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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Gas Guzzlers & Hybrid Hysteria

The Dawning of the Age of the Hybrid?

We just got a new (used) 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. In part, this happened because:


At the end of last December, we left our 1996 non-hybrid Civic at Executive Valet Parking, near Bradley Airport in Connecticut. We had them change the oil while we were gone, which they contracted out to Travelube. A couple of weeks after we got home, the puddle of oil on our driveway clued me in to the fact that Travelube had generously put twice the appropriate amount of oil into our car. Turns out (shockingly!) that when you over-fill a small, hot, high pressure engine and then run it for a thousand miles Bad Things happen. . . end of car.


Couple of interesting aspects to looking for and finding a new hybrid:

  1. $4/gallon gas means that looking for a hybrid to buy is no longer a quirky, eco-smug thing to do. It’s more of a contact sport now, really.
  2. When a dealer’s web site tells you that they have a hybrid on the lot, new or used, this is invariably untrue.
  3. When a dealer tells you, over the phone, that they *still* have that used hybrid on the lot, that’s usually not the case by the time you get to the dealership (perhaps only hours later).

I’ve been driving smaller and smaller cars in the past few years, so my “baseline normal” may be a bit skewed. Same is true regarding price, age, and features; the 2006 Civic is the newest, lowest mileage car I’ve ever owned. So as to the Civic Hybrid, just a few days in: it feels LUXE and LARGE to me.

I don’t mind the luxe part as a philosophical matter, though, of course that impacts price—both up front and regarding the fancy features one may be called upon to repair in the future. The matter of size isn’t entirely subjective and it cuts two ways. I’ve owned Honda Accords that weren’t as big as this Civic. The benefit of the larger size (four doors; full trunk, which the Prius lacks) is that it is a full service car, a car you can take on vacation for example, which is not true for our Insight.

The downside is gas mileage. I don’t know yet what we will be getting. Have to figure out how to drive this car. It’s rated 49/51, City/Highway; but I think the (basically mechanically identical) 2008 model was “adjusted” to 40/45. Not bad for a full-use car. But getting 70+ in the Insight has sorta spoiled me. More info on hybrids (dedicated blog) here.

Still kinda cool that our “family fleet average” is 60+ mpg—just for purposes of teeth-gnashing egregious comparison, the US Energy Independence and Security Act which President Bush signed into law in 2007 mandates that we get to a corporate average fleet efficiency (CAFE) standard of 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020.

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