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April 25, 2004

Wish List
The top of my wish list is a green car. I live in rural USA, where buying even a Honda or Toyota is hard due to few dealerships anywhere near us. It is very disappointing to me that by 2004 we're still burning fossil fuels. Most of us don't have the technical skills to build our own cars, so we're stuck with what is out there - in my case domestic fuel wasters. I wish Japan and Europe would adopt the hybrids and fuel cell technologies, and really blow away the US market.

— Roy, Belmont, WI

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April 22, 2004

The Cheapest Fuel of All
I have an old unreliable VW convertible bug that I love passionately. However when I moved out to the burb I discovered myself in fits of rage on my way to and from work. I love to ride my bike, and would go for rides on evenings and weekends for enjoyment. When I tried riding my bike to work for a week I discovered I could have my enjoyable rides and cut out the frustration. It only takes me five minutes more than driving in the car to bicycle the 5 mile ride and I just pack a change of clothes with me to change into when I get to work. The best part is, I figure fuel-wise I expend about 400 more calories a day. I can definitely afford this and most certainly welcome it. My jeans are fitting great!

— Wendy, Atlanta, GA

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March 26, 2004

UK Hybrid Ownership
After reading all the comments it seems that the arguments for and against hybrid ownership are fairly clear cut for U.S. drivers — namely, economical motoring and the environment. In the U.K. hybrids have not yet made an impact. (Although London is seeing a boom, of sorts, due to the daily congestion charge introduced a year ago — hybrids are exempt). As some of you U.S. readers may know, British fuel is incredibly expensive, cars are pretty expensive and the roads here are seriously congested, particularly in the South. Fertile ground for a hybrid flower to blossom perhaps? Not really, at least not yet. Firstly, diesel cars are big news here and across Europe. Recent innovations mean they are now quiet, fast and more fuel efficient than equivalent petrol models. A BMW 320d will easily give 50mpg. Considering that there is no hybrid which comes close to the looks/space/performance of a BMW or VW or Audi there's not much market for a hybrid. Secondly, SUVs are objects of desire here too. Which, on this overcrowded isle, is crazy. Very few have been beyond a few deep puddles. Thirdly, hybrids are poor value for money, unless secondhand. Fourthly, we're just not that environmentally conscious here, which pains me somewhat. Which is kind of linked to the final, crushing reason. Brits just love sexy cars. We design Jaguars, Aston Martins, Rolls Royce and Lotus for crying out loud. Until a hybrid comes along that is sexy, we just won't care. I run a 2001 Insight and live in central London. Best car I've ever had. Honda's just introduced an Accord diesel here — and there's a big waiting list.

— George, London, UK

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March 22, 2004

I'm young and love my car
It's weird to me that more of my generation is not turning to hybrid cars. I am a college student at the University of Oregon... When my father offered to buy me a new car I knew immediately I wanted a hybrid. When my friends found out about my choice their immediate reaction was why I didn't get a BMW or Audi. For me the choice was simple, in fact while I was looking the sales man assumed automatically that I was a hippie, which I am not, though I have been called a bleeding heart liberal. The fact that the hybrids have become so trendy is simply a byproduct for me personally, but have turned my friends on to these neat cars. They are amazed with the technology and innovation, as well as the new designs. They also find it amusing that whenever we go driving older people wave or stop and ask about the car, but I am converting my generation one friend at a time.

— Barbara, Portland, OR

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St. Thomas USVI hybrid
I've had my Toyota Prius hybrid for over two years now and I love it. I'm driving around over the steep mountain in St. Thomas, the United States Virgin Island and the car does a great job on the hills. Gas is expensive here, so the great mileage really helps with the cost of fuel. I don't think I'll ever drive other than a hybrid car again.

— James, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

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March 17, 2004

Larry and His Hybrid
I was so surprised and happy to come across your feature on Larry David. I'm already suffering withdrawal symtoms since the season finale of Curb last Sunday. And it's the first time I've seen his real wife Laurie in action. I don't usually take much notice of actors and celebrities promoting their causes but in Larry's case he's the best unwitting billboard yet for hybrid cars. He's got me to check them out.

