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Hybrid Update

Please note the following corrections to the article “Hybrid Cars and You,” written by James J. Winebrake in the Fall 2004 issue of The University Magazine.

The article states that the Prius will “get approximately 60 miles per gallon.” EPA ratings from Toyota’s Web site list “60/51/55 MPG forcity/highway/combined” respectively, and “your mileage will vary.” It has been widely documented and accepted that EPA fuel economy labels, particularly when applied to hybrids, are very optimistic.

The 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid is the first production hybrid SUV from any manufacturer.

Mr. Winebrake also claims that Honda (Insight, Civic, Accord) and Toyota (Prius, Highlander, Lexus) now have HEV models commercially available. In fact, Toyota currently offers only the Prius as a hybrid. An MSNBC article dated Sept. 8, 2004 states that Lexus has pushed delivery back to early next year. The article stated that “Lexus added that a specific timeline for showroom models will be announced after pre-production prototypes are tested . . . industry watchers caution it may take some time before Lexus can deliver them to consumers.” Regarding the Highlander, the MSNBC article continues “Toyota said its other promised hybrid, a gas-electric Highlander SUV, would follow the (Lexus) 400h debut.”

Honda currently offers only two models of hybrid vehicles; the Insight and Civic. According to the MSNBC article, the Accord hybrid will not be available until late 2004.

Mr. Winebrake continues “Others such as Ford (Escape) . . . are planning on offering HEVs in 2005.” This statement is also incorrect. The Ford Escape Hybrid is in showrooms now, and is the first production hybrid SUV from any manufacturer, foreign or domestic.

The domestic auto manufacturers have a difficult enough time getting positive press even when facts are correct. Mistakes such as those noted above do a very serious disservice to U.S. auto manufacturers, and help promote the misconception that American companies are technologically behind overseas competitors.

Curt Early ’85
(mechanical engineering)

Richmond, Mo.

Early is a powertrain systems engineer at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant (home of the F-150 pickup, Ford Escape, Escape Hybrid and Mazda Tribute.)

James Winebrake responds:

When the article was written, it was expected that vehicles would be available at the beginning of Model Year 2005. Apparently, they have pushed that back a few months. The auto industry often does this to us analysts! However, I hope this doesn’t distract too much from the overall message that automakers are clearly moving forward with increased HEV options.

I also appreciate your pointing out that “approximately 60 miles per gallon” is not entirely accurate, as EPA combined is really 55 mpg. There are still many questions about the accuracy of the EPA

James Winebrake is chair of the public policy department in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts. His primary area of research is the energy and environmental impacts of advanced transportation technologies.