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Hybrid Cars Don't Live Up to Mileage Claims 1528

Posted by timothy
from the my-wagon-slurps-gas dept.
Omega1045 writes "Wired News is running a great little article about how hybrid cars (specifically Honda and Toyota models) do not come anywhere close to living up to their fuel efficiency claims. The article highlights that the EPA tests are more to blame than the car manufactures. Consumer reports has shown that the mileage for these cars can be as low as 60% of the claims. The article also links to a blog authored by hybrid enthusiast Pete Blackshaw detailing his failures getting any real answers on why his Honda Civic Hybrid isn't getting better fuel mileage. It looks like these cars are more hype than help in the battle against pollution and foreign fuel reliance."
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Hybrid Cars Don't Live Up to Mileage Claims

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  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:38AM (#9127070)
    It looks like these cars are more hype than help in the battle against pollution and foreign fuel reliance.
    While the references indicate that the actual mileage is lower than what is claimed, the vehicles do get better gas mileage than standard automobiles. From a conservation standpoint, that's still a good thing. From a Truth In Advertising (ha!) standpoint, it certainly stinks.

    Personally, I'm interested in hybrids but not for fuel efficiency reasons. I'd like to see auto makers combine the output from different energy sources into all-wheel acceleration of a normal car. I remember seeing something on the news a few years ago about Ford experimenting with that on an Explorer, trying to jazz up the acceleration of a bigger vehicle. I don't know what became of that testing, if anything. But it would be extremely cool to see that technology in a small, sporty car.

    • by laupark (668153) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:46AM (#9127204)
      Also, add the environmental cost of gigantic batteries that these things will discard every five years (or has that been addressed?)- really, I don't know if it has, but I always wonder about the environmental impact of the battery production and destruction.
      • by UniverseIsADoughnut (170909) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:53AM (#9127353)
        yes it has been adressed, new hybrids have lifetime or 125,000 mile pack warrenties.
        • by Phreakiture (547094) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:34PM (#9128048) Homepage

          Batteries are also the single most agressively recycled automobile part, with deposits charged and refunded like they are on pop bottles in some states.

        • by Thuktun (221615) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:36PM (#9128075) Homepage Journal
          yes it has been adressed, new hybrids have lifetime or 125,000 mile pack warrenties.

          This addresses a consumer cost issue with the battery packs, not any environmental issue.
      • add the environmental cost of gigantic batteries that these things will discard every five years

        Lead-acid batteries are almost completely recyclable. Anyone "discarding" them needs adjustment via clue-stick.

    • by stanmann (602645) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:46AM (#9127217) Journal
      31.5 isn't better than what one of the guys at work gets in his escort. And if they aren't more efficient then they are wasted.
      • by glitch! (57276) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:00PM (#9127475)
        31.5 isn't better than what one of the guys at work gets in his escort.

        For what it's worth, I have two Saturn SL cars, and they both average between 42 and 44 miles per gallon. One is a 1997 model, the other 2002. Aside from three or four times when someone else filled up the tank and forgot, I can account for every single gallon of fuel and every mile over the last seven (and two) years. Oh, and I bought both of them brand new from the dealer for $12K and $10K.

        These cars are not hot rods, but they have plenty of power to climb hills at 65mph and I am almost always a bit quicker than the other cars.

        So using my own experience as a benchmark, I can see that these 50mph+ cars may have a claim for better efficiency, but they are also a lot more expensive than mine.
      • by Glonoinha (587375) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:01PM (#9127494) Journal
        Yes but you have to remember - your buddy's Escort gets 31MPG and the Hybrid car may get 31.5MPG - but the Hybrid's mileage is 31.5 environmentally friendly miles per gallon of gasoline where your bud's Escort's mileage is 31 environment destroying miles per gallon.

        Miles per gallon of gas in a Hybrid car are way better for the environment because the Hybrid also uses electricity, where miles per gallon of gas in a regular car are bad for the environment because of emissions, resource depletion, depending on OPEC, all that stuff.

        Big difference. Or so the Honda ads would have me believe.
        • Please, tell me where I can get a gallon of electricity?
        • by jdbo (35629) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:19PM (#9127792)
          While your post IS funny, it's also, uh, wrong.

          Hybrids have cleaner emissions compared to standard vechicles, regardless of mileage.

          This is how they qualify as a LEV and SULEV (low-emission vehicle/super-low-emission-vehicle).

          So, when compared to the more "average" pollutant level of the Escort's emissions (I don't believe there are any LEV or SULEV escorts available, correct me if I'm wrong), 31 hybrid's MPG in a hybrid can be considered "way better for the environment" than the Escort's 31 MPG.
      • I was going to say something disparaging about US cars and gas mileage, since my 2.4 Volvo V70 tank gets about 33 MPG

        ...Then I remembered that UK Gallons are about 20% bigger than US Gallons, and that I was going to make a fool of myself, again

        Carry on, nothing to see here....

    • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:47AM (#9127234)

      The Honda Civic Hybrid is an example of a hybrid is set up with the following:

      • A smaller than normally practical internal combustion engine
      • A continuously variable transmission to drive the wheels forward
      • Improved aerodynamics
      • An Aluminum chasis
      • Electric motors on each of the wheels to generate power while braking and to assist the IC drivetrain

      Energy is lost in the conversion from gas to electricity, it's also lost in the storage in the batteries and the usage from the batteries to the wheels. You konw and I know that while normally this would all be lost in the braking, now it is stored and used to assist with acceleration.

      The odd part is that while driving where you aren't using the brakes a lot, the transmission, weight improvements and aerodynamics will be the only improvements in your efficiency. The electrical assist means that your engine can be improbably weak, but I don't know if that necessarily translates to a more efficient engine.

      Here's something which nicely describes why I'm skeptical about the true performance of hybrids:

      1992 Civic line:
      http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/1992_Honda_ Civic.shtml [fueleconomy.gov]

      2004 Civic line (including hybrids)
      http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/2004_Honda_ Civic.shtml [fueleconomy.gov]

      I'm not sure why, but it looks like my 1992 1.5L Civic Hatchback is(was) more fuel efficient (city and highway) than the modern 2004 Civic Hybrid. I don't think U.S. government numbers are right, but they're close enough to try to make some kind of a point :-)

      As an aside, I was looking into the hybrid transmissions and from what I could tell... I was wrong, the Honda Insight was manual-only, but the newer hybrids sometimes sell with the choice of an automatic or continuously variable transmission... oddly, the fancy transmission hurts highway fuel efficiency, but it helps in the city.

      Note that comparing an aluminum hybrid to a galvanized steel compact, e.g. the Insight to a "regular" car, would not be an apples-to-apples comparison since if you were to remove all the weight from the electrical system (adding hydraulic brakes) and increase the engine size to match the lost horsepower, the new gas car would be more efficient than other gas cars on the road today, and might even be better on the highway than the hybrid. (Although it really should fail to beat the hybrid in the city)

      A 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid to a 2004 Honda Civic would be a more reasonable comparison than my 1992 to a 2004... the 2004's have bigger engines and are less fuel efficient. I'd also expect the 2004 hybrid to have more horsepower than my 1992 car... so I'll admit, it's not a fair comparison...

