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Why Aren’t They All Hybrids?

Posted Jul 08 2009 11:44am

This week, Small Footprint Family traded in their Toyota Rav4 for a 2010 Prius. When we lived in D.C. and I ran an environmental non-profit, I needed an SUV to carry all my gardening tools and staff from worksite to worksite. I also lived in an extremely walkable city just 13 miles across, so despite my work usage, I only racked up 14,000 miles in 3 years of owning the car.

However in Southern California, where you can barely get anywhere without a car, automobile pollution is a major environmental issue. Given this fact, the Rav just didn’t make sense anymore. Plus, keeping the gas tank full was busting our budget. So we went to the Toyota dealership and traded it in on a new spaceship—er, I mean hybrid vehicle.  

The 3rd Generation Prius is quite a car. We call it the Landspeeder, a la Star Wars, and its a lot of fun. It glides pollution-free through the streets in near silence while its elaborate dashboard computer shows me that I am averaging over 45 miles an hour. Almost like a video game, it’s easy to become obsessed with watching the computer screen to make sure I’m driving at maximum efficiency, therefore getting the most miles per gallon.

I tend to have a lead foot when leaving an intersection, especially since the Rav had a V6 engine, so I was surprised to find that the pick-up I sometimes need is right there when I switch the Prius to Power Mode. Inside, the car is a mid-sized sedan/hatchback with plenty of room for the baby seat, passengers and groceries. And given that we must drive more here, we feel very good knowing that we are not contributing to California’s air pollution woes.

Interestingly, 50% of the Prius market is in California. I live in Prius Territory, which is good considering how many cars are on the road in California and how poor the air quality can be, especially in places like Los Angeles. Which makes me wonder, if hybrid technology can be both powerful and fuel efficient, why aren’t we using it in all cars. Why doesn’t every new make and model vehicle on the road today have a hybrid engine? Such a standard could reinvigorate the U.S. auto industry, and the competition among all car brands would create radical innovations in robust, pollution-free engines and cost-effective battery technology—and possibly even eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels in a relatively short time.

In 2009, isn’t the combustion engine an anachronism, given all that is going on in the world politically, economically and environmentally? I mean, come on, we have 21st century technology. Why don’t we use it?

What do you think?

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