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Just One Out of 16 Hybrids Pays Back In Gas Savings

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the it's-not-easy-being-green dept.

Transportation 762

thecarchik writes with this snippet from GreenCarReports: "One of the criticisms of hybrid cars has historically been that there's no payback, especially given the cheap gasoline prices in the US. The extra money you spend on a hybrid isn't returned in gas savings, say critics. Well, that may be true, especially when regular gasoline is averaging $2.77 a gallon this week. But as we often point out, most people don't buy hybrids for payback — they buy them to make a statement about wanting to drive green. Nevertheless, a Canadian study has now looked at the question of hybrid payback in a country whose gasoline is more expensive than ours (roughly $3.70 per gallon this week), with surprising results. The British Columbia Automobile Association projected the fuel costs of 16 hybrids over five years against their purchase price and financing fees. In a study released in late July, only a single one of the 16 hybrids cost less to buy and run than its gasoline counterpart." The one car that would save you money, according the study, is the Mercedes S400 Hybrid sedan — and it will only cost you $105,000.

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762 comments

That's how the market is supposed to work. (3, Insightful)

synaptik (125) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194646)

That's how the market is supposed to work.

Ideally, the invisible hand of the market would price the hybrid vehicles higher than their non-hybrid counterparts, to such a degree that the hybrid's price discounts the future value of the gasoline saved over the vehicle's lifetime. If the market didn't do this, an arbitrage opportunity would exist... and arbitrageurs would act upon it, which would have the effect of raising the price of the hybrids anyway.

Obviously this will never work out perfectly outside of academia, but if you had a crystal ball and all future prices were knowable by all parties in the present, this is how the pricing would work out, all other variables held constant.

Re:That's how the market is supposed to work. (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194786)

A hybrid is a unique sort of car: it has a special cargo area to haul your smug around! It has never been about saving money, but about the very American idea of expressing your personal values through your choice of vehicle.

Re:That's how the market is supposed to work. (4, Insightful)

SpryGuy (206254) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195008)

Well, you're half right. It's not about saving money. It's about trying to use less fossil fuels, even if it costs a little more. Because there are longer-term and indirect benefits. And yes, it's also about making a statement. But it's not ONLY about making a statement. It's about taking necessary first steps. Without early adopters paying more (which "early adopters" always do, especially in the world of high tech gadgets), the road wouldn't be paved for the masses down the road. Do you think the people who bought the first PS3's did it because they thought it would save them money in the long run? It's not ALWAYS about saving money.

Re:That's how the market is supposed to work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195092)

A hybrid is a unique sort of car: it has a special cargo area to haul your smug around!

So, in that respect a hybrid is a lot like a foreskin. Oh wait, you said smug...

Re:That's how the market is supposed to work. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195004)

Ideally, the invisible hand of the market would price the hybrid vehicles higher than their non-hybrid counterparts, to such a degree that the hybrid's price discounts the future value of the gasoline saved over the vehicle's lifetime. If the market didn't do this, an arbitrage opportunity would exist... and arbitrageurs would act upon it, which would have the effect of raising the price of the hybrids anyway.

So, essentially the invisible hand is stupid and greedy, and there's no incentive for anybody to make a more fuel efficient car? Because anywhere you make an efficiency someone will be expected to pay more for the efficiency and cancel it out?

Wow, that's utterly depressing.

Re:That's how the market is supposed to work. (2, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195104)

Arbitrage? Are you kidding? I don't know anybody who buys ten years worth of gasoline futures contracts along with their cars. Market forces may set the price of used cars, but new cars are priced based on the image they project. There is no financial reason to buy a new car when used cars provides identical transportation abilities for half the price.

Re:That's how the market is supposed to work. (2, Informative)

ajrs (186276) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195208)

that is how the market worked. For some period of time you could sell a used Prius for about what you paid for it.

1. buy a prius
2. dive it around for a year
3. buy another one
4. sell the old one
5. get a tax credit
6. profit!

no ????. The size of the 'profit!' depended on the value of the tax credit, the cost to buy and sell a car (taxes, fees), and one year of depreciation after supply rose to meet demand.

Re:That's how the market is supposed to work. (-1, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195222)

Exactly, but you can guess how the greens will respond to it. The signals the market gives are simple :

1) hybrid cars do not pay back for their own investment in money : they're bad for the individual
2) that money is not simply a made up number, it mainly denotes energy used in production : they use more, not less energy
3) given that the production of energy is the cause of our pollution, they're ... worse, not better for the environment than gas-guzzlers
4) this is WITH subsidies distorting the prices to make hybrids look good. In reality they're worse than their price would suggest

So the political class is once again doing what they do best :
a) they're making the problem worse
b) while appearing to do good

From biofuels starving people, over emission regulations moving jobs to China where they pollute more, to subsidies for "green" technology that isn't green at all, except for the color on the PR folders ... in reality gaia, greens, and all the environmental regulations they accomplished have worse results than doing nothing at all.

