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Gas Prices and the Hybrid Car

Gas Prices and the Hybrid Car

The Internets were abuzz today with Toyota’s dramatic unveiling of the next-generation Prius at the North American International Auto Show. The top-selling hybrid hopes to keep its spot with a car that’s a little bigger, has a more powerful engine, is slightly more aerodynamic and gets a few more miles to the gallon than its predecessor.

With hybrid sales on the decline, Toyota’s got a lot riding on this new line. Prius sales fell 45 percent in December and 12 percent for the year, but the company says the new Prius will help increase demand for the car–including by current owners who want to upgrade. Overall hybrid sales were down 10 percent for 2008, accounting for only 2.4 percent of new vehicle sales (which are also on the decline).

But is a newer, sleeker Prius with a more powerful 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, an average mpg of 50 (up 4 miles from the previous model) and optional moonroof with solar panels to power the ventilation system enough to lure buyers?

The poor showing is obviously a victim of our failing economy, but some are speculating that the huge drop in December can be attributed to the fact that gas has gotten so affordable, well below $2 a gallon–down from close to $5 a gallon in peak areas last summer. But are people really basing decisions like that on something so tenuous? Is it possible that people are thinking to themselves, “Hey, gas is so cheap we should run right down to the auto dealer and pick us up one of them gas-guzzling SUVs”?

I certainly hope not. Because first of all, and I hate to break it to you, the price of gas is going to go back up. In fact it has already started its upward climb, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

And second of all, I don’t think people buy hybrid cars just to save money at the pump. Sure, it’s a perk, no doubt about that. The real benefit comes from its lower emissions and preservation of dwindling natural resources. Personally, I’m in it for the fact that you don’t have to dig through your bag to find your keys to get in the car or even start it (push button start rocks).

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Jana Ballinger

Jana Ballinger has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and copy editor for daily newspapers. She lives in a vintage house in Northern California with her husband and an orange cat.

10 comments

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5:50AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Thanks for the article.

1:35AM PDT on May 26, 2011

Although the gas prices are down but it can go up in few months, it is not permanent. The hybrid car would make several benefits such as environmental and cost cuttings on fuels. Used cars for sale

5:36PM PST on Jan 14, 2011

Thanks for the info.

2:50AM PDT on Jul 12, 2010

This oil spill incompetence has gone on long enough! Please sign this petition demanding that BP pay for damages caused by the oil spill regardless of where the oil washes up onshore. Mexico and Cuba will feel the effects of this oil spill too!

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/gulfnationaid

6:25PM PDT on Jul 11, 2010

How can you have one and live in a condo or apartment without a place to plug it in?

2:13PM PDT on Jul 11, 2010

I would love to have this car. I walk more now because I want to help the environment and drive a small 4 cyclinder car but this car is awesome. thanks.

4:38PM PST on Jan 12, 2009

I own a 1992 Toyota Camry LE with a 4-cylinder engine with over 380,000 miles on it. The car gets an average mileage (combined city and highway) of 38 MPG. On a recent trip to North Carolina, which was almost exactly 400 miles from my house, I averaged 42 MPG.

With a vehicle like this, I am NOT excited about hybrid technology, as I believe that if my vehicle gets that kind of mileage, a hybrid should get at LEAST double that. In my opinion, hybrid tech is a stopgap measure anyway. We should be working on 100% electric vehicles, be the batteries are charged by solar panels, the electrical outlet or what have you. Hybrid vehicles only lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, they do not eliminate it.

4:07PM PST on Jan 12, 2009

The high cost of fuel this past year did serious damage to our economy and society. After a brief reprieve gas prices are inching back up again. Our nation should not allow other nations to have such power over us and our economy . We have so much available to us in the way of technology and free sources of energy. WE seriously need to get on with becoming an energy independent nation. We are spending billions upon billions in bail out dollars. Why not spend some of those billions in getting alternative energy projects set up. We could create clean cheap energy, millions of badly needed new green jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil all in one fell swoop. I just read an eye opening book by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009. It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to drive and charge an electric car.If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. Why don't we use some of the billions in bail out money to bail us out of our dependence on foreign oil? This past year the high cost of fuel so seriously damaged our economy and society that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come. www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com

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