Take the hybrid Chevrolet Silverado, which gets the same 19 miles per gallon on the highway as a regular Silverado. On city streets it gets 17 mpg, 2 mpg more than the nonhybrid. The Silverado is among six hybrids either available or being designed by GM, the world’s largest automaker. All but one is an SUV or truck. GM says small improvements make a big difference. Upping an SUV’s performance from 10 mpg to 11 mpg will save 110 gallons of gas every 12,000 miles, points out GM engineer Tim Grewe. That’s more than the 100 gallons saved by increasing a sedan’s fuel economy from 30 to 40 mpg and driving it the same distance. Grewe’s formula works only because SUVs use so much more gas. The 11-mpg SUV needs 1,090 gallons to go 12,000 miles; the 40-mpg sedan needs only 300 gallons. Lawrence Dewey, 78, is among those not getting the mileage he expected from a hybrid. Dewey and his wife love the plush interior, moving headlights, and “get up and go” of their new Lexus RX 400h hybrid. The only problem, he says, is that it only averages 25 mpg, about what he used to get in a nonhybrid Volvo Cross Country SUV. The disappointing mileage has caused him to drive less. “We look at that figure and go, do we need to go now?” said Dewey, who lives just outside Madison, Wis. “We’ll combine it with another trip.” Dewey’s other quarrel is with the Environmental Protection Agency, which rated the vehicle at 31 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. The agency’s mileage figures for new cars often are inflated because testing conditions yield better efficiency than real-world driving. Dewey doesn’t come close to saving enough gas to make up the price difference between the $46,060 400h and the $37,770 nonhybrid Lexus RX 330. The hybrid does measure up in other areas: It goes from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds and has 268 horsepower. That’s nearly one second faster and 45 horsepower better than the RX 330. “A lot of people, whether they have size needs or need to carry more cargo … they like to have a bigger car; in order to reach out to those folks you have to offer them performance,” said Lexus spokesman Greg Thome said. “Otherwise they wouldn’t even look at buying a hybrid.” An estimated 220,000 hybrids will be sold domestically this year, about 1.3 percent of the market, according to car-industry analyst J. D. Power & Associates. That’s a major jump from last year, when 87,000 hybrids accounted for 0.5 percent of domestic car sales. Some cutting-edge hybrid researchers believe consumers shouldn’t have to choose between performance and efficiency. At San Diego State University, engineering professor Jim Burns led a student team that built the Enigma – a diesel hybrid convertible that goes from zero to 60 mpg in 4.3 seconds while getting 80 mpg. A close performance equivalent is a Dodge Viper, which gets about 12 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. Burns, who says he would consider mass-marketing Enigmas for $60,000 if he could get 1,000 orders, says it will take flash, not just good mileage, to make the public fall in love with hybrids. Some environmentalists are experimenting with the same pragmatic approach. Earlier this year, the Sierra Club handed out its first praise for a hybrid SUV, Ford’s Mercury Mariner, which gets an EPA-rated 33 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. “I think it would be vastly preferable for everyone to drive a 45- or 55-mpg vehicle and the technology exists to do that,” said Becker, the organization’s global warming specialist. “But not everyone wants to buy a sedan. … If they’re going to buy an SUV, it’s better that they buy one that gets over 30 mpg than under 20.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals The focus on performance sacrifices the kind of jaw-dropping efficiency that got hybrids noticed in the first place. Environmentalists say automakers are squandering gas-scrimping technology that reduces air pollution as well as the nation’s reliance on foreign oil. “Consumers are enthralled by hybrids because they sip gas and don’t guzzle it, and they pollute less,” said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program. “So if you have a hybrid that guzzles and doesn’t pollute less, then what are you doing?” Though SUV sales have dropped amid erratic gas prices, half of the roughly 30 hybrids that are now available or that automakers plan to mass-market are either pickup trucks or sport utility vehicles. Automakers say gas guzzlers have the most room for improvement. But some new hybrids barely get better mileage than their nonhybrid counterparts. SAN DIEGO – When automakers rolled out the first hybrid cars, drivers who wanted their spectacular fuel economy had to settle for weird shapes and a lack of luxury options. Now it seems the high-mileage, low-frills trend in hybrid automaking may prove shorter than a Hummer’s trips between fill-ups. Newer hybrids are using the added boost from their gas-electric engines for more acceleration and power. But more mean equals less green. To attract drivers looking for large and luxurious vehicles, automakers such as Lexus and General Motors Corp. are building hybrids with the looks and size of regular cars.