What the media always forget to tell you about hybrid and electric cars

A 17-inch touchscreen in the dashboard of the Tesla Model S simplifies the all-electric car's operation, unlike the complicated controls of gas-guzzling German luxury sedans costing twice as much.

In late March, the Model S shrugged off the rain in Tenafly, where consumers were offered test drives.


When Toyota unveiled the second-generation Prius in the United States, the company emphasized how the gas-electric hybrid would help clear the air.

"Low emissions. High hopes" was the simple message on the front of the 2004 catalog available at dealers.

But the media have basically ignored the environmental benefit of hybrids and electric cars, this despite all the recent attention to climate change.

Bad press for the Prius

The Prius has gotten a surprising amount of bad press or no press.

In 2006, Automobile magazine claimed writers who drove a Prius across the country "discovered mileage plummeted on the interstate."

That directly contradicted the experience of Prius owners, who get better mileage on the highway than they do on local trips, suggesting the auto writers were driving way over the speed limit and wasting gas.

The magazine didn't even mention how often the Prius' gasoline engine turns off -- when the car is stopped at lights and when the driver is coasting or braking -- reducing air pollution.

Our automotive past and future in the parking lot of 24 Hour Fitness in Paramus, above and below. GM's enormously wasteful Yukon DENALI, above, should be renamed DENIAL, in view of its contribution to climate change.

The all-electric Tesla Model S is a leader as demand for green cars grows.

When mileage plummets

According to FuelEconomy.gov, aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas.

"It can lower your mileage by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town," according to the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information.

Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph, according to the Web site, adding:

"You can assume each 5 mph you drive above 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.22 per gallon for gas."

The site also offers tips for drivers of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

Click on: Use the 'economy' mode

Ease on down the road

One way to get the best mileage out of your hybrid or plug-in is to use cruise control whenever you can.

For the past few years, I have found setting my speed at or a little above the limit saves gas and has a calming affect, especially on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, two notorious playgrounds for speeding and aggressive drivers.

I have even used it on local streets with speed limits of 30 mph and 25 mph to avoid falling into a speed trap and getting a ticket.

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