— Jeff, Oakland, CA

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March 10, 2004

Bike Plate
Bicycling: A Quiet Statement Against Oil Wars

— Seen on the Street, New York, NY

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March 5, 2004

S.U.V.s Here to Stay
I've taken some abuse for driving my S.U.V. Though plenty of times I've been asked to help move stuff for folks or ferry them around. It's time for the greens to find a new target. They should start with the US government for giving out tax incentives to buy these big trucks in the first place. There's a whole generation out there that's never driven anything but trucks and S.U.V.s, and getting 14 miles to the gallon has never been an issue. All the hybrids in the world aren't going to get these people to downsize.

— Josh, Dublin, CA

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March 3, 2004

I Love My S.U.V.
I like driving my 3/4-ton S.U.V. because it is bigger and safer for my family (don't give me that crap about tipping over, I've lived thru being t-boned by a drunk driver while we were in a sub-compact — never again!). As far as miles per gallon; as long as I pay for my fuel whose business is it what car I drive?

— Charles, Canton, GA

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March 1, 2004

Time for a New Model
While I'm hopefully awaiting the day we stop treating the air like "an open sewer" ...I think there needs to be a complete overhaul of our transportation system...to something sustainable, fair for everyone and that works for people of all ages. I don't expect this to happen in my lifetime, but- for a great resource for anyone interested in this, check out www.carfree.com. Most major cities have a sustainable development inititative, which includes new models for building our cities and towns in such a way that people have to depend less on cars to take care of their everyday needs. I know everyone can't do this, but our entire family works and goes to school within two blocks of each other and within one mile of our house. We share one car. I like to describe cars as "20th Century Technology" and I'm ready for an entirely new transportation model. I don't understand why anyone would want to hang on to the existing model, except to make a profit. Sure, the individual freedom of driving a car...but imagine having the freedom of not having one!

— Karen, Kansas City, MO

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Honda Civic Hybrid
Well, I feel I made a wise choice in buying my hybrid a year ago. Especially when gas in Gardnerville, NV is $2 a gallon and rising every day. My motives for owning this vehicle were the increases in fuel costs I could see coming in the near future as well as the reputation of the manufacturer. I couldn't be more pleased. Although the hybrid is best used as a commuter vehicle and won't haul heavy loads like my truck, if it is used for its intended purpose, it is a fun car to drive, is efficient, and is well designed. I am thrilled that it is also a green vehicle.

— Alan, Wellington, NV

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February 27, 2004

If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them?
I was curious enough to do some research about buying a hybrid and was told by my local dealer that I'd have to wait about six months for a new Toyota Prius. When I told some friends I was shopping around for a hybrid, they weren't particularly impressed. Because I have two young children, they made me feel irresponsible as a mother to drive my kids around in anything but an SUV. I remember my mother taking three of us and the dog around in a VW bug no problem. If you look at how cars are advertised, they don't focus on good gas mileage or anything else that's positive for the planet, it's all about size and power and safety — or macho off-road driving that none of us ever do. I know what the right choice is but even I am questioning whether I should get something beefy so that I'm not dwarfed by everything else on the road.

— Sandra, Atlanta, GA

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February 25, 2004

The Buck Stops Here
I just read Chris Paine's interview and thank you for reminding us that taking personal responsibility is what will guide us to a better future. It's too easy to pass the buck and blame faceless corporations for all that's wrong with the world. It's the same as complaining about bad TV then watching it just the same.

— Connie, San Mateo, CA

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February 24, 2004

Manufacturing Change
Chris Paine's story proves that there are people out there with the determination to drive cleaner cars. But as Chris's battle with GM points out, a handful of trailblazers is not going to cut it. It will take literally millions of people to get behind driving hybrids or electrics and taking action where it matters with their wallets, before governments or manufacturers will pay any real attention. The electric car was doomed the minute laws were removed to keep car companies building it. It's interesting you also mention that the top 10 green cars are all from Japan. We've a long way to go!

— Pete, Portland, OR

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February 23, 2004

Raise Gas Prices
The biggest single factor that would curb gasoline usage in this country and our addiction to SUVs is to mandate a gasoline tax. If Europeans can pay $3 to $5 a gallon for gas, so should we, especially as we are the worst energy consumers. The tax levy should then be used to fund alternative fuel programs and better public transit in major US cities. Thanks for the stories, which let people see that there are some healthy alternatives to our everyday driving choices.

— Ian, Los Angeles, CA

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Old Efficiency
It's amazing what short memories people have. In 1993, Honda introduced the Civic VX that got 57 mpg highway, 49 mpg city, which is better than today's Civic Hyrid at 51 mpg highway, 46 mpg city. I own one of those old forgotten Hondas and I regularly get around 45 to 50 mpg and I once got an amazing 64 mpg! You don't need to pay $20,000 to get a good fuel efficient car.