      But there may be less expensive, more fuel efficient non-hybrid vehicles on the market.

      (In reality, I get about 37MPG on the highway, ~30 in the city... the car _is_ 13 years old)

      • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:00PM (#9127473) Homepage
        The electrical assist means that your engine can be improbably weak, but I don't know if that necessarily translates to a more efficient engine.

        It does. A fairly typical family-car has 120ps and a 1.6 litre engine. Even though, 90% of the time it uses only a fraction of that power, the power is "needed" because people expect acceleration and ability to climb short hills without loosing speed.

        With an electric assist that can give an additional push, powered from batteries for short periods, a weaker engine can be used. And here's the thing: a weaker engine is more economical.

        Under circumstances where you need 35ps (for example 100km/h on flat highway) a 50ps engine is going to consume less fuel than a engine capable of 120ps, but currently near-idling at 40ps.

        This is so for various reasons, partly that it requires energy to pump all that air in and out, and partly that there's a lot more mass to move in a bigger motor, which tends to lead to more internal friction-losses.

        On the flipside a hybrid will tend to be heavier, because it essentially has two engines (though smaller) and two energy-storages.

        Still, hybrids *do* get more mileage than conventional autos with comparable performance. Just not as much extra as the EPA-estimates will have you believe.

      • by BigBlockMopar (191202) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:07PM (#9127581) Homepage

        Note that comparing an aluminum hybrid to a galvanized steel compact, e.g. the Insight to a "regular" car, would not be an apples-to-apples comparison since if you were to remove all the weight from the electrical system (adding hydraulic brakes) and increase the engine size to match the lost horsepower, the new gas car would be more efficient than other gas cars on the road today, and might even be better on the highway than the hybrid. (Although it really should fail to beat the hybrid in the city)

        Yeah, I think the weight of the hybrid electrical system offsets the weight savings from the aluminum body.

        But there are several things which really upset me about hybrids:

        • I don't care what they say, sooner or later an accident will happen where the batteries are ruptured and smear electrolyte all over passengers.
        • No matter what you do, you're never gonna get all the cars or their batteries back for proper recycling. People do strange things to cars. They end up in lakes or rivers, or abandoned in the woods.
        • Aluminum is a difficult metal to work. Welding to the body to perform a collision repair is going to be expensive because it requires equipment that most body shops don't have - TIG welder, stock of aluminum sheet metal, person capable of TIG welding without warping thin sheet metal. Therefore, the cars will be scrapped more often after collisions. Also, aluminum rots extremely quickly in road and sea salt conditions - look at city buses, there's a reason all of the panels are interchangable with only 1/2 hour and a rivet gun.
        • Complexity - either real or perceived - of the drivetrain is increased. More and more people and shops will want to avoid working on them, which will drive up labor costs for service. Therefore, because they're expensive to fix, they'll get scrapped sooner.
        • Late-Life vehicles - Will driving this car be at all practical if the assist battery is disconnected? When the car is 6-8 years old and being driven around by its last owner and the battery dies, will it still be usable as a conventional car, or will it be scrapped rather than spending the many thousands of dollars a new battery will cost?
        (In reality, I get about 37MPG on the highway, ~30 in the city... the car _is_ 13 years old)

        1970 Dodge Dart 4-door sedan, mostly stock, seats 5 full-size (6 foot +) adults in comfort, modern radial tires, Slant-6 brings the thing up to highway speed quicker than most new econoboxes. And it's made of thick, solid steel. 34 years old, gets 25MPG highway, about 22MPG city.

        Moore's Law does not apply to the automobile!

        • by Locutus (9039) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @01:08PM (#9128624)
          come on now, didn't you do any research into todays hybrid vehicles?

          1) They use NiMH batteries and not lead-acid. If NiMH electrolytes are getting smeared all over the passengers, they probably didn't survive the crash anyways.

          2) Again, NiMH and not lead acid or NiCAD so there isn't that massive environmental impact of the previous battery technologies. But I do agree we still need mandated recycling of some of these materials so they don't end up in lakes/etc.

          3) The Toyota battery does not have to be completely replaced if a battery cell fails. Just the bad cell so there should be no large expense to replace the whole battery. Except maybe in a collision and again, that's going to likely be a total anyways....

          4) our Dodge Dart is not getting very environmentally efficient milage( ie green house gases/etc ). There's more to good MPG with hybrid systems.

          LoB
    • by SandMouse (687602)
      What needs to be understood is that hybrid cars offer better gas milage only depending on certain conditions. If you are driving without much acceleration/decceleration, then you basically do not get the advantage of hybrid technology. For city drivers, you get the recharge while braking and it makes for very efficient energy consumption. Just my 3 cents.
      • by arivanov (12034)
        Absolutely correct.

        And the other truth is that if they will give a good return only if driven in an environment where there is a lot of breaking from reasonable speed to 0 and starting after that all the way to reasonable speed.

        They do not give good return in a traffic jam environment because the crawling gets the batteries drained to the point where the ECU decides to recharge them and starts from cold (and there is not enough energy recovered from breaking). This means engine running in the most ineffic
    • by Merlin42 (148225) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:48AM (#9127243) Homepage
      From a Truth In Advertising (ha!) standpoint, it certainly stinks.

      But the key line in the article is that federal law prohibits using anything other than the EPA estmates for advertising fuel efficiancy. So while it may stink, the 'guberment' is more to blame than Honda.

      NOTE: IANACG (i am not a car guy)

      The article suggests that the tests are not necisarily accurate b/c they use emisions to estimate the amount of fuel used. And that the tests were designed to be simple to replicate.

      Why wouldn't it be simpler to just fill the tank, run the car, and then see how much fuel it takes to refill the tank?!? Is there some reason this wouldn't be a reliable test?
    • by Dausha (546002) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:49AM (#9127269) Homepage

      . . . the vehicles do get better gas mileage than standard automobiles. From a conservation standpoint, that's still a good thing.

      As I recall, the Honda Insight is supposed to get as much as 60 MPG. Sixty percent (from the root parent) of that is 36 MPG. I used to get 30-35 MPG from my old Ford Escore (stick) and up to 33 MPG in my old Saturn L-200. (I also got up to 50 MPG from my '69 Beetle, but that was because on the highway I would cut the engine off on long, steep hills. That is another story.) And, I believe that diesels can produce up into the 40 MPG range (e.g. VW Passat). So, the "better gas mileage" is, to me, "slightly better gae mileage."

      However, what of the batteries? I've been told that they may cost over $1000 to replace when they go bad, and that the replacement rate is somewhere in the ball park of one in five or so years. Additionally, I've been told that the batteries themselves are quite toxic. So, methinks from a conservation standpoint they are not markedly superior to full ICEs.

      That said, my brother had an Insight and tightly tracked his fuel economy. He was fanatic about trying to squeeze very amp he could. He found his economy to be in the 60 MPG range. Most of his driving was highway (60+ miles each way to work) in a low-traffic area (Arkansas). So, YMMV. Having zipped around town in them, I was quite pleased with their pep.

