Hybrid Cars: Not Always the Right Answer

Are hybrid cars really that much better for the earth and our dependence on foreign oil than conventional cars? Jamie Lincoln Kitman, the New York bureau chief for Automobile Magazine and a columnist for Top Gear, says not necessarily, and he's right. As with anything, there isn't an unequivocal blanket statement that can be made about purchasing and owning hybrid cars (i.e. they're always the better choice, they always get better mileage), at least from a purely quantitative standpoint. His argument? That (starting next year, at least) someone can buy a Dodge Durango hybrid (pictured), for example, qualify for tax breaks, "feel good" about saving the planet, and still get 14 miles/gallon (instead of 12), while a conventional Honda Civic driver doesn't get kick-backs from the government, doesn't have a status-symbol car with the words "hybrid" on it, but gets 40 miles/gallon.This comparison is apples to oranges (you can't put a drumkit or a dozen two-by-fours in a Civic; nor can you squeeze a Durango into a tight parallel parking space downtown), but it raises some interesting questions about what it means to own a hybrid, and the misconceptions that can come with a car that runs on batteries sometimes; think something along the lines of "Now that I have a hybrid, I don't have to worry about my fuel consumption anymore, because my car does the worrying for me. So who wants to go bass fishing? Let's hook up the trailer...."

At the end of the day, the point is a familiar one here at TreeHugger: please think about what you spend your money on. Hybrid cars are overwhelmingly positive and a tremendous innovation in the automotive industry, and, yes, hybrid cars are generally more fuel-efficient than their conventional counterparts (when similar or identical models are compared). However, there is no get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to internal combustion engines, and there are pitfalls with hybrids, just as there are with any other cars. They make sense for a lot of people, in a lot of ways; we just need to be careful not to let carmakers woo us to sleep with the magical "h-word" and promises that it will make everything okay. via ::NY Times

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