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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

January 16, 2006

James May on... Hybrid Cars

If it's Monday, it's time to sneak a look at James May's latest entertaining column in the Daily Telegraph, in which he ponders the hybrid car and what it all means.

[Y]ou need to try the most fashionable of hybrid cars, the Toyota Prius, in which an animated graphic display on a dash-top screen shows the path of energy and the function of each part of the system at any one time. It really is a most engaging divertissement, and if you're lucky you may achieve enlightenment before you drive into the back of the car in front.

I actually quite like the Prius. I like the styling and the neat, airy interior. I even quite like driving it and, in a perverse way, I quite enjoy the challenge of that on-board video game, which also rewards you with a sort of points system for economical motoring. It's an interesting car. However, in its widely acclaimed role as the saviour of humankind, it strikes me as complete nonsense.

Now, I've been looking at the Prius, as I think about what I might or might not get as my next car, and my main interest is in its fuel economy, which is as high as 67 mpg, if you believe the figures, which you can't. You think "lower running costs", except you don't know how much the fancy-pants engine will cost to service, and I bet it's not cheap.

67 mpg (imperial, not US, gallons) with unleaded (because it's cheaper than diesel), is pretty darn tootin'. But according to the BBC top gear site, on their long-term test, they got more like 40-something, which is not so good. In fact, it's crap, if you're used to getting around 50 mpg with a diesel car. Also the Prius looks horrible, I think. It looks like the Nissan Primula (joke). I still like the idea of whispering around town on electric-only, and knocking over unwary pedestrians, and avoiding any congestion charges that get imposed. But still.

If you read the post below, you'll see that we're all quite enthusiastic, really, about the post-oil economy, and what it might mean in terms of lifestyle and working hours. So it's silly, really, to be saving fuel, when it would be better to use it all up as quick as we can. James May concludes,

The sort of people who champion the hybrid car are those who would say that burning petrol and diesel is a bad thing, that the emissions muck up the climate, drown polar bears and give people diseases, that the oil business causes wars, corrupts the global economy and is at the root of corporate imperialism etc etc etc.

So why, then, are they trying to eke out the world's oil? Surely the solution is to buy an old Bentley, fill it with petrol and burn the stuff as quickly as possible.

The sooner we do that, the sooner real engineers and physicists will be forced to come up with something better.


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