Marketing and Selling Hybrid Vehicles

Lynne Kiesling

U.S. auto manufacturers, sit up and pay attention: the long-run effect of these high gasoline prices may be a change in the preferences of customers. What brought this home to me this morning was this post from Glenn Reynolds about car shopping with his wife. They compared a Toyota Highlander hybrid and a Subaru Tribeca. Their conclusion is an example of the kind of change I’m talking about:

The winner: The Highlander. The mileage is actually better than the Passat, especially in town where I do most of my driving, it’s roomier and comfier, while driving amazingly well for something of its size. I doubt that it’s worth the premium for the hybrid on a purely economic basis — especially as old-style SUVs are trading at a deep discount now, with lots of “$5000 off” signs around the dealers, which would buy a lot of gas — but if you don’t want a minivan, and you do want room, and you’re offended by the idea of getting 16 miles per gallon, then it looks pretty good.

Yes. We were in the southern tier of New York this weekend, visiting my grandmother and aunt, and the Rochester airport had several cars on display from a local dealer. I have been lusting after a Honda S2000 convertible for some time, but the mileage is only 20 city/25 highway, which takes some of the bloom off of the rose. I’ll wait until they have a hybrid version, which will be good for both torque and mileage.


112 thoughts on “Marketing and Selling Hybrid Vehicles

  1. We’re a very rich country if we buy hybrids for non-economic reasons (i.e. they make us feel like we’re making a difference).

    Meanwhile, out on the open road, I don’t notice anyone slowing down. By setting the cruise to 55 and accelerating gradually instead of like Mario Andretti, you can improve your mileage by 30% or more with the car you already own.

    This is how I drive, and I constantly have people tailgating me. I need a bumpersticker that says “Get off my ass, I’m saving gas”.

  2. An S2000 is not a daily driver, especially for somebody who has to drive from Lincoln Park to Evanston, which is as close to pure misery as you can get in driving, [BTW, try going down Ridge untill it runs into Hollywood] and live through Chicago winters. Its a toy for nice days in warm weather.

    If Toyota were serious about making the hybrid Highlander for gas milage, they would have used the 2.4L 4 as the IC engine. Personally, I can’t see that a hybrid Highlander is a better deal, all in, than a 2 wheel drive V6.

    Buzzcut. I don’t care how fast you drive — if you stay in the right lane. If I find you in the left lane and you don’t move over pronto, expect no mercy.

  3. Robert,

    Thankfully, I don’t drive to work unless absolutely necessary; I take the el or ride my bike. When I do drive (from Lakeview, not Lincoln Park, there are socioeconomic implications of living in Lincoln Park that make me go “eeeuw!”), I have a little cheat back way that gets me to Ridge north of Peterson.

    An S2000 would be a play car, and I’d certainly want a hard top for the winter. But because we jointly drive less than 8,000 miles a year our old 1996 Civic isn’t going to die anytime soon.

    Buzzcut: yes, please stay in the right lane, so as not to introduce the variance to highways that leads to accidents.

  4. Of course the el! Duh. If you go to Noyce, walk west on the south side of the block until you get to the Gellato Shop.

    Some of my best friends live in Lincoln Park.

    Do you take McCormick to Peterson? Does that really ave time?

  5. Too bad no one here is considering the Ford Escape Hybrid. But I shouldn’t talk- I bought and LOVE my Mustang.

  6. Buzzcut, in the immortal words of Sammy Hagar, I CAN’T DRIVE 55! We been there done that and it did not work.

  7. I’ve heard that “drive slow” advice a number of times lately, and I challenge it. I’ve measured my car’s mileage extensively, and I actually get slightly better mileage at 65-75 than I do at 55.

  8. This site is very aptly named “Knowledge Problem.” You don’t seem to want to examine the core problem of “hybrid vehicles” as currently produced: There is NOT ENOUGH of the SPECIALTY METALS, either mined or refined, required for the prodcution of their battery sets or fuel cells. The nickel metal hydride crowd forgets to tell you that it requires the rare earth metal lanthanum in the amount of 20kg per vehicle. World production of rare earth metals IN TOTAL is ALL IN CHINA and is under 90,000 MT. Do the math! Fuel cells as currently configured require 50 lbs of MOLYBDENUM per car. World production of molybdenum metal, mostly in CHINA, is under 100,000 MT per year. Do the math! By the way there are many other uses for molybdenum and it can’t be all dedicated to fuel cell production. Lithium-ion batteries you say? Gee, there are unresolved problems of internal shorting for the high amperage units required for cars-i.e., they are not yet known to be RELIABLE. Where, by the way, is ALL the LITHIUM going to be produced?

    No matter what Bill Ford says there is currently no way to produce more than 250,000 hybrid cars per year and this will be at unknown costs since the key raw materials ALL COME FROM CHINA.

    Forget hybrids anytime soon.

    Jack Lifton

  9. This site is very aptly named “Knowledge Problem.” You don’t seem to want to examine the core problem of “hybrid vehicles” as currently produced: There is NOT ENOUGH of the SPECIALTY METALS, either mined or refined, required for the prodcution of their battery sets or fuel cells. The nickel metal hydride crowd forgets to tell you that it requires the rare earth metal lanthanum in the amount of 20kg per vehicle. World production of rare earth metals IN TOTAL is ALL IN CHINA and is under 90,000 MT. Do the math! Fuel cells as currently configured require 50 lbs of MOLYBDENUM per car. World production of molybdenum metal, mostly in CHINA, is under 100,000 MT per year. Do the math! By the way there are many other uses for molybdenum and it can’t be all dedicated to fuel cell production. Lithium-ion batteries you say? Gee, there are unresolved problems of internal shorting for the high amperage units required for cars-i.e., they are not yet known to be RELIABLE. Where, by the way, is ALL the LITHIUM going to be produced?

    No matter what Bill Ford says there is currently no way to produce more than 250,000 hybrid cars per year and this will be at unknown costs since the key raw materials ALL COME FROM CHINA.

    Forget hybrids anytime soon.

    Jack Lifton

  10. Buzzcut,

    If you want to go 55, by all means, stay in the right lane, but I question the alleged efficiency benefits of going 55 in the first place.

    Over my years of driving, I’ve noticed that my own cars consistently get better mileage at speeds in excess of 65. The cars in question are Firebirds (1981 Formula and 2001 Trans Am).

    When I’ve driven my parents’ cars (2000 Grand Am and 2003 Bonneville), I’ve noticed much the same thing — better gas mileage at speeds in excess of 70 than 55.

    Perhaps it’s a Pontiac thing, but other family and friends I’ve talked to have noticed the same thing and they don’t drive Pontiacs. Their belief is that whether 55 saves gas depends on the type of car you drive and is by no means a hard and fast rule.

    While I believe that to be true, I would add that the efficiency benefits of driving 55 have been, at best, overstated.

    Best of luck,

    ProCynic

  11. If you want gas mileage while carrying seven passengers the Ford Freestyle is it. It offers AWD and gets ~27 MPG. It sits the right height so that your grandma can get in, too.

  12. If you want gas mileage while carrying seven passengers the Ford Freestyle is it. It offers AWD and gets ~27 MPG. It sits the right height so that your grandma can get in, too.

  13. Robert,

    As a former resident of Lakeview and current resident of Evanston, let me assure you that only residents of Lakeview think they are different from Lincoln Park. 15 years ago that might have been true, but not now.

    Buzzcut, you are a prime example of the smug *ssholes who justify their rudenes by saying, “hey, the limit is 55.” Screw you, get your traffic blocking ass out of the way, and if you have no place in particular to go, stay home. And for the record, I take the “L” or ride my bike to work in the Loop.

  14. Robert,

    As a former resident of Lakeview and current resident of Evanston, let me assure you that only residents of Lakeview think they are different from Lincoln Park. 15 years ago that might have been true, but not now.

    Buzzcut, you are a prime example of the smug *ssholes who justify their rudenes by saying, “hey, the limit is 55.” Screw you, get your traffic blocking ass out of the way, and if you have no place in particular to go, stay home. And for the record, I take the “L” or ride my bike to work in the Loop.

  15. Robert,

    As a former resident of Lakeview and current resident of Evanston, let me assure you that only residents of Lakeview think they are different from Lincoln Park. 15 years ago that might have been true, but not now.

    Buzzcut, you are a prime example of the smug *ssholes who justify their rudenes by saying, “hey, the limit is 55.” Screw you, get your traffic blocking ass out of the way, and if you have no place in particular to go, stay home. And for the record, I take the “L” or ride my bike to work in the Loop.

  16. Great, Buzzcut, and so some other SOB gets stuck behind you and gets to be your bumper when some big rig can’t slow down. They get rear-ended and you feel self-righteous. Drive with the prevailing flow of traffic.

  17. Well duh. Its not the first time this has happened either. The 70’s oil crisis brought the demise of the classic muscle car… and ushered in an erra of Japanese imports that were smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient. Its not a shock to see the SUV following the same path as the muscle car.

