVs, and if they could somehow be made equally-polluting with small cars, I'd be happy to go for them again.

On the safety issue though, I am not going to "exclude" rollovers, because I have driven these things.

I know they have a more limited performance envelope than similar sized cars. The driver has fewer options in emergency maneuvers. Sure, an experienced driver may avoid rollovers, but he might have to face something else (possibly a collision) as a result.

I had an '84 Jeep Cherokee with a very loose pre-rollover off-road suspension. I drove it within its envelope and came out unscathed. I actully had one close call when a car flew in from a side-street at me, and I had to throw the car hard first left ... time it ... and throw it back in just the right oscillation. I made it, but I'm not going to pretend it was handling like a car.

I know I was lucky that day.

I *liked* the Cherokee suspension, and understood the off-road purpose for which it was built. I didn't like the way it handled about 75 so I didn't go any faster ... but I'd often be passed by other drivers taking the chance.

In sum, while you can try to stay in the envelope, the other drivers around you may force the issue.


Posted by: odograph on 12 Mar 05

On the safety issue though, I am not going to "exclude" rollovers, because I have driven these things.

Well, then, you make that consideration when you buy your car. Most people don't - they worry most about getting hit by other cars.

This isn't about your rationality. It's about people making choices given their own values priorities. Like it or not, we need to learn to respect and work with those.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 12 Mar 05

There might be room for some people to be patient with these "safety" buyers, but I think there is room for some of us to call out an irrational behavior.

One approach or the other might sink in.


Posted by: odograph on 13 Mar 05

Actauly if you vacation by car and have more then 2 kids you know exactly why they buy suvs;/

As for minivans I have alot of friends buying up from minivans to suvs simply because thier kids are getting bigger and space is too tight for a vacation drive.


Posted by: wintermane on 14 Mar 05

I borrowed a Ford Expedition once, and used it for the long Thanksgiving drive with 6 people on board. It was pretty nice and spacious.

But I had access to one, without having to drive it to work every day. That's pretty much the ideal situation.

Maybe the Sierra Club should start an SUV rental service ;-), so you can have one when you need it, without driving one every day.


Posted by: odograph on 14 Mar 05

Maybe the Sierra Club should start an SUV rental service ;-), so you can have one when you need it, without driving one every day.

It's called carsharing, my man, and it's growing like gangbusters.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 14 Mar 05

That's true. I hear about them at WorldChanging and elsewhere. Surfing now I see that they have come to Los Angeles and San Diego (Flexcar). That's closer than I expected. I don't know if they'll expand into the Orange County sprawl in-between.

And they are a bit different from what I was joking about, in that they seem to allow city-dwellers to give up their car completely. Flexcar's fleet is primarily Honda Civic Hybrids.


Posted by: odograph on 14 Mar 05

Nope they dont plan to drop the suv they plan to convert em over to hydrogen then ignore you completely from then on out. Its a very sound bussiness choice as suvs are very popular for many reasons and switching to hydrogen is perfectly fine for such trucks and cars as they have the room for large tanks and thier users have the money for hydrogen startup costs.


Posted by: wintermane on 14 Mar 05

Maybe I'm a little more cynical. I think they planned on talking about hydrogen, while they sold the same old gasoline SUVs.

The hybrid thing came out of left field, and showed people that there was a technology that could be deployed today.

I don't know, if the hybrids hadn't showed up, how long would they have talked about (but not deployed) hydrogen ... five years, ten, fifteen?

I think it was a game of "sure we are doing something, look at our hydrogen concept car!"

Extra credit: what is the shortest timeline you can see for a volume hydrogen production and distribution system?


Posted by: odograph on 14 Mar 05

Actauly a gas engine can be retrofited to run on hydrogen.


Posted by: wintermane on 14 Mar 05

AFAIR, Scientific American Frontiers suggested that mass storage and distribution may not be necessary if you have on-site production [http://www.pbs.org/saf/1506/] I don't know credible that scenario actually is though.


Posted by: bjd on 16 Mar 05



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO:

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS:


MESSAGE (optional):


Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Worldchanging2.0


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/ worldchanging.com
©2012
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg