Hybrid Disinformation

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June 27, 2008 at 12:50 pm

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is casual, though I go through periods where I am quite active on it. Most notably, I’ve been using Twitter.com to share information about hybrids and counter disinformation about hybrids. My frequent hybrid-related tweets apparently annoy a vocal few who I guess followed me in the hopes I’d tweet about diapers, McDreamy or shopping (not that there’s anything wrong with these things, unless all three are in the same context! Ewww…)  Perhaps they missed the part of the

that grants we are sometimes annoying in our obsessive interest in technology or other arcana? They should be thrilled I’m at least not biting the head off a live chicken, right? (See definition again before calling 911 on me.)

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of hybrid myth and misinformation that is spread by word of mouth and Twitter is as close to word of mouth as you can get without, you know, actually using your mouth.

started my day getting my hybrid disinformation busting wheels spinning, and at first I just contented myself with a couple tweets to the . When I checked his feed, however, I wasn’t sure he’d ever respond to my tweet or frankly even see it since Twitter has apparently been diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. (Go to Twitter.com and click on the Replies tab if you have an account. Twitter’s stressing out right now, right? Right. It’s been that way for days.)

Anyway, when I returned to the blog site I couldn’t tell if the site owner/blogger is in any way related to the tweet’s poster, so answering him on the blog seemed pointless. The more I read the blog, though, the more I wanted to address *multiple* comments that had been posted. Below is a verbatim copy of what I posted, although on the blog it’s displayed as three separate comments due to size limitations.

Posted in response to “” posted on June 26, 2008 by Brad at Feld.com:

TO Scott Lasica:

The CNW Marketing piece “Dust to Dust” (http://cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/) is often used as “proof” against hybrids, but few people who share it look into just what it “studied”.

Those who look into that find Mr. Spinella’s research to be quite questionable, indeed, claiming a Hummer is more efficient than a Prius despite the Prius being 1/3 the weight of a Hummer and getting 4 to 6 times better mileage. CNW Marketing reached its highly questionable conclusion by assuming a 300,00+ mile lifespan on the Hummer and only a 109,000 mile lifespan on the Prius. What?

Read more about CNW Marketin’s wonky “study”:

* http://www.slate.com/id/2186786/

* http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/06/04/EDGI7Q63U01.DTL

* http://www.straightdope.com/columns/080404.html

Also, hybrid’s high voltage batteries are highly sought after for reclamation and recycling. Toyota offers a $200 bounty for every high voltage hybrid battery turned in (thieves be warned–they’re not lightweight so you’d have better luck stealing a vehicle than trying to get the battery out unnoticed

In fact, if the rarity occurs and someone in fact needs a new high voltage hybrid battery, they usually get a remanufactured one, even when under warranty, because there’s no reason to trash the old ones–individual cells diminish/go bad, but the entire battery pack is still viable and servicable.

* http://www.hybridcars.com/economics/hidden-costs.html

* http://www.hybridcars.com/forums/battery-replacement-cost-t786.html

TO FN:

If a person is looking for the lowest cost per mile, they wouldn’t buy a Mini or “other small/cheap car” unless it was a USED VEHICLE.

TO Jon Erickson & Jeremy Liles & Nick Harris & Steve Murchie:

Amen, that is the same reason my husband I purchased our 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid, to “get the best mileage we could *when we had to drive*”. Our ‘06 Escape Hybrid still has well under 20,000 miles on it and we bought it new. This is the same rate of mileage accrual that we put on my previous vehicle, a 1992 Toyota Corolla we sold to a college student when we purchased the Escape Hybrid. (Incidentally, the Escape Hybrid–a small-size SUV–gets better fuel economy than the ‘92 Corolla (a small sedan) did.

We still own a Ford F-150 Supercrew 4×4, but you can bet we look at every trip and decide what is the best vehicle for that trip.

We don’t drive any more than we used to, why would we?! I find it preposterous that anyone would assume owning a hybrid suddenly makes a person want to drive more, as if we’re going to go “cruising” down streets, staying under 30mph of course so we’re in electric-only mode, just for the hell of it. Sure, I’ve given a couple “test drives” but they’re to friends or family in town whom I have to ferry around anyway. That, or taking co-workers out to lunch, versus them hopping in their individual vehicles or in someone’s giant SUV.