  18. Do we really think that reducing our consumption of gasoline will do anything other than drive the price of it UP?

    Having spoken with several engineers over the years, I am now absolutely convinced that the technology is here (and its cheap and simple) to modify most cars to where they could easily triple the mileage they are now getting.

  19. Do we really think that reducing our consumption of gasoline will do anything other than drive the price of it UP?

    Having spoken with several engineers over the years, I am now absolutely convinced that the technology is here (and its cheap and simple) to modify most cars to where they could easily triple the mileage they are now getting.

  20. Do we really think that reducing our consumption of gasoline will do anything other than drive the price of it UP?

    Having spoken with several engineers over the years, I am now absolutely convinced that the technology is here (and its cheap and simple) to modify most cars to where they could easily triple the mileage they are now getting.

  21. The S2000 is my daily driver – it’s always a blast to drive.
    [ OTOH, I live in SoCal ]

    Just FYI – I get 23 city/28 highway in the S – and that’s driving it “easy”.

  22. The S2000 is my daily driver – it’s always a blast to drive.
    [ OTOH, I live in SoCal ]

    Just FYI – I get 23 city/28 highway in the S – and that’s driving it “easy”.

  23. REDMAN WROTE: “Do we really think that reducing our consumption of gasoline will do anything other than drive the price of it UP?”

    Er, well… you’re wrong. Lowered demand lower’s prices. Its scarcity coupled with more demand than the market can supply that increases prices. That’s what several thousand years of economics folks watching the markets have demonstrated.

    Now, if you’re arguing that the imperfect market flaw oligopally of the OPEC group will raise prices even as demand falls, well I’ll just say this: OPEC doesn’t represent ALL of the world’s oil production.

  24. Jack Lifton:  Lithium appears to be in good supply (I found references to production in Nevada, Russia, Bolivia and Chile with a quick search) and non-cobalt technologies like Saphion (lithium iron phosphate) eliminate the shorting/thermal runaway problem.

    I found a claim that lithium is about 11 ppm of seawater.  The long-term price can only go as high as needed to make economic recovery from sea salt.  I don’t think we’re likely to run out of inexpensive iron or phosphorus either.

    As for mileage, my old Taurus got 26-27 MPG at 70 MPH, ~30 MPG at 65 MPH and 32 MPG at 55.  My Passat TDI gets about 38 MPG at 70 MPH, ~42-44 at 60, and if the trip computer is any guide it would achieve something over 60 MPG at a 45 MPH cruise.

    I will bet dollars to donuts that the clowns flying by in their 4×4’s at 70-75 MPH would get much better mileage at 60.

  25. Jack Lifton:  Lithium appears to be in good supply (I found references to production in Nevada, Russia, Bolivia and Chile with a quick search) and non-cobalt technologies like Saphion (lithium iron phosphate) eliminate the shorting/thermal runaway problem.

    I found a claim that lithium is about 11 ppm of seawater.  The long-term price can only go as high as needed to make economic recovery from sea salt.  I don’t think we’re likely to run out of inexpensive iron or phosphorus either.

    As for mileage, my old Taurus got 26-27 MPG at 70 MPH, ~30 MPG at 65 MPH and 32 MPG at 55.  My Passat TDI gets about 38 MPG at 70 MPH, ~42-44 at 60, and if the trip computer is any guide it would achieve something over 60 MPG at a 45 MPH cruise.

    I will bet dollars to donuts that the clowns flying by in their 4×4’s at 70-75 MPH would get much better mileage at 60.

  26. Jack Lifton:  Lithium appears to be in good supply (I found references to production in Nevada, Russia, Bolivia and Chile with a quick search) and non-cobalt technologies like Saphion (lithium iron phosphate) eliminate the shorting/thermal runaway problem.

    I found a claim that lithium is about 11 ppm of seawater.  The long-term price can only go as high as needed to make economic recovery from sea salt.  I don’t think we’re likely to run out of inexpensive iron or phosphorus either.

    As for mileage, my old Taurus got 26-27 MPG at 70 MPH, ~30 MPG at 65 MPH and 32 MPG at 55.  My Passat TDI gets about 38 MPG at 70 MPH, ~42-44 at 60, and if the trip computer is any guide it would achieve something over 60 MPG at a 45 MPH cruise.

    I will bet dollars to donuts that the clowns flying by in their 4×4’s at 70-75 MPH would get much better mileage at 60.

  27. After a 30 year run of buying nothing but Ford F100 and F150 pickups, I broke the string in 2003 and bought a Dodge Neon (trying to buy American). Love the car. It’s perfect for my current needs. Inexpensive, well built, trouble free, handles good and gets 37mpg country driving.

    Started looking at the 2006s and found that Dodge is discontinuing the Neon. No ‘entry level’ economy car was named to take its place. Instead Dodge introduced the Hemi-V8 powered Dodge Charger. With gas at $3.00 a gallon, I cannot imagine a more brain-dead move. How many MBAs did it take to come up with that?

    Next time around it’ll be a Japanese or Korean car. American car manufacturers have wandered off into a alternate reality.

  28. After a 30 year run of buying nothing but Ford F100 and F150 pickups, I broke the string in 2003 and bought a Dodge Neon (trying to buy American). Love the car. It’s perfect for my current needs. Inexpensive, well built, trouble free, handles good and gets 37mpg country driving.

    Started looking at the 2006s and found that Dodge is discontinuing the Neon. No ‘entry level’ economy car was named to take its place. Instead Dodge introduced the Hemi-V8 powered Dodge Charger. With gas at $3.00 a gallon, I cannot imagine a more brain-dead move. How many MBAs did it take to come up with that?

    Next time around it’ll be a Japanese or Korean car. American car manufacturers have wandered off into a alternate reality.

  29. I don’t believe the comments about getting more miles out of your gas tank at 70. Doesn’t make sense. A car fighting a 75mph wind is working a lot harder than a car in a 55 mph wind.

    The digital display on my car indicates an increase usage of about 2 liters per 100 km when going at 75 rather than 55.

  30. Basic economics dictates that when the demand for a thing falls, its price also falls and this still, for the most party, holds true for gas prices.

    While there are traffic laws about driving too slow and hindering traffic flow, there are other laws about driving/following too closely, making unsafe lane changes, and inappropriate use of car’s horn.

    Which is worse, someone driving under the limit, hindering traffic, or someone driving too close, which means that the tailgaiter can NOT control his vehicle in an emergency situation?

  31. Nick,
    It was government regulations that killed the muscle cars, not a manufactured “oil crisis”.

    Redman,
    Please explain how reducing the consumption of a product causes that product’s price to increase. Some examples would be nice.

    How come whenever the subject of hybrid vehicles comes up everyone forgets to mention that they are subsidized? Toyota has been producing the Prius for years now and yet they still only produce a few thousand a year. Why do you think that is? Because they lose about $15K for every one they sell. Hybrid cars will never solve any pollution or fuel “crisis” problems because they cost more than anyone is willing to pay.

  32. seems to me if you spend a few thousand more for a hybrid, you’re only choosing to give your money to the banks rather than the oil companies.

    buy stock in both.

  33. seems to me if you spend a few thousand more for a hybrid, you’re only choosing to give your money to the banks rather than the oil companies.

    buy stock in both.

  34. seems to me if you spend a few thousand more for a hybrid, you’re only choosing to give your money to the banks rather than the oil companies.

    buy stock in both.

  35. Buzz? I believe it’s called “hitting a nerve”. People here can say what they want about their “personal experiences”, but I think they’d have a hard time proving that given engines are providing more mpg at higher speeds – their “recovered memory” notwithstanding.

    Last two vehicles with electronics told me I was getting 33 mpg at 62 mph on my 3 series (2001 V6), and 27 at 55 on my Explorer (2005/V6).

    Now, I normally set the cruise to 65 in order to “call it even” with most ‘posteds’ in my own version of “cult of believability” in an attempt to avoid the State Patrol on the freeway.

    But I certainly don’t despise the right-laners doing 55. Good on you.

    The problem with savings, either your way (and rightly so) or via hybrids is that the net savings is to the Business concerns dragging the stuff to your local gas-station – the gas that Buzz saves gets gobbled up by the Dan’s who drive 75 in their H2’s. (Again, good on them, if that’s want they want to do with their disposable income). And the $ saved by the Hybrid owner is never realized due to the high cost versus the 30mpg you can get in a $10K Kia.

    Hey – build me a metro train and run it off a Nuke for my work-day, and let me burn what I want in what I want to buy for my leisure time.

  36. Buzz? I believe it’s called “hitting a nerve”. People here can say what they want about their “personal experiences”, but I think they’d have a hard time proving that given engines are providing more mpg at higher speeds – their “recovered memory” notwithstanding.

    Last two vehicles with electronics told me I was getting 33 mpg at 62 mph on my 3 series (2001 V6), and 27 at 55 on my Explorer (2005/V6).

    Now, I normally set the cruise to 65 in order to “call it even” with most ‘posteds’ in my own version of “cult of believability” in an attempt to avoid the State Patrol on the freeway.

    But I certainly don’t despise the right-laners doing 55. Good on you.