And, sadly, the cost-cutting measures of ExxonMobil (and ...) probably did help the environment.

Politics, gotta love it.

that's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33194670)

And that's why I bought a Saturn.

Misleading summary (3, Informative)

e065c8515d206cb0e190 (1785896) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194700)

The one car that would save you money, according the study, is the Mercedes S400 Hybrid sedan — and it will only cost you $105,000.

The retail price of that car seems to be ~$80k. The given figure includes gasoline costs over time.

Re:Misleading summary (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33194848)

$105,000 is the MSRP in CAD. Yes, even though the exchange rates are almost at parity, we are gouged.

Well..... (4, Insightful)

HappyCycling (565803) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194722)

Not if you buy a used hybrid.

Re:Well..... (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194942)

Depends. Hybrids would logically have a higher resale value, so comparing a used hybrid to it's used gasoline counterpart is still an unknown result. Still though, I can guarantee that there will still be some obstacle to overcome before breaking even, as you will pay some premium regardless.

Re:Well..... (1)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195102)

Incorrect. Hybrids actually have a significantly lower resale value because of a consumer inference that the expensive batteries will need to be replaced.

Re:Well..... (1)

BatGnat (1568391) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195298)

Depends. Hybrids would logically have a higher resale value

Not necessarily. Once out of warranty will be $4000+ to replace the batteries. And what does the warranty actually cover? Does it cover general wear and tear? Or only "failures"?

Re:Well..... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195024)

Used hybrid == replace the batteries. A laptop's batteries have a 1 year warranty for a reason, and car batteries are just the same thing. So even though a used Prius may cost a bit less than new, be ready to cough up the $6000 to $10,000 to replace it every 2-3 years, just like you do with the battery on your laptop.

Yes, especially then (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195054)

Not if you buy a used hybrid.

And you factored in the replacement battery costs after five years of owning a used one?

There's a reason people sell them off after a while.

Re:Yes, especially then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195278)

I've had my Prius for almost 10 years now, and haven't had any issues with the battery as of yet.

Re:Well..... (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195174)

Not if you buy a used hybrid.

This assumes that the used hybrid is more or less as economical to keep on the road as the new.

Financial vs. environmental cost (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194756)

It's reasonable to consider the total cost of ownership (including fuel) of a (for example) Prius vs. a Camry.

But the dollar-cost is only relevant to the environmental issues, insofar as it affects uptake of hybrid vehicles.

A more important issue for us, long term, is how much polution is produced for the creation an use of (for example) a Prius vs. a Camry.

Re:Financial vs. environmental cost (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33194868)

...and destruction....environmentalists always forget that at some point all those batteries need to be disposed of somewhere.

Re:Financial vs. environmental cost (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194930)

Batteries can be recycled. Almost all lead-acid batteries are currently recycled, and I'm sure NiMH and Li-ion batteries are just as recyclable.

Pollution can't be recycled.

Re:Financial vs. environmental cost (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195060)

That's not really true either. The outputs from an engine make great fertilizer to grow crops, which can be turned back into fuel. It is already happening on a small scale, but it is true that there is no large scale emission recycling happening today.

Re:Financial vs. environmental cost (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195120)

correct - those batteries are taken to the busiest inner-city intersection and pulverized down to an airborne particulate size for all to inhale, cling to structures, flood down drains, etc. mmm - lithium.

anyway... wake me when U.S. / Canadian gas prices are $7.10 to $7.90/gallon.
(* at 1.419 .. 1.579 Euro/liter in NL, 1.32328 USD/EUR (xe.net) and 3.78541178 liters/gallon)

Re:Financial vs. environmental cost (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195280)

Although I always find it kind of interesting that lead deposits in a hillside is natural and good but lead in a battery buried in a hillside is an evil pollutant.

This does make me wish that environmentalists were more willing to use economic methods instead of brute force for these things. If there were a carbon tax, a lead tax, an emissions tax that covers the environmental damage done by a car, the price differences between the vehicles would sort themselves out pretty easily.

Re:Financial vs. environmental cost (1)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194938)

At least the summary admits that the financial argument misses the point. If anything, the study raises the question: how to you get people to shell out to save the environment?

Not much difference (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194998)

A more important issue for us, long term, is how much polution is produced for the creation an use of (for example) a Prius vs. a Camry.

With modern emission controls, that Camry is not putting out much in the way of emissions. And because the batteries are pretty limited on a Prius, it's going to be running the engine pretty often.

You also have to factor in the environmental cost of the batteries in the Prius, both manufacture and whatever is lost in reclamation.

In the end, just because of the batteries alone, I am really hoping we shift to hydrogen for green cars, as California started to do. There are already some driving around today, and if we devoted as much money researching hydrogen creation and storage I think we'd have a hydrogen Prius equivalent by now that got even better milage, and had a far better range on a purely hydrogen powered car (as opposed to the really low ranges we are seeing on practical battery powered cars).

