For the past seven years, I’ve been driving a stereotypical suburban mother’s car: a minivan. We bought it when I was pregnant with our first child, having decided that my ten-year-old Dodge Daytona — my very first car — with its two long, heavy doors, impossible-to-use “passive restraint” seat belts, and low frame that had you practically sitting on the pavement, would be to our disadvantage once my belly popped, not to mention once the baby arrived.
A few years ago, after being trapped in the soul-sucking minivan for a few years, I decided that my next car would be a convertible. I knew I’d be over 40 years old when I got it, but that was part of my rationale: drive the minivan for as many years as possible so that when it’s time for the next car, the kids will be older and we won’t need quite so much soccer mom space in the back.
My husband basically shoved reality back in my face. “They don’t make convertible minvans,” he said, pointing out that my next car will still need to be a minivan. I tried to fight back with, “I know,” meaning that I wasn’t planning to get a minivan. But my husband and I both knew better: I’m probably stuck in a minivan for at least on more go-round at the car dealer.
Aside from wanting to drive something just slightly more cool, I also want to drive something slightly more “green.” So we have since concluded that I’ll be driving my current minivan at least until some hybrid minivans come on the market. If I’m going to be stuck in another mom-mobile for ten more years, I’ve told myself, at least I’ll be driving a car that will help decrease emissions and our country’s dependence upon foreign oil. I’ve been living with that happy assumption for about two years now.
Today, I learned that my assumption is wrong. According to a story in the New York Times, larger hybrid cars aren’t significantly more fuel efficient than their non-hybrid counterparts. Instead, they’re significantly more powerful. The hybrid engine is being used in larger and higher end cars to provide more power when accelerating, to “get more work out of a gallon of gasoline,” rather than to cut back on the number of gallons used.
According to the NY Times:
The 2005 Honda Accord hybrid gets about the same miles per gallon as the basic four-cylinder model, according to a review by Consumer Reports, a car-buyer’s guide, and it saves only about two miles a gallon compared with the V-6 model on which it is based. Thanks to the hybrid technology, though, it accelerates better.
The Accord hybrid is not alone in using technology for power; the Toyota Highlander and the Lexus RX330, two premium vehicles, both gained horsepower when they were produced as hybrids. When Lexus created a hybrid version of the RX330 it kept the same 3.3-liter engine, but to get across the idea that the hybrid had as much power as a vehicle with a 4-liter engine it named it the RX400h.
Cars like the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius are still available for people who want to buy a car primarily for its fuel economy. But these cars are much smaller than what I need. The Insight is only a two-seater. And even though the Prius a five-seater, it’s still a small car.
I want a car with the size and features of a minivan, but with Insight- and Prius-like fuel economy. I don’t expect to get 70 miles per gallon in a minivan, but I would like to get 40 or 45. I don’t need to accelerate faster; I’m used to a car that can’t get off the line quickly. I want fuel efficiency and size.
The problem with large cars IS their fuel consumption. Why won’t car makers actually produce cars that are both fuel efficient and a larger size? Why do they always opt for increasing POWER over fuel economy? Because that’s what Americans really want. They wouldn’t make them if they couldn’t sell them. For all of our talk about ending our dependence on foreign oil, we sure are unwilling to give up a single convenience to get it.Powered by Sidelines