    The problem with savings, either your way (and rightly so) or via hybrids is that the net savings is to the Business concerns dragging the stuff to your local gas-station – the gas that Buzz saves gets gobbled up by the Dan’s who drive 75 in their H2’s. (Again, good on them, if that’s want they want to do with their disposable income). And the $ saved by the Hybrid owner is never realized due to the high cost versus the 30mpg you can get in a $10K Kia.

    Hey – build me a metro train and run it off a Nuke for my work-day, and let me burn what I want in what I want to buy for my leisure time.

  37. If a particular car requires 8 HP to push the air out of the way at 55 mph, the same car will require 14 HP at 65 mph, and 21 HP at 75 mph. So, to obtain better gas mileage at 75 mph than at 55 mph one would have to claim that their car can produce 13 HP more while using less gasoline. In other words, that their gas pedal is depressed less at 75 mph than at 55 mph. I’m not sure that it can be done.

    The Physics of Racing, Part 6: Speed and Horsepower
    http://www.dewtronics.com/tutorials/phor/06-Speed.html

    After all, to obtain the record gas mileage (110 mpg) with a Prius the maximum speed was 40 mph (using Pulse & Glide).

    http://hybridcars.about.com/od/news/a/100mpgrecord.htm

  38. Redman, I challenge that assertion.

    A car company making cars that much more efficient would have an advantage in sales. You think GM would give up making money hand over fist just to satisfy their oil buddies?

  39. My subaru gets its best mileage based on engine RPM. The 4-banger does best above 3k rpm. And when accelerating, keeping the engine in the power band (about 3-5k) is far more efficient than lugging the engine.

    My ancient 442 (was it gas prices? Emmisions requirements? Or ever increasing insurance costs that killed the muscle cars?) with a 3 speed auto gets good gas mileage parked in the garage. But oddly, even with a big block it gets better mileage at interstate speeds (65+) than some sport utes i’ve driven. I’ve gotten 18mpg highway out of the thing before. It doesn’t start sucking gas until the secondaries open up.

    I do keep gas logs, and have experimented how to operate my vehicles more efficiently. I’m neither the fastest or slowest on the interestate, but if you insist on going the posted speed limit on I90 into chicago and choose to remain in the left lane, you are inevitibly going to make more people hit their brakes, flick you off, and force us to pass on the right (making us guilty of breaking multiple laws). Then when we accelerate back up to the pace of traffic, we are wasting more gas than simply maintaining a higher rate of speed (and blinking our headlights to make it known you should change lanes is another ticket if we get caught). But as long as you don’t rubberneck, i won’t hold it against you.

  40. My subaru gets its best mileage based on engine RPM. The 4-banger does best above 3k rpm. And when accelerating, keeping the engine in the power band (about 3-5k) is far more efficient than lugging the engine.

    My ancient 442 (was it gas prices? Emmisions requirements? Or ever increasing insurance costs that killed the muscle cars?) with a 3 speed auto gets good gas mileage parked in the garage. But oddly, even with a big block it gets better mileage at interstate speeds (65+) than some sport utes i’ve driven. I’ve gotten 18mpg highway out of the thing before. It doesn’t start sucking gas until the secondaries open up.

    I do keep gas logs, and have experimented how to operate my vehicles more efficiently. I’m neither the fastest or slowest on the interestate, but if you insist on going the posted speed limit on I90 into chicago and choose to remain in the left lane, you are inevitibly going to make more people hit their brakes, flick you off, and force us to pass on the right (making us guilty of breaking multiple laws). Then when we accelerate back up to the pace of traffic, we are wasting more gas than simply maintaining a higher rate of speed (and blinking our headlights to make it known you should change lanes is another ticket if we get caught). But as long as you don’t rubberneck, i won’t hold it against you.

  41. Wilbur claims (without support):

    It was government regulations that killed the muscle cars, not a manufactured “oil crisis”.

    You mean, like the pollution controls which made Los Angeles air semi-breathable?  (IIRC, there was a year that the VW Rabbits had faster 0-60 times than the Corvettes due to GM’s poor anti-smog technology.)

    How come whenever the subject of hybrid vehicles comes up everyone forgets to mention that they are subsidized? Toyota has been producing the Prius for years now and yet they still only produce a few thousand a year. Why do you think that is? Because they lose about $15K for every one they sell.

    I read that Toyota was turning a per-unit profit on the Prius… in 2001.  I think your claim is at least 6 years out of date.

  42. Wilbur claims (without support):

    It was government regulations that killed the muscle cars, not a manufactured “oil crisis”.

    You mean, like the pollution controls which made Los Angeles air semi-breathable?  (IIRC, there was a year that the VW Rabbits had faster 0-60 times than the Corvettes due to GM’s poor anti-smog technology.)

    How come whenever the subject of hybrid vehicles comes up everyone forgets to mention that they are subsidized? Toyota has been producing the Prius for years now and yet they still only produce a few thousand a year. Why do you think that is? Because they lose about $15K for every one they sell.

    I read that Toyota was turning a per-unit profit on the Prius… in 2001.  I think your claim is at least 6 years out of date.

  43. Weenies, talkin’ up their e-car wannabes. I’ve got an electric neighborhood electric vehicle (GEM) and a electic motorscooter (e-GO) and use those as our primary commute vehicles.

    Only use the SUV for the long freeway trips, and do those at 70 mph. Anyone who is in favor of returning to 55 must live in one of those cute little mini-states like Vermont or Delaware, where you’re halfway across the state as you accellerate to cruising speed.

  44. Weenies, talkin’ up their e-car wannabes. I’ve got an electric neighborhood electric vehicle (GEM) and a electic motorscooter (e-GO) and use those as our primary commute vehicles.

    Only use the SUV for the long freeway trips, and do those at 70 mph. Anyone who is in favor of returning to 55 must live in one of those cute little mini-states like Vermont or Delaware, where you’re halfway across the state as you accellerate to cruising speed.

  45. OK, so limiting speed to 55mph increases mileage.

    How about 45mph then?

    Or 35? Or 25?

    All I can say is, left-lane laggards should be pulled over for obstructing traffic, just like in Germany. In fact, everything should be just like in Germany: better roads, fahren rechtig, no speed limits, higher licensing costs (to keep the riffraff off the road). We’re already headin their way in terms of gas prices, why not get the benefits of fahrenordnung?

  46. @Bob Young

    I’ve only been buying ‘foreign’ cars (Honda, etc), only to find out that they are made in Kentucky, and California. My 1996 Civic was 80% made and assembled in the USA. Only the Engine and Transmission was made in Japan. I’ve got 160,000 miles on it and it still runs almost like a top.

    Having just spend a week in Miami where the gas lines were maxing at 12-16 hours, and minimum at 30 minutes, fuel economy was at a premium, and I enjoyed my Civic greatly. I especially enjoyed the story about the guy in a Hummer reduced to $20 worth of fuel (~7.5 gallons?).

    US Cars are made in Canada and Mexico. Foreign cars are made in the US. Why is this? Because the rules state that if the engine is made overseas it’s foreign almost no mater what other % is made and built in the US. Thanks Ford, GM, and Daimler (oh and Congress too!)??

    I’ll keep buying my Kentucky made/assembled Honda cars and SUVs thank you very much.

  47. Buzzcut: We’re a very rich country if we buy hybrids for non-economic reasons (i.e. they make us feel like we’re making a difference).

    Visit a Whole Foods sometime to see this same principle in action. Sometimes the organic meat and veggies actually taste better but the environmental and health benefits are impossible to measure at the individual level. It is a faith system, even if it is real.

    I can’t help but wonder if the production of all those batteries and electric motors in a hybrid eats up more energy than the differential in the gas consumption over the life of the car. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

    This is kind of similar to the way that commuter trains actually consume more energy per passenger-mile than an average car. There are other benefits to keeping ten thousand cars off the highway during rush hour but in the end it doesn’t save gas.

    Or like those “fat-free” muffins that end up with more calories than grammy’s lard-based recipe because they make up in sugar what they took out in fat.

  48. Buzzcut: We’re a very rich country if we buy hybrids for non-economic reasons (i.e. they make us feel like we’re making a difference).

    Visit a Whole Foods sometime to see this same principle in action. Sometimes the organic meat and veggies actually taste better but the environmental and health benefits are impossible to measure at the individual level. It is a faith system, even if it is real.

    I can’t help but wonder if the production of all those batteries and electric motors in a hybrid eats up more energy than the differential in the gas consumption over the life of the car. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

    This is kind of similar to the way that commuter trains actually consume more energy per passenger-mile than an average car. There are other benefits to keeping ten thousand cars off the highway during rush hour but in the end it doesn’t save gas.

    Or like those “fat-free” muffins that end up with more calories than grammy’s lard-based recipe because they make up in sugar what they took out in fat.

  49. Buzzcut: We’re a very rich country if we buy hybrids for non-economic reasons (i.e. they make us feel like we’re making a difference).

    Visit a Whole Foods sometime to see this same principle in action. Sometimes the organic meat and veggies actually taste better but the environmental and health benefits are impossible to measure at the individual level. It is a faith system, even if it is real.

