A tip from Autoblog reader Glenn L. points us to this well-balanced Canadian article about the trend for manufacturers to offer big, powerful hybrids, instead of the small, ultra-fuel efficient cars that sparked the buzz about hybrids in the first place. Typical of the trend are GM's hybrid pickups and SUVs, and the Lexus 400h performance SUV.
The trend has disturbed many environmentally-concerned car buyers, who would rather see automakers focus on maximum fuel economy/minimum emissions small sedans. But pragmatic manufacturers are looking at the harsh realities of the marketplace - they have a considerable investment in trucks and large SUVs, an investment that reflected a real market demand.

As a GM engineer points out, increasing an SUV's fuel consumption from 10 mpg to 11 mpg saves 110 gallons of gas every 12,000 miles. In contrast, increasing a small sedan's fuel economy from 30 mpg to 40 mpg over the same distance only saves 100 gallons. (Obviously, replacing the SUV with the sedan would be the ideal solution from a purely environmental standpoint, but that would apply - albeit less dramatically - even if the sedan were not a hybrid.)

Of course, large vehicles are also the easiest to convert to hybrid powertrains, with plenty of room and load capacity for the added hybrid components. Some will argue that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, and there's some truth to that, too.

So for now, perhaps fans of the hybrid solution will have to be content with small victories, as the big manufacturers ponderously change course toward a more fuel efficient future.

As an aside - this subject has been the subject of spirited debate right here in Autoblog's comment sections, showing once again that our readers are ahead of the curve! We're not looking to (re-) ignite a flame war with this post - just alerting everyone to a useful summary article.

[Thanks, Glenn!]


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