A Strange Hybrid

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A champion for federal environmental regulation, the Sierra Club, is making a decidedly market-based liaison with Ford Motor Company to publicize the automaker's new Mariner Hybrid. The Sierra Club's new romance with Ford, however, extends only as far as Mariner Hybrid's tank will carry: 75 percent farther than conventional pollutatant-mobiles.

Ford and the Sierra Club are usually at arms, but Sierra is taking a pragmatic approach: Help generate a market for hybrids, and reward proactive auto-makers along the way, while Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange flambé Ford in attack ads at the side of the road.

If the Mariner Hybrid campaign is successful, it may open the doors for future partnerships, perhaps just the sort of thing an environmental economist would like to see. But the real test is whether the Mariner would win the coveted Best Gaseous Emissions award.

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  1. 75 percent father than conventional pollutatant-mobiles.

    Not to go all Conan the Grammarian, but should that be farther?

  2. I’ll tell you, driving a Mercury really makes a statement.

    Whether it’s “I paid too much for a Crown Vic,” or “I paid too much for an Explorer,” being seen in a Mercury really says something about you.

  3. Methinks this has a lot to do with the left being on the ropes for the moment. But once these assholes are back in power, all this “consensus” and “middle-ground” crap will all go out the window.

  4. “If I had money
    I’ll tell you what I’d do
    Go into town
    Buy a Mercury or 2
    Crazy ’bout a Mercury…”

  5. I don’t have much to say here except one time I got a ride to lunch with a guy who had a hybrid, and jesus what a fucking sally he was.

  6. They’re getting better, but probably the single best thing they could do make hybrids more popular would to make them look less gay, for lack of a better word. Fix that and $3 gas and everyone wants a hybrid.

  7. Brian,

    The hybrid Civic looks just like the regular civic, and the hyrbid SUVs from Ford and Toyota look like ordinary midsize SUVs.

  8. Only the original Insight and the Prius look all wacky. The rest look nigh identical to their gassy counterparts.

    And I wouldn’t buy a hybrid if you’re looking to save money, at least not yet. Even with the tax break, they cost too much to recoup your money in a reasonable amount of time. The only reason to buy a hybrid is environmental. That and you want to show off exactly how much better you think you are.

  9. The clutch gave our on my 1995 Saturn died at the start of our cross-country move (San Bernardino County). The repairs exceeded the Blue Book value, and even if we had gotten it fixed there was no guarantee that something else wouldn’t go wrong later. I’d already poured a few thousand into it in the past 2 years to fix various problems. So we sold it for $100 and did the rest of the trip in our UHaul. The thought of selling it for $100 grated on me because, dammit, there are old beaters still on the road and my car looked decent! But rationally I knew that if the repairs exceed the market value then $100 is a good price. But, dammit, it still felt wrong!

    When we got to MD we thought about a hybrid, but the price tag was a little too much. So we bought a 2002 Accord. I figure the next time we buy a car the hybrids will be cheaper and my income will be larger. Anyway, my wife gets to enjoy the new car while I ride the Metro to NIH.

  10. Oh, the reason I wanted a hybrid was that I was going to get vanity plates for it saying “FSAUDI”. Saving the earth is nice. Sticking it to the biggest funders of terrorism is nicer still.

  11. Stretch, that may be true for the average driver.

    If you rack up a lot of city miles – like a delivery driver, for example – the numbers change.

  12. Also, the Prius has a lot of neat-o features. For example, the oil pan is actually a thermos, and keeps the oil hot overnight, because the engine has to be warm to get maximum efficiency. As a result, you can start driving immediately after you turn it on even on the coldest days, and your heat comes on a lot faster than regular cars.

    From what he told me, there are 1001 of little bonuses like that in the Prius.

  13. I think hybrids are just comfortable with their sexuality, not gay. I still think we should steal from and swindle them, though.

  14. On a vaguely related topic, I for one find it deeply obnoxious that hybrid owners are permitted to use the “High Occupacy” lanes here in the DC area, even if it’s only one mellon head you see in the window.

    I think in some cases morality is a luxury. If a tree hugger makes enough money to buy an expensive hybrid car, well, guess what? He gets to take the express lane on the beltway, which, around here, is a very high premium.