    I can’t help but wonder if the production of all those batteries and electric motors in a hybrid eats up more energy than the differential in the gas consumption over the life of the car. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

    This is kind of similar to the way that commuter trains actually consume more energy per passenger-mile than an average car. There are other benefits to keeping ten thousand cars off the highway during rush hour but in the end it doesn’t save gas.

    Or like those “fat-free” muffins that end up with more calories than grammy’s lard-based recipe because they make up in sugar what they took out in fat.

  50. Rick and John,

    Part of the problem with your assertions (and in all the assertions that 55 mph saves gas) is that they assume all things are equal, so differential in gas mileage is determined primarily by speed. This is simply not the case. There are several other variables at work here, which tend to be ignored by the 55 mph crowd.

    First, the difference in engine design based on the purpose of the engine. A Hemi is built for a different purpose than an LS1, the release of the Dodge Charger notwithstanding. A Corvette with an LS1 is designed for the open road. A Dodge Neon is designed for multipurpose driving. The engines will simply be designed differently.

    Second is aerodynamics and friction. Your examples of horsepower required to push aside wind resistance are well known, but it assumes everyone drives a car with all the design of the blockish and hideously ugly Honda Element. Put the same engine in an Element and a Corvette, run them both at 75 mph. Which one gets better mileage? Put the same engine in a Taurus and which gets better mileage at 75?

    Faster speeds on an aerodynamically designed car such as the Corvette reduce downward pressure and create a certain lift, like aircraft. The reduction of downward pressure reduces the friction from the tires, reducing the work the car has to do to move forward. The reduction of friction increases as you go faster, which makes it more likely that you will lose control of the car. So racing tires have to be specifically designed to get a better grip on the road.

    The 40 mph example suggested for the hybrid is not a bell curve that applies equally to all vehicles. Hybrids are not designed for the same purposes as Corvettes and SUVs. They are not aerodynamically designed and, IMHO, are visually extremely unappealing. They don’t handle or accelerate well, they’re cramped and are generally found in the far right lane. They are designed to just sip gas. That is their one benefit. An SUV has engine power, but because of the weight does not handle or accelerate well. Its benefit is that it carries a lot, is safe and can get you through winter driving. From that angle, an SUV, however unattractive I might find them — and I do — has more of a social benefit than a hybrid as it exists today. A Corvette accelerates and handles well and is best suited for high speeds, but not winter driving, and it certainly can’t carry a whole lot. Most cars are multipurpose, adequate or more than adequate at handling everything except in extreme conditions, but typically not excellent at any one thing in particular.

    The point here is that there is more to gas mileage than wind resistance, and some cars can handle higher speeds more efficiently. The 40 mph bell curve for the hybrid might be an 80 mph bell curve for the Corvette. It depends on the car. But 55 mph simply does not work for every car.

  51. Rick and John,

    Part of the problem with your assertions (and in all the assertions that 55 mph saves gas) is that they assume all things are equal, so differential in gas mileage is determined primarily by speed. This is simply not the case. There are several other variables at work here, which tend to be ignored by the 55 mph crowd.

    First, the difference in engine design based on the purpose of the engine. A Hemi is built for a different purpose than an LS1, the release of the Dodge Charger notwithstanding. A Corvette with an LS1 is designed for the open road. A Dodge Neon is designed for multipurpose driving. The engines will simply be designed differently.

    Second is aerodynamics and friction. Your examples of horsepower required to push aside wind resistance are well known, but it assumes everyone drives a car with all the design of the blockish and hideously ugly Honda Element. Put the same engine in an Element and a Corvette, run them both at 75 mph. Which one gets better mileage? Put the same engine in a Taurus and which gets better mileage at 75?

    Faster speeds on an aerodynamically designed car such as the Corvette reduce downward pressure and create a certain lift, like aircraft. The reduction of downward pressure reduces the friction from the tires, reducing the work the car has to do to move forward. The reduction of friction increases as you go faster, which makes it more likely that you will lose control of the car. So racing tires have to be specifically designed to get a better grip on the road.

    The 40 mph example suggested for the hybrid is not a bell curve that applies equally to all vehicles. Hybrids are not designed for the same purposes as Corvettes and SUVs. They are not aerodynamically designed and, IMHO, are visually extremely unappealing. They don’t handle or accelerate well, they’re cramped and are generally found in the far right lane. They are designed to just sip gas. That is their one benefit. An SUV has engine power, but because of the weight does not handle or accelerate well. Its benefit is that it carries a lot, is safe and can get you through winter driving. From that angle, an SUV, however unattractive I might find them — and I do — has more of a social benefit than a hybrid as it exists today. A Corvette accelerates and handles well and is best suited for high speeds, but not winter driving, and it certainly can’t carry a whole lot. Most cars are multipurpose, adequate or more than adequate at handling everything except in extreme conditions, but typically not excellent at any one thing in particular.

    The point here is that there is more to gas mileage than wind resistance, and some cars can handle higher speeds more efficiently. The 40 mph bell curve for the hybrid might be an 80 mph bell curve for the Corvette. It depends on the car. But 55 mph simply does not work for every car.

  52. The only way a car can get better fuel economy at faster speeds is if you get to stay in a higher gear and have lower or equivalent RPMs.

    Cars aren’t magic, and 55-60mph really is the economical cruise speed for most street cars. Faster than that you spend a lot of energy moving air, and it gets harder exponentially with wind speed, below that, not so much work.

    The other thing you might want to consider is how much time you are saving by driving fast. In most cases, the extra 10-15 mph doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, as you’ll spend most of a shorter trip farting around boulevardes and sidestreets anyway.

    Finally, the energy embodied in your car goes up with the square of the velocity. A car going 50 has less than 1/2 the kinetic energy of a car going 75. Which is someting to think about as the crumple zone of your car tries to save your life by soaking up those joules and reducing the A in F=MA to manageable levels. Or your brakes do the same trying to slow you enough from ramming Grandma.

    Just a thought.

    Chill out, drive slower.

  53. It is possible to actually get better gas mileage at some higher speeds than some lower speeds due to certain gearing issues.

    However, that would have to be some kind of funky gearing to have 75 get better mileage than 55. Possible, but unlikely.

    There are, however, the issues of time and safety. There is a cost associated with travelling slower: it takes longer to get places and do things, and , as the cliche accurately says, time is money. The savings on gas is minimal, while the increase in time is noticeable, especially for anyone paid (or payING) by the hour. Also, not going as fast as the traffic around causes SIGNIFICANT traffic accident risk increase, which means more accidents, which means more COST from accidents on average (the price/hour of driving a car goes up).

    In other words, the economic benefits of driving slower would have to be several orders of magnitude greater than they currently are to make it an economically good idea – and that’s without factoring the human suffering factor of more traffic accidents.

    As to less demand and prices: it is quite possible to have less demand=higher prices, due to static production costs.

    Example: unusual electronics. Having taken some advanced physics classes in college, I ran into a difficulty with not having certain parts (generally only used in classrooms, etc). These parts simply weren’t available… when the number of orders waiting to be filled got high enough, the manufacturer would tool up their assembly line for that part (at the cost of over $1 MILLION dollars), then make a lot them.

    Each one cast several dollars. Similar parts that are used in actual production electronics cost a few pennies. Actual physical value (in terms of materials and R&D) on the 2 parts are nearly identical. One costs MUCH more than the other because of the small demand.

    The same COULD apply to oil, if the demand got low enough (but we’re not remotely close to that).

    Just pointing out a flaw in the “ironclad law of supply and and demand” argument.

  54. It is possible to actually get better gas mileage at some higher speeds than some lower speeds due to certain gearing issues.

    However, that would have to be some kind of funky gearing to have 75 get better mileage than 55. Possible, but unlikely.

    There are, however, the issues of time and safety. There is a cost associated with travelling slower: it takes longer to get places and do things, and , as the cliche accurately says, time is money. The savings on gas is minimal, while the increase in time is noticeable, especially for anyone paid (or payING) by the hour. Also, not going as fast as the traffic around causes SIGNIFICANT traffic accident risk increase, which means more accidents, which means more COST from accidents on average (the price/hour of driving a car goes up).

    In other words, the economic benefits of driving slower would have to be several orders of magnitude greater than they currently are to make it an economically good idea – and that’s without factoring the human suffering factor of more traffic accidents.

    As to less demand and prices: it is quite possible to have less demand=higher prices, due to static production costs.

    Example: unusual electronics. Having taken some advanced physics classes in college, I ran into a difficulty with not having certain parts (generally only used in classrooms, etc). These parts simply weren’t available… when the number of orders waiting to be filled got high enough, the manufacturer would tool up their assembly line for that part (at the cost of over $1 MILLION dollars), then make a lot them.

    Each one cast several dollars. Similar parts that are used in actual production electronics cost a few pennies. Actual physical value (in terms of materials and R&D) on the 2 parts are nearly identical. One costs MUCH more than the other because of the small demand.

    The same COULD apply to oil, if the demand got low enough (but we’re not remotely close to that).

