Green Update–>Like It or Not, Hybrids Are Here

Coming: An electric GT-R?

Coming: An electric GT-R?

Toyota is still king of the hybrids and wants to keep the crown. The company just announced six new hybrids to launch by late 2012. One will likely be a new Yaris, for Europe only. Two will be Lexus cars—one of which, the CT 200h, our tgriffith did not find very appealing. He’s right: The specs don’t thrill, and the looks chill.

CarGurus made some news last week with a study that found hybrids cost more to buy and own than comparable gas-powered cars. Anecdotal evidence certainly supports the study’s conclusions. So why are car companies, and the Japanese in particular, jumping into the hybrid waters with such abandon? How come 2011 will see some 27 hybrid/EV introductions in the U.S.?

Why does Nissan’s COO drop broad hints to the press that an electric sports car (a new GT-R) may be in the works? Why is Toyota bringing back its RAV4-EV, now powered by Tesla’s motor and batteries, to show in L.A. in November?

The obvious reason is that hybrids and electric vehicles are the immediate future of the industry, and everybody knows this. However—and it’s a big “however”—most consumers aren’t ready for prime time with these cars. The benefits, for now, don’t outweigh the costs.

Some blogsites (no, we won’t name names) attract commenters who make fun of hybrids and anything with more technological clout than a pushrod V8. Here’s a random anonymous sample: “One of the best features of an electric Toyota is that if the accelerator gets stuck your battery will drain to zero before you get a chance to hit anything.”

I used to write stuff like this when I was younger, and it’s easy to be a Luddite. I want to say to these guys, “Hey, you got a better idea to clean up the planet?” There have also been a couple of studies to the effect that making all cars hybrid or electric won’t do nearly enough to get us out of the global warming bind we are in. Mass transit and mass behavior change will be needed—things Americans find painful to confront.

For now, let the experiments and the skepticism continue. In the short run, consumers have every reason to be wary of pure EVs. As The Motley Fool said, “how’s that air-cooled no-gasoline Leaf going to perform in the dead of winter in Buffalo?” But if you had to put money down on a long-term proposition, you’d be a fool to bet against electric cars.

Are you thinking about buying a hybrid in the near future?


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