Saturn Aura Green Line: What do you call a “hybrid”?

Saturn AURA Green Line Ad by Saturn
I came by this Saturn ad today and could not resist to click. The ad said: “Most affordable hybrids in America”. Wow, wouldn’t that be interesting to look at? I clicked off to the Saturn website expecting to see the specs of their hybrid vehicles. Nothing really jumped at me and so I looked around trying to find those hybrids. Found precisely two – VUE Green Line and Aura Green Line – that looked like they might be hybrid vehicles. Well, that’s fair – two is plural. Let’s take a look at this Aura ad I’ve found. Read on, it will be fun!

The ad: “say hello to the lowest-priced hybrid on the market” MSRP $22,695 base
Reality: Toyota Prius base MSRP is $22,175. I actually bought mine for $21,700 (and not the base package). And no, Prius 2004 and newer is not a compact car.

What else?

The ad: “EPA 28MPG city, 35MPG highway”
Reality: What’s wrong with this picture? Hybrid vehicles consume more fuel on highways due to higher air resistance at higher speeds and lack of assist from the electrical motor. Saturn’s got is the other way around.
Well, maybe it’s not all that strange though because Honda Accord Hybrid has more specs available and it also advertises 28MPG city/35MPG highway. I looked at the spec and it appears that a tiny little battery that it’s equipped with can only output 13.8kW (~18.2 HP) of power, a half of Prius’s stock battery. Although electrical motor rating for Honda Accord Hybrid could not be found, it is coupled to a huge 253-hp, 3.0-liter ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). What a joke! The available electrical power – 18HP is only 1/14th of the ICE power and is comparable to the output of a simple starter for this size of ICE. I have a reason to believe that AURA’s powertrain is designeg in a similar peculiar way.

The ad: AURA Green Line delivers up to a 30% improvement in fuel economy over the non-hybrid AURA.
Reality: this makes non-hybrid one a real gas guzzler for its size: 19MPG? There is definitely room for improvement there!

I’m going to cut this rant short: I don’t want to leave an impression that I set out to bash every attempt on making a hybrid vehicle by a domestic car maker. I am all for an affordable hybrid (or better yet, fully electrical) American car. Its future though is not looking too bright to me right now. It appears that slapping an electrical motor onto an existing car just to be able to call it a hybrid for marketing purposes has not real future as the achieved fuel economy is very small and will hardly entice anyone to trade a traditional car onto a hybrid.

What I would really want to see happening is an American car maker biting the bullet (ten years after they should have) and design from scratch a new model built with electrical powertrain in mind. And no buckets under the hood, please!



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