A few months ago, I purchased the new Lexus HS 250h. The HS 250h’s claim to fame is that it is the first hybrid-only luxury model on the market. All that means is that there is not a non-hybrid alternative available — no Lexus HS 250. When the Lexus HS hit the Japanese market in spring 2009, it surprised even Toyota execs. Sales of the car were 17 times higher than projected.
Photo courtesy of Lexus
I had been writing and reading about the HS for almost a year by the time I purchased it, but it wasn’t just the fuel efficiency or the “hybrid-only luxury” tag that attracted me to the vehicle, it was also the fact that the Toyota takes recycling to a whole new level with the HS. Approximately 30% of the plastic used in the interior and trunk space comes from carbon-neutral Ecological Plastic. These plastics are made from a plant-based materials and off-gas less carbon dioxide during their lifecycle than traditional plastics. Additionally, Ecological Plastic can be recycled and reused numerous times. While it doesn’t appear that Lexus has a program in place to recycle these parts just yet — the car is brand new, after all — it is good to know that they can be recycled and won’t sit in a landfill for the next 10,000 years. After reading this, if you’re asking yourself about the use of plastic in a luxury vehicle, let me assure you that this is not a cheaply made car. Ecological Plastic is used in the seat cushions, on the door scuff plate, in the toolbox area and other parts of the car where petroleum-based plastics are traditionally used. These pieces help reduce the HS 250h’s plastic-based carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 20%. This isn’t only good news for the environment, but this is also good news for my children, who ride in the car daily. OK, great, the car uses some recyclable plant-based plastics, but how is its fuel efficiency? Well, it isn’t as good as the 50-mpg Toyota Prius, but it is much better than my previous vehicle. The official EPA ratings for the Lexus HS 250h are 35 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. Obviously, I’m not a typical driver, because I get about 33 mpg in the city and closer to 40 mpg on the highway. When I was commuting from the edge of the suburbs into the city center for the Greenbuild conference in November 2009, I was getting about 45 mpg. Overall, I’ve been very happy with the car. I enjoy zero-emission idling at my children’s school while waiting to pick them up in the afternoon. I enjoy filling up my tank one time a week instead of two, and I definitely enjoy it when my children ask me to put it in EV mode around the neighborhood.

Note from the author:

As you may have heard, the 2010 Lexus HS 250h as well as the third-generation 2010 Toyota Prius were part of a new recall announced recently due to a delayed response by the braking system. Although the vast majority of reported problems were specific to the Prius, Toyota has chosen to include the Lexus HS 250h in this recall because the brake system is similar in both vehicles. The delayed response reportedly occurs more frequently in colder climates or on rough and/or slick roads. Toyota encourages owners to forcefully press down on their brakes if the braking system doesn’t instantly respond. Toyota is not asking owners to discontinue driving the recalled vehicles, as no brake failures have been reported. As an owner of the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, I have not personally experienced this problem in the four or so months that I’ve been driving the car. However, I am driving more cautiously these days just to be safe. I encourage other owners to do their own research and come to their own conclusions about the safety of driving the car before the problem can be repaired. For more information, visit the Toyota recall website at toyota.com/recall.