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Archive for September, 2007

See my own previous posts on my experience with my hybrid Toyota Prius.

A new study conducted by the R. L. Polk Company and released by the Minneapolis Star Tribune documents what is pretty obvious if you keep your eyes open on the roads lately — not only are there more gas-saving motorcycles and scooters out there, but there are a LOT more hybrid cars. The Midwest leads the nation’s regions in sales growth, and I’m proud to say that Minnesota leads the Midwest. In fact, we are second in the nation only to California: for the first seven months of 2007 versus the same time in 2006, California’s sales of hybrid cars increased over 150%, while ours here increased 98%. The nationwide average was around 55%.

Back in 2000, when my Father bought our family’s first Prius, there were only 115 of them sold in the state. In 2006, there were nearly 3,800 sold. Now that’s not a huge absolute number, I grant you. But every bit of sanity helps — every bit of gas saved is that much we are less in thrall to the kings and dictators in the Middle East. And the curve of the graph, rising at about a 70 degree angle, is nothing but good. And even more to the point, the sales winner in the Midwest in absolute numbers is Michigan, the home range of the crop of dinosaurs known as the Big 3. Is it any wonder they’re struggling to stay alive? Get with it, guys!

Separately, JD Power and Associates notes that only about 2.3% of vehicles nationwide are hybrids, and many of those (especially the SUVs among them) are optimized for power, not mileage, so although they are “hybrids” in the power train, they aren’t doing nearly as much good as they could. Again, not a huge number, but as gas prices inexorably increase and if continuing political disruption in the Middle East disrupts our oil supply and leads to rationing, the preference of the public for more rational vehicles will show itself.

And of course public policy can influence this. One reason California has so many hybrids is that a number of cities provide access to express lanes, preferred or no-charge parking, and other perks to hybrid owners. This can work here, too, and (to our tax-obsessed state government) note that these perks have essentially no tax or spending impact. Ditto for motorcycles, which I note already enjoy considerable preferences in road access and parking leniency.

So, get with it. Sell your Hummer or SUV, and buy a motorcycle and a Prius, go heavy-green all the way.

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