— Christopher, Asheville, NC

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February 19, 2004

A New Car vs. Two
My partner and I recently decided it was time for a new car after driving the same two Honda Civics we'd had since 1987. While impressed initially with our cars' superior gas mileage compared to US models of that same era, we felt the time had come to think green, since technology and prices were now within reason. After a great deal of research, evaluating reviews and test driving, we made the switch to hybrid gas/electric. One old car we donated for a tax deduction and good conscience in helping others, the other we traded in (for only a few hundred mind you!) on our new 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid. We are more than pleased, even after downsizing to one car and scheduling who drives it and when, because of the incredible gas mileage, which averages 46mpg, and the silent engine when at rest/idle. Not to mention the near-zero emissions. Honda was more than helpful in getting us into our new car. Toyota on the other hand seemed as if they couldn't be bothered and were waiting for someone who would come along to offer more to be put on their ''waiting" list. Come on, it's the 21st century! Well at least we're happy now and both our consciences and our gas credit card have been eased.

— Greg, San Francisco, CA

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Still Buying Our Hummer H1
We love the outdoors, off-roading and the way the H1 was built: tough and safe. We don't like the fossile fuel usage so it's converted to run on Biodiesel and SVO: Straight Vegetable Oil. It's not the vehicle you drive; it's the fuel, period! Live and let live! After September 11 we thought more on the enviroment and the current political situation. US Fuels and Solar Power for our home! We plan to start up a green website educating everyone re: US Alternative fuels, Solar and more.

— William, San Francisco, CA

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Many MPG
I drive my 2000 Insight to and from work every day, as I have for four years. Lifetime average mileage is 66mpg over 55,000 miles. If I can find a Hummer to draft, I can cruise at 85mpg (seriously). Hybrids perform well when driven as the designers intended (not as car magazine writers drive them). It took me a while to figure that out, but the results speak for themselves. For me, there is simply no other moral choice in terms of fuel conservation and environmental impact.

— George, Columbus, OH

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February 11, 2004

Intrigued, but Ultimately Unimpressed
I was curious about the Toyota Prius, Car & Driver's 2004 Car of the Year, so I rented one over the Christmas holidays for a weekend trip my family and I took in Northern California. The 2004 model is chock full of new features that make it really appealing to people who like their cars to be more than just a mode of transport. For instance, my brother-in-law was excited about the car's Bluetooth functionality. As far I understand, it works like this: If you have a cellphone with Bluetooth capability, the car can sense when your phone is ringing and lower the music for you. When you answer the phone, the caller is heard over your stereo. All you have to do is speak out loud and the caller can hear you — there's a hidden mic or something inside the car. It all sounded very George Jetson to me and incredibly cool. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get it to work in the rental car.
Driving the Prius was pretty satisfying. It was zippy on the highway, and it was neat the way the engine completely shut down at stoplights, but as soon as you hit the gas the car would go without any delay. (The engine would start up again once you hit 40 mph or so.) It was fun to see how much energy we were recycling by watching the large and easy-to-read monitor in the dashboard.
The only problem was the rear window has this strange panel in the middle that made it difficult to see out the rear-view mirror. It was especially frustrating on the highway in heavy traffic. You had to keep moving your head to be able to see. It was so annoying that I think I would not buy the car because of it.

— Theresa, New York City, NY

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Who Needs a Motor?
I own a car, but I prefer to ride my bike whenever I can. It's not always easy. I live in a small city, close to where I work, and it's no problem riding around my neighborhood, but venturing onto the main thoroughfares is downright dangerous. There's never a bike lane, and there's rarely a shoulder wide enough for a rider to feel safe with cars zooming by at 45 mph. Often, I end up riding on the sidewalk, which isn't usually a problem as far as colliding with pedestrians, but can make for some awkward near-collisions. Additionally, the sidewalk is full of cracks and holes, and natural obstacles that make it a bit more of an adventure than I would like on my way to work.

I don't want the city to ban cars or anything, I just want them to make the roads more usable for those of us who aren't in cars. The problem with getting them to expand the streets or establish bike lanes is that it costs a lot and it's not clear that many citizens will use them. So few of us ride bikes now, at least in part because of the difficulties, it may seem to the average voter that we'd be getting something special.

— Barry, Durham, NC

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