Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Second Guessing.

I'm now in line for a Prius. According to the dealer's website, there are 90 people in line ahead of me. I'm not going to see it until at least November. Which is really hard for me, since one of my personal mantras comes from Postcards From The Edge: "Instant gratification takes too long."

But you know what? I still love my 1998 Honda Odyssey--it's still a great vehicle. So I can look at the intervening months as a farewell tour. You know, like Cher, who had a "Farewell Tour" that lasted at least 3 years and kept coming back to the same cities where she had already said "farewell." By the time I actually get a new car, I will have been saying farewell for at least another 50K miles, don't you think?

The down side is that it means I also have months and months to second guess my decision. Did I make the right choice? Should I have waited for the (unspecified) new technology that is bound to be released right after I buy the Prius? Should I have gotten a different car all together?

So imagine my horror when I heard Ira Flatow on Science Friday interviewing a Honda exec about the new All Electric Honda they are about to release. I didn't want to hear it. But shouldn't I hear it? Can't I still take my name OFF the wait list for the Prius? Shouldn't I consider an All Electric car if it's about to become available? Or should I just switch the station and pretend I didn't hear anything?

Then the guy from Honda said something I hadn't expected to hear. "Hydrogen fuel." HA! It wasn't all electric, it was fueled by something! You didn't just plug the car into the wall and drive--you had to fill a tank with something, even if it wasn't gas. Okay, then, maybe I could listen after all.

Honda Guy was tossing around impressive statistics: 270 miles on 4 gallons of hydrogen. Drive from LA to Las Vegas with only one fuel stop. New technology--limited release--future promise of hydrogen processing in your own garage, creating electricity, heat and auto fuel from your garden hose! Robot maids and personal jet packs! (Okay, I just made that last part up.)

But then the dirty details started to emerge. The car will only be available on a pilot basis in California. You have to register at a web site and submit a personal essay--and probably your GPA and SAT scores as well--and Honda will review them and pick the first people allowed to be customers. The car itself looks kind of stupid. And the kicker? The hydrogen is produced from natural gas.

So when I got home, I Googled the process for converting natural gas into hydrogen. The result? It takes between 11 and 12 gallons of natural gas to make 4 gallons of hydrogen. So, in fact, we are talking about a car that gets about 23 miles per gallon of gas. My 11 year old minivan gets 21 mpg.

I'm feeling better about my decision.

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