I’ve always felt a little guilty about not buying a hybrid car. Every time I go to buy a new vehicle, I tell myself how much more environmentally responsible it would be to get a hybrid. Then, I look at the sticker price of a hybrid model and compare it with the non-hybrid price. The significant difference in cost sends me skulking shamefully back to purchase the non-hybrid version.
Recently, on a trip to California, I rented a car. When preparing for the trip, I looked at the car rental company’s website and selected the class of rental vehicle I wanted. I had only two criteria for selection. Firstly, I wanted a car as familiar and as much like my own boring, gas-powered, mid-range four-door sedan as possible. Secondly, I wanted a car with sufficient space for luggage for three people, preferably in the trunk. Based on these criteria, I obviously did not select a hybrid.
The car rental fates giggled. When I got to the airport and picked up the rental car, I found I had been “upgraded” to a hybrid. I wasn’t thrilled about having to adapt to a different type of car in unfamiliar territory. Also, it seemed clear that three suitcases were not going to fit in the trunk of the vehicle. I argued and pouted and begged for the class of car I reserved, but the rental car people were “short on inventory.” The lady said she could “see” if there were any other cars available, but she did not sound hopeful. In fact, she sounded downright whiny. Not wanting to waste any more precious vacation time feeling put-upon, I decided to get over it and just take the hybrid. I could use this opportunity to sample hybrid drivership. Maybe the experience would motivate me to get past the sticker shock on my next car and actually buy a hybrid.
The lady at the rental car company told me that the car operated pretty much the same as any regular car, but did warn me that it might seem kind of freaky that the car didn’t make any noise when it was turned on and the engine was going. That was a little freaky. What was more freaky was that it wasn’t really true. Yes, the car didn’t make the traditional engine rumbling noises. However, it would periodically emit a sort of high-pitched squealing noise, reminiscent of a siren in the distance. For the first couple of days, I nearly got whiplash spinning my neck around trying to spot the emergency vehicle every time I heard the noise. When I finally figured out that the noise was coming from the car, I nearly got run over by a fire truck because I didn’t realize there actually WAS a siren in my vicinity.
Then there was the shuddering. Every now and again, the car would shake, rattle, and roll. It was similar to the sensation I used to get when an older, tired car in need of a tune-up would cough and sputter and eventually die. The hybrid didn’t conk out, but it certainly did a great imitation of a car getting ready to expire. You know how they say “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down?” Well, hybrids wobble but they don’t stall out. Comforting to know, but it would be way more comforting if they didn’t wobble to begin with!
There was also the acceleration rate… or lack thereof. The hybrid’s get-up-and-go seemed to have got up and went… somewhere else. Pushing down on the gas did not result in a commensurate sudden increase in power or speed. I think the hybrid interpreted me pushing down on the gas pedal as more of a suggestion than an imperative. This was especially noticeable as I braved lane changing on California freeways and climbed the summit over the mountain pass we had to travail when we took a side trip to Nevada. To be fair, I think I could detect a very slight increase in power when I pushed down on the gas. It was more like the power oozed into the car rather than spurted into it, though. It took some time for that ooze to solidify itself into something resembling strength. When I pushed the accelerator, I think the engine may have worked harder, but not any smarter.
I drove the hybrid over hill and dale for about 1000 miles on our trip. I was not sorry to give it back to the rental car company when it was time for us to return to Florida. I am sure many people drive hybrids and love them. I am prepared to believe that my hybrid experience was colored by my own ignorance, inexperience and ineptitude. It was, however, my experience. That experience did nothing to motivate me to buy a hybrid the next time I am in the market for a new vehicle. What it may have motivated me to do, however, is to stop feeling guilty about not buying one!
Do any of you have hybrid cars? What do you think of them? What could I have been doing wrong? Or do you think it is just a case of me being befuddled over something new? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a wonderful day!