- If you drive like you always do, you'll never get those EPA numbers.
- Toyota gets to look like the good guy in automaker circles. But really, they are no better or worse than the others.
- Hybrid Electric Cars may not be the best choice for you.
The truth is, the EPA tests do not reflect real world driving. Any driving on a test track or in a lab is going to be biased and just plain off for most drivers. So, you should never expect the EPA mpg ratings on the sticker to reflect what you will get in your everyday driving.
Having said that, the Prius (as well as other hybrid cars), seem to be farther off than other cars. Why? First note that they have farther to fall. Going from 60 to 48 seems more drastic than going from 15 to 13. But really they are not much different if you look the percentages. Even so, the Prius will drop more percentage-wise than most other cars.
Hybrid cars, because of their design, excel at the stop and go testing the EPA does. Gradual stopping recharges the batteries, allowing them to run for longer at low speeds on the batteries. Since the 'city' driving tests allow for gradual acceleration followed by slow stopping, the Prius is right where it wants to be.
In the end, most test car drivers (i.e. for magazines and newspapers) will not change their driving habits in order to take advantage of a what a hybrid can offer. They want to be consistent with their other cars, and with what they (rightly) believe how others drive. And so you're always going to see those eye-catching by-lines on how hybrid don't live up to their hype.
For a driver to get closer to the EPA numbers, they would need to relearn how to drive and learn how to take advantage of what a hybrid can do. That's not easy for everyone to do. Driving with buffers and driving without brakes are tough concepts to learn.
Toyota Looks Like the Good Guy
Toyota dominates the hybrid marketplace. Three out of every four hybrids sold in the US are from Toyota. Around one half of every hybrid sold is a Prius. They were willing to pay the research and marketing price tag and, as such, they get to pull in the accolades for doing so. But in the end, that doesn't make them any better than any other automaker.
They, just like GM, Ford, Honda, Nissan, etc... are looking to make a profit. They sell the trucks and cars that people buy. Yes, Toyota sells a lot of small cars, but that's because their home (Japan) market wants them. They build reliable cars because they would be cited by their home government for not doing so. They are looking to build more hybrids because they have the advantage and they know it.
That doesn't make them any better than the others. Every other carmaker would do the same thing. Other automakers will jump on the flex-fuel bandwagon because they feel like they can have an advantage their. And others will look to build and market diesels because they feel they have the competitive advantage. And all of them will tout how their way is best and that they have the cars with most to offer (fuel economy wise) because that's what the marketplace wants right now.
Remember all those ads for safety just a few years ago. Where did they go? Keep that in mind when you think about your favorite automaker.
Hybrid Electric Cars Are Not Your Answer
Just because you can get 60 or even 70 mpg with a hybrid (if you learn how to hypermile) does not mean you are saving the earth. Just because you get access to the HOV lanes, or free parking, or a tax rebate, doesn't mean you are better than anyone else.
Hybrid cars are expensive and are not for everyone. If everyone just bought the most fuel efficient car in the class they wanted, whether it be compact, midsize, truck or SUV, everyone would benefit. If you want a (small) midsize car, then the Prius is the right car because you can do the most with it. If you need to have a truck or a minivan or a van, then buying the most fuel efficient vehicle in that class is doing just as much, if not more, than the person who bought a Prius.
Going from a vehicle that gets 10 mpg to one that averages 15 mpg means a lot more than picking a car that gets 50 mpg rather than 40 mpg. If you drive 15,000 miles a year, choosing the vehicle that gets 15 instead of 10 will net you 500 gallons in savings. While going from a 40 mpg to a 50 mpg will only save 75 gallons a year.
Note that the 50 mpg car will only use 300 gallons, while the 15 mpg vehicle will use 1000 gallons a year, but that's not the point. If you need a bigger car, then you need a bigger car.
Want to learn more about the pros and cons of hybrids? Follow the label 'pros and cons.' If you're looking to maximize your driving habits to save fuel, follow the label for 'hypermiling.'