      • by Doc Hopper (59070) <slashdot@barnson.org> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:02PM (#9127496) Homepage Journal
        As a happy Honda Insight CVT owner (which is rated at 57MPG highway), the lifetime average on my 2001 model is 56.1 MPG. I bought it used, and the previous owner had averaged 54.1 MPG. My personal average is 62.1 MPG. The manual transmission Insight can do even better.

        So while there are some hybrids that fail to live up to the mileage claims, with careful driving your average Honda Insight can beat the EPA estimate by an appreciable margin. But a key is careful driving. If you're a foot-to-the-floor driver, or frequently drive on roads well in excess of the EPA "highway" speed (50-60MPH), your mileage will definitely take a dive.

        You're not going to get anywhere near the rated mileage doing 85 on the freeway, or if your commute is all stop-and-go.
        • by jumpingfred (244629) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:17PM (#9127771)
          Careful driving in a regular gas car vastly improves the millage also.
        • by GooberToo (74388)
          Actually, I just watched a show which had one an engineer talking about hybrids. They claim that stop-and-go is one of the ideal operating conditions for hybrids. The reason is that it's running off of batteries and not using gas. Then, once you get out of the stop-n-go, the batteries get recharged. That sure seems to make sense to me. Best of all, he argued that long distance highway driving, typical in America, would provide for some of the worst mileage you can get from a Hybrid as it will mostly be
          • by Doc Hopper (59070) <slashdot@barnson.org> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @01:02PM (#9128501) Homepage Journal

            The Toyota Prius uses an ICE system. It involves two electric motors, can operate "silently" (purely off the electric motor) at low speed, and can only be used in conjunction with an automatic transmission.

            The Honda hybrids use a system called "IMA", that functions more like an electric turbocharger. If a Honda hybrid is moving, the gasoline engine is running. Well, OK, there is an exception to this if you're coasting to a stop at speeds below about 10 MPH (3 MPH in the CVT), with the brake pedal depressed, the engine goes into "auto idle stop" mode. The Honda design can be used with a manual transmission (leading to the extraordinary mileage of certain models) and is less complicated than the Toyota system, but otherwise seems to be a wash as far as advantages when comparing the two.

            I have to admit some bias here: I think the Honda Insight is in a class by itself. It was a brand-new model introduced in Japan in 1999, engineered from the ground up to be the MPG king of the mass-produced world. It sacrifices a lot to be that: no rear seat, "unusual" design (my brother-in-law says "ugly", but I think it gives the car "character"), all-aluminum construction (painful, painful body repair bills), high insurance costs (on par with high-end rear-wheel-drive sports cars), a fairly stiff econo-box-like ride due to really hard little wheels, a crappy stereo (until 2004, when they put a much nicer model in), and hardly any selection of "options": if you have an Insight of a particular year, other than air conditioning and transmission type, your choices are extremely limited.

            But I still love the car :) Now, back to responding to your post!

            The engineer that talked about the Prius "running off batteries and not using gas" must have been off his rocker, if what you describe is correct. The energy has to come from somewhere, and in the case of these hybrids, that's from the gas tank. The gasoline motor must run to recharge those battery cells. And the chemical energy (gas tank) to kinetic energy (motor) to chemical energy (battery) transition wastes a good deal of that energy. Add to that kinetic energy to potential energy losses due to regenerative braking, actual brake pads being used in hard stops, and it's a recipe for poor efficiency.

            The numbers back this up: in city driving, a hybrid frequently turns in extremely disappointing MPG numbers due to these inefficiencies. The Prius takes a hit in its highway MPG numbers, because it has to leech power off the gas engine to recharge the battery it depleted in city driving. The Honda cars take the hit from the gas motor occasionally idling (rather than going into auto-idle-stop), and acceleration from a stop draining nearly as much gas as a "normal" car.

            That said, a hybrid will beat the pants off any similarly-driven traditional gasoline-powered vehicle for efficiency in those conditions. But when the EPA rates city mileage higher than highway mileage, it's not taking into account losses in the battery pack: the car ends the test with a battery pack lower than it started.

            Sadly, you can't beat the laws of thermodynamics:

            • You can't create or destroy energy
            • You can't hope to ever do better than break even
            • You can only break even at absolute zero
            Sounds like my life sometimes...
      • by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:14PM (#9127721) Homepage Journal
        YMMV is correct. Why it varies is important.

        On the highway, a Hybrid engine is just a low-powered gasoline engine -- generally, the electric engine does not engage over highway travel. I say low-powered, and not under-powered, because today's engines have an obscenely high average horsepower. An "economy" car like a Civic or a Focus has a better power to weight ratio than many classic V6s. Your '69 Type 1 put out 55 horsepower, which was plenty to get 4 passengers and their gear up to 75 MPH.

        As a low powered gasoline engine, you get your best economy by accelerating slowly and allowing the resistance of the engine to adjust your speed. Braking on the highway, or downshifting before accelerating, will take a huge bite out of your economy.

        It's in city driving where the hybrid shines, but again, only if you drive it correctly. The big thing is to try to keep the gas engine shut off as much as possible. This is performed by accelerating slowly from stoplights and braking slowly as well (more energy is recycled by the magnetic brake when less is lost to the "backup" brake). Jackrabbit starts will be tempting, as the electric assist engine has a TON of torque, but resist it! That's the only way you'll see your economy improve.

        To be honest, these driving methods will help you improve the economy of any car, especially 3 and 4 cylinder engines, where keeping the revs low and speed constant has a bigger effect than with a 6 or an 8. But the difference in economy is even wider for a hybrid. Whereas I can see an 8 mpg difference between racing to work (27 mpg)and driving casual (35 mpg) in my turbocharged I4, with a hybrid that difference could be close to 20 mpg.

        The EPA drivers know how to drive efficiently, and that's why their scores are so high. You can learn to drive like this too...it's why the Insight has a momentary MPG rating right on the dashboard. The guy from AutoWeek who did the long-term Insight test said he considered the average MPG rating to be a "different KIND of performance rating," and that he made it a game to get it above 60.
        • Your '69 Type 1 put out 55 horsepower, which was plenty to get 4 passengers and their gear up to 75 MPH.

          And get you out of a speeding ticket. I was cruising over the posted speed in my old Bug and topped a hill. On the other side was one of the State's Finest. Even without having a radar detector I knew he had me--lights went on, dust flying from under his wheels. However, he quickly stomped the breaks and shut off his lights. I think he thought he would have a hard time proving in court I was going as f

    • by nate1138 (325593) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:50AM (#9127282)
      From a Truth In Advertising (ha!) standpoint, it certainly stinks.

      Yes, it does, but don't make the mistake of blaming the companies or the advertisers for this. Federal regulations prohibit using any number other than the one calculated by the EPA test in advertising a car's mileage. This test was devised almost 20 years ago, and doesn't actually measure fuel consumption. It measures the emissions, and uses that data to calculate efficiency, and thus, mileage. Obviously a hybrid (with very low emissions) is going to skew the test.