    Just pointing out a flaw in the “ironclad law of supply and and demand” argument.

  55. Bob Young, I wouldn’t sweat too much about buying American. In the age of the multi-national corporation, buying American doesn’t really mean much. Ford also partners with and co- owns various foreign brands like Land Rover, Jaguar, and Fiat (?). Same with GM, which has financial interests in other foreign brands. Chrysler is of course owned by Mercedes. Unless of course, by buying American you mean actually being manufactured in the USA. Well, then, go ahead and buy a Nissan or Toyota; there are several models which are built here.

  56. Wilbur claims (without support)

    Oh yeah, I don’t know where on earth I could possibly have gotten the idea that air emmission regulations had anything to do with the demise of 600hp gas-guzzlers. Gee, what was I thinking? Obviously this was pure coincidence!

    (IIRC, there was a year that the VW Rabbits had faster 0-60 times than the Corvettes due to GM’s poor anti-smog technology.)

    Oh please! And you accuse others of making wild claims with no support? Yeah, that VW Rabbit was a monster!

    I think your claim is at least 6 years out of date.

    Really? That’s interesting, considering Toyota has only been making the Prius for 5 years. I’d say your math skills are every bit as impressive as your understanding of economics!

    Since Toyota refuses to admit how much it actually costs to build a Prius we may never know, but just a couple of years ago it was estimated at $35,000. Since the price of the Prius has gone up some and production has also gone up we can probably safely assume they aren’t losing that much anymore. But if you think they are making a profit on the Prius then I have some fine New Orleans waterfront property to see you – cheap!

  57. Wilbur claims (without support)

    Oh yeah, I don’t know where on earth I could possibly have gotten the idea that air emmission regulations had anything to do with the demise of 600hp gas-guzzlers. Gee, what was I thinking? Obviously this was pure coincidence!

    (IIRC, there was a year that the VW Rabbits had faster 0-60 times than the Corvettes due to GM’s poor anti-smog technology.)

    Oh please! And you accuse others of making wild claims with no support? Yeah, that VW Rabbit was a monster!

    I think your claim is at least 6 years out of date.

    Really? That’s interesting, considering Toyota has only been making the Prius for 5 years. I’d say your math skills are every bit as impressive as your understanding of economics!

    Since Toyota refuses to admit how much it actually costs to build a Prius we may never know, but just a couple of years ago it was estimated at $35,000. Since the price of the Prius has gone up some and production has also gone up we can probably safely assume they aren’t losing that much anymore. But if you think they are making a profit on the Prius then I have some fine New Orleans waterfront property to see you – cheap!

  58. I would never advocate a return to the 55mph speed limit. But ignorance of thermodynamics aside (you people who are getting better mileage at higher speeds are violating the second law of thermodynamics), if people were really concerned with gas prices, they would change their behavior. One way they they’ll change their behavior is by driving slower and accelerating more gradually. That NO ONE BUT ME is doing this is an indication that people must not really be concerned with the higher gas prices.

    Don’t fret, I always do my poking along at 55 in the slow lane. My minivan gets over 30 mpg at 55 when lightly loaded on level ground (lots of that in Chicago!).

    Evidently, some of the people I’ve pissed off with my driving also read this blog!

    Why not do 45? Well, at some point there has to be a cost/ benefit analysis. Even 55 is probably too slow for some highly compensated people. It takes a lot longer to get places at 55 than 70. In fact, when my company is paying for the gas, I drive so fast that I’m NEVER passed. I routinely drive from Chicago to Indy and Detroit and NEVER get passed, not once. In those cases, mt time is more important that gas mileage.

  59. I would never advocate a return to the 55mph speed limit. But ignorance of thermodynamics aside (you people who are getting better mileage at higher speeds are violating the second law of thermodynamics), if people were really concerned with gas prices, they would change their behavior. One way they they’ll change their behavior is by driving slower and accelerating more gradually. That NO ONE BUT ME is doing this is an indication that people must not really be concerned with the higher gas prices.

    Don’t fret, I always do my poking along at 55 in the slow lane. My minivan gets over 30 mpg at 55 when lightly loaded on level ground (lots of that in Chicago!).

    Evidently, some of the people I’ve pissed off with my driving also read this blog!

    Why not do 45? Well, at some point there has to be a cost/ benefit analysis. Even 55 is probably too slow for some highly compensated people. It takes a lot longer to get places at 55 than 70. In fact, when my company is paying for the gas, I drive so fast that I’m NEVER passed. I routinely drive from Chicago to Indy and Detroit and NEVER get passed, not once. In those cases, mt time is more important that gas mileage.

  60. I can’t help but wonder if the production of all those batteries and electric motors in a hybrid eats up more energy than the differential in the gas consumption over the life of the car. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

    And I guess if we all switched over to hybrid vehicles then the disposing of hundreds of millions of batteries would pose fewer environmental or economic problems than the 20% decrease in gasoline consumption prevented. Hybrids are a great way to make gullible people feel like they are doing something to help the environment but it is not a large-scale solution to pollution or energy conservation.

    This is kind of similar to the way that commuter trains actually consume more energy per passenger-mile than an average car. There are other benefits to keeping ten thousand cars off the highway during rush hour but in the end it doesn’t save gas.

    I can’t think of many things more useless than commuter trains. If the billions of dollars spent on trains in the last few decades had been spent on more and better roads with fewer access points it would have been money much more wisely spent. And you can never get an accurate accounting of how much it costs to fund these white elephants – government accounting practices would make Enron officials blush with shame.

  61. I can’t help but wonder if the production of all those batteries and electric motors in a hybrid eats up more energy than the differential in the gas consumption over the life of the car. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

    And I guess if we all switched over to hybrid vehicles then the disposing of hundreds of millions of batteries would pose fewer environmental or economic problems than the 20% decrease in gasoline consumption prevented. Hybrids are a great way to make gullible people feel like they are doing something to help the environment but it is not a large-scale solution to pollution or energy conservation.

    This is kind of similar to the way that commuter trains actually consume more energy per passenger-mile than an average car. There are other benefits to keeping ten thousand cars off the highway during rush hour but in the end it doesn’t save gas.

    I can’t think of many things more useless than commuter trains. If the billions of dollars spent on trains in the last few decades had been spent on more and better roads with fewer access points it would have been money much more wisely spent. And you can never get an accurate accounting of how much it costs to fund these white elephants – government accounting practices would make Enron officials blush with shame.

  62. ProCynic,

    The Toyota Prius has a lower coefficient of drag than any other production car ever made (with the exception of one supercar I can’t recall the name of). While I agree that it is unappealing to look at, it is not aerodynamicaly poor at all.

    The Element, of course, is terriblly unareodynamic.

    But a lot of sports cars use airdams and spoilers that increase drag. My 740i has a little lip on the trunk that I’m sure takes a bite out of the air, and it does so for downforce.

    So sports cars are often not little knives cutting through the air. But Hybrids, at least the little ones, are.

  63. ProCynic,

    The Toyota Prius has a lower coefficient of drag than any other production car ever made (with the exception of one supercar I can’t recall the name of). While I agree that it is unappealing to look at, it is not aerodynamicaly poor at all.

    The Element, of course, is terriblly unareodynamic.

    But a lot of sports cars use airdams and spoilers that increase drag. My 740i has a little lip on the trunk that I’m sure takes a bite out of the air, and it does so for downforce.

    So sports cars are often not little knives cutting through the air. But Hybrids, at least the little ones, are.

  64. David & JohnnyTremaine: Was aware of that of which you speak. Supposedly the Neons were built in Illinois. Next time around an Ohio built Honda will do just fine.

    Same thing’s true of tractors. The smaller John Deeres come from Japan and India. The Ford/New Hollands now come from Italy. As a longtime Deere/Ford guy, I just bought a Kubota. Couldn’t be happier with it. Come to find out the engine’s from Chicago, the Front End Loader’s from Texas or Oklahoma (?), and the tractor was assembled in Georgia. The next one will be a Kubota too.

  65. David & JohnnyTremaine: Was aware of that of which you speak. Supposedly the Neons were built in Illinois. Next time around an Ohio built Honda will do just fine.

    Same thing’s true of tractors. The smaller John Deeres come from Japan and India. The Ford/New Hollands now come from Italy. As a longtime Deere/Ford guy, I just bought a Kubota. Couldn’t be happier with it. Come to find out the engine’s from Chicago, the Front End Loader’s from Texas or Oklahoma (?), and the tractor was assembled in Georgia. The next one will be a Kubota too.

  66. While the S2000 isn’t quite a gas mileage champion, it is way better than the EPA estimates would suggest. While most cars seem to have a hard time meeting the EPA estimates, my S2000 blows them away. EPA says 20/25, in 30,000 miles I’ve never gotten worse the 26, and I’ve gotten as high as 33 mpg with the cruise set at 75 mph.

    Oh, and I don’t exactly baby it – after all it is a sports car.

    td

  67. While the S2000 isn’t quite a gas mileage champion, it is way better than the EPA estimates would suggest. While most cars seem to have a hard time meeting the EPA estimates, my S2000 blows them away. EPA says 20/25, in 30,000 miles I’ve never gotten worse the 26, and I’ve gotten as high as 33 mpg with the cruise set at 75 mph.

