Why we’re the problem and not hybrids

Published: 28 March 2008

It’s not hybrids that are the problem per se, says Ben Pulman, but the humans who regulate their use.

I hate a lot of things (models, people who turn their noses up a Skodas, the usual) but I don’t hate hybrids. I might hate all the extra development work that makes them possible (surely producing extra CO2) but I think hybrids might actually be part of the solution. Not in their current form, mind, but along the lines of the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Flextreme (above) where the engine only runs – in its most efficient range – when the battery needs to be charged on a long journey.

No, I hate hybrids because people just don’t understand them. Buying one does not mean you’re saving the Earth, and it does not mean you’re better than me. Take the Lexus GS450h. Ben Oliver’s long-termer averaged a mere 26.8mpg. If you care about carbon why would you buy it over a BMW 530d that’s only been shipped from Germany.

And I’m afraid the politicians are even worse than us plebs. The UK government are currently debating the idea of replacing all their cars with Toyota Priuses. Buying new cars? No cost to the environment there.

And whose idea was it to give San Francisco special lanes on the motorway set apart for those driving ‘clean air vehicles’. You even get a fancy sticker that proves you’re clean. Only you’re not. On a high-speed commute along the motorway you’re lugging all the extra weight of a battery, so you’re actually performing worse than the equivalently-engined car.

Those of us left in our regular cars? Force to queue up in the regular lanes, surely ironic as setting us on our merry way would cut CO2, and forcing Mr Prius driver to queue would actually make him run on electric power. I think politicians and eco-do-gooders can be added to my hate list.

For the full story on the Opel Flextreme, an exciting eco MPV that does 150mpg thanks to a plug-in hybrid system, read the May 2008 issue of CAR Magazine. In the May 2008 issue we also quiz the top technical bods from Germany’s premium car manufacturers and preview the clean and green BMW supercar for 2018.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy