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UCS “Hybrid ScoreCard” Dings Automakers for Forced Features in Hybrid Offerings

A new hybrid ranking—the Hybrid Scorecard—for consumers released by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that while many automakers are selling hybrid vehicles with significantly enhanced environmental performance and fuel economy at a reasonable cost, they too often inflate prices by including what UCS deems unnecessary luxury features, such as DVD players, keyless entry systems and leather interiors.

Hybrids don’t have to be luxury vehicles. They should be within the reach of all Americans. Car buyers shouldn’t be forced to buy high-end bells and whistles when fuel economy and reducing emissions are their top priority.

—Don Anair, the senior vehicles analyst with UCS’ Clean Vehicles Program who oversaw the guide

As an example, the UCS “Hybrid Scorecard” gives both the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid a high “hybrid value” rating. Both emit 31% less greenhouse gas emissions than their base conventional models due to their use of hybrid drivetrains, each of which costs approximately $4,000. But both models come with forced features that cost nearly as much as their hybrid drivetrains. The Honda Civic Hybrid has more than $3,000 worth of forced features, while the Ford Fusion Hybrid includes nearly $4,000 worth, according to UCS.

By contrast, the 2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid has a very high hybrid value. It emits 44% less global warming pollution than its closest conventional counterpart, the Toyota Matrix, and its hybrid drivetrain costs a little more than $3,000. It comes with $1,600 worth of forced features.

The luxury Lexus LS 600h L hybrid is the worst offender. It comes with more than $17,000 in forced features compared with the conventional, base model Lexus LS 460L. The Honda Insight, conversely, has no forced features, delivers more than 40 miles per gallon, and emits relatively little global warming pollution. With a sticker price of less than $20,000, the Insight is one of the most affordable hybrids available.

Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota all sell models with high hybrid value ratings, UCS noted. Size was not an issue, since UCS awarded high ratings to vehicles ranging from compact cars to luxury sedans to full-sized SUVs. But muscle hybrids, such as the GMC Yukon Hybrid and Lexus LS 600h L, which emphasize power over increased mileage and reduced emissions, have much lower hybrid value, according to the group.

UCS’ Hybrid Scorecard also ranks models based on environmental performance alone—mainly how well they reduce smog-forming emissions and the heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming. The Prius scored a 9.8 out of a possible 10. The Honda Civic Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid tied for second with an identical environmental score of 7.8. Meanwhile, General Motors hybrids lagged far behind, largely due to their relatively poor smog-forming emissions controls, according to UCS.

UCS’ scorecard rated 31 hybrids, including two- and four-wheel drive models, manufactured by five automakers: Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. The scorecard provides a profile of each hybrid as well as an explanation of the methodology UCS used. It is hosted at


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This is important new information about the economics of hybrid technology as a means to improve fuel economy.

Note the best hybrid technology is the Prius that cost 3000 USD and reduce CO2 emissions by 44%. In other words, the Prius with 50 mpg can be compared to an equally comfortable non-hybrid with 28 mpg (50*(1-0.44)) that cost 3000 USD less to buy. Annual fuel consumption assuming 12000 miles per year in a Prius is 240 gallons (12000/50). For the non-hybrid Prius it is 429 gallons (12000/28). Annual USD fuel savings is therefore 529 USD (=(429-240)*2.8USD per gallon).

In other words, the extra money of buying a hybrid car (3000 USD) is fully saved in reduced fuel bills within 6 years. If people were rational and hybrids came in basic models without extra features we would all be driving hybrids by now. The problem is that people are not rational and the industry may not be so either by adding these extra features to their starter hybrid versions.

Change for the better can sometimes only come through legislation. The auto-industry would not make safe cars if it were not for regulation requiring it and they would not make any effort to make low emission cars if it was not for regulation compelling them to do so.

Now that the economics of hybrids is more clear and shows benefit for society and consumers alike we need legislation that require hybrid technology to be standard in future offering across all models. To require, hybrids technology in 100% of all models by 2020 should not be impossible. Just do it. It will benefit the auto-industry as the cars will get more expensive and it will benefit consumers as they save money when fuel expenses are correctly accounted for.


This is what I've been saying for over a year now - get rid of all the worthless bells and whistles and just give us a basic, decent car that gets us from point A to point B. If someone wants to spend the extra cash for leather seats, fine. Make them pay for their little luxuries but certainly don't make them standard in the vehicles. Thank god somebody finally woke up!


The extras are where they make their profits. They are not non profit corporations and this is to be expected. Cadillac and Lexus are offering luxury hybrids and I predict that they will do well.


You can't sell a stripped down $70,000 car without luxury features. If they could make Hybrids and sell them for $18,000, then they could leave off the delux features, but we are not there yet - except for the golf carts.


If others don't do what we want them to do, force them.

How childish.


What is more childish?

a) buying what you really want, need and can afford.

b) buying what manufacturers tell you to buy.

Unfortunately, too many of us have been brain washed (with smart repeated Ads) to think that Hummer size monsters are essential to drive to work and or take the kid to school etc.

It seems that good Ads campaigns can make a child of many of us.

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