I have no problem with the hybrid car concept as a way to cut dependence on oil and to help keep the environment reasonably clean. The problem is the bottom line. If it’s not economically feasible for the average family to purchase a hybrid, they aren’t going to do it no matter what the gas prices or ozone layer looks like. It’s not because they don’t care about Mother Earth or that they don’t mind paying $2.799 for a gallon of gas. It’s just that they simply cannot throw money away.
According to a recent study by automotive research Web site Edmunds.com that compared the break-even point of owning and driving a number of popular hybrids against conventional gasoline models, hybrid owners would have to drive thousands of extra miles or pay steep prices for gasoline to make up for the additional cost of a hybrid in five years or less.
One exception is the Toyota Prius. Compared with the similarly-sized Toyota Camry LE, over the first five years of ownership the Camry is expected to cost its owner just $81 more than a Prius.
Edmunds.com estimated that the price of gasoline would have to cost at least $5.60 a gallon for hybrid drivers to break even if they drove 15,000 miles a year over the five years.
I drive a base 5-speed Chevy Cavalier. It generally gets about 32 miles to the gallon. This is a real number, as I check it from time to time. It doesn’t have cruise control, and I suspect that that number may be a bit higher if it did as I put in a fair number of my miles on the highway.
And then there’s this about the Honda Civic:
While the Civic Hybrid managed a long-term vehicle average of 38.3 miles per gallon in Consumer Guide tests, a regular Honda Civic EX model with manual transmission, which is cheaper than the hybrid version, clocked up 32.5 miles per gallon — that’s excellent fuel economy, Appel notes.
“With a nearly $2,500 price difference between the two models, these figures show you’re not much better off with a hybrid,” Appel said. “Even if we had gasoline prices move up to $3 per gallon it would take a long time offset that price difference.”
Civic Hybrid drivers may also be short-changed when it comes to performance. While the Civic EX can get from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 9.4 seconds, the Hybrid only manages to get to 60 in 11.6 seconds said Appel. “It’s a serious lag; when you cross the 10 second line you cross the line between fun and practical,” he said. “The EX is fun to drive, but the hybrid certainly is not,” he added.
A big part of why mass transit never really catches on in the US is that most people view their car as more than a method of transportation. And they (we) want a nice car that performs well and is enjoyable to drive.
So even if the cost difference is small many are going to be put off by the lower performance of hybrids. If driving a hybrid was noticeably less expensive, a lot of folks may overlook the lower performance. But few are going to want to pay more for a car than handles worse.
We’re still in the infancy of alternatively-powered cars. Even though great strides have been made, it’s really just beginning to be figured out. And while tax credits should help stimulate sales, this is an artificial price control that isn’t really going to change the industry. If the breaks can buy the time to get the real costs lowered, then they’ll have served their purpose. But until it’s truly and noticeably cheaper to drive hybrids (or electrics or fuel cells or Mr. Fusions) people won’t be doing it.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering why we don’t hear more about a major reason that oil prices are so high. Gateway Pundit has pictures. We’ve seen China’s effect on steel prices. We’re seeing it on oil prices. We’re going to see it on a lot of things.
Also meanwhile, Paul at Wizbang recently noted a number of gaping holes in the 250MPG hybrid story. Whenever gas prices spike we get these types of stories. Not that the project is worthless. Not at all. But it wasn’t reported honestly in the sense that it conveniently ignored other major issues and misrepresented what the real-world performance is/would be.
It seems that I had another link to toss into this post but I can’t remember what it was…Probably something about not enough oil refineries.
UPDATE: Ah. This was what I wanted to link to, as well: Hybrids to be major part of Toyota’s future. They want 25% of their American sales to be hybrids by next decade. That seems about right.