Hybrid Hype

A coworker and I got into a debate about hybrid cars. He wants to spend 30k on a hybrid or electric car. His reasoning behind it…”I want to save the environment.” Naturally I said, why don’t you just get a bicycle. He lives close enough to commute. But here’s what he said…

“That is not practical, what if I have to go the grocery store, go some where where I have to pick up things or carry passengers. It doesn’t make sense to ride a bike. I currently use my car(gas powered) in many ways, I don’t see how you can use a bicycle in a ways of a car”

I started telling him about my Xtracycle and so forth, but then he goes off in a tangent about how it doesn’t make sense. By that time other coworkers were saying to him that if he really wanted to save the environment, then he should just get a bicycle. Everyone argued that a bicycle has no emmisions and all that jazz….But this hybrid loving coworker was set on dropping tons of cash just so he could “save the environment.” We all tried to get our point accross about bikes, but this guy was stubborn.


  1. tlaporte

    There is an internal company mailing list where I work that is for general chat, and the topic of hybrids often comes up. In our 1200 person company I see at least two dozen Toyota Priuses in the parking lot (the boss drives one, so that adds incentive, I suppose). Whenever the topic of hybrids or gas mileage come up, I always find it necessary to point out that my hybrid solution (car three days per week, bicycle two days per week) combined with my close proximity to work (5 miles by bike) does way more for the environment than somebody who puts 40 miles per day on their hybrid vehicle. But they generally don’t want to hear that, they just want to swap stories about how much they are getting per gallon.

  2. Smudgemo

    Hybrids are a bad joke. Is carpooling is out of the question, or does driving one give license to go it alone?

    The guy should spend $20k for a two year old Outback to carry lots of crap or when the weather is difficult. He should then spend $2,500 for a 110mpg 49cc scooter for commuting most days and for small grocery runs. Finally, spend $1k for a turn-key Xtracycle for short distance, medium-sized grocery runs and errands.

    He’d burn a lot less fuel, get fit and still have $5-6k left over to blow on something really useful like a trip to Vegas.

  3. Marrock

    Next time just bend your tire pump over his head…

  4. Ghost Rider

    Hybrids are a step in the right direction, I suppose, but they are NOT going to save the world. They still burn gas, while a bicycle, obviously, does not. A bicycle may not be the ideal solution for ALL people, but it can do the things this gentleman says he need a car for.

    I wonder how many emissions come from manufacturing a hybrid, as compared to a bicycle. And what about recovering all those batteries and steel when the vehicle has met the end of its usefulness?

  5. James

    Hey, people are just as stupid in your workplace as mine! Too bad in mine they teach elementary-age children their asinine values.

  6. RL Policar (Post author)

    I didn’t mention that during this conversation that a few of us brought up how other countries use the bicycle as mode of transportation. I listed countries like China, Vietnam, and India.

    Well this fella is Indian and he said, “I’ve ridden my bike everywhere when I lived in India, now all I want to do is drive!”

    So from the looks of it, he must be bitter about bicycles.

  7. russ roca

    One word. Greenwashing

    Whenever I watch commercials my BS detector always goes off for auto ads. C’mon, they’re touting hybrid SUVs getting 28MPG as fuel efficient???!!! Who the heck are they kidding. We have cards with TVs, with the internet, that friggin park themselves and the best they can do is 28MPG? If there is any proof that the auto industry is in a three-way with the petroleum industry and government, this has got to be it. For all the “advances”, perhaps the most important one (you, know actually increasing your travel distance instead of distracting you while on the road) has hardly advanced.

    It’s really sad and pathetic that all the commercial industries are co-opting this new green movement but don’t really give a rat’s ass about it.

    For example, the bottled water ad that says their saving the environment by using less plastic in their water bottle?! How bout just buying a reusable container. There isn’t even a mention about recycling this new fangled environmentally safe water bottle.

    It’s really sad. Instead of doing something, all these companies are just painting their products green and selling us the same crap.

  8. stevierayfan

    hey! i ‘am getting hybrid! oh did i mention it’s the 2008 Diamondback performance hybrid BICYCLE! commute around town,to work,TO THE STORE!,guys at my work are the sameway,they just don’t understand how easy it is,its all about being prepared,i have three for bad/cold weather(mountain bike),one for the nice days (84 Schwinn Letour),and my soon to be new addition the DB.,he could get panniers,racks,rain gear and some killer bikes for thirty thousand!

  9. Noah

    I guess now would be a bad time to tell him about all of the strip mining that’s done to manufacture those batteries, or the fact that in 5-10 years, the batteries (comprising over 100 pounds of toxic chemicals) will have to be replaced.

    I guess it’d also be a bad time to tell him he could get a B-Segment car (Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Toyota yaris) with a highly efficient internal combustion engine for half the price, or less, and not only save money on all car ownership costs (even fuel amortized over 10 years at $5 per gallon average, and 12K to 15K miles per year) but probably pollute less in the grand scheme of things?

    Or he could do what I do. I drive a modest car (Ford Focus) when riding is out of the question. I drive an SUV when I need to haul A LOT of stuff or go camping at the lake. And I ride whenever I can, which is quite often.

    I’ve ridden over 4,200 miles this year. 700 miles or so was group rides, goofing off on singletrack, or just out enjoying the scenery for no other reason than to ride. The other 3,500 of those miles were IN PLACE of driving my car. Think about that for a moment. In my Focus, that’s more than 100 gallons of fuel all by itself — more than $300 in fuel savings this year, and more than 1 ton of CO2 emissions, not even counting NOx and other greenhouse gases.