TO Nick Molnar:

Agreed. Anyone with an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) is part of the problem, but there’s definitely a benefit to some of us not running our ICE continuously like a non-hybrid does. Hybrids help pave the way–both technologically and socially (getting people used to something new/different)–for things like full-electric and plug-in vehicles, as well as alternate fuel sourced vehicles like hydrogen and other fuel cells.

It’s a change in thinking that doesn’t come about overnight.

TO MikeK:

You do know there are hybrids on the used car market now, right? Some are people selling because they’ve moved closer to their place of work and no longer feel the need for a highly fuel efficient vehicle, others are being sold so early adopter hybrid owners can upgrade to the latest models (for example, the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid finally has traction control, among other things. No, we’re not trading up. Happy with our 2006 model and will drive it for 10+ years just like the Corolla before it.)

Used hybrids:

* http://hub.motors.ebay.com/alternative_fuel

* http://greenhybrid.com/discuss/f53/

TO Jeremy Liles:

As you should know as a hybrid owner, your factory warranty is either 8 years/100k miles or 10 years/150k miles (depending on if you live in CA or a select few other locales). High voltage battery failures within that timeframe are quite rare. I’ve read of literally only a couple, and even then it’s heartening to note the cost of replacing the battery is an order of magnitude lower than the initial doom & gloom reports when hybrids first entered the US market. For example, a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid, whose warranty period was shorter than modern hybrids (8 year/80k miles) has had its hybrid battery die but the cost to replace the battery (parts AND labor, total) has been quoted at $2500, not the $9000 or more sometimes still bandied about in the press or over the office cube walls.

-> http://greenhybrid.com/discuss/f12/ima-battery-dead-109k-honda-usa-worthless-18536/

Further, surely you’ve read about the NYC hybrid taxis that are surpassing mileage that the average consumer is unlikely to reach anytime soon -> http://www.autoblog.com/2007/04/04/ford-escape-hybrid-taxis-demonstrate-durability-on-new-york-stre/

TO Chris Yeh & Tony Casson:

Amen. In large part, we bought our hybrid because of the dramatically reduced emissions when we drive. It’s most obvious that the rest of the world isn’t similarly motivated by that when we’re parked, stuck, in traffic and breathing everyone else’s exhaust while our vehicle sits with its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) OFF since it is not needed. It literally *is* a breath of fresh air…well, for whomever is behind us, at the very least. As you mention, new vehicles–hybrid AND non-hybrid alike–are getting more efficient in terms of reducing harmful emissions so anyone in the market for a new vehicle today is getting a “cleaner/greener” vehicle than they would have 10+ years ago. For example, our old 1992 Toyota Corolla (4cyl, automatic) is listed on fueleconomy.gov as having a 7.3 tons per year carbon (CO2) footprint, versus the 2008 Toyota Corolla which has a 6.3 ton per year carbon footprint — 1 TON LESS OF CO2 annually, gained by a more efficient engine & emissions system. When you add in a hybrid drive train, you gain from the fact that the ICE is not on for a not-too-insignificant portion of every single drive, further reducing emissions. Again using fueleconomy.gov, comparing our 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid FWD to a non-hybrid of the same make/model shows the annual carbon footprint of the non-hybrid Escape is 8.7 tons of CO2 vs. the Escape Hybrid’s 6.3 tons of CO2 annually. Not only does the hybrid version of the Escape release over 2 tons less CO2 than its non-hybrid counterpart per year, it also releases *no more CO2 than a 2008 Toyota Corolla* (non-hybrid, and a much smaller vehicle.) Those who don’t care about air pollution can wrinkle their noses, but to our family this is a very big reason why we bought hybrid. And we bought a U.S. hybrid to vote with our pocketbooks and let U.S. automakers know we supported new, higher fuel efficiency, less polluting technologies and we hoped to see them step up and lead in this arena. The best way to do that, in our opinion, was acting through the free market economy and simply BUYING one of their vehicles. We needed a new vehicle anyway–the Corolla had served us well for 13+ years but we needed modern safety (front & side curtain airbags, ABS) and convenience (a vehicle whose headliner wasn’t falling off, who’s AC system had a slow leak, etc.) Not everyone can afford to, or wants to, buy a hybrid and that’s fine. We chose to, and we could, and we couldn’t be happier with the decision. We are geeks; we are used to being among the early adopters to a new technology and we’re happy to work through the kinks if it means a better, less expensive, more effective product down the road.

