Hybrids can save gas. They also can save lives.
Gas-electric vehicles tend to be more effective than their conventional counterparts when it comes to shielding occupants from injury, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. On average, the your odds of being injured in a crash are 25 percent lower in a hybrid.
Why? Because hybrid vehicles weigh more. Although hybrids share the same dimensions as their gas-swilling sisters, the battery, motor and electronics provide greater mass. A Toyota Highlander Hybrid, for example, weighs 330 pounds more than the gasoline version. All things being equal, heavier cars fare better than lighter ones in a crash.
“Weight is a big factor,” Matt Moore, Institute v.p. and author of the report, said in a statement. “Hybrids on average are 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts. This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes that their conventional twins don’t have.”
There are other factors at play, including when, how and by whom hybrids are driven. The Institute included controls to minimize the impact of such variables. At the bottom line, the Institute says, the findings show consumers don’t have to trade safety for fuel efficiency.
The institute analyzed more than 25 hybrid models with conventional counterparts, all of them 2003 to 2011 models. The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were not included because they are hybrid-specific models.
There is a downside, however. A separate analysis by the Institute found hybrids may be as much as 20 percent more likely to injure pedestrians. The problem is pedestrians don’t always hear the hybrids coming. It’s a common complaint, one the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working to address.