    • by Enigma_Man (756516) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:54AM (#9127358) Homepage
      Honda [vtec.net] has a new Diesel powered car that isn't a hybrid, and is getting 76 MPG (U.S. gallons) in real-world testing by the FIA. It's also breaking speed records for its class in the FIA testing (with the exact same cars used for the fuel efficiency test). I'm curious as to why diesel powered cars aren't more popular in the US, they can be much more efficient, and with recent advances in catalytic converters, and technology, these new diesel engines run very clean and very quietly.

      There's no batteries to worry about, and you get a fullsize (well... not subcompact like most hybrids anyway, hehe) car with a full trunk to use.

      -Jesse
      • Because diesel engines didn't run as clean as they do today. They had the good gas mileage but they were big polluters and pretty loud so they weren't very popular. Now that they run way clean, quieter, and the gas prices are so high, people might start turning to diesel. I think something like 40% of all the cars in europe are diesel when it's only like 1% in the US. Oh and it doesn't help that you can't get diesel fuel in every gas station, maybe when it becomes more of a standard and you just see die
    • by Doug Dante (22218)
      "Personally, I'm interested in hybrids but not for fuel efficiency reasons. I'd like to see auto makers combine the output from different energy sources into all-wheel acceleration of a normal car...."

      Welcome to the intersection of politics and engineering.

      Both Ford and GM looked into making so called "booster hybrids" that would use the electric generator to aid in acceleration and performance, but would not substantially change the EPA recognized mileage of the trucks.

      They were in part motivated

    • by geniusj (140174) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:08PM (#9127614) Homepage
      I have a honda civic hybrid and I typically get around 42mpg.. It is advertised as 47. I think the main issue is that they are driven in 55 zones where as most of the highways around here are 65. If I drive 55 in the car, I can easily get 50mpg. The extra 10 mph can make a big difference. But what it boils down to for me, is that I get better mileage with this car than I would in a standard civic.
  • by CodeMonkey4Hire (773870) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:39AM (#9127082)
    It has to do with the way the milage per gallon is calculated. It's not the same as really driving.
    • by flaming-opus (8186) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:45AM (#9127187)
      Absolutely correct. If you accelerate very slowly, keep that engine running at low RPMs, only drive on flat surfaces, coast whenever possible, then you might approach the published numbers. My car is rated 24/28 or something. Realistically I average about 23-24 with mostly highway driving. I think most consumers are aware of the extreem optimism of those numbers on any type of vehicle.
  • by Harmotech (664060) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:42AM (#9127131) Homepage
    I didn't see this answered in the article, but are other gasoline-only autos also overrated?

    I mean, if the same EPA testing standardis used on all cars, and the hybrids are overrated...

    That said, I have an '88 Volvo that I watch the mileage of pretty closely, and I get b/w 25 and 30 mpg. And it's a big heavy bastard...

    hmmmmm....
  • Biodiesel baby (Score:5, Informative)

    by wherley (42799) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:42AM (#9127138)
    An interesting alternative fuel is biodiesel [biodiesel.org]:

    - We can make it in the US

    - Runs in existing diesel engines

    - Almost all emissions reduced vs. dinodiesel

    (for NOx there are some interesting additives
    being produced).

    - Much less toxic/dangerous than dinodiesel/gasoline

    - Exhaust smells like french fries!
    • by Woogiemonger (628172) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:46AM (#9127199)

      Exhaust smells like french fries!

      If there's anything that's gonna sell Americans on biodiesel, it's gonna be the smell of fast food.

    • Re:Biodiesel baby (Score:3, Insightful)

      by donweel (304991)
      Hydrogen Fuel Cell Baby
      We can make it here
      You can drink the exhaust (h20)
      You can tell OPEC to rotate.
    • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:28PM (#9127929)
      Biodiesal is a good fuel for replacing some of our oil usage. The other main benifit that you forgot to mention is that it is carbon neutral since any CO2 put into the air from exhaust is balenced by the CO2 taken out of the air by the plants grown to create the biodiesel.

      At the moment it is only twice as expensive as diesel here in the US (although what will all the agricultural tarriffs jacking prices up and subsidies bringing them down, it is damn near impossible to calculate the true economic cost of biodiesal). There is the kink that all of our fertilizers are fossil fuel based, so the cost of producing biodiesal will go up as the cost of fossil fuel goes up. The only other alternative is to go to crop cycling and other natural sustainable methods of fertalization, which are also less cost efficient.

      However the real killer is that if you sit down and do the back of the envelope calculations, you will find that growing enough biofuel to replace all the world's oil usage would require all the arable land on the entire planet. In other words we would have to bulldoze all the woods, rainforests, plains, and marshes, and replace them with biomass crops. Not only will will destroy most of the natural habitats on the planet, but at this point we also loose the carbon neutral benifit because we are taking other plants out of the carbon cycle to put ours in.

      So Biodiesal, like solar, is a good supplement to our enegry needs, but not a sustainable complete replacement.
  • by sgarrity (262297) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:43AM (#9127142) Homepage
    I can speak to the accuracy of hybrid fuel economy numbers, but I did do a bit of research and ended up buying a small gas-only car instead. I found the fuel economy of the hybrids wasn't so much better that it warranted the significant price increase.

    I wrote more about the issue on my weblog: Why I didn't buy a hybrid car [actsofvolition.com].
    • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:47AM (#9127233)
      In reality the best price/pollution ratio today is a small turbodiesel. The best example is the Volkswagon Jetta TDI, the Jetta gets real world numbers within 20% of the hybrid's claims (probably higher than the real world performance of the Civic Hybrid for example). Modern turbo diesel engines have eliminated most of the historic problems of diesel engines (soot mostly) but they still have problems with NOX emissions.
      • the best price/pollution ratio today is a small turbodiesel.

        I love my Golf TDI. It averages 40-45mpg (seasonal) for commuting and 45-50mpg on interstate trips, actual verified mileage as opposed to the useless EPA estimates that this article talks about. But please don't kid yourself about pollution. TDIs still make more soot than gas engines, and it'll be years before low sulfur diesel is standard in the US.

        I bought it for the mileage. My goal is to always have higher MPG than my age. IMO, suburban SUV

      • They have dealt with the visible soot, but they still emit particulate matter of a carcinogenic variety. The fuel contains more particles that can not be burned. They just tune the engine to break down the ones that are visible. There is no less soot coming out of a "clean" diesel than many with visible soot. Until you have a filter in the exhaust system you have to change every time you fill up, you are dumping the same amount of soot out there, just invisible.

        Because of the high compression that they
  • by AdrianZ (29135) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:43AM (#9127145) Homepage
    I never got below 50MPG, ever, and that was living in the thin air of Flagstaff, AZ, at over a mile in elevation. I got closer to 60MPG in the lower and warmer Phoenix, AZ.
  • These hybrids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LOL WTF OMG!!!!!!!!! (768357) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:44AM (#9127161) Journal
    Have quite a bit less power than their gas-only counterparts (like the hybrid Civic). I've seen people trying to drive these things like they're race cars, and that certainly isn't going to help.