    Then consider the fact that many of those times I rode to the bus, extending the efficiency and reach of my puny bike, traveling superhuman distances with a bus fare that’s cheaper than the price of fuel, and sharing one large vehicle with 50 other people, further reducing the amount of total emissions in the air, and taking 50 single-occupant vehicles off the highway and out of the crowded parking lots downtown.

    Consider the fact that today was my 209th bike commute, and with the cheapest parking space near my office commanding $4 per day I’m almost $850 richer this year from parking fees alone. That’s more than my brand new road bike cost me back in May, including most of the accessories.

    Consider the fact that my bicycle isn’t vulnerable to urban traffic jams. I can take alleys, sidewalks, and weave through tight places. When traffic is moving along normally, it’s only going about 20 miles per hour what with the stop signs every other block. Even riding the same traffic pattern as everyone else, I get where I need to be just as fast if not faster than someone who is driving.

    Consider that I was a lard-ass a year ago. Now I feel better than I’ve felt in a decade. The more you analyze it, the more obvious the answer becomes.

  10. Moe

    Hey Tlaporte, check out our ‘Theoretical MPG Calculator’ on our Commuter Tools Page. By riding a 3 times a week, the Theoretical MPG of my Nissan Frontier is 45MPG. TAKE THAT HYBRIDS!

  11. space

    From what I understand, at least 2/3 of the pollution caused from cars is in the actual manufacturing process. Less than 1/3 is from using it. There is no such thing as a green car. Hybrids are especially bad, for instance if you follow the creation of their batteries – as they are created, the materials travel all the way around the world from Canada or Chile to China to Japan before they come back to the U.S. to be placed in a Prius or whatever. Tell your friends that cars suck. The world surely cannot afford everyone owning a car. It could support everyone having a bike though.

  12. cafn8

    Good point about the manufacturing of cars. Looks like I was beat to that one by a couple of people. Taking that one step farther, it makes sense to buy a used car that’s already on the road, take care of it and drive it as long as possible, as long as it doesn’t become a gross polluter. Short term leases have always seemed wasteful to me.

    I personally just bought a used road bike, since I can’t afford a new one right now (ironically it was the nail near my car’s tire sidewall and subsequent new tires that ate up the bike money less than a week after I started shopping.) I’m investigating how feasible it would be for my wife and I to downsize to one car instead of two as well.

    It’s funny how the cheaper route is often better for the environment, while the road to green sainthood is being sold to us as $30,000 small cars which the majority of the population can’t afford or can’t justify.

  13. Nord

    I heard a lady on C-SPAN comment yesterday that China will attain an across-the-board fuel efficiency standard of 38 mpg this year, but the US wont attain a 38 mpg average until 2020.

  14. Mike

    I heard China was also actively encouraging a switch away from bikes to internal comubstion. And like the Indian co-worker above, lots of the people in other countries who ride bikes would go motorized given the resources.

    +1 to material and energy needed to make one car as being a rather integral basis of non-greenness–compared to ?how? many bikes could be made with the same resrouces.

    Anyone speeding in a hybrid is a hypocrite.

    If motorcycles had bumpers, I’d already be selling “My bike gets better milage than your hybrid” stickers.

    I have problems with all-electric vehicles as well, unless specifically powered by renewable sources.

    Wife was just hired by the same company I work at, and since we started commuting, the other car has gathered dust. We’ll soon be down to one car, a ’91 Honda Civic.

    Of course bikes are not guiltless. Aluminum mining and production causes much ecological grief.

    Ooo, now there’s a marketing hook–be the first manufacturer to build a bike (at least the frame, perhaps some other significant components) with post-consumer-recycled materials…

  15. Val

    I think you folks are missing the point of most people’s objections to a bike; or perhaps you just haven’t figured out how to translate it. “It’s not practical” actually means “It would require me to exert myself.” The unspoken rule is that physical exertion, while admirable, should be optional. It should be something you have to set aside time for, pay money for the privilege of doing, and do strictly for conditioning or fun. If you rely on physical effort for an essential life function (i.e., transport), you must be much lower on the ladder of civilization and status, and the cool kids will look down on you. Not to mention the fact that most people are downright lazy.

  16. Aaron

    Mark Fischetti spoke at my college a while back and he talked with some top engineers that said it’s been possibly for a long time to make an SUV that can get at least 50 mpg, but the higher ups at GM, etc… deny this.

    But he was also trying to get Louisiana to step up it’s levies and drainage system in New Orleans for YEARS before Katrina hit.

  17. db

    “It’s not practical? actually means “It would require me to exert myself.”

    +1. Hybrids alleviate guilt without requiring extra effort.

  18. Ghost Rider

    Val, that was beautiful — and so “right to the point”!

    I wonder how much of the U.S.’s abyssmal MPG record is controlled by Big Oil, who would stand to lose big profits if everyone drove fuel-efficient vehicles? Are they the ones keeping us from being able to have 50+ MPG vehicles? In my heart, I believe this is the case…

  19. Quinn

    If car companies really cared about selling hybrids the cars would be priced at 1/3 the gas version.

  20. Ralphy

    I think the faster we burn it up, the sooner we have to find alternative transportation. Really. Everyone should get a Hummer and do laps around the McD’s drive through with the parking brakes on. Burn it all up now. Then when we’re out of gas we can all ride bikes.

  21. Adrienne

    Three words:
    “new car fever”

    Your coworker may even know much of what’s in the above discussion — with his brain — but could well be in the throes of an advanced case of the “I wants”. And our consumer culture doesn’t help.

  22. Mike

    “Even if you drive a hybrid, you’re *still* supporting terrorism every time you fill up.”

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