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Links to my published articles online
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Adolescent Diary Weblogs and the Unseen Audience

Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis "from the Bottom Up". Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-38) Best Paper Nominee.

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The Performativity of Naming: Adolescent Weblog Names as Metaphor

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New books are added but reading status is rarely accurate.

January 06, 2006

Why do people buy hybrid vehicles?

Treehugger has a link to a great interview project, The Meaning of Hybrids, at As a Honda Insight owner for almost three years now, a blue one at that, I can tell you that they got to some of the main points of ownership in their work. Here is a excerpt from the interview piece, the whole thing is well worth the read.

BB: Journalists commonly criticize hybrid cars for not providing a return on investment for their owners. Based on your research, what's your opinion of that criticism?

RH: I think the question journalists are asking is, 'Do hybrids save money?" It's the wrong question. A more basic question to ask is, "Do people who are buying hybrid cars really care about saving money?" The truth is that everybody likes to save money in the abstract. But we found in our research that saving money is not the primary motivator for buying a hybrid vehicle. Some people might think about hybrids as ways to save money. Those are not the types of people who are buying these types of vehicles.

KK: In the interviews, we heard that people who bought a hybrid compared it to nothing else. Once they heard about a Prius, for example, and heard about its capabilities, that became the car they needed next to advance a certain story line. At that point, keeping their old car was no longer desirable.

Here's where we get into a difference between our approach and a rational analytical approach. The rational analyst might compare their old car to a Prius in terms of cost and performance and those sorts of things, and look to the answers as to why they bought a Prius in the attributes of those vehicles. We're looking at it, and saying no, we think it's driven by the person trying to extend their identity into a new direction or further along in a direction they were already heading. That's the important comparison. What does this care say about who these people are? This explains why they didn't look at any other car, because no other car does what the hybrid does. And it explains why keeping their old car isn't an option.

The most common question anyone driving my car has been asked is, "Do you save a lot of money with that car?" Hubby and I both have the same answer, no...we don't own it to save money we own it to make smaller footprints on the planet by being less wasteful with resources. While we do save money on gas, the car has a lifetime average of 63.3 mpg, we don't save money over all since the vehicle must have all service at the dealership and there is no secondary market for replacement parts like tires. In short the cars oil changes cost $40.00 (and are likely to go higher since the cost of oil has been going up) and the change can't be easily done at home. This is a very complex car not designed for shade tree mechanics.

I'm pretty sure I will stay with hybrids or electric vehicles from here on out. I like the concept, I like the look, and I like the looks I get when I drive the coolest car around. Now if I could just work through the logic on buying a Tango, oh and well there is that pesky cash issue that goes into buying a car.

Posted by prolurkr at January 6, 2006 01:15 PM

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That's to learn about the Tango. I do think that this crap about "designed to beat most sports cars in the quarter mile with acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in just 4 seconds and a top speed of 150 mph" is annoying. Surely the macho geeks interested in speed don't intersect much with greens?

Funnily enough our neighbors in London have a cute electric car I keep meaning to ask them about. And of course the fairly ubiquitous Smart cars get a claimed 60mpg using (fairly) ordinary tech.

But me - I'll stick to my bicycle. Thankfully it's temperate enough here to cycle all through the year (I cycled in to work today...)

Posted by: David Brake at January 6, 2006 01:52 PM