Happy Hybrid Week, er, Earth Week

prius_photo (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

This being Earth Week (thank Madison Avenue for making it a marathon) there’s been plenty of news out there about hybrids — the gasoline/electric powered vehicles that magically clean the air as you drive!!! Ok, maybe not. A few of the items we noticed:
Registrations of new hybrid vehicles in the U.S. rose 38 percent in 2007 to a record 350,289, with Prius’ leading the pack, according to R.L. Polk & Co., an automotive marketing and research company. Hybrids made up just 2.2 percent of the U.S. market share for the year, but they were growing steadily even as overall sales declined 3 percent. Texas had the 4th most new hybrids registered, behind California, Florida and New York.
At Autobloggreen they speculated if 10 percent of the U.S. drove a Prius we could save 6,285,000,000 gallons each year (around 16 days worth of gas).
And General Motors Corp. will even sell its first gas-electric hybrid cars in China in July.
But Bloomberg’s John Wasik opines the Prius may not be the cheapest way for some to cut driving costs, that for some a Yaris might be a better bet.
And in Petaluma, Ca. someone has been vandalizing Prius’ . Is it a campaign to protect blind pedestrians from the often-silent vehicles or a back-lash against eco-smugness?

I’ve been “matched” with this Driftwood Pearl Prius, which is actually out of my price range.

Full disclosure: I’m trying to test drive a Prius to see if it will be a suitable replacement for my 1997 pickup. The notion of being able to carry two kayaks and sheets of drywall is being abandoned in favor of accommodating two infant car seats.
After consultation with Consumer Reports we first were leaning toward the Subaru Forester and the Toyota RAV-4. I had a hand-me-down Subaru wagon in high school and college, so I was looking forward to a reunion of sorts. Sadly the Subaru’s seats just didn’t feel right and the transmission wasn’t as smooth as the RAV. The Prius showed up on our list when I got to take a look in a visitor’s car and realized there was a bit more room than I thought.
Getting a test drive isn’t proving to be easy, however. My local dealership didn’t have one in stock to test (despite info to the contrary on their Web site) so I had to reserve one arriving at the Port of Houston later this month. No commitment to buy, just a way to make sure I get to test it out before someone else buys it. I guess it’s better than having to wait six months to actually buy one, as was the case when the cars first hit the market.

Babies win, kayaks lose.

Any other opinions out there on the Prius or what might make a good replacement for my truck? The priorities (in order) are safety, reliability and fuel efficiency (and room for two baby seats in the back). I’ve always bought used but for some ridiculous reason I am now leaning toward new.