In our society, "going green" is a trend that is spreading quickly. But when we buy "green," how eco-friendly are we really being? Most automakers are creating lines of hybrid vehicles that boast enormous prices for some lofty environmentalist goals that sell because of what they promise to do for the planet. But caveat emptor: these hybrid vehicles may not be everything we need.
With the craze to save money on fuel, consumers try to justify spending more money on the automobile as a whole in order to save a few bucks at the gas pump each time. Combined with the need to feel better about what we are doing to our environment, hybrid vehicles are the apex of the convergence between conservationism and market forces.
Hybrid vehicles run by capturing energy when the car brakes, and using it whenever possible instead of tapping into the gas tank. The car is also equipped with the standard lead-acid or lithium-ion battery that converts chemical energy into electric energy. The simple fact is that a car or truck that has a form of electric drive does not mean it is better for the environment.
For example, a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid gets a combined EPA gas mileage of 20 mpg and still consumes approximately 17 barrels of oil a year, and emits 9.2 tons of carbon dioxide. A regular Honda Civic gets 29 mpg combined, uses 11.8 barrels of oil, and emits 6.3 tons of carbon dioxide annually— not to mention it's only a third of the price.
For people who still need the extra room an SUV provides, why not opt for something like a Ford Escape? It's half the price of a Tahoe, but gets an average 26 mpg combined. Or for a few thousand dollars more, you can upgrade to the Ford Escape Hybrid, which features soy-based fabric seating and a recycled material interior and gets 32 mpg combined.
Though the slight mpg difference between hybrids and regular cars is nice, the cost difference between the two is often a large factor for consumers. Lots of cars, sedans and SUVs alike, have a hybrid version. But for the jump in price, we are not really driving away with a better vehicle. Not to mention the safety ratings of hybrid vehicles are sometimes subpar compared to standard vehicles. I don't want to accuse automakers of scamming the general public, instead I want to encourage the public to keep in mind that businesses are well aware of the green trend and will make vehicles that fit it. Consumers must be cautious of jumping on any eco-friendly train just because of what marketing professionals claim.
When you go to a car dealership, it's important to remember that it is first and foremost a business. The car salespeople are there to make money, not to provide you with a car that confirms your sainthood in our eco-friendly environment. They will tell you that a hybrid is always the best way to go because the higher price not only means you are feeling good about purchasing a "green" car, but a higher commission for them.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for eco-friendliness, but we have to make sure we're not being blinded by the light of a current fad.