Gas prices fuel hybrid sales

Gas prices fuel hybrid sales

Jeff Lydecker depends on driving to maintain a successful business, so he made a smart business decision to keep costs to a minimum.

Although some drivers spent the summer searching for cheap gas, Lydecker bought a 2006 Toyota Prius hybrid, which uses a mix of gas and electric energy. It gets him almost twice the mileage of his old Mitsubishi Galant.

As fuel costs continue to fluctuate and cause significant damage to bank accounts, some drivers are taking a more permanent approach to saving on gas than driving 30 miles out of the way to save $3.80 on a 12-gallon tank.

Those willing to shell out an extra couple of thousand dollars are taking future gas money and investing it in hybrid vehicles.

” ‘What motivated me to buy a hybrid?’ I’m a businessman, I spend most of my time in the car,” Lydecker, of Montgomery, said as he sat in his tan 2006 Toyota Prius hybrid in a downtown Geneva parking lot.

While taking a break from tapping away at his laptop that rested on the steering wheel, Lydecker said his investment had made driving more gratifying.

“The car drives beautifully and averages about 50 miles per gallon,” he said.

High gas mileage has become an invaluable commodity for drivers, especially in sprawling suburbs where getting in the car and driving seems to be the only way to get from point A to point B.

Although drivers might find that their Prius, Honda Insight or Ford Escape Hybrid is not as fuel efficient as car makers advertise, the difference between regular vehicles and hybrids is worthwhile.

“People are obviously reacting to gas prices,” Steve Grimes, a sales consultant at Toyota of St. Charles, said, referring to the increase in sales for fuel-efficient vehicles.

The advertised mileage rates are based on Environmental Protection Agency tests that measure fuel efficiency at its optimal rate under the same standards for each vehicle.

Traffic in Kane County’s cities, dealing with extensive urban sprawl, are not conducive to those optimal standards.

“It’s got a little engine, but I haven’t really changed my driving style,” Lydecker said of his Prius, adding that his old Mitsubishi Galant averaged only 26 mpg.

Most hybrids have smaller engines than their gas-dependent alternatives. But engine size is not the main difference-maker in fuel efficiency.

“The electric motor is what drives the vehicle,” Grimes said. “It has two drive motors and no transmission. It never shifts gears.”

In other words, the more a driver can make his car run on electricity, by driving without a lead foot and by avoiding the extra gizmos and gadgets of the vehicle, the better mileage he or she can achieve.

Geneva attorney Dan Parson says he brought his 2006 Prius after reading about its high emission standards and because of a personal concern for the environment.

“I chose it because I read an article in National Geographic about global warming,” Parsons said. “That article indicated that the average automobile puts 200 pounds of pollutants into the air every year.”

The Prius is as much as 84 percent cleaner for harmful emissions than a typical car, Grimes said.

“Global warming will be a serious concern in the near future, and it’s too bad that this administration isn’t doing much of anything to clean the air,” Parson said. “Our dependence on foreign oil irks me, especially when we have oil companies reporting record profits while gouging us at the gas station. It’s all very aggravating.”

To relieve that aggravation, Parson drives a black hatchback Prius that gets close to 50 mpg. To optimize his gas mileage, he keeps an eye on the gas mileage gauge.

“I pay attention to that, which makes me a little more cautious with a lighter foot,” Parson said. “My wife calls my car the slow mobile, I guess because of the way I drive it.”

The display tells drivers actual mileage per gallon as they drive.

“When you’re coasting, it goes to 99.9 [percent efficiency] and actually recharging the battery,” Grimes said. “The point of the cars are not to waste energy anywhere.”

2006 Hybrids sold in U.S.:

Ford Escape Hybrid GMC Truck Sierra 1500 Hybrid Extended Cab Honda Accord Hybrid Honda Civic Hybrid Honda Insight Lexus RX 400h Mercury Mariner Hybrid Toyota Highlander Hybrid Toyota Prius Best Mileage Vehicles (MPG on highway): Honda Insight ”“ 66 Honda Civic Hybrid ”“ 51 Toyota Prius ”“ 51 Volkswagen Golf ”“ 44 Volkswagen New Beetle ”“ 44 Toyota Corolla ”“ 41 Volkswagen Jetta ”“ 41 Honda Civic Coup ”“ 40 Toyota Yaris ”“ 40 Honda Civc 4-door ”“ 39 Top Ten Gas Guzzlers (MPG on highway): Dodge Ram SRT (quad-cab) ”“10-12 Lamborghini Murcielago ”“ 13 Bentley Arnage ”“ 14 Mercedes-Benz G ”“ 14 Dodge Ram Regular Cab ”“ 15 Dodge Ram SRT (regular cab) ”“10-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee ”“ 15 Lamborghini Gallardo ”“ 15 Ferrari F430 ”“ 16

Maybach 57 S ”“ 16


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