Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gas Electric Hybrid Cars

I just read an article on the slow sales of gas-electric hybrid cars as compared to the already slow sales of cars in general. I almost passed on reading the article as I have felt for quite some time that a simple, lightweight car will be cheaper, handle better (making it safer and more fun to drive) and potentially get equal (or close) gas mileage to a hybrid car. However, my curiousity drew me in. I was pleased to see that the calculations for "years to break even", where the additional cost of the hybrid drivetrain is offset by gas savings, had already been done. This, however, ignores lost investment potential of the money spent (not that anyone's investments are making money these days), financing cost, and additional maintenance and repair cost that the hybrid drive will add over time (a simple mechanism will always be cheaper- it won't break if it isn't in there). Anyway, using the simplified model of purchase price vs. gas savings the best of the vehicles shown was the Toyota Prius, which at 12,000 miles per year would take 4.3 years to break even (if gas were at its peak of $4.11/gallon from last summer) or 9.9 years (with gas at its unusually low price of $1.79 from a few days ago). The worst break-even period
shown at 12,000 miles per year was the hybrid Camry which would take 6.8 years to break even (at $4.11) and 15.7 years (at $1.79). I wonder how many people actually keep a car that long. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving gas, but I think it makes a lot more sense to do it by driving less (and riding more) and by driving smaller, lighter cars. In a market full of already heavy, bloated cars it doesn't make sense to use less gas by making the cars heavier and more bloated- unless, of course, you're trying to make the business of building cars more profitable. Then it makes perfect sense.


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