Does Getting a Hybrid Make You A Smug Bastard?

I’ll say it right up front: I love hybrid cars, and if any one person is guilty for turning hybrid car owners into smug bastards, I could take some of the responsibility. Back when hybrid cars were still fairly rare (that is, before California gave hybrid owners carpool permit stickers), I would approach hybrid car owners something like this: “Ooo, you have a hybrid! I wish I had a hybrid! You’re so good for having a hybrid!” I actually have a similar approach to bicyclists who ride when driving would have been faster and more convenient, but with one exception, the bicyclists just smile and keep munching on their granola bars, instead of sharing in a discussion of environmental and political hygiene, the way hybrid owners do.

They do forget, that like bicycles, hybrid cars aren’t a possibility for everyone. I, for one, couldn’t afford a hybrid. Peter’s still impressed with my car’s gas mileage, and I’ll still be walking, biking, or using public transportation because I hate spending money for gas and dealing with the hassle of parking. I took small solace in the fact that the hybrid batteries add to the maintenance cost, and the vague rumors that the batteries have to be replaced in a surprisingly short amount of time (like about 8 years).

What I’m actually happy I avoided though is the hybrid owner attitude, a smug superiority than considers those who make any other automotive choice immoral. The San Jose Mercury News has a traffic column, but apparently (not that I’d been watching regularly) it had become running an almost constant theme of “how I love my Toyota Prius which gets 53 miles per gallon, what’s up with those gas-guzzling idiots.” Due to complaints, the columnist put it to his readers to vote on whether he should ban Toyota Prius love for a while. The votes were overwhelmingly yes. The readers pointed out that they were sick and tired of being dissed for, say, having a minivan, even though they had to haul around 6 foster children; and many others pointed out that hybrids are not all that, since you can save gas and spare the air just as well by carpooling, shortening your commute, taking public transportation, telecommuting, or biking. True, none of these may be a realistic option, but then, a $25,000 sedan isn’t a realistic option for a lot of people either.

Short of the “wow, it seems I never have to stop to buy gas” aside, the smugness of hybrid owners needs to go. It’s a cool car, be happy, ‘nuf said.

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