I was excited to read an estimate that there will be 65 hybrid models by 2009 (there are only 10 2008 model year hybrids). 65 is a lot, but are all these new hybrids really that great? Not in the opinion of ABC News. Why else would the editors title an article Overhyped Hybrids: Green Cars That Guzzle Gas? ABC News says that the annual fuel cost of most hybrids is quite high, because many don't really get better mileage than a standard vehicle. ABC News is right, and the reason is all those new SUV hybrids.

Take a look at the fueleconomy.gov page for hybrids sorted by model year. In 2000-2003, hybrids had an average annual fuel costs of, at most, $1,000 and got 40 MPG on average. Suddenly, in 2005, there are four new hybrids with annual fuel costs of about $2,500. The cars with the higher annual costs? The GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado SUVs trucks, both with an MPG average below 20 MPG.

In 2006, you have 9 hybrids with an overall $1,500 average annual fuel cost. Again, thanks to SUVs like the Mercury Mariner and Toyota Highlander that get less than 30 MPG. 2007, there are larger cars like the Honda Accord and Saturn Aura with fuel costs of $1,500 with MPG averages just slightly over 30 MPG. Okay, those are not really SUVs but the higher fuel cost and lower MPG is mostly due to SUVs. The increase in "mild" hybrids does not help much either.

The public is right to be upset to find that hybrids don't automatically improve mileage by 20 MPG. Most hybrids now, compared with the market just a few years ago, are a bunch of SUVs with only slight improvements in mileage and very high annual fuel costs. The SUV fad began dying, so SUV makers looked to cost cuts, switched to crossovers, and added hybrid systems to hang on for dear life. We'll see how much they tarnish the public's perception of hybrids in the future.

[Source: ABC News]

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