Here’s yet another reminder that we can’t rely on technology alone to save fuel. According to The New York Times, the next generation of gas-electric hybrid vehicles is being designed mostly to boost performance, rather than to boost efficiency. To wit:
The 2005 Honda Accord hybrid gets about the same miles per gallon as the basic four-cylinder model, according to a review by Consumer Reports, a car-buyer’s guide, and it saves only about two miles a gallon compared with the V-6 model on which it is based. Thanks to the hybrid technology, though, it accelerates better.
Not to pooh-pooh a 2 mile per gallon boost, but does such a small mpg gain really warrant the federal tax subsidy that’s currently doled out to hybrids in the US? Of course, the hybrid tax breaks are scheduled for phase-out in 2006. But they’ve been extended so many times now that I’m wondering if they’ll become permanent.
This phenomenon—using technological innovation to boost performance rather than efficiency—is really just a continuation of a long-standing trend. Per person energy use in the Pacific Northwest has remained flat for decades, as each improvement in energy efficiency has been accompanied by an equal and opposite increase in our appetites. Still, it’s good to get a reminder of exactly what the consumer dynamic is here; said one buyer of a hybrid Accord, “I wasn’t prepared to give up anything to ‘go green’ – not performance, amenities, or space.” And that attitude is shared, no doubt, by most of the car buying public. Which serves as a reminder that nobody should be sanguine that technological innovation, by itself, will have much of a dent on our fuel consumption.