2006 Toyota Prius
Parked on a Sandy, Utah street – a Toyota Prius. Odd choice for Hatch in the Wild? Perhaps, but it gives way to a little debate and some fun with Photoshop.
Is this the superhero that will save the world? Time will tell. Until then, love it or hate it, this is what a “hybrid” looks like. The hybrid revolution started with the Toyota Prius in 1997, and has since spread to nearly every other manufacturer selling in the US.
For whatever reason, the form factor chosen for this revolution was the hatchback. Along with that original Prius – the Honda Insight, when introduced in 2000, was a three-door hatch. The original GM EV1 (yes, it was a full electric, so sue me) was as well. The 2009 redesign of the Insight drew obvious cues from its Toyota competition, becoming a five-door.
It almost seems that like a tissue is a “kleenex,” a boxy five-door is a “hybrid” to many people.
And perhaps that’s the idea. See, I come down on the “hate” side of the Hybrid issue. In my opinion, hybrids are expensive exercises in “look at how green I am,” rather than actually being green. If you really want to save the earth, drive the car that is already built – any new car is most certainly not green. The very construction of a vehicle consumes vast quantities of metal, plastic, rubber and power.
If you must have a new car, there are other – if you’ll excuse the term – more efficient ways to save gas. A low-tech, but very useful technique is weight reduction, as weight is one of the key enemies of efficiency. Instead, hybrids add significant amounts of weight through huge battery packs shoehorned into the trunk or various voids in the chassis. Wanna go high-tech? New systems such as direct injection engines and automatic shut-offs for red lights and stop-and-go conditions are making their way into mainstream vehicles.
But back to the “look” of a hybrid. It seems like Toyota and Honda have now made a concerted effort to ensure that their hybrid looks like a hybrid. Why? So the owner of said hybrid can make it perfectly clear what it is they are driving – therefore they are more green than you?
Just look at a magazine rack sometime to find out how obsessed Americans are with appearances. Not just physical beauty, mind you, but the outward appearance of their gadgets. In the long run, people would rather be seen in a hybrid than a tiny economy car or an old beater that’s significantly “greener.” No one wants to be seen in a cheap car.
Until battery technology can catch up and provide a light-weight and easily recyclable alternative to what is installed in today’s hybrids, I can’t see the point of paying a premium to purchase a car that is only marginally better than the best compacts, gas mileage-wise, only to have to replace and discard those batteries 60,000-100,000 miles down the road.
Any thoughts? Post them in the comments. Until then, I’m burning dinosaur bones.
Further reading: The Geo Metro Is One of the Greatest Cars Ever Built [Jalopnik.com]