    MPG estimates are easy to reach when drive like a responsible person, and according to the cars manual. This is often a bit slower than you are comfortable with, hence the problem. It just happens to be that the rift between gas waste with the two driving styles is quite larger with the hybrid engine.

    Drive nicely, you're mileage will be a lot better.
  • by Levendis47 (90899) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:44AM (#9127164) Homepage
    I get 32MPG out of my 1.8T Jetta (5-speed stick) on the highway. But I've read all over the place that the zippy little turbo belches all kinds of nasties when fully engaged.

    What I'd be more interested in is the air and environment impact of charging batteries vs. providing high torgue. Not to mention what one does with batteries that can no longer hold a charge. Land fills?

    Let's not look at just the MPG's on this. Let's look at the over-all impact of the vehicle throughout it's lifespan. Even if it doesn't immediately effect your bottom-line... it could effect your quality of life in 25 years.

    cheers,
    Levendis47
  • Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by avalys (221114) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:44AM (#9127167)
    I'm glad. Maybe this will discourage more companies from jumping on the hybrid bandwagon, and spend their research money on hydrogen-powered cars instead.

    Hybrids are only delaying the inevitable, and (according to this article) not by as much as we thought.
  • by T3kno (51315) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:45AM (#9127192) Homepage
    That bring a smile to my face first thing in the morning. I can't wait for my "HYBRID1" plates to arrive for my 63 Pontiac with a 400 and dual Edelbrock carbs :)
  • by jsimon12 (207119) <tzzhc4NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:47AM (#9127225) Homepage
    I am laughing, cause my TDI (Diesel) actually gets 40-50mpg, is thousands less then a hybrid and diesel is now way cheaper then gasoline.
    • by pclminion (145572)
      I am laughing, cause my TDI (Diesel) actually gets 40-50mpg

      You can't directly compare diesel and gasoline mileages. A gallon of diesel contains 13% more energy than a gallon of gasoline. Therefore you mileage is equivalent to 35-44 gasoline miles per gallon. Don't gloat too much.

      You really, really ought to measure fuel efficiency in miles per kilogram of CO2 emitted. Miles per gallon is very misleading because fuels can have widely varying energy contents.

  • by thesolo (131008) * <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:49AM (#9127253) Homepage
    It looks like these cars are more hype than help in the battle against pollution and foreign fuel reliance.

    If these results are accurate, then this is true, and it's quite sad. What I don't understand is why we aren't promoting Diesel engines more often.

    For example, a VW Jetta TDI [vw.com] gets 50+ MPG on the highway. Unlike the Prius or the Civic Hybrid, diesel engines are cheap, highly reliable, have low maintenance costs, and can easily run on BioDiesel [biodiesel.org] without a performance loss. Even with BioDiesel and Petroleum blends, you're still talking very little pollution in comparison to a similar unleaded gasoline engine. A full tank on a TDI will get you almost 800 miles before you need a refill.

    So why as a society (I'm referring to the US here, the EU is very much ahead of us with biodiesel) don't we promote this more often? Let's reduce our foreign oil dependence, and not have a need to drill ANWR. Use Diesel & Biodiesel!
    • Bio is also over 3$ a gallon. Thats over 43$ a tank of gas!
      • Bio is also over 3$ a gallon. Thats over 43$ a tank of gas!

        Err, gas in the US is gettin there (and in Hawaii it's already there)...

        Considering we should be slapping a Gulf War tax on every gallon of gasoline sold, perhaps homegrown fuel would be less of a 'sacrifice'..

        (frankly we should put a war tax on gasoline and subsidize biofuels, removing agricultural subsidies that are alleviated by increased pricing due to legitimate demand and giving 3rd world agribiz better access to our markets... but that'
      • by Azghoul (25786) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:23PM (#9127855) Homepage
        But if I can get double the mileage out of a diesel then it's effectively two tanks in your car. Given the gas prices currently, 2 tanks on any sedan will likely be more than $43.
    • by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:09PM (#9127632)
      The problem with car diesel engines (speaking as a brit who's driven a few) is that yes they have good mpg but they also generally have lousy performance compared to a petrol engine of the same capacity. Also diesel exhuast despite filters and catalyst its still pretty noxious and even new diesel cars can be seen disappearing off in a cloud of black smoke if revved hard. Plus they sound awful on idle. Obviously these points don't bother many people in europe since diesel cars are big here but they're not the perfect transport solution.
    • So why as a society (I'm referring to the US here, the EU is very much ahead of us with biodiesel) don't we promote this more often? Let's reduce our foreign oil dependence, and not have a need to drill ANWR. Use Diesel & Biodiesel!

      In what volume can BioDiesel be produced, and what is the cost in doing so? We use a significant amount of oil. My understanding of BioDiesel did not lead me to believe that it could produced in the same quantities that we currently consume oil, and at reasonably compara
  • What's his route? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daves (23318) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:49AM (#9127271) Journal
    He mentions that he lives in Cincinnati. Significant parts of the city are not particularly flat.

    I'd like to know more about his commute route.
  • by mbbac (568880) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:51AM (#9127305)
    Perhaps the Civic isn't as great as the EPA rated. I don't know, I'm not interested in one. However, Randy Rathbun's blog had a mileage log [randyrathbun.org] that contradicts this story at least as far as the Prius (the only hybrid I'm interested in at this point) is concerned. I trust his empirical evidence more than a poorly researched article that paints all hybrids with the Civic-brush.
  • by Eagle5596 (575899) <slashUser AT 5596 DOT org> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:51AM (#9127309)
    First of, a Honda Civic is not a true hybrid. It doesn't contain all of the necessary systems like the Prius and the Insight to fall under classification as a true hybrid vehicle.

    As for the more interesting question of why they don't get the listed MPG ratings, there are a few reasons:

    1) First off you have to drive it "perfectly" to get those ratings, just as normal cars don't achieve their listed potential, neither do hybrids because most people don't know the most fuel efficient driving practices (not flooring it ever, for example).
    2) Hybrids must be driven to fully take advantage of their hybrid quality. This is different from normally driving a car. You have to ensure you are using the regenerative breaks instead of coasting to a stop, switch into B drive when on hills, lay off of the accelerator when it isn't truly needed (i.e. gain speed gradually on highways, instead of flooring it and dumping a gallon of gas down the drain).

    When your average person drives a car, he/she cares more about "looking cool", not letting someone cut them off, or some other idiotic driving practice than driving it economically. How much thought do you give to driving for maximum fuel economy? With Hybrids, due to their differences these changes can make more of an impact.
  • I don't understand why there is so much anti-hybrid stuff in the news lately. The Prius and Insight both have quite good safety records and really excellent mileage.

    One nuance that the Wired article didn't cover is that mileage depends greatly on driving style. If I make short, aggressive hops across town my Prius' mileage drops to the mid 30s in summer or low 30s in winter. If I drive more sedately (at the speed limit, with gentle acceleration instead of punching the throttle at the lights) I get mileage in the mid to high 40s. Not bad for a comfortable four-door family car.

