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Episode 3, Hybrid Hype

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Hybrid: Dominated by sharp-angled exterior design.

The 2000 Toyota Prius was the first nationally available hybrid vehicle in the United States. A few months earlier, Honda introduced the Insight, the so-called “Peanut Car.” But it’s never made much of an impact in its original edition or the current generation that debuted in recent years.

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But in the nearly 18 years since alternative fuel vehicles — gas/electric, electric only, natural gas, etc. — have been manufactured, has the technology made a difference? Environmental and green car advocates are likely to say “yes.” And every major manufacturer has at least one alternative fuel vehicle in its lineup.

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Hybrid: Dominated by sharp-angled exterior design.
The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Hybrid: Dominated by a sharp-angled exterior design. It averaged 58.2 mpg during a 10-day, 1,600-mile test drive. Image © James Raia/2017

BMW to Mitsubishi and Ford to Lexus, manufacturers promote hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles with enthusiastic marketing plans. Even Cadillac had a hybrid Escalade trim for a few years.  It’s the massive SUV the size of a small apartment and its hybrid edition had EPA mileage estimates of 20 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway. Few were sold and production stopped in 2013.

But there are interesting and impressive hybrids on the marketplace, although neither has changed the automotive landscape to any significant degree.

A few months ago, The Weekly Driver reviewed the 2017 Lincoln MKZ. It’s the first sedan I’ve driven with the same price for the gas and hybrid models, about $36,000. The vehicles’ hybrid model has an EPA estimate of 41 mpg in city driving and 38 on the highway. It will be on my top-10 cars of the year list in December.

Last May, I drove the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime round-trip during the Tour of California bike race. I covered 1,600 miles in 10 days and averaged 58.2 mpg. It’s a hybrid I’d recommend without reservation.

Tesla, the high-performance all-electric car, has attracted a lot of attention. But until its affordable model is readily available, Telsa is still a novelty car for elitists. And then there’s the new Chevy Bolt, the spacious sedan with a 238-mile range. Will it make a difference in consumers’ buying habits?

So far, the general public hasn’t adapted to “green car” technology, with only about 3 percent of new cars sold annually classified as alternative fuel vehicles.

Co-hosts Bruce Aldrich (www.tahoetruckeoutdoor.com) and James Raia (www.theweeklydriver.com) discuss alternative fuel vehicles on this episode of The Weeekly Driver Podcast. We welcome your comments. Contact the podcast via email, [email protected]

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