Coming on the heels of news about the commercial success of the Prius is an announcement that Toyota plans to expand its battery manufacturing, opening up a $192 million plant in Japan to produce the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in these popular gas-electric hybrid cars.
We know many drivers enjoy the Prius because it offers the slightly less guilt-inducing option of gas-saving tech, but, like smoking filtered cigarettes to stave off blackened lungs, better mileage and fewer on-the-road emissions seems to be about all the car really has to offer above and beyond other new cars, for now at least. With skyrocketing gas prices, perhaps these hybrids will make more sense, especially for big-city commuters, but with new models starting at over $22,000, it’s not a car Joe or Jane Schmoe can waltz down to the dealership to buy.
Nonetheless, every nickel-metal hydride cloud has a bright lining, and for strapped and asthmatic Americans, it’s a paradigm shift towards economical and environmental responsibility in our daily driving choices. The Prius is one of the forces propelling us toward this shift, and if it means more gas-electric hybrids as we wait for better technology, perhaps that is better than no hybrids at all.
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