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Hybrid Technology OK Now?

A few years ago hybrids didn't make economic sense. Today, with cars like the Civic Hybrid and others having come down in price1, they seem like they might make a bit more sense.

True? Or is the upkeep and the fact that batteries in cars (batteries like these, anyway) are still relatively new to the auto industry leading to more maintenance? Do some of your gas savings, in other words, go towards maintaining the batteries and/or replacing them every x years?

Footnotes

  1. I haven't directly compared, but isn't that true?

8 Responses to "Hybrid Technology OK Now?"

  1. We've got a Civic Hybrid. My understanding is that they're going away in favor of the cheaper Honda Insight (built from the ground up to be a hybrid car, unlike the Civic).

    I might be misunderstanding the question, but a few years back, the price of the car was much more than any gas savings you might have made by driving a hybrid. Then, gas prices jumped, and it was pretty good to be in a hybrid. 😎

    I haven't heard anything about replacing the battery - but maybe we just haven't had to do that yet. Now, you've got me wondering about prices for that, as every battery's going to need to be replaced eventually.

  2. It depends. 🙂

    It's a matter of pay now or pay later: the upfront price is higher, but your operating costs are lower. So after a certain mileage you reach a cross-over point, and you've now recouped the initial 'premium' and are saving money. The mileage that you have to reach depends on how much extra the hybrid costs, and the cost of gas.

    You'll have to do the math (or find someone else's calculations) and decide whether your own situation is worth it economically. (This argument ignores any social good or moral stand point that you may want to factor into your decision making process.)

    Over the last few years the premium of a hybrid may have come down, and gas prices gone up, so the economic ROI may be shorter then it was in the past.

    Another option would to consider a diesel. It too has a bit of an initial premium to it, but you get better mileage on average (~30% is one figure I've seen). I have a Golf TDI and am quite satisfied with it. Of course up here in Canada, diesel is roughly the same price as gas/petrol, whereas in the US diesel is more expensive from what I've heard, so you don't get the full cost benefit of the better mileage.

    From how I understand things, a gas-hybrid would be better in stop-and-go/city traffic, whereas a diesel is better a long-distance cruising/highways. The hybrid uses the electric motor when you're going < 30 mi/h / < 40 km/h (not using gas) so you save on gas; when you go faster than that the regular engine kicks in, and you're burning gas at gas-engine mileage levels. A diesel engine also burns gas, but at high speed would get the benefit of diesel engine mileage levels (+30%).

    If you cruise at highway speeds more often, a diesel is probably better; if you're 'in the city' a lot, a hybrid. The best of both world's would probably be a diesel hybrid, but there are currently no such things AFAIK (though VW and Toyota have them things in the works I believe).

    Probably best to create a spreadsheet and plug the numbers in.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=hybrid+roi
    http://www.google.com/search?q=diesel+car+roi
    http://www.google.com/search?q=hybrid+diesel+comparison

    1. David Magda said on May 3, 2009:

      It depends. 🙂

      I understand and know all of what you said - I was more asking about the "other" costs: maintenance and upkeep, particularly of the relatively new technologies in the hybrids.

    2. Indeed, it depends. A lot of what it depends on is how long you will keep the car.

      I have my doubts about the long-term prospects of hybrid cars. I think they are a transitional technology just like compact fluorescent bulbs are. CFs are transitional to LEDs, which are a much better replacement for incandescent bulbs.

      It seems to me that there is no truly cost-effective (at least in the short term) alternative fuel technology, but in the long term, Diesel really makes sense. Like the other commenter, I have a VW TDI (mine is a 2006 Jetta DSG), and its lifetime economy is ~38 mpg over ~60k miles, and its highway economy is 45-50 mpg depending on whether I or my wife is driving. There was a bit of an up-front cost, but since I plan on keeping that car for at least 30 years and 600,000 miles (basically, "forever") then I'll really make out. There's no way a hybrid can last that long.

      Where I am, Diesel fuel costs about 20 cents more per gallon than regular petrol, but I still make out OK because I get more than 20% greater economy with it versus a petrol-powered vehicle.

      Also, David: there are hybrid diesel motorcycles. I don't know about automobiles, though.

  3. Just go for a BMW M3. It's more environmentally friendly and economical than a Prius.

    1. Josh Anon said on May 3, 2009:

      Just go for a BMW M3.

      Dude, we could buy two or three decent cars for the price of an M3. Put down the crack pipe. 🙂

  4. I bought an 09 Prius in September of last year. So far I love it. I downsized from a Maxima. Sometimes I wish I would've gotten a used M35 or something instead because of the luxury.

    Anyway, maintenance seems to be very reasonable on my prius. I change the oil and rotate the tires. There is no maintenance needed on the batteries and they are warranted for 8yr/100,000 mi. The one thing I absolutely love is that it takes half the time to fill up the tank (8-9ga avg fill up) than it did my Maxima. My average is about 49-50mpg. If or when the battery needs to be replaced, it'll cost about $2000-2300 to replace BUT engineers can actually test individual cells and replace those if needed instead of the whole pack.

    The batteries may take a lot of resources to make but they're also recyclable. I bought the car because I believe in lowering our consumption of oil, not because I was looking to save compared to a non-hybrid.

    Btw... an M3 makes sense if you drive your car around a track all day.

  5. I would really advocate for diesel as well. While my car was about an extra $1500 CAN for a 3.0L diesel version, the R320 BlueTec gets great numbers for a seven passenger vehicle (I managed 29.5 mpg on a recent trip to Upstate NY; while there are more efficient vehicles, for a 4900 lb car I think that its incredible). It is a "tried and true" technology that is efficient, and the engines are extremely tough and robust. And diesel here in Southwestern Ontario is now 10 cents a litre cheaper than regular (and Benz gas engines always demand premium, so I'm actually saving about 20 cents a litre).

    I think that the holy grail of hybrids will be mating battery technology with diesel engines. I'm not sure what the technical limitations are (if any) , but I would think this combination would yield the best results.


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