Pros and Cons of Free Hybrid Car Parking ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Pros and Cons of Free Hybrid Car Parking

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pros and Cons of Free Hybrid Car Parking

You may have seen the signs by now, free or preferred parking if you own a hybrid.  In towns and cities across the US and Canada, hybrid car owners are given the opportunity to obtain a 'green' sticker.  Once placed on the vehicle, the owner can then park in spots with meters, without paying.  Some retailers have also gotten into the act, allowing hybrid cars to park closer to the store in designated spots.

Free parking for a Prius from flickr
Some call it a perk, others a motivator to buy a hybrid, while others are not so kind in their descriptions of what they think about it.  I'd like to go over some of the pros and cons of free or preferred hybrid car parking, so we can at least define the issues involved.

It's a bit unfair to those who don't own a hybrid but do own fuel efficient cars. If you're promoting fuel efficiency, why not put a lower limit on how fuel efficient a car has to be to say that car can park here? Is a Hybrid Escalade that gets 20 mpg really better than a Honda Fit that gets 29 mpg?

It's a bit elitist, since hybrid cars are not cheap to buy. The cheapest hybrid vehicle you can buy in the US is the Insight, which comes in at $20K. Used hybrids are still sold at high prices. So, only those who can afford a hybrid can get the perk. That means you're 'giving to the rich' when you set up free or preferred parking for hybrid owners.

That cost factor also means that most customers will not be able to use this perk at retail stores. You are setting up a class system and preferred status for some is always worth questioning.

Given the weight issues in America, shouldn't we all be parking at the back end of the lot and walking a little bit more to get to the entrance? Leave all the spots close to the entrances for those who really need it (disability). It would be healthier for us and better for them.

It is an incentive to buy a hybrid. Maybe not a big one, but it can certainly help tip someone over the edge into buying a hybrid.

It promotes social awareness for some very important global issues, whether we're talking about the environment or dependency on oil, even in common situations like running an errand at the local store or driving downtown.

While hybrids are not necessarily built for fuel efficiency, and there are cars out there that can be very fuel efficient and not be a hybrid, the electric motor does promote using less gas. Hybrid engines are still a new and expensive technology, and promoting it now will benefit others in the future.

Yes, they are expensive now, but the more hybrids that are bought, the less they cost to build (economy of scale). By buying a hybrid, you are sending a clear message to the car makers that fuel efficiency is a priority, which makes them focus more on it. That's why more and more car makers are building more and more hybrids.

In the long run, that also promotes electric and plug-in cars, which burn even less fuel. And that promotes fuel cell cars. And so on...

As for putting aside spots for fuel efficient cars, rather than hybrids, how do you police that? Hybrids are easy to spot. Fuel efficiency, unless you leave the sticker on the window from the dealership, is not.

Like other pros and cons of hybrid cars, the issues are not clear cut and easy to resolve.  We all come in to the argument with our own agendas and preconceived notions about what's right and what's wrong.  But for me, in the long run, I'm against putting aside spots for hybrids, although that may surprise you.

I do want to promote hybrid car buyers. Not all hybrids are built equally, but each one of them does help on the long road of promoting fuel efficiency and in the long run, that will pay off for all of us.

Right now, only those with more money to spend can afford hybrids, but the more they buy, the more economical they become. You only have to look at the price war between the Prius and the new Insight to see that.

No, I really do think we should all walk a little bit more to become healthier (or ride a bike, although that's rarely feasible). So, I wish they would put aside more spots for those who need it or deserve a break (I love how expectant mothers get closer spots at Babys 'R' Us, for instance).

But for the short term, I do support these and other measures to promote hybrid car buyers. Like other perks for hybrid car owners such as HOV access or lower taxes, these incentives do help people to make the decision to buy hybrids, a decidedly expensive purchase. But by helping the people do it now, even though the payoff can be questionable (some hybrids will 'pay you back' in fuel savings, while others will not), it will help us all in the long run.

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