The New York Times reports this morning on the 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid. Two points of note:
- The Times cites Consumer Reports, which found actual on-the-road efficiency to be just 25 mpg for the Accord hybrid.
The E.P.A. figures show a larger benefit for the hybrid, but the agency’s fuel economy figures are considered by many to be inaccurate because they do not reflect the way cars are actually driven.
The EPA figures are 29/37 mpg city/highway for an automatic transmission Accord hybrid. That’s about a 15 percent jump in fuel efficiency if you drive like the EPA thinks you should. There are a number of habits many people have that needlessly hamper fuel efficiency (flooring it from light to light is an egregious example). Installing an mpg meter in your car lets you know when you are getting the best mileage and what behaviors detract from optimal fuel efficiency, rewarding the driver with flashing lights and colors, to which the human brain seems to respond.
- One hybrid owner was quoted as saying:
I wasn’t prepared to give up anything to ‘go green’ – not performance, amenities, or space.
Maybe it’s because I just read Suburban Nation, but this sounds similar to the concept of “induced traffic.” The idea there is that building more roads or lanes on a highway, rather than easing and speeding traffic flow, leads to more traffic: Drivers will flock to the faster-moving roads until they become just as congested as before.
In the same way, making cars more efficient, rather than leading people to buy new cars with similar performance but higher gas mileage, could lead people to buy new cars with higher performance but similar gas mileage. So the end result will be the same overall level of fuel use, but roads packed with high performance cars. If the quoted driver is indicative of public sentiment, new hybrids could have a neutral environmental impact at best.