-> http://fueleconomy.gov/

TO Preston:

Actually, hybrids thus far have been averaging less costs in annual routine maintenance than non-hybrids, in large part because their Internal Combustion Engines don’t get worked as hard/as often as non-hybrid vehicles and their brake pads (one set, anyway; I forget if it’s front or rear) are used much less than in a non-hybrid because some of the vehicle’s momentum is captured as regenerative braking power instead of being bled off as heat from the wearing of the brake pads. (An engineer could explain this properly; I’m probably mucking it up but it’s my way-layman’s explanantion

So far, our 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid has proved very inexpensive to maintain–just oil and filter changes as scheduled, and we did splurge on a new set of tires after sustaining too many punctures & patches (major construction around us.) PS: Hybrids are most definitely a transitional technology, but can’t that be said of everything? Granted, the internal combustion engine has been around for a long, long time, and isn’t going to disappear in the foreseeable future (big diesel generators, etc.) even if it’s used less for personal transportation.

The “problem” with plug-in/electric vehicles is one of infrastructure and demand. If they go widespread, which maybe they will, there will need to be charging stations in downtown areas and office parks for people to recharge their vehicles while at work or traveling, and we’ll need to move our power plants away from highly polluting forms of electrical generation (coal, etc.) or we’ll merely shift the pollution, as it were, requiring more electrical generation plants in some areas to support the growing number of plug-in electric vehicles.

We’re a LONG, LONG WAY AWAY from that happening, however. It’s about as far-fetched a fear right now as when people said/say “If too many people buy hybrids, the government’s going to go broke because it won’t receive enough money in gas tax revenue to maintain our roads.”

(Like they maintain them adequately NOW?

TO Aziz Grieser:

Excellent blog post and one I wish more people would ponder. The truth of the matter is there is no magic pill, no single point solution. Like everything else in life, the solution is a multitude of things working in concert. Rarely is technology, alone, a solution to what ails us. The human element, as the advertising (DOW?) goes, is the most important one of all. That is why in addition to buying a hybrid in 2006, we have tried to incorporate bicycling into our way of life. My husband has succeeded and I have failed in this regard–he commutes once or twice a week to work on his bicycle (12 to 14 miles each way, depending on his route) and this has inspired others we know to try to bicycle commute as well. We live in San Antonio, Texas, which is not exactly “Bike Friendly USA” and it’s hot & humid, so if he can do it, others can too. In addition to the benefits to him directly (physical fitness, sense of accomplishment, a GREAT way to burn of work stress), maybe someone sitting alone in their SUV/pickup/sedan, parked in bumper-to-bumper rush traffic and breathing everyone else’s auto exhaust, will be motivated to do something similar.

TO Dan Dunn & Abe Murray:

Rarely is the political arena the most logical place. I’m not sure what Dan’s close-minded opponent has to do with the blog post, however. Without a real study to back it up, we’re all just passing off our personal biases and stereotypes off as fact by assuming a hybrid driver does or does not do other things to conserve, or that a Hummer driver is in fact a jerk/witch, or that someone who bicycles to work is inherently “greener” in every OTHER aspect of his/her life (maybe their passion is speedboat racing on the weekends, or riding a four-wheeler, or whatnot, for example.)

When the best answer to a question posed to you is “I don’t know” the answer you say aloud really SHOULD be “I don’t know,” not your pet bias or favorite stereotype. Yes, there are some really high and mighty Prius (see South Park “Smug” episode) owners, and I guess there’s probably a kindly ol’ grandmother driving a Hummer, but their existence doesn’t grant us the proof to paint everyone with that broad brush.

Best line from the resulting comments?

From someone named Tim: “You take the band-aid while the new technology is developed….there’s no use bleeding in the meantime.”

More hybrid related talk, which came up from one of my Ford Escape Hybrid Flickr photos -> http://tinyurl.com/67692u

And for a great discussion on hybrids and emissions -> http://greenhybrid.com/discuss/f26/why-hybrids-cleaner-18765/

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