Hybrids have the potential to be great if not for the drivers

Last Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation proposed that all cars made by manufacturers must average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

To be clear, the press release said that the 54.5 miles per gallon is the total of all cars in a manufacturer’s fleet, not each individual car.

Even with that being the case, it still grinds my gears that the government is bossing around automakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Yes, I know there’s a fuel crisis going on, and I see it every week when I have to pay $60 to fill my tank with 91 octane. And I understand that if we want to keep the ability to drive around, manufacturers need to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles.

But when I hear the words “fuel-efficient vehicles,” one segment of vehicles pops into my head: hybrid cars. Or how I like to classify them: bandwagon green machines.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect hybrid vehicles.

“They’re generally more efficient for two reasons: the use of regenerative braking and the use of smaller efficient engine,” said Dr. Larry Caretto, a mechanical engineering professor.

The technology in a hybrid is great. The vehicle uses its electric motor while driving around the city and is able to use the gasoline motor while driving at highway speeds. And when you use your brakes, it helps recharge the car’s batteries.

And with technology advancing every day, manufacturers are using smaller, efficient gasoline engines that have better gas consumption, Caretto said.

That being said, it sounds like hybrid vehicles are a great alternative for someone looking to buy a more fuel-efficient car. But that’s where the wheels start getting a little shaky.

Hybrid cars, if used correctly (and I stress the word correctly), are very efficient vehicles. But living in Los Angeles, it’s a 70-30 split of people who don’t use them correctly compared to those that do.

I commute 80 miles to and from school every day, so I spend plenty of time driving. I admit that I have a lead foot, but there are those days where I like to drive at the speed limit. And it’s during this time were I see hybrid after hybrid passing me.

Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda Accord Hybrid; just a few of the hybrids I see driving at around 80 mph on the I-210 on a daily basis.

Caretto makes a point saying that though hybrid cars are more efficient that conventional cars, there is still one more variable that needs to be considered when talking about fuel-efficiency.

“The driver always plays a pretty strong role,” he said “Between the most cautious driver and the most aggressive driver, there’s a tremendous difference.”

When I said that hybrids are efficient vehicles when used correctly, I am talking about the driver maintaining a constant speed and is roughly around the speed limit. Because this is the speed that manufacturers base a car’s fuel-efficiency.

What I see every day are smug, aggravated and witless hybrid drivers that go 80 mph or faster, slam on their brakes and start tailgating you because you’re not going fast enough for them.

With the constant use of the gas and brake pedals, the engine uses more gasoline thus reducing its gas efficiency, Caretto said. So with hybrid drivers being too aggressive when they drive, they reduce their vehicle’s max potential of fuel efficiency.

Not all hybrid drivers are complete lunatics who think they can get away with driving 20 mph over the limit. I know and have seen plenty of people that use their hybrid to its full potential, drive it at speed limit and they get great gas mileage as a result.

The government shouldn’t just dedicate their time to pressure automobile manufacturers to build better fuel-efficient vehicles. They should also focus on the drivers. It’s one thing to learn how to drive, but it’s other subject to learn how to drive properly.

We should be teaching drivers how to drive more efficiently, by driving at a consistent pace and not slamming the gas pedal when the traffic lights turn green.

I enjoy a little spirited driving once in a while, and when I mean once in a while, I mean almost every day, but I would never use a hybrid for that kind of driving.

And don’t get me started on the Honda CR-Z. That’s a whole different matter in itself.

If I were to drive a hybrid, I would make sure that I squeeze every single penny of green technology out of that car. But since I don’t, I’ll be checking my mirrors so that I don’t give my greenbacks to the blue and red lights behind me.

  • BigMac

    Science can’t be made to produce results through legislation. To get 55 mpg we’ll all be riding motorcycles.

  • David the small-L libertarian

    Even with that being the case, it still grinds my gears that the government is bossing around automakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    Wow!  Do I sense a libertarian on the Sundial staff?

    While this doesn’t address your article exactly, you might find it of interest that people drive more when cars are more fuel efficient.

    And just because people are “green” doesn’t mean that they’re any more polite or decent than the rest of us.