Cars, Government, Personal Finance 

Don’t Believe the Hybrid Hype!

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It’s rare to see an article putting down hybrid vehicles in this day of $3+ per gallon gasoline but I just read one today by a CNN/Money staff writer by the name of Peter Valdes-Dapena. The article, titled Hybrids: Don’t buy the hype, takes considers total cost of ownership, something that I and many other bloggers have mentioned, in addition to straight fuel consumption. While you will consume less gasoline with a hybrid, the total cost of ownership difference between a traditional and a hybrid vehicle is too large. Besides the attention grabbing hype-ish title, the article doesn’t really put forth a terribly strong defense for his argument.

He compares the traditional Honda Accord against its hybrid fraternal twin and discovers that given an annual mileage of 15k, the price of gas would have to be $9.20/gal for it to be worth it. He put forth probably the biggest difference first because he then goes on to say if you went with a Ford Escape, the average price would have to be $5.60/gal. Then he goes on to say the Prius could be an exception and, given tax deductions for hybrids, you might save some money if you buy it.

Personally, if I had the money when an unobservant driver totaled my car last year, I would’ve bought a hybrid sedan. The average lifespan of a Prius on the lot of a dealership is twenty hours. The hybrid technology is also much better in these generations than in the first few so you aren’t paying for Toyota’s learning curve. Finally, with most pundits stating the United States has a ridiculously strong addiction to petroleum it would be nice to show I’m willing to put down the bottle and do my part to lower our reliance on the black gold.

{ 10 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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10 Responses to “Don’t Believe the Hybrid Hype!”

  1. Sean says:

    I drive a little Toyota Corolla CE, and that gets nearly the same highway miles as one of those hybrids. Maybe when I have to commute through gridlocked rush-hour traffic, I’ll pay extra and save some gas. For the moment, though, we’re driving mostly highway miles, so there wouldn’t be any $$ savings in buying a hybrid.

  2. John says:

    Do what some movie stars do, use biodiesel. No petrol at all.

  3. Matt (different one) says:

    It does depend a lot on your mileage breakdown. If you drive in heavy congestion a lot, then having a powertrain that doesn’t waste fuel while idling would probably be a big advantage. But if you work odd hours, or commute against the flow, or use the car mostly for non-commuting purposes, then you’re almost certainly better off with a high-efficiency conventional car than a hybrid.

  4. Lauren says:

    I was disgusted with this article. To encourage people not to go for a hybrid because it isn’t as financially effective is pathetic. While what he said is true, saving money is not *always* the way to go (gasp!) Even if you don’t care about reducing damage to the environment (and I hope that most of us DO care), limiting use of gas is a sound political move that will only become more and more necessary in the future. This article plays upon the fact that most people care more about their wallet than the air all of us have to breathe.

    • Daniel Rendler says:

      Lauren you have to do it in a responsible way. Hybrids are more damging to the earth than conventional cars do to their toxic batteries. THe life span on those batteries is pathetic ( under 100 K miles) I have had two friends that have had thier battery completely die after 70,000 miles. I am with you that we need to be stewards but there are better ways then putting expensive batteries in cars. The alternative way is called HHO generators. They use hydrogen mixed with oxygen to increase the burn rate of conventional petrol cars. Gas mileage improvements are better than hybrids(40-90% improvements..dpeneding on what type of driver you are) also they reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amazing 90 percent. THe two best parts about these generators are that they cost about one fifth the amount of a hybrid which usually adds about $5000 to the cost of a vehicle and all you have to do is add water with a pinch of baking soda. I almost forgot you can take them off of your car when you get a new one and reinstall it. DId you know that in producing one prius battery, it has to travel around the world. When you look at the shipping routes that is well over 22 thousand extra miles that a battery has to travel( 22 thousand miles of Co2 produced by dirty diesel cargo ships. I call that a paradox.

  5. jim says:

    I agree, I thought it was a bit socially irresponsible of the Peter, author of the CNN/Money article, to push forth the idea that buying hybrid was a bad idea. While the bottom dollar is what some people focus on, there are unquantifiable (dollar-wise) effects such as pollution that are far more disasterous than a few bucks out of your pocket.

