Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hybrid heaven

So we took delivery on the 2008 Highlander Hybrid, submitting to the classic, and so completely backwards, stick-up job whereby pople who actually care about the future of the planet pay out the nose, while the buyers of old-school cars and trucks at Boch Toyota get the deals. It's a big yacht of a vehicle, and we're learning the mores of driving a hybrid: the wonderful quiet, the gentle touch with the accelerator to stay on electric power as long as possible, the joy of being able to park and idle without feeling guilty (the better to let the DVD run a bit more). We needed to accomodate three boys and do mostly city driving, and of course the mileage is better in stop-and-go because the battery kicks in at low speeds, and actually recharges in braking. Any longer trips we take have the whole family in one vehicle so we're always trip-bundled. When you drive a hybrid, it's true, you view the rest of the road differently: all those folks doing exactly the opposite of what we need to do, continuing to practice the great American tradition of driving a single-occupant, gas-guzzling vehicle for long distances. In Boston, as well, there's a particularly interesting cultural clash. At traffic lights and stop signs, I never gun it anymore, because I have one eye on the "EV" display that indicates my locomotion is emissions-free. My fellow road warriors seldom seem to be in this frame of mind. The honking began the instant the light changed to green the other day, and at the next light, where of course I caught up to the offender -- in a big non-hybrid SUV with New Hampshire plates -- I asked, why were you honking at me? To which he replied, "You weren't moving." No, I just wasn't moving fast enough for you. And off he went, pedal to the metal, secure in his ignorance with his brethren in the land of subdivisions north on I-93, unaware that the oil we use and the stuff we spew into the atmosphere is the slightest concern.