    Oh, and I don’t exactly baby it – after all it is a sports car.

    td

  68. ProCynic writes:

    Hybrids … are not aerodynamically designed and, IMHO, are visually extremely unappealing.

    Cd of 2004 Mustang GT Cobra:  0.36
    Cd of Corvette:  0.29
    Cd of Prius:  0.26
    Cd of Honda Insight:  0.25

    They don’t handle or accelerate well, they’re cramped and are generally found in the far right lane.

    Let’s see:Acceleration is quoted at about 10 seconds 0-100 kph.US News says the Prius is plenty roomy.What lane the car is in depends on the driver; people doing the utmost to save gas will be on the right, but I’ve seen Insights whizzing past me.Hmmm.  Looks like you’re 0 for 3.

    An SUV … is safe

    No safer than the average car, and it’s more dangerous to anything it hits.  The SUV segment has a lot of rollover fatalities that vehicles with lower centers of gravity don’t.

  69. ProCynic writes:

    Hybrids … are not aerodynamically designed and, IMHO, are visually extremely unappealing.

    Cd of 2004 Mustang GT Cobra:  0.36
    Cd of Corvette:  0.29
    Cd of Prius:  0.26
    Cd of Honda Insight:  0.25

    They don’t handle or accelerate well, they’re cramped and are generally found in the far right lane.

    Let’s see:Acceleration is quoted at about 10 seconds 0-100 kph.US News says the Prius is plenty roomy.What lane the car is in depends on the driver; people doing the utmost to save gas will be on the right, but I’ve seen Insights whizzing past me.Hmmm.  Looks like you’re 0 for 3.

    An SUV … is safe

    No safer than the average car, and it’s more dangerous to anything it hits.  The SUV segment has a lot of rollover fatalities that vehicles with lower centers of gravity don’t.

  70. ProCynic writes:

    Hybrids … are not aerodynamically designed and, IMHO, are visually extremely unappealing.

    Cd of 2004 Mustang GT Cobra:  0.36
    Cd of Corvette:  0.29
    Cd of Prius:  0.26
    Cd of Honda Insight:  0.25

    They don’t handle or accelerate well, they’re cramped and are generally found in the far right lane.

    Let’s see:Acceleration is quoted at about 10 seconds 0-100 kph.US News says the Prius is plenty roomy.What lane the car is in depends on the driver; people doing the utmost to save gas will be on the right, but I’ve seen Insights whizzing past me.Hmmm.  Looks like you’re 0 for 3.

    An SUV … is safe

    No safer than the average car, and it’s more dangerous to anything it hits.  The SUV segment has a lot of rollover fatalities that vehicles with lower centers of gravity don’t.

  71. Bob Young: Started looking at the 2006s and found that Dodge is discontinuing the Neon. No ‘entry level’ economy car was named to take its place. Instead Dodge introduced the Hemi-V8 powered Dodge Charger. With gas at $3.00 a gallon, I cannot imagine a more brain-dead move. How many MBAs did it take to come up with that?

    Next time around it’ll be a Japanese or Korean car. American car manufacturers have wandered off into a alternate reality.

    First, the Dodge Neon is the WORST choice among American-built small cars. The Ford Focus is more reliable, offers better handling and performance and is available in a wider variety of body styles. The Chevy Cobalt is also an all-around better product – better built, safer and better performing.

    Second, Dodge recognizes these facts and is replacing the Neon – but not with the Charger (which is selling reasonably well, and generating more profits than the Neon ever did, which had to be practically given away to generate any sales). Plus, the Charger is available in a V-6 version.

    Dodge is replacing the Neon with a new five-door model (dubbed Caliber, from what I’ve read). It will be better than the Neon in every way.

    If you bought a Neon, I almost feel sorry for you…there are so many better choices, both American and foreign, available right now.

  72. I’m with ya, Buzz — wrote about this back in August:

    http://skymusings.blogspot.com/2005/08/just-slow-down.html

    Should the gov’t MANDATE the 55 mph limit? Nah, if everyone just cools it a little and slows down (and QUIT THE TAILGATING, geeez…) then we don’t need The Man to save us from ourselves.

    In Atlanta we’re gridlocked most of the time anyway — breaking out of the pack just to speed up to the next jam is stupid and dangerous.

    I drive 60 mph, in the far right lane, and I still get tailgated and honked at (uh, 5 mph OVER the limit, right lane, and *I* am the a&&hole?). Makes me want to visit the junkyard and get some mufflers to drop for tailgaters….

    Jockeying for position is a thing of the past, my gas mileage is through the roof (went from ~25 mpg to 40 mpg), it doesn’t take any more time to get where I’m going than it used to, and I actually enjoy my drive more.

    Engineering principles aside, there is no logical case for aggressive dangerous driving. Slow down a little, quit tailgating, and we’ll all be safer. You’ll also most likely get better mileage.

  73. Engineer,

    “Let’s see:
    1. Acceleration is quoted at about 10 seconds 0-100 kph.
    2. US News says the Prius is plenty roomy.
    3. What lane the car is in depends on the driver; people doing the utmost to save gas will be on the right, but I’ve seen Insights whizzing past me.”

    1. Your source, please. Never mind that, literally, every single time I’ve seen one get on the interstate, it’s going so slow as to have a long line of cars behind it and threatening everyone’s ability to enter the freeway safely. Just give me your source.

    2. Wow. US News says it’s “plenty roomy.” I stand corrected. I mean, US News is, of course, infallible. They wouldn’t be pursuing an agenda like Consumer Reports of making us all drive Beetles. I guess that I should ignore the fact that’s apparent visually that its size is comparable to a Geo Metro, and that you can fit a Prius into the back of a Ford Expedition.

    (And, no, I’m not suggesting that one should buy the Ford Expedition, which is the approximate size of Darth Vader’s star destroyer and is annoying to most every other car on the road and, especially, in the parking lot. But to suggest that the Prius is “plenty roomy” when a mere visual inspection suggests otherwise is nonsensical.)

    3. I’ve seen Insights pass me, too. It’s a general rule, not in true all cases. But, see #1. Either the car performs poorly when compared to other cars on the road, or people who generally drive it are poor and/or slow drivers, which makes me question their qualifications for judging a car’s performance, let alone forcing a car on everyone else.

    “No safer than the average car, and it’s more dangerous to anything it hits. The SUV segment has a lot of rollover fatalities that vehicles with lower centers of gravity don’t.”

    Has more rollover fatalities, but it’s not run over nearly as much and it generally survives major accidents such as T-bones far more easily. That it’s more dangerous to anything else it hits is irrelevant, to the driver. One qualification people have for buying cars is that they are safe … for themselves. The whole SUV movement started because people did not feel the enviromobiles were safe, and they weren’t. Criticize the people for buying SUVs if you wish for being selfish, but it was not an irrational decision.

    “Cd of 2004 Mustang GT Cobra: 0.36
    Cd of Corvette: 0.29
    Cd of Prius: 0.26
    Cd of Honda Insight: 0.25”

    Now, that is indeed interesting, and reason to question my theory, if not the results I have observed. Source, please?

    Best of luck,

    ProCynic

  74. Engineer,

    “Let’s see:
    1. Acceleration is quoted at about 10 seconds 0-100 kph.
    2. US News says the Prius is plenty roomy.
    3. What lane the car is in depends on the driver; people doing the utmost to save gas will be on the right, but I’ve seen Insights whizzing past me.”

    1. Your source, please. Never mind that, literally, every single time I’ve seen one get on the interstate, it’s going so slow as to have a long line of cars behind it and threatening everyone’s ability to enter the freeway safely. Just give me your source.

    2. Wow. US News says it’s “plenty roomy.” I stand corrected. I mean, US News is, of course, infallible. They wouldn’t be pursuing an agenda like Consumer Reports of making us all drive Beetles. I guess that I should ignore the fact that’s apparent visually that its size is comparable to a Geo Metro, and that you can fit a Prius into the back of a Ford Expedition.

    (And, no, I’m not suggesting that one should buy the Ford Expedition, which is the approximate size of Darth Vader’s star destroyer and is annoying to most every other car on the road and, especially, in the parking lot. But to suggest that the Prius is “plenty roomy” when a mere visual inspection suggests otherwise is nonsensical.)

    3. I’ve seen Insights pass me, too. It’s a general rule, not in true all cases. But, see #1. Either the car performs poorly when compared to other cars on the road, or people who generally drive it are poor and/or slow drivers, which makes me question their qualifications for judging a car’s performance, let alone forcing a car on everyone else.

    “No safer than the average car, and it’s more dangerous to anything it hits. The SUV segment has a lot of rollover fatalities that vehicles with lower centers of gravity don’t.”

    Has more rollover fatalities, but it’s not run over nearly as much and it generally survives major accidents such as T-bones far more easily. That it’s more dangerous to anything else it hits is irrelevant, to the driver. One qualification people have for buying cars is that they are safe … for themselves. The whole SUV movement started because people did not feel the enviromobiles were safe, and they weren’t. Criticize the people for buying SUVs if you wish for being selfish, but it was not an irrational decision.

