With critics becoming increasingly skeptical about the real world mileage of hybrids, companies like Toyota and Honda are repositioning hybrids to attract more buyers. We have said this many times that the benefit of hybrids is not their fuel economy, which could be attained by a regular gasoline engine car, albeit a smaller one. Hybrids really offer a kind of performance enhancement by basically reusing what would be wasted energy to give a vehicle more power than it would otherwise have. It is analogous to how a turbocharger uses wasted exhaust energy to provide additional power, but a hybrid uses energy that is retrieved mainly through deceleration.
Toyota is clearly heading in the performance direction now. Have you seen their Lexus RX400h commercials? And with news of the GS450h, LS600h, and a hybrid IS, they are marketing hybrid technology as a performance enhancement. Honda has taken the same approach with its Accord Hybrid as well. Acura will also have hybrid technology brought into their line. What is also clear is that hybrid customers want their hybrids to be distinguishable as hybrids. This is a common complaint that Honda receives, and is a new complaint that Lexus is beginning to experience. Again, we have said this before many times that part of the attraction of a hybrid is their 'coolness' factor or at least the 'positive' or 'green' image they project. It is ironic that this 'green' image may come at a cost of battery disposal down the line. To rephrase Eric Bryant, there is no such thing as a free lunch.