Various Earth-conscious businesses in the USA and Canada, along with some small state and city level government branches are starting to reward eco-trendy consumers. Perks may include being able to pass in the car pool lane, free parking, tax breaks, discounts in your favorite stores and even educational services like tutors and online courses. Today’s Perkonomics lesson is “The Eco-Perks of Being a Hybrid Car Owner”.
Owners of hybrids and highly fuel efficient vehicles are feeling the love all over the world. Hybrid car drivers can already get preferential parking spaces at IKEA stores. The Logan International Airport is offering free parking for hybrid drivers. Los Angeles has been offering free parking all over the city for the past three years to owners of hybrids and cars that get over 45 miles per gallon. Even New York is now considering letting hybrids off the hook when it comes to parking meters.
In Ontario, Canada’s most serious Earth-offender, they are considering a three-tier green program for hybrid and low-emission drivers. Their government is working on a “sliding scale” pricing system to determine which cars are the most environmentally friendly and therefore will get the most perks. The more fuel efficient your car is, the less you will have to pay for things like registration and parking. Canadian eco-friendly auto consumers can also qualify for an “eco-license plate;” a green plate which will entitle them to special eco-perks which have yet to be determined.
Many think that although some rewards, such as a fast ride in the carpool lane or reduced registration rates may be warranted, some perks like free or preferential parking are not. The argument is that no hybrid car owner is in more need of preferential parking than someone in a wheelchair or a pregnant woman. So far California and Colorado have both approved the use of the carpool lane for single occupancy hybrids. However, most major cities in those states have condemned of the idea.
There’s also an argument going on about who should qualify for eco-perks. What about the minivan full of commuting co-workers? Is someone who trades in their Hummer for a moped or motorcycle less worthy of a sweet parking spot? How about the Chevy Avalanche? It utilizes an Active Fuel Management system which according to EPA tests saves about 5.5%-7.5% in fuel economy. How are these solutions less worthy of eco-perks than owning a Hybrid car?
A lot of these eco-perks aren’t necessarily enforced anyway, but many think that it’s just the encouragement and recognition that people need to take a step in the right direction for saving the Earth. In order for any special program to have a long-lasting impact, it will most likely need to be backed by a considerable amount of businesses and at least a local or state government, much like Ontario did. Even then, Houston, Texas offered preferential parking up to the public and had only one citizen take advantage of it in a six month period.
So far in the USA, hybrid cars only make up about 3% of our morning traffic. So it’s understandable if there are some Perkonomic ups and downs while we make the switch to eco-friendly transportation. Frankly, the whole idea will be a lot more successful if we focus not only on people who own hybrids, but also on individuals who are trying to make a positive impact on the environment in other ways too. Hybrid cars are wicked cool, but there’s more than one way to offset a carbon footprint.
PERKONOMICS was coined by Trendwatching.com: a full, free briefing on this trend will be published on October 1, 2008.