If the government wants to back green technologies, I'd like a see a proposal to have hydrogen filling stations on at least one coast to coast route within five years. The first person to cross the coast in a mass market all alternative fuel vehicle is the same time as a gas car could - that would be something.

Re:Not much difference (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195364)

Hydrogen storage is a real problem though. Liquid hydrogen has a ridiculous energy cost for refrigeration and compressed hydrogen gas has crap for energy density when you count the weight of the pressure vessel. The only way hydrogen can become viable as a portable energy store is with some miraculous chemistry that produces an easily reversible chemical process that binds hydrogen to some other material.

Re:Financial vs. environmental cost (5, Insightful)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195040)

From what I understand, nickel (used in Prius batteries) mining is much more polluting than burning hydrocarbons. (Which the Prius still does occasionally)

There is more to enviromental impact than what comes out of the tailpipe...

UK gasoline (petrol) currently approx $6.60 (4, Informative)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194776)

Well here in the UK my local garage is selling petrol/gasoline at 1.20 GBP / litre, there are 3.79 litres to 1 US gallon = 4.55 GBP / gallon, x 1.45 (pounds to dollars) so we're at $6.60 /US gallon. You can probably find it for 1.17, a few pennies cheaper, but probably it's around the 1.20 mark give or take a tiny bit across the country. Rest of Europe probably similar.

So quite a difference from the 2.77 you pay in the USA and so hybrids perhaps more economically viable here.

Re:UK gasoline (petrol) currently approx $6.60 (1, Troll)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194936)

Hence why Americans like to drive cars with 6L v8s and can afford to drive a truck to work everyday.

Re:UK gasoline (petrol) currently approx $6.60 (3, Informative)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195150)

Hence why Americans like to drive cars with 6L v8s and can afford to drive a truck to work everyday.

Some of them. Last time I looked it up, the average engine size in the USA was in the 2.5L to 3L range. There are a lot more small-displacement cars on the road than there were 15 years ago.

and we have a 20% credit for it why? (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194784)

so that we can feel good about being green?
Don't forget that hat $7000 credit has a greenhouse gas carbon footprint, too.

Re:and we have a 20% credit for it why? (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195066)

Pretty much. The idea is to encourage responsible behavior through financial incentives.

Once the responsible behavior has become prevalent, they can slowly take away the financial incentive, and the market will push products toward that responsible state.

(See the benefits provided through marriage, whose "responsible behavior" is intended to be creating children for one such incentive that has been bastardized over time to the point of unrecognizability.)

Re:and we have a 20% credit for it why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195376)

And how do you get the electricity for all those cars? And the lithium for all those hundreds of millions of batteries? I'll wait and see how it scales from a few hundred thousand to several hundred millions...

Re:and we have a 20% credit for it why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195082)

Yes, that is exactly what the credit is for: to increase the competitiveness of the vehicles which consume less fossil fuels.

Short Study Timeframe (5, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194790)

So the time frame is only over 5 years? Cars can and do last longer than that. Also the comparisons are against the non-hybrid equivalent (Camry Hybrid v Camry, Fusion Hybrid v Fusion). What did they compare the Prius to since it does not have a conventional equivalent?

Re:Short Study Timeframe (0, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194978)

I'm sorry but the sort of person who would buy a "hybrid fusion" vehicle will absolutely NOT be driving that same car five years from today. It's trendy. The only reliable facet of trendy vehicle] [or trendy anything] is that they will be out of fashion - SOON. Come on...what kind of self-respecting eco-driver would still drive a five year old car? If nothing else, the newer cars will be more efficient, and the trendy car owner will faint at the thought of driving such an out-of-date and unfashionable vehicle.

Re:Short Study Timeframe (3, Insightful)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195118)

Another possibility: you don't know anything at all about the personalities and motivations of the thousands upon thousands of individual hybrid drivers out there, and you're just making things up because it's intellectually convenient for you to do so.

Re:Short Study Timeframe (3, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194994)

Exactly. My car is 16 years old, and my wife's is 10. What kind of moron only keeps a car 5 years? Even if the original owner sells it, it generally lives a long life with the subsequent owners, unless it's some POS that falls apart right after the warranty expires. Toyotas are generally known for having very long service lives (as long as they don't have a stuck gas pedal incident....)

Re:Short Study Timeframe (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195388)

What kind of moron only keeps a car 5 years?

I rack up 150,000 miles or more in 5 years just in my car. I'm not the only one. I generally buy cars that have a few miles on them and are around 2-3 years old, since that is when most of the depreciation hits, and don't really want to trust a car with over 150k miles on it since I rely on my car so much. A 5 year old car with 150k miles on it is perfectly fine for someone else who works close to home and just wants something newer but not necessarily lower miles, for cheap.

And the average person who drives 12k a year still changes cars frequently. People get bored with the same old car, want something new. That is fine, as that puts decent cars into the used market that are 5 years old and have 60k miles on them, for about half of a new car or less.

YOU might not change cars that often, and likely your idea of keeping the