  6. Cap says:

    That article was centering on financial aspect.. but there’s many other reasons why you shouldn’t consider a hybrid at this time.

    you should realize that a hybrid isnt about cleaner air or anything, though majority of them do have low emission level. there’s PLENTY of automobiles in the LEV, ULEV, SULEV (ultra and super-ultra low emission vehicles) ranges that aren’t hybrid.

    hyrbrid is being marketed as mpg gas savers which translate to supposed savings in gasonline cost. you also get the greener image too

    but the problem is a lot of people dont understand the technology behind developing it, and the unknown long term effects these automobiles may bring about. you have to realize that you’re paying for a developed technology.

    you should realize that those battery packs in the hybrids dont last forever.. they can only be recharged for so long, eventually the cost in disposing AND replacing these battery packs may be an issue. there are not as green as you think they are. currently toyota and honda are standing behind their battery packs, giving them a 8 year warranty or 10,000/8,000 miles, respectively.

    but whats the cost in replacing the entire battery pack? around $2,000-3,000. now whats the ENVIORNMENTAL COST in terms of materials and resources in pushing these battery packs out? did you know that the only reason why there’s a shortage in pushing out the latest Prius, is because the manufacture of the battery cell packs can’t keep up production?

    you should also realize that not all the dealers are mechanics are not up to date on these technologies, and you may have issues in getting your car repaired if they ever run into trouble.. and these new generations havent been out long enough, but I’ve read my share of consumer woes with previous Prius model pitfalls. (Though the current generation is definitely a step up in all aspect of a hybrid vehicle) so many people are dumping their older model Prius for the newer one.. eventually someone’s going to stop buying those older used models. Wasted resources? You bet.

    I know this is long and that I made lots of reference on indirect consequences, but the whole point i’m trying to make is that you need to look into the overall cost in producing and maintaing a hybrid vehicle. This is a developing technology that is NOT EFFICIENT yet. It may have the image of being green, but they sure as heck don’t appear out of thin air. That’s why they cost more and that’s why there’s tax deduction or else why would you buy them?

    That isn’t to say we should just forget about the technology, its definitely something that can be refined and developed further. The same goes with fuel cell technology. As of right now, a highly efficient and low cost (in material & resources to produce) conventional vehicle is probably way more enviornment friendly than an undeveloped, expensive hybrid.

    The deal is, besides the hype of being a cost saver.. hybrids also have a hype of being a greener, more enviornmental friendly vehicle – and in my opinion, that’s not necessary true.

  7. Anon says:

    Cap makes some good points but they can be mostly discarded. Every industry and every consumer product isn’t built to perfection right off the assembly line. It takes time and companies need to be incentivized (by consumer purchases) to make things become more efficient. What are we all suppose to do? Wait 10 years for the technology to become perfect and then buy? How much damage will be done to the environment then? How much more polluted will the air be in 10 years? How many more wars for oil will we fight? Will companies even perfect the technology if no one is buying and waiting for the “perfect” model to come out?

    When cars first came out, they didn’t have seat belts or airbags and that didn’t stop people from buying them. Eventually the batteries will be replaced by fuel cells and emmissions will be reduced to H20 but for now, let’s start making a difference.

    I will be buying a new hybrid next year (when tax breaks are bigger). The added tax break will help offset any extra costs in repair/maintenance. I’m going to start reducing my dependence on foreign oil in 2006 and not 2016.


  8. Duane says:

    For all of you thinking of buying a hybrid because of the benefit on the environment, you need to do your homework first!! The batteries are not going to be cheap when they need replacing and disposing of them won’t be environmentally friendly! You would be better off going to the National Biodiesel Board and looking up fuel stations in your state now that biofuels have gotten the incentives they deserve!!! Getting a VW Jetta TDI, Jeep Liberty, or Mercedes benz E320 would benefit you and the environment more than a hybrid! Your vehicle would run about 55% cleaner on biofuel and with something like the Jeep Liberty 4X4 you would also have the 5000 lb towing capacity and load bearing SUV that is a lot more practical than a lightweight hybrid! Biofuel gets more MPG than fossil fuel and requires no conversion to use! It’s also grown here and not supporting wars and unstable governments around the world that require our intervention to prop up the market with the lives of american soldiers! Also, Diesel engines are 25% to 60% more efficient on fuel than gas engines are and they last a lot longer too. Diesels have come a long way since the underpowered smoky and stinky powerplants of yesteryear!! i have a Dodge Ram 2500 4X4 3/4 ton pickup that moves my 5th wheel and gets me around at 24.4 MPG hiway and 17.8 city while working and gets fantastic emmission results!!!!

  9. Ernie says:

    I bought a 2008 Prius. I knew there are questions about its mileage. I’m aware that there will be environmental issues down the road. I paid more for the car than I wanted to. And all the negative comments above probably have merit.
    I think it more important to do something. We’ve used more than half the recoverable fossil fuels (including coal). At the current rate of consumption there won’t be enough energy to support our current society in 100 years. I won’t live that long but your grandchildren will.

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