    I can drive all day at 80 mph and get 41 MPG. I do it several times a year to visit family and/or just road-trip around the state.

    The lesson to take is that good mileage requires both good tech and good habits.

  • by Ryu2 (89645) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:54AM (#9127361) Homepage Journal
    The main purspoe and advantage of hybrids are their significantly lower emission levels, on the order of 90% compared to normal gas cars. That's their primary design goal. Obviously, fuel efficency will be a side effect of it, but the primary design goal of both the Prius and Insight are in reducing the emission levels and making it "clean", not the fuel efficency per se.

    Diesel cars with similar fuel effiecncy, but definitely not the cleaniness, have been around for ages.

  • by shoppa (464619) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @11:59AM (#9127445)
    For a long time now gasoline-powered cars with sticks have had "shift up" lights on the dash. The sole purpose of which is to boost their EPA scores... few drivers obey the light and there's nothing to force you to.

    A lot of the automotive engineers I've worked with over the years admit that the EPA tests suck and complain about them, but at the same time they know that all their current products are built to take full advantage of the EPA tests wherever possible. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

  • by Evil Closet Monkey (761299) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:00PM (#9127462) Homepage
    Owning a 2004 Prius, I come damn near the estimates. Do I always hit them? No. But that is because you can't get 30+ MPG when you start moving from a dead stop in traffic.

    Moving from traffic light to traffic light is no good for gas millage in any car. Even for a pure electric you "fuel" economy is going to go way down. It is when you get moving that the economy comes in.

    I consistantly get 400+ miles out of my Prius. If I go out on country roads (or take the highway at the speed limit, maybe even a tick under) I can get a heck of a lot more.

    Ya, it doesn't get exactly the quoted 55mpg average... but it is still a damned cool car that I wouldn't trade for anything (except maybe a 2005 model). :P

  • The article is crap (Score:5, Informative)

    by Safety Cap (253500) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:02PM (#9127501) Homepage Journal
    Honda's Civic Hybrid is rated by the EPA to get 47 miles per gallon in the city, and 48 MPG on the highway. After nearly 1,000 miles of mostly city driving, Blackshaw was getting 31.4 MPG. ~ who claims that after 4,000 miles his car has never gotten more than 33 MPG on any trip.

    I can't speak for the Honda, as I have the Toyota Prius [toyota.com], but I get consistently 48-9 city MPG, (the '02 P is rated at 47 city).

    If you don't know how to drive a hybrid, then you will get poor MPG. Period. Here's how to get high MPG in a hybrid:

    1. Make sure the tires are properly inflated (Toyota recommends 33-35 psi, but most Prius owners keep it at 40 psi for better mileage and traction).
    2. When the light turns green, floor it until you get to your target speed (i.e., the speed limit).
    3. Turn on cruise control ASAP.
    4. Do not accelerate when you know you will have to stop.
    5. Avoid tapping on the brake unnecessarily, anticipate the conditions ahead and lower your speed appropriately; when you see the light turn red or heavy traffic ahead, turn off the cruise control and coast. Obviously, if you have to hit the brake because someone darts in front of you, that takes precedence over MPG.
    6. Run the AC only when necessary.

    It is absolutely understandable why people try to drive the way they are taught: smooth acceleration, hit the brakes often, etc., but that is the antithesis of getting good gas mileage in a hybrid.

    Finally, the main goal of the hybrid is reduced emissions; increased MPG is a byproduct.

  • by tbmaddux (145207) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:02PM (#9127503) Homepage Journal
    Insight Central [insightcentral.net] has some very good general fuel efficiency tips [insightcentral.net] and more advanced / detailed tips. [insightcentral.net] I have driven my 2000 Insight over 70,000 miles and have gotten nearly 70 mpg. My driving now includes a mix of city and highway; when it was mostly highway miles I was regularly beating 80 mpg on each tank. My daily commute is now 8 miles round trip. I still get over 60mpg, which beats the EPA estimate. This is not to brag, but to point out that one or two bloggers' experiences do not fairly reflect the general experience of all drivers.

    When you drive a hybrid, you will get better mileage if you change your habits to make more effective use of the hybrid's abilities. This doesn't mean you have to poke along... I accelerate hard so that I am using my batteries and minimizing the time I spend burning a lot of fuel in the gasoline engine. Plus, it's fun. You'll also get better mileage if you pay attention to things like tire pressure. Dealers like to inflate my Insight tires to 32 psi all around, even though 38 psi is what Honda recommends. An Insight with 32 psi tires looks like it's running on flats. I inflate to 44 psi. The mileage change is dramatic.

    As for the original article, it has some good points in it about the EPA tests. It also has some real head-scratchers, like this: "Schmidt says hybrid cars use computers to more precisely control the flow of gasoline and have more efficient catalytic converters..." and this "hybrid cars' ability to limit emissions contributes to the disparity in EPA versus real-world numbers." There are many, many cars that have the same or better EPA emissions rating (10/10) as the Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius. All cars today use computers to regulate gasoline flow.

    When you get your hybrid, turn on its instantaneous readout of mpg and use it to give you feedback on your driving. It will train you. Happy driving...

  • Interresting notes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Captain Rotundo (165816) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:02PM (#9127508) Homepage
    I drive a honda civic, and spent the last week driving my sisters civic hybrid (been considering getting one).

    At first I thought it felt remarkably close to the standard civic in performance, then I went back to the standard civic :) but it still performed perfectly well

    But according to the car (its readout not my calculations) I got about 39-40 MPG durring the week, where as I calculate any where from 28-35 MPG on my civic.

    Not a big increase, but It seemed like they could have done more to make little improvements, like according to the car the electric motor never assists unless your really heavily accelerating or going up an incline. also it turns the gas motro of at a stop light, but if you move again it wont turn it off unless you exceed 5 MPH, so if your in real bumper-to-bumper traffic the motro stays on, now I realize the design of the engine(s) probably makes it so the car can't move without the electric but it seems to me it would be morte asthetically pleasing to keep the gas off until you actually start moving faster than say 5MPH. (there would have been stretches of 20-30 minutes in traffic without the engine even running if that were the case for me.

    all in all I would definatly consider a hybrid when I purchase my next car, but my milage expectations have been brought to earth.
  • I Own a Hybrid Civic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PateraSilk (668445) <tedol@@@isostandardstudio...com> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:03PM (#9127528) Homepage
    I own a hybrid Civic, so here's my $0.02:

    With the AC off, I get 44-46 mpg. That's lower than the calculated mpg the onboard computer gives me,m and lower than the official EPA mpg. However, I still think it's pretty good. I have some theories about why people don't get good mileage:

    1. The electric motor acts like a turbo would. You can't just hammer down and plow past people in the passing lane. If you try that, you'll just shove the CVT into 5000 RMP mode and waste a ton of gas. You have to let it "spool up".

    2. Most peope ride the brakes. If you chill out, you can engine brake and let the electric motor suck the power off the transmission rather than having the brakes turn it into heat.

