October 31, 2005

HYBRIDBLOGGING: So, I went ahead and bought the Toyota Highlander hybrid SUV this weekend. So far I’m quite happy.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the mileage depends a lot on driving style. Yesterday I drove into campus and it got (based on the trip computer) 22.6 miles per gallon — not bad for an SUV in town, but nothing huge.

Today I drove in, late enough that there was no more traffic than on Sunday morning, and made a point of watching the little indicator that tells you whether you’re running on gas or electric power. Still driving about the same speed as yesterday (typically around 40-45) and taking the same route, but driving so as to maximize the amount I was on electric power, I got 37.7 miles per gallon. Coming home at rush hour, with stop and go traffic, I didn’t do as well, finishing up at 30. One problem with the Highlander is that it’s so peppy that you tend to drive it harder unless you think about it. Okay, that’s not really a problem.

Somebody told me the other day that a hybrid car was a good “branding” thing for me, because I’m a “political hybrid” blogger. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but it ‘s kind of cool. What I really am is a gadget-head, which made the hybrid more appealing — in fact, I realized that I now don’t own a normal car at all: The Mazda has a rotary engine. Maybe I’m just odd. But at least I get good mileage!

The other interesting thing is that despite the Libbygate affair this weekend, and the Alito nomination, I’ve gotten more SUV-mail than I’ve gotten email on any other topic. I guess people care about this stuff.

UPDATE: Reader John Henry emails:

I have an Escape Hybrid and love it. It takes a bit to get used to driving a car without the engine running though…

I have been asked, by everyone that found out I bought a hybrid, if I thought it would pay off (gas savings vs extra initial cost) in the long run. I did the math and at $3 a gallon, it will take about 60-70k miles to pay off the initial cost with the gas savings. I drove over 100k on my last car and over 200k on the car before that, so it is likely to pay off in that respect. Personally I chose it because it is much cleaner than the conventional version. I have several requirements on my 4 wheeled vehicle, including the abilty to carry 4 adults comfortably and a large volume of carrying capacity covered. The choice between the Ford and the Toyota was actually a matter of the dealerships I have available. I have an exceptionally good Ford dealer available and have an exellent relationship with the entire staff (sales, sevice, management, and even the detailer), and I have not been impressed with the other dealerships (including the other Ford dealers) in my area.

I would be interested to hear (or more precisely, read on your blog) your thoughts on the subject.

I feel pretty much the same way. I hope, for the sake of the country, that gas prices don’t reach the point where my hybrid pays off quickly via fuel economy. I’m glad to hear good things about the Ford Escape. My local Ford dealer, alas, isn’t up to that level — some years ago we walked after agreeing to a price on a Ford Focus and returning a couple of hours later to pick up the car, only to have the salesman “apologize” and tell us that due to a “mistake” it would cost us $1500 more than we agreed to. I’d never patronize them again, after that. That’s one reason why I didn’t bother trying the Escape. The Explorer, however, is a pretty good SUV if you don’t mind the terrible mileage. (More on that here).