Today's Wall Street Journal reviews this wonder of luxury and green technology (subscription only):
The biggest con running in the auto industry right now is the notion that hybrids represent some sort of quantum leap in green transportation. Not only is this patently untrue -- hybrid technology is actually decades old -- but it shamelessly plays to the hypocrisy of our society. If we really wanted to save the planet, instead of buying hybrids we would start walking. Or riding bikes. Maybe a few more of us would try public transportation. How about starting with slowing down to the speed limit on the freeway?So for a mere 100k, you can have all the fuel economy of our family's roomy Town & Country minivan, and rather less economy than my fifteen year old Toyota Camry.
But let's be honest: Most Americans aren't willing to change to conserve energy. Even lifestyle choices like driving a small car, carpooling and living in the vicinity of where we work are largely anathema, which is why I'm not the least bit shocked by the Lexus LS 600h L.
This is a hybrid limousine with a base sticker price of $104,765, meaning that it's the perfect way for a captain of industry to show the little people that he, too, will sacrifice nothing in his attempt to demonstrate to the world that he sort of cares about the environment. (And of course he does, as these days there are profits to be made by selling all manner of "green" products, whether they have any tangible environmental benefit or not.)
Toyota is bullish on the LS 600h L's "Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle" rating, the EPA's tightest standard for gasoline-powered vehicles. Of course that standard has nothing to do with carbon-dioxide emissions, which are strictly tied to fuel economy. And with an EPA combined rating of just 21 mpg, this 16.9-foot, two-and-a-half-ton sedan isn't doing a lot to combat global warming. It will get two miles per gallon more than the nonhybrid LS 460 L on which it is based, a car that costs $33,000 less.
Cost-benefit analysis clearly doesn't figure into the allure. We did the math: The hybrid version will save its owner enough on gas to break even after only 2.1 million miles.... [emphasis added]
Glancing around through other recent car models, this new "green" entry has exactly the same EPA fuel efficiency rating as the current BMW 525 (not exactly a light eater in the gasoline department) and 25% less fuel efficiency than a standard Toyota Camry.
What exactly is the point, other than having "Hybrid" emblazoned on your rear end?