• Jul 15th 2011 at 2:55PM
  • 9
2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid – Click above for high-res image gallery

The current batch of hybrids proves that automakers are capable of engineering vehicles with reduced fuel consumption and lower emissions, but have yet to "fully deliver" on those two key benefits, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The UCS' Hybrid Scorecard evaluated 34 hybrids for fuel efficiency, environmental improvement, consumer value and what UCS calls "forced features" that artificially inflate the cost of some vehicles.

Don Anair, a senior UCS engineer and the scorecard's primary author, says that automakers, including Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Honda and even Nissan are using, "hybrid technology to boost fuel economy and cut pollution without breaking the bank for consumers." Anair notes that nine of this year's ten best-selling hybrids return more than 30 miles per gallon and score above average for environmental improvement and value.

However, only 13 of the 34 hybrids evaluated by UCS reduced emissions by more than 25 percent compared to their conventional counterparts. The worst offender, the 5,135-pound Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid, emits just 10 percent fewer emissions than the standard Touareg, an all-time low on UCS' scorecard.

Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL

[Source: Union of Concerned Scientists]
Show full PR text
Hybrid Scorecard for 2011 Shows Automakers Not Delivering Enough 'High Value' Models

Stronger Vehicle Efficiency Standards Needed to Make the Most of Hybrid Technology

WASHINGTON (July 6, 2011) – The current crop of hybrid vehicles demonstrate automakers know how to provide dramatic fuel savings and pollution reductions, but have yet to fully deliver those benefits, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) announced today.

The organization's new Hybrid Scorecard, the most comprehensive rating system of how well automakers use hybrid technology, evaluated 34 hybrids for their fuel efficiency, environmental improvement, consumer value, and the "forced features" automakers install that artificially inflate the cost of some models.

"It's not just the Toyota Prius and everyone else anymore," said Don Anair, a senior UCS engineer and the scorecard's author. "Automakers from Ford to Hyundai and Honda to Nissan are using hybrid technology to boost fuel economy and cut pollution without breaking the bank for consumers."

Anair noted that nine of the 10 top-selling hybrids from January 1 through April get more than 30 miles per gallon (mpg) and score above average for environmental improvement and value.

However, only 13 of the 34 hybrids reviewed cut more than 25 percent of the global warming pollution emitted by their conventional vehicle counterpart. The worst offender, the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid, emits less than 10 percent less, an all-time low on the scorecard.

"Automakers are still producing hybrids that fail to deliver on the technology's potential to dramatically improve fuel economy," Anair said. "Their focus on maximizing power over consumer value risks the future of hybrid technology."

Later this year, the Obama administration will roll out its proposed vehicle efficiency and pollution standards for new vehicles and light trucks built between 2017 and 2025. These standards, which could be as strong as 60 mpg and a 6 percent annual reduction in global warming emissions, hold the key to the future of hybrid technology, Anair said.

"Strong clean car standards would ensure that automakers make the most of hybrid technology to boost fuel economy and cut emissions," he said.

The Prius remained the top non-luxury model in the scorecard's environmental improvement category, delivering a more than 40 percent reduction in global warming pollution compared with its closest conventional models. The combination of the Prius' high fuel economy, good value, and relatively small number of forced features help make it the best-selling hybrid, accounting for about half of all hybrid sales. Other non-luxury models scoring high on environmental improvement included the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

In the luxury market, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and Lexus CT200h earned top environmental improvement scores. Like the Prius, they cut global warming emissions by more than 40 percent compared to their conventional luxury counterparts. Ford and Lexus were able to accomplish that by downsizing the vehicles' engines from six to four cylinders to maximize fuel economy, a strategy that resulted in strong value ratings.

"Hollow" hybrids, such as the 2009 Saturn Aura and the 2010 Chevy Malibu hybrids that offered little environmental benefits, are fading from the market, but those underperforming models are being replaced by "muscle" hybrids that emphasize power over fuel efficiency. The aforementioned Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid is just one example. UCS also singled out the new Porsche Cayenne Hybrid and BMW's X6 and 750i ActiveHybrids as among the worst-rated hybrids for environmental improvement.