    3. Kinda like #1, blasting up to 80 mph is a bad idea because you waste a lot of gas *and* battery juice. You can ride at 80 mph, and relatively efficiently, too, but you have to let the car get there.

    All that said, I'd like the car to have a whole lot more battery power for off-the-line accelerations, which takes up the most fuel, and to store more regenerative power.

  • I own an Insight (Score:3, Informative)

    by toadf00t (593835) <sxid9999@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:17PM (#9127758)

    I bought a used 2000 Insight (5 spd) and I've had it for about 7 months now.

    In my experience, I've consistently gotten around 60 miles to the gallon . In the winter it dropped to ~59 (Missouri weather), but on my current tank of gas I have gotten 64.8 MPG over the last 240+ miles. I drive about 5 miles to work one way in city roads, with an max speed of around 40 mph and several stop lights. On weekends I drive it on the highways and my mpg figure usually rises even on a 5-10 mile trip on the highway, which I figure means that I've gotten significantly better mileage. My worst mileage was when i drove to Indiana last thanksgiving and I did 80 mph most of the way. I got 55 MPG then.

    In my opinion, the hybrids need to be driven a certain way. You can't really drive them the way you drive a regular car (accelerate too fast / brake fast). Dont get me wrong, I still accelerate normally, but being able to anticipate stops better and using the regenerative braking and getting the engine into auto-stop faster when the batteries are charged works like a charm for me. Insight Central [insightcentral.net] has some driving tips [insightcentral.net] that helped me a lot.

    I'd chalk this guys problems up to him not adjusting his driving style to fit the car. Thats my 2cents.

  • by sampson7 (536545) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:20PM (#9127808)
    ... Hate the Game.

    So what can we take from this? EPA's mileage estimates are extremely flawed and based on 1970's technology. Duh.

    But the real problem is that the article is completely ignores the driving habits of the person singled out in the article!!!

    Are his tires properly inflated? If not, subtract about 10% from your estimated mileage.

    Is he making short trips? If so, subtract about 30% from your estimated mileage. (This is because a hybrid's primary function is not to get the best gas mileage it can -- instead it's goal is to reduce emissions to the maximum extent it can. In order to reduce emissions, the catalytic converter must be hot -- and to get it hot, the engine has to run. So if your trip is less than 10 minutes, you are shutting off the car right when it has warmed up to reach its peak efficiency.)

    Is it cold out? For the same reasons explained above, weather has a huge effect on efficiency (never mind the fact that battery efficiency also decreases with lower temperatures.)

    To put this all in prespective - I've had my Prius for a couple of years now and have kept ridiculously detailed track of my mileage figures -- and they are all over the map depending how I drive.

    When I went with the tires that came with the car, on hot days, with no air conditioning, and drove in a method to maximize efficiency, I could get 60+ miles per gallon. Turn on the air conditioner and drop that to 40.

    During the winter, the best I can usually do is 45.

    And when I recently switched the tires (for better handling and tread life), my mileage droped by about 10%.

    Drive over 70 MPH, drop it to 40. Drive over 80? Drop it to about 35? (I've never gotten less than 38 for a whole tank average - and that was only when I abused the car.)

    All I am saying is that mileage is highly subjective. This is true for all cars -- but with the hybrids, they keep such careful track of the mileage that it is always on people's minds.
  • by TheWickedKingJeremy (578077) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:28PM (#9127927) Homepage
    I have about 35k miles on my Honda Insight, and I am getting the mileage as advertised. It is rated, if memory serves, to get between 62 and 68 mpg. I am averaging about 63. Granted, because most of my miles are highway miles, you could argue that I should be getting 68, but I cannot exactly complain with 63.

    One thing this car has taught me, however, is that I don't think any car will get the mileage as advertised if you do not drive it "correctly." Because the Insight gives me constant feedback about what sort of MPGs I am getting at any given time, I have learned and adopted different driving patterns to maximize MPGs. For example, when coming up to a red light, I tend to coast and slow down gradually, rather than accelerating right up to it, and braking more quickly. Anyone in the passenger seat does not notice the behavior as weird, and at this point I just do it naturally and without thinking. However, when I am in a friend's car with them driving, I do notice that they tend to accelerate right up until the light, and then break fairly quickly. Little behaviors like that affect what sort of MPGs you get, and unless you drive a car that gives you that sort of feedback, many people do not tend to think about such things as having a real effect on their mileage.

    I have a friend that just bought a new car, and it is advertised as allegedly getting around 30mpgs... However, as he accelerates quickly on highways, passes other cars frequently, and brakes late at lights - I know he is not getting the mileage he thinks he is... Had he had a display on his dash, like the Insight, that told him his mileage, he might believe me ;)
  • Diesel (Score:3, Informative)

    by nsayer (86181) <nsayer@NosPaM.kfu.com> on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:28PM (#9127939) Homepage
    I love my '96 Passatt TDI. No matter how or where I drive, with or without AC, I get 35 mpg. It never wavers at all. And it's got surprising pickup for something officially rated at 90 hp. Of course, the backside of that pickup is that you need to shift before the end of the intersection. :-)

    It's exempt from emissions testing too, which is a big plus.

    My next car will probably be a Beetle TDI as soon as they have factory installed XM radios.
  • by JawzX (3756) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:42PM (#9128194) Homepage Journal
    Hybrids ARE great for city driving, when the maximum power output of the drive line is almost never required. The batteries can happily slog through traffic for quite some time without needing to run the IC engine. However, high speed highway driving, merging, and passing will often require 100% of available drive line power, this is where hybrids fall down.

    Running both the engine and the electrics drains the batteries, requiring the engine to continue to run even after 100% power is not required, the engine has to run fairly hard to charge the batteries back up, and of course there is a loss of efficiency in the conversion from mechanical to electric energy. If you drive like grandma, your hybrid *might* reach the claimed highway efficiency, but at the cost of speed, merging and passing.

    Just for comparison my 1992 Alfa Romeo 164s has a 220hp fuel-injected 3 litre V6, asside from the BOSCH Motronic 5.1-ML injection, it is a decidedly low-tech engine. Single overhead cams, 12 valves, 60 degree, the valve train and geometry of this engine date from the mid 60s. The 164s weighs 3650 lbs, roughy TWICE what a Honda Insight weighs. The Alfa also features leather interior, kickin' sound system, very good aerodynamics, and a top speed in excess of 155 mph. If I take this beast on long highway drives, I can manage 31 mpg. The reason? Most the time the engine is using only a small fraction of it's possible power output.

    When a hybrid, or for that matter, any underpowered vehicle gets out on the highway the conditions often require the drive line to run at maximum output. No mater how lean burning or smart a fuel injection system is, it has to deliver more fuel to produce more power. But if a 3650 lb luxury/sport sedan can get 30+ Mpg why can't an 1800 lb econo car get 60+? The answer is it CAN. And without the added weight, cost and expense of hybrid systems. Hybrids are *a* solution, they are not however in my oppinion the *best* solution.