    What a clear case of liberal elitism.

  15. “high occupancy”..

  16. The only reason to buy a hybrid is environmental. That and you want to show off exactly how much better you think you are.

    There’s a difference?

  17. R C Dean-

    One could have zero interest in the environment and still want to spend less money on oil. Why? Well, I’ve heard some nasty rumors about the House of Saud…

  18. Priuses have a ton of nifty/scary quirks about them. A co-worker recently got an ’05 model, and has been discovering things about it. Like the gas tank has a collapsable bladder inside, not an open tank, so fuel capacity goes down significantly when it’s very warm. It will also just stop when it thinks it’s out of gas, and no the batteries won’t carry you to the gas station. It has what seems to be a continuously variable HVAC fan, no 4 setting switch. The oil tank joe mentioned requires that you not leave the car sitting for more than a week or so, or your batteries will be dead. And the engine cuts on and off when required, so if you coast for more than 10 seconds or so, it shuts off, not just when you’re at a stoplight.

    Really, it almost seems like it’s too smart for a car to be. We’ve taken to calling it ‘Hal’.

  19. I like how the Sierra endorsement includes all sorts of crap that has nothing to do with the environment. Presumably Made in the USA by Union Labor helps our environment?

    I keep hearing mixed reviews of the efficiency of the hybrid. I’d like some constant, reliable numbers on MPG for the average driver. I gather that EPA estimates are all out of whack.

    The issue to me is that you’d have to beat the bang for the buck of the Euro style small diesels. The VW TDI cars can go a looong way on a tank, you don’t have the initial technology mark up, and I’m suspicious that fixing a diesel is cheaper than fixing a hybrid. One shudders to think about the bill for that.

    I’m willing to give it a try, but not if it isn’t going to do anything. In fact, that is kind of a summary of my whole environmental position.

  20. Well designed diesel engines are the longevity champions. It’s not unusual to go more than 300K miles before a major repair is needed. How long does the battery pack last in a Prius and how much does it cost to replace?

  21. This is path to a more ethical and more effective environmental movement. Instead of regulation, harnessing and motivating the market demand for environmental concerns will also involve the general public, engender them to think more about environmental concerns, and give them more of a say in these matters.

  22. It’s ironic, but the lack of interestin diesel cars in the US is at least partly a result of their superiority. Because the engines last longer than the bodies or the interior, there are a lot of diesel cars on the road that look that absolute crap, and people get turned off from the technology.

  23. Rick,

    Why not “in addition to regulation?”

    It wasn’t market incentives that cut the average car’s emissions by 90% over the past four decades. It was government mandated engineering improvements.

  24. Speaking of cars that may or may not be comfortable with their sexuality, come on Thoreau, a Saturn?

    –B.P.
    (Owner of a 1975 Mercedes 300 Diesel that looks quite nifty and gets 30 mpg)

  25. mtc:

    “I don’t have much to say here except one time I got a ride to lunch with a guy who had a hybrid, and jesus what a fucking sally he was.”

    You’ve said enough. Thanks for the laugh.

  26. What’s wrong with a Saturn? I mean, other than the fact that after 100k miles I needed to replace a whole bunch of parts?

  27. Thoreau,

    You can expect that with any domestic vehicle. I know, I know, there really isn’t a truly *domestic* car anymore, but let’s face it: Honda, Nissan, Toyota-at 100,000 miles you’ve barely broken them in.

  28. sage:

    Not so the Nissan that is made in Mexico. The 2000 Sentra I drive is not well constructed. I’ve had five or six recalls on the thing, electrical failure, engine sensor failure, perpetual wheel alignment problems, and some kind of goofy thing where my engine won’t receive power in first gear when the AC is on at first, then suddenly you accelerate. A friend of mine who does engineered parts sales to each indicates that Toyota is at the top of the heap with Honda coming in second. The Chrysler division of DC is actually considerably ahead in build quality of Nissan at the moment. How scary is that?

  29. Well designed diesel engines are the longevity champions. It’s not unusual to go more than 300K miles before a major repair is needed.

