Our New Hybrid: An Update

Toyotacamryhybrid2007_2 Back in March I posted about our brand new 2007 hybrid Toyota Camry. It looks silver, but it is actually "titanium!" We've now driven it about 1800 miles, and I have a report.

It has some cool features. Probably the coolest is the "smart" key that allows you to unlock, start and drive the car without ever taking the key out of your pocket or purse. Once you start using a smart key, you'll wish you had one for your house, too. Also, the hands-free Bluetooth connection to your cell phone is a nice convenience and safety feature.

However, the most important feature, fuel economy, has been a big disappointment. We've averaged only about 31 miles per gallon--no better than lots of economy vehicles that are not hybrids. I still feel good that the air quality emissions are much better than the vast majority of vehicles--especially since the DC area has such poor air quality, but I've not been impressed with the mileage. Because the vehicle has regenerative braking and often shuts down instead of idling, it's supposed to be better in city driving, which is the vast majority of what we do. That has not been our experience. We did pretty well on our one road trip to Philadelphia. Our highway mileage was over 40 mpg, and our total trip including the city driving while we were there averaged about 36-37 mpg.

The Logo_gh_wreflect_3 web site keeps a database of fuel efficiency for the various hybrids. Our mileage is in the bottom 10% of the Camry hybrids reporting there (average is 37 mpg). So, why? I think it's because of the short trips that we take. For mosts trips of under 3 miles it is very difficult to get the car to average above 30 mpg for that trip (oh, yeah, another feature is that it tells you your fuel efficiency for every trip at the end of that trip). It doesn't do well for the first couple of miles. Probably 60% - 70% of our trips are shorter than 3 miles.

The good news is that shortly after we purchased it, Arlington County adopted a tax break for hybrid cars, so we'll save several hundred dollars on our personal property tax this year, which will more than make up for the difference in fuel economy that I had hoped for and what we are actually getting. It won't, however, make up for the greenhouse gas emissions I had hoped we would be reducing.

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