    “Cd of 2004 Mustang GT Cobra: 0.36
    Cd of Corvette: 0.29
    Cd of Prius: 0.26
    Cd of Honda Insight: 0.25”

    Now, that is indeed interesting, and reason to question my theory, if not the results I have observed. Source, please?

    Best of luck,

    ProCynic

  75. Buzzcut,

    “I would never advocate a return to the 55mph speed limit. But ignorance of thermodynamics aside (you people who are getting better mileage at higher speeds are violating the second law of thermodynamics), if people were really concerned with gas prices, they would change their behavior. One way they they’ll change their behavior is by driving slower and accelerating more gradually. That NO ONE BUT ME is doing this is an indication that people must not really be concerned with the higher gas prices.”

    I am familiar with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but I am also familiar with my car’s gas gauge. When at speeds of 55-60 mph I can barely get from Indianapolis to Cleveland, but at 75-80 I can get from Indianapolis to Cleveland and back to Columbus, it suggests to me that something else is at work. I’m not talking about my T/A, a stick shift with a 6th gear which does get better mileage at higher speeds for reasons others have suggested, but normal everyday cars like the Bonneville.

    It again suggests to me that something else is at work. When many, many people say something similar, and they do, again, it sugggests to me that something else is at work.

    Best of luck,

    ProCynic

  76. The effeciency of a car vs. speed is determined by many many many things. Shape, weight, tires, gearing, engine RPM, and ENGINE COMPUTER SOFTWARE. My 1990 Eagle Talon (same as Mitsu Eclipse) got bad mileage above 70MPH. I found something in the code that effectively TURNED OFF OXYGEN SENSOR FEEDBACK above 70MPH. This was back in the 55MPH days, so they probably missed this. Anyway, I fixed the code and got nearly the MPG at 75 that I used to only get at 55.

  77. ProCynic, I provided you a link for at least two of the things you’re questioning.  I didn’t bother to put hotlinks on everything because I figured you’d slam me as pendantic.  Since you’re so obtuse, you can Google those things for yourself same as I did; you’ll learn more that way.

    The high-bumper SUV gets its T-bone resistance at the expense of people who are T-boned by SUV’s.  This is just an arms race.

    I’ll say it again:  the SUV segment has a similar fatality rate to passenger cars, because it has more single-vehicle fatalities.  Cars have a similar fatality rate despite the greater hazards presented to them by SUV’s; they are obviously safer in single-vehicle accidents and in collisions with each other.  Conclusion:  we would all be safer if there were no SUV’s.

  78. ProCynic, I provided you a link for at least two of the things you’re questioning.  I didn’t bother to put hotlinks on everything because I figured you’d slam me as pendantic.  Since you’re so obtuse, you can Google those things for yourself same as I did; you’ll learn more that way.

    The high-bumper SUV gets its T-bone resistance at the expense of people who are T-boned by SUV’s.  This is just an arms race.

    I’ll say it again:  the SUV segment has a similar fatality rate to passenger cars, because it has more single-vehicle fatalities.  Cars have a similar fatality rate despite the greater hazards presented to them by SUV’s; they are obviously safer in single-vehicle accidents and in collisions with each other.  Conclusion:  we would all be safer if there were no SUV’s.

  79. 1. Acceleration is quoted at about 10 seconds 0-100 kph.

    0-60mph times are around 10.4 seconds (I think this is Toyota’s number, but can’t remember for sure), which is really pretty slow. It is also with a fully charged battery. Performance drops off remarkably on a low battery, as much as 4-5 seconds, making it basically a slug. By comparison, the Accord Hybrid is about 7.5 seconds and even the 2.0L 2005 Dodge Neon is 8.8 seconds (not the SRT-4, which is 5.8 seconds). That’s pretty bad when you’re bragging about being only 1.6 seconds slower than a Dodge Neon. Go to this page and you’ll see it will be handily beaten by a Kia Rio or a Geo Prizm.

  80. 1. Acceleration is quoted at about 10 seconds 0-100 kph.

    0-60mph times are around 10.4 seconds (I think this is Toyota’s number, but can’t remember for sure), which is really pretty slow. It is also with a fully charged battery. Performance drops off remarkably on a low battery, as much as 4-5 seconds, making it basically a slug. By comparison, the Accord Hybrid is about 7.5 seconds and even the 2.0L 2005 Dodge Neon is 8.8 seconds (not the SRT-4, which is 5.8 seconds). That’s pretty bad when you’re bragging about being only 1.6 seconds slower than a Dodge Neon. Go to this page and you’ll see it will be handily beaten by a Kia Rio or a Geo Prizm.

  81. 1. Acceleration is quoted at about 10 seconds 0-100 kph.

    0-60mph times are around 10.4 seconds (I think this is Toyota’s number, but can’t remember for sure), which is really pretty slow. It is also with a fully charged battery. Performance drops off remarkably on a low battery, as much as 4-5 seconds, making it basically a slug. By comparison, the Accord Hybrid is about 7.5 seconds and even the 2.0L 2005 Dodge Neon is 8.8 seconds (not the SRT-4, which is 5.8 seconds). That’s pretty bad when you’re bragging about being only 1.6 seconds slower than a Dodge Neon. Go to this page and you’ll see it will be handily beaten by a Kia Rio or a Geo Prizm.

  82. IIRC, the Prius is programmed to keep the battery between 70% and 90% charged.  NiMH doesn’t have much of a voltage drop until it’s almost empty, so that wouldn’t affect it much.  How do you get to the low-battery condition, and how likely is it to affect you in normal driving?

    Most people need/use acceleration at low speed, so 0-30 is at least as important.  It beats the Kia Rio handily, and a number of other surprises.
    Prius:  3.1 sec
    2001 Chrysler Sebring LTD Convertible 3.13 s
    2002 Kia Rio 3.20 s
    2000 Chevrolet Impala Police Package 3.20 s (!)
    1994 Audi Cabriolet 3.29 s
    1999 Infiniti G20 3.30 s (!!)
    1994 Ford Aspire 4-door 3.87 s
    1983 Chevrolet Cavalier CS 3.90 s

    Which doesn’t matter much, because that’s about to be history.  The latest reports are of Li-ion batteries which can be pulse-discharged at rates up to 100 C and nearly 5 kW/kg (linky).  If you store a significant amount of energy in a battery like this (say, 5 kWh) the available power output will be hundreds of kilowatts.

    Imagine a Prius-class car with 200+ horsepower and AWD, plus 60 MPG and 20 miles of fuel-free driving if you plugged it in overnight.  That’s where we’re headed.

  83. The rollover risk of SUVs has been eliminated with vehicle skid control. Small cars are being made safer with technology like side airbags, but that technology can be easily added to SUVs as well.

    The bottom line is that you can’t violate the laws of physics. F=ma is Newton’s First Law, and all the airbags in the world can’t change it. SUVs are safer than cars, and larger vehicles are safer than smaller ones. This isn’t a firm law, but it is definately a trend that can be seen in accident data and crash tests.

    For you guys who think that you can violate the second law of thermo, once you are in top gear and the torque convertor is locked up, your car is as energy efficient as it is going to get. And additional speed at this point creates more aerodynamic and tire drag, and lowers your car’s efficiency.

    BTW, I have a bachelor and master’s degree in mechanical engineering, as well as 10 years experience in the field. I currently work as an automotive engineer, on clean diesel engines.

    If you get better gas mileage at 75 than 55, I would guess that either you are mistaken, your mileage gage is inaccurate, or you are driving with a tailwind. Don’t laugh, I get better gas mileage going from Chicago east than coming back, because the prevailing winds are from west to east.

  84. Buzzcut, I think your application of physics is rather iffy.

    Your first dubious claim is that going faster always uses more fuel. Well, let’s think about that for a bit.

    Travelling at fixed speed on a level surface, you have a number of forces acting to slow you down. Aerodynamic friction is one (and it increases roughly with the square of your speed). There’s also the dynamic friction of the tyres with the road, the energy which goes into distorting the tyres as they rotate, the friction in the vehicle’s drive train and the internal engine friction.

    Then you have your cruise power which cancels out all of the above (and others).

    So how does this vary with speed? Aerodynamic friction will almost certainly go up, although it’s not as simple as v^2 since you have to look at the exact shape and how air flows past it at various speeds, there could be changes in turbulence, shifting vorticies and all sorts of stuff. Still, let’s assume it increases with speed.

    Most of the others don’t, or at least not much. Most notably internal engine friction, but also the drivetrain friction. Tyre distortion probably does, but not linearly I think.

    But of course, engines also have differing efficiencies at different power levels and different RPMs. Having CVT (which effectively most hybrids have) does away with this to an extent because it allows the engine to operate at its best RPM regardless of your speed. But regular manual/automatic transmissions can’t do this.