    What we need are high effiency small-ish engines in the 1.2 to 1.8 litre range put into light weight, aerodynamic bodies. The results would be affordable, reasonably fun to drive and just as efficient as hybrids for most American drivers. Those living in cities may want to consider a full electric solution, or *gasp* public transportation (which is, unfortuneately not really up to snuff in most American cities). In addition, a displacement on demand system could improve the efficiency of small cars in city driving as well. Who says only a V8 would bennefit from this technology? A small 4 cyl car could conceivably be set up to idle on only one cylinder at stop lights.

    Hybrids may actualy be better suited to high performance applications than high efficiency applications. Witness the Toyota Volta. [toyota.com] The Volta is efficient because it rarely uses 100% of it's available power, and since about 50% of that power is provided by electrics, it's IC engine is similar in efficiency to that of a vehicle with 1/2 the total drive-line power of the Volta. The result is a vehicle that rarely taps it's full potential, and operates at maximum efficiency most of the time rather than maximum output.

  • by GizmoToy (450886) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @12:44PM (#9128221) Homepage
    As soon as I saw that I had to dismiss the entire article. The guy lives in Cincinnati. For those of you who've lived in Cincinnati, you know how incredibly hilly it is (Not San Fran. hilly, but still...). I have a '98 Civic EX I drive daily in Cincinnati... you know what kinda gas mileage it gets? 18Mpg. EIGHTEEN! I take it on trips and I get high twenties, low thirties.

    They use this guy as an example, but make no mention of the driving conditions he usually deals with. The manufacturers MPG estimates are based on flat roads... its hardly surprising that he doesn't get the estimated mileage when he's constantly climbing hills.

    I agree that there should be some oversight of the estimates, but its impossible to provide an accurate measurement for every kind of condition. I think the article fails to realize that all miles are not equal.
  • by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @01:14PM (#9128746) Homepage
    It looks like these cars are more hype than help in the battle against pollution and foreign fuel reliance.

    Naturally, the technology, not the drivers, that is responsible for the poor fuel economy.

    Nonsense. When I drive my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (yes, I actually own one [elwing.org], potentially unlike many other people posting here) on the highway, I am careful on the gas (I take a speed hit going up hills, I utilize descents, et cetera). On the Pittsburgh, PA - Washington, DC drive, I consistently average 51 MPG for the length of I76, I70, and I270. On the George Washington Memorial Highway along the Potomac, I can keep it above 53 going in and out of the city. For local traffic, I accelerate slowly and brake slowly (when possible) and that helps keep it above 48 MPG.

    On the otherhand, when I feel like having some fun, the gas miliage can drop down into the low 40s (42-46 MPG). For my Civic, that is terrible, but still better than 90% of the cars on the road. I consistently score 575+ miles out of my 12.7 gallon tank.

    A terrible driver could take an NSX and lose every race. An excellent driver can take a Kia and kick some serious ass. Likewise with fuel economy, a bad driver can make the most efficient vehicle guzzle gas while a good driver could get some decent range out of an SUV. The point is, a car's technology is only as good as the driver.

    I think a lot of people out there get a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle and assume that they don't have to think. That's not the case. There's a very good reason why the Prius and the Civic Hybrid show you whether the motor is assisting or charging and show you your instantaneous fuel economy. These tools help the driver alter their habits to get the best performance. If people are dumb enough to spend the money on one of these vehicles and then not use the technology correctly (understand how to drive with maximum efficienty and change their habits), it's not the fault of the engineering, it's the fault of the consumer.

  • by Locutus (9039) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @01:45PM (#9129233)
    Look at the authors previous articles and you'll see he just wrote an article promoting fuel cells and hydrogen powered vehicles....

    He looks/sounds more like a shock-jock than anything else. We're averaging about measured 45 MPG over 40,000 miles with a 2001 Toyota Prius(purchased in 2000).

    IMO, the story headline should be more like this: "Car owners with poor driving habits get upset when shown actual MPG", or even "EPA rating is NOT REAL, it's a baseline for comparison dummy".

    LoB
  • by LS (57954) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @01:57PM (#9129417) Homepage
    I own a Civic Hybrid, and I've found that the way I drive severely affects the gas mileage, as others have already mentioned. A couple of things I'd like to add are:

    * If you are driving uphill, never go above 55. The mileage up hills is much more related to speed than on flats.

    * I drive to work every day 85 mph on the freeway, and through city traffic. Ok, so I get 42 MPG, which is not the advertise MPG, but so what - find any other car that gets 42 MPG under those conditions.

    LS
  • Prius Mileage (Score:5, Informative)

    by kmassare (113285) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @02:06PM (#9129547)
    I have owned my 2004 Prius for about six months. During a typical week, where most of my driving consists of the commute to and from work, my gas mileage ranges from 46 to 49 mpg. I live in San Diego, California and the drive has a lot of up and down stretches which may tend to keep the numbers down. My best mileage is on the freeway during the rush hour commute. With speeds down around 15 mph, the car spends a significant part of the drive running on battery only. Unfortunately (or fortunately) my work schedule has me doing most of my commuting during non-rush hour times. During one week however, when I did have a 9 - 5 work schedule, I averaged 52 mpg as reported by the dashboard MPG readout. My wife and I have made one 840 mile round trip to Nevada since we have owned the car. We averaged 49 mpg on the trip with speeds in the 65 - 75 mph range. When I bought the car, I didn't expect to get the EPA mileage. Considering that I haven't changed many of my driving habits since I got the Prius, I am very happy with the mileage that I am getting.
  • by ksheff (2406) * on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @03:08PM (#9130440) Homepage

    I rented a Prius a few weeks ago for a trip. The total mileage for the trip was a little over 1300 miles (interstate highway) and I averaged a little over 45mpg for the entire trip. This is 88% of what the EPA says that I should. It would have gotten even better mileage if I had driven 55 the entire way instead of 75 (and the stormy weather didn't help). Given the age of the EPA tests, I would guess that they use 55 or 60 for the highway speed. I didn't do much city driving, but when I did, it was on strictly battery power for a large portion of it.

    Driving style has a great impact on what you actually get for mileage. Since the hybrids have a screen showing instaneous and current trip mpg, the driver is more aware of how your behavior affects it. Stomp on the throttle to get on an uphill expressway onramp, and sure, it will show that it's only doing 9mpg. The real question is: what would the driver get with a 'normal car' under the same circumstances? Unless more of them start shipping with a little computer that displays the same instaneous and current trip mpg, its difficult to determine how much better the hybrids are performing compared to regular cars.

    After driving a Prius for that weekend, I just wish I had $20K to spend on one. It got 50% better mileage than my regular car, had more room, and more trunkspace.

  • I own a 2004 Prius (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr_Huber (160160) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @04:51PM (#9132095) Homepage
    And I can say that the mileage, while not at the sticker level, is very good. For the last two months, I've been averageing 53 MPG. That is measured both by the onboard computer and hand calculations based on gallons of gas input and miles traveled. With the arrival of 100 degree weather here in Tucson, mileage has dropped to 50 MPG.

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