    The problem is, most of the diesel cars in the US are VWs. I know by the time I put 300K miles on my Golf I’ll have replaced every damn piece of the car *except* the engine.

  30. sage:

    At 100,000 miles, my dear old 1993 Jeep Wrangler was only just getting broken in. Granted, it used up a water pump seemingly every 40k miles or so… but it’s a Jeep! $35 part, and maybe an hour and a half in the garage on a Saturday afternoon, no problem!

  31. The only reason to buy a hybrid is environmental. That and you want to show off exactly how much better you think you are.

    Reminds me of Ed Begley Jr’s car from The Simpsons.

    “I prefer a vehicle that doesn’t hurt Mother Earth. It’s a go cart, powered by my own sense of self-satisfaction.”

  32. I belive Toyota also designed and engineered a completely new type of automatic transmission for the prius. Like the HVAC fan it is also continuosly variable, no 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th gear.

  33. The CVT transmission isn’t a particularly new device. It’s certainly been improved, but the idea has been around since Leonardo da Vinci. Toyota does use them in Prius models, and Honda also uses them in the hybrid Civic. CVT’s have been used sparingly, because of a bit of complexity and a tendency to give a ‘rubber-band’ feeling to driving, kind of a disconnection between power and motive action.

  34. Kris:

    Continuously Variable Transmission is all the rage these days. Nissan produced it in their Murano, Audi has it on the A series, and Toyota has it on their Prius. In theory, it closes the gap between fuel performance for an ideal shifter on a manual and what a traditional automatic transmission. The concern is that it is horrifically complicated.

  35. Stretch, that may be true for the average driver.

    If you rack up a lot of city miles – like a delivery driver, for example – the numbers change.

    So? I don’t know a lot of delivery drivers who can afford any kind of new car, let alone a hybrid. And, as of today, there are no hybrid cargo vans in production. Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for hybrid tech, but the vast majority of people looking to save money should buy a normal car for the next 3-4 years and then take a look at a hybrid. A good friend of mine has had his Insight for almost 5 years and still hasn’t made out on the deal. Another friend of mine bought a Civic hybrid last year, and she won’t make out for at least another 5 years. There are good reasons to want to save oil, and hybrids will help with that. My only point is that they’re not cost-effective (in terms of money) yet for the average person.
    ———————————————-

  36. As far as diesel goes, there are a lot of reasons why they’re not so popular. Only 1 in 3 gas stations carries deisel for one, they’re a real pain to start in the winter, they pollute heavily and because they last forever there’s not a great market either new or used for them. I mean, why sell your Mercedes when you can get another 100k out of it? And is the average person going to buy a used car with 150-200k on it?

    Also, their are plenty of state laws against private diesel vehicles. IIRC, Vermont had laws against selling them in-state, so people would go down to MA to buy them.

  37. I’ll tell you, driving a Mercury really makes a statement.

    Whether it’s “I paid too much for a Crown Vic,” or “I paid too much for an Explorer,” being seen in a Mercury really says something about you.

    I’ve heard that there’s a correlation between Mercury driving and Republicanism. I haven’t seen any data that back that up, but here’s some anecdotal evidence

  38. SOme real numbers, from my prius:

    Avg ~49mpg, 75% hwy, 25% stop and go, 45 miles each way.

    (for those in the Northern VA area, I do about 30 miles on 66, then 15 miles up 28 past Dulles.)

    Compared to my Aztec (~24mpg, not bad) I will save about $1500/year on gas, if it averages $2.30/gallon. Call it 2 years to break even.

    So, it works for me, and my commute.

  39. And I thought my father-in-law had that disease where your “member” gets painfully bent out of shape when he confided to me that he was getting a Prius.

  40. “I don’t know a lot of delivery drivers who can afford any kind of new car, let alone a hybrid.”

    You’d be surprised. Especially in big cities (where a Prius would get the best mileage), there are some pretty high-end delivery jobs.

    And there are also companies that buy their own fleets.

  41. Note to VW:

    1. Chuck the new “Bug”
    2. Bring back Pickup
    3. Put in one of your 55 mpg diesels
    4. PROFIT!

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