As mentioned in previous Hybrid Scorecards, the cost of many hybrids are bloated by forced features, including premium sound systems, heated seats, and leather trim that inflate the cost without adding to fuel savings or reducing emissions. These additional features, which on average cost more than $2,500, mask the real value of hybrid technology and push cost-conscious hybrid buyers out of the market.

"If automakers are serious about selling hybrids and offering fuel efficiency at a fair price, they should ditch forced features," Anair said. The Lincoln MKZ, a luxury model, and the Hyundai Sonata, a non-luxury hybrid, are available with few or no forced features, he noted, and "there should be a lot more."

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      And I should care about this because... ?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Hmm, strange that they rated the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid as "Very Poor", but rated its mechanically-identical cousin, the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, as "Very Good". What gives there? A little research brings to light the differences. They compare the Cayenne S Hybrid to the Cayenne S. So, naturally, the V6 hybrid will achieve considerably better mileage than the V8 in the S. This despite the fact that Porsche offers a Cayenne with a non-hybrid V6. In the Touareg's case though, there is no V8 option so they compared it to the V6 version. The V6 version achieves decent mileage, so in comparison the Hybrid doesn't look as good apparently, unless it has a Porsche emblem on the front. Again, despite the fact that the Cayenne can be had with essentially the same V6 as the Touareg (with a 20hp boost under the Cayenne's hood). The Hybrid effectively replaces the V8 option for Touareg buyers, but it is considered "Very Poor" even though it offers V8 power and performance while sipping less fuel than the V6 version. Definitley a lack of logic on the part of the Hybrid Center IMO. There's also the fact that the Touareg/Cayenne Hybrids are not meant to be fuel sippers really, the 380 combined HP figures should be a clue as is the fact that Porsche adds the S moniker to its version. These are basically sport hybrids, much like the BMW versions which use twin-turbo V8's linked with their hybrid electronics. The BMW hybrids rank "very poor" for the record. As does the LS600h L which follows a similar path as the others, increased power and performance with a modicum of increase fuel efficiency.
        • 8 Months Ago
        It seems that the "Forced Features" part of the equation also skews towards the Porsche's favor. However, that's also a misguided yardstick to measure by as well for a similar reason as the V8 vs V6 part of the deal. The Cayenne S Hybrid, by nature of having the S added to its name, includes more standard features, apparently the same ones as the non-hybrid Cayenne S. So, the Hybrid Center gives it essentially a perfect score by stating that the there are no forced features that are added when you opt for the Hybrid Cayenne. Again, despite the $21k increase in cost over the V6 Cayenne and all the features that upgrade includes as well. The Touareg Hybrid, again being essentially the replacement for the previous V8 offering, does include increased feature content so the Hybrid Center dings it for this. They don't take into account that the hybrid is considered the top of the line trim level and comparing it to a base model isn't a fair comparison. If there were still a V8 option as well as the hybrid, I woudl be fine with the comparison, but without the V8, it's not really valid. Also weird that they'd consider the roughly $10k pricier Cayenne hybrid to be a better deal than the mechanically identical Touareg Hybrid. It's still an interesting site to peruse though, even if their premises are a bit flawed.
        • 8 Months Ago
        good comment man. i appreciate your attention to detail.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Although hybrids are interesting technology, if the goal is to make more fuel economic cars, why note simply offer the same range of models, engines and transmissions as is offered in Europe, along with some of the bigger engines that us NA like. I'd love a VW Polo with a small diesel engine.
      Dave R
      • 8 Months Ago
      You know - it'd be nice to provide a link to the actual source of your information: http://www.hybridcenter.org/
      • 8 Months Ago
      I've always had this thing about the Union of Concerned Scientists. The name: doesn't it kinda imply that the rest of us are Disorganized, Oblivious Ignoramuses? Disorganized, Oblivious Ignoramuses who ought just shut up and listen to their betters?
      • 8 Months Ago
      VW and the other German antomarkers are full of sh.... It's pure greenwash.
      Ron Wagner
      • 8 Months Ago
      Why crush?
    Share This Photo X