    So, at 55mph say you need 20hp (guess) to keep your speed. At 75mph, it’s going to be more – but how much more? Depends on heaps of factors. Let’s say of the original figure, 10hp was to overcome drag and 10hp was to overcome internal friction. And let’s say the drag doubles from 55mph to 75mph, but internal friction says roughly the same. So, you need about 30hp. How much extra fuel do you need to go from 20 to 30hp? It depends entirely on how your engine works, but I think that low power outputs in large engines (and considering we’re talking about a small fraction of your engine power here, pretty much all engines are large in comparison) are typically inefficient. So, you may not have to increase fuel flow enough from 20 to 30hp to actually make travelling at 75mph less efficient.

    I almost never drive that fast but I definitely notice improving economy with increasing speed in my cars. As I stated I’m pretty sure it has to do with greater efficiency at the power levels required to cruise at these higher speeds, compared to the lower speeds, in combination with the fixed energy costs of cruising becoming less proportionally at higher speeds.

    Then you go on to talk about F=ma, but completely ignore the value of “a”. The reason airbags are good is because they increase the amount of time it takes your head to slow from the speed you’re travelling at to 0. This reduces a (since delta v is constant, but t changes, and a = delta v / t), and thus F. Which is why they help prevent a lot of severe head injuries.

    Another thing you’re abusing here in F=ma is m. Guess what? Most SUVs as heavier than sedans or hatchbacks. So m is larger, therefore F is larger. An SUV hitting, say, a pole or tree, at the same speed as a lighter car, has a lot more energy to dissipate (mv^2 as I’m sure you know). I’ll leave it up to you to determine who this is bad for. It’s definitely bad for the people who are being hit, but I suspect for various reasons it’s also bad for the SUV passengers. Not to mention, poor visibility in SUVs contributes to a lot of things like children being run over.

    “If you get better gas mileage at 75 than 55, I would guess that either you are mistaken, your mileage gage is inaccurate, or you are driving with a tailwind.”

    A tailwind would change the measurement for a given run but should have a similar effect on either speed. Unless you were making the 55mph measurements always in one direction and the 75mph in the other I don’t see how it would really be a big deal.

    I suppose the guy who said he can get further when travelling at higher speed must have just not noticed when he had to put in heaps more fuel after the longer trip at the gas station? Or maybe the pump in the station was grossly inaccurate?

    I think you should start considering that there are a lot more, and complex, factors involved in fuel efficiency than Newton’s laws before you start using them as a basis for argument.

    I don’t doubt for a second that you get better efficiency at 55mph than 75mph but you shouldn’t generalise this to others as (a) I’m pretty sure this is not normally the case and (b) many of us find the opposite.

    The fact you have a minivan says a lot. Minivans have more drag, so drag becomes a much bigger component of the equation, and this would probably explain your observations. On the other hand, I have a fairly low drag car (0.3) which was *designed* for highway cruising and seems to be most efficient at the design speed.

  85. Buzzcut, I think your application of physics is rather iffy.

    Your first dubious claim is that going faster always uses more fuel. Well, let’s think about that for a bit.

    Travelling at fixed speed on a level surface, you have a number of forces acting to slow you down. Aerodynamic friction is one (and it increases roughly with the square of your speed). There’s also the dynamic friction of the tyres with the road, the energy which goes into distorting the tyres as they rotate, the friction in the vehicle’s drive train and the internal engine friction.

    Then you have your cruise power which cancels out all of the above (and others).

    So how does this vary with speed? Aerodynamic friction will almost certainly go up, although it’s not as simple as v^2 since you have to look at the exact shape and how air flows past it at various speeds, there could be changes in turbulence, shifting vorticies and all sorts of stuff. Still, let’s assume it increases with speed.

    Most of the others don’t, or at least not much. Most notably internal engine friction, but also the drivetrain friction. Tyre distortion probably does, but not linearly I think.

    But of course, engines also have differing efficiencies at different power levels and different RPMs. Having CVT (which effectively most hybrids have) does away with this to an extent because it allows the engine to operate at its best RPM regardless of your speed. But regular manual/automatic transmissions can’t do this.

    So, at 55mph say you need 20hp (guess) to keep your speed. At 75mph, it’s going to be more – but how much more? Depends on heaps of factors. Let’s say of the original figure, 10hp was to overcome drag and 10hp was to overcome internal friction. And let’s say the drag doubles from 55mph to 75mph, but internal friction says roughly the same. So, you need about 30hp. How much extra fuel do you need to go from 20 to 30hp? It depends entirely on how your engine works, but I think that low power outputs in large engines (and considering we’re talking about a small fraction of your engine power here, pretty much all engines are large in comparison) are typically inefficient. So, you may not have to increase fuel flow enough from 20 to 30hp to actually make travelling at 75mph less efficient.

    I almost never drive that fast but I definitely notice improving economy with increasing speed in my cars. As I stated I’m pretty sure it has to do with greater efficiency at the power levels required to cruise at these higher speeds, compared to the lower speeds, in combination with the fixed energy costs of cruising becoming less proportionally at higher speeds.

    Then you go on to talk about F=ma, but completely ignore the value of “a”. The reason airbags are good is because they increase the amount of time it takes your head to slow from the speed you’re travelling at to 0. This reduces a (since delta v is constant, but t changes, and a = delta v / t), and thus F. Which is why they help prevent a lot of severe head injuries.

    Another thing you’re abusing here in F=ma is m. Guess what? Most SUVs as heavier than sedans or hatchbacks. So m is larger, therefore F is larger. An SUV hitting, say, a pole or tree, at the same speed as a lighter car, has a lot more energy to dissipate (mv^2 as I’m sure you know). I’ll leave it up to you to determine who this is bad for. It’s definitely bad for the people who are being hit, but I suspect for various reasons it’s also bad for the SUV passengers. Not to mention, poor visibility in SUVs contributes to a lot of things like children being run over.

    “If you get better gas mileage at 75 than 55, I would guess that either you are mistaken, your mileage gage is inaccurate, or you are driving with a tailwind.”

    A tailwind would change the measurement for a given run but should have a similar effect on either speed. Unless you were making the 55mph measurements always in one direction and the 75mph in the other I don’t see how it would really be a big deal.

    I suppose the guy who said he can get further when travelling at higher speed must have just not noticed when he had to put in heaps more fuel after the longer trip at the gas station? Or maybe the pump in the station was grossly inaccurate?

    I think you should start considering that there are a lot more, and complex, factors involved in fuel efficiency than Newton’s laws before you start using them as a basis for argument.

    I don’t doubt for a second that you get better efficiency at 55mph than 75mph but you shouldn’t generalise this to others as (a) I’m pretty sure this is not normally the case and (b) many of us find the opposite.

    The fact you have a minivan says a lot. Minivans have more drag, so drag becomes a much bigger component of the equation, and this would probably explain your observations. On the other hand, I have a fairly low drag car (0.3) which was *designed* for highway cruising and seems to be most efficient at the design speed.

  86. Opting for hybrids for fuel economy may be a reasonable option, and unlike in the past when hybrids were largely ignored, today’s hybrids now represent the biggest shift in automotive technology since the development of the gasoline engine. Among the hybrids I’ll go for the Toyota Prius to save money at the pump. Having frequent drives in Toronto fuel economy is indeed greatly experienced in city driving. Read more on: Be Fuel Efficient, Hybrid or not

  87. How do you get to the low-battery condition, and how likely is it to affect you in normal driving?

    I assume this was directed at me? I don’t know really, I was just reading in an article where they tested acceleration under low battery conditions. I don’t know how they got it there. But I imagine that if you do a lot of stop-and-go driving with really short hops between lights then you can get the battery pretty low. Regenerative braking isn’t 100% efficient and the engine will be expending most of it’s energy pushing the car. I don’t imagine it would happen often, at least not under normal circumstances. Maybe during Christmas shopping season though…

  88. I suppose the guy who said he can get further when travelling at higher speed must have just not noticed when he had to put in heaps more fuel after the longer trip at the gas station? Or maybe the pump in the station was grossly inaccurate?

    Or using different stations, or even just different pumps. If the car is leaning even slightly one way or the other it can make a difference of a gallon or more that will fit in the tank, which makes a big difference in your mpg calculations. And don’t forget elevation – I get on average about 1mpg better driving toward the coast than driving back because driving toward the coast I’m going more or less downhill and driving back I’m going more or less uphill. The only real way to tell is to keep a logbook and to fill your tank immediately before and after leaving the highway. No tooling around town for 2 days and “guestimating” what you burned.

  89. I suppose the guy who said he can get further when travelling at higher speed must have just not noticed when he had to put in heaps more fuel after the longer trip at the gas station? Or maybe the pump in the station was grossly inaccurate?

    Or using different stations, or even just different pumps. If the car is leaning even slightly one way or the other it can make a difference of a gallon or more that will fit in the tank, which makes a big difference in your mpg calculations. And don’t forget elevation – I get on average about 1mpg better driving toward the coast than driving back because driving toward the coast I’m going more or less downhill and driving back I’m going more or less uphill. The only real way to tell is to keep a logbook and to fill your tank immediately before and after leaving the highway. No tooling around town for 2 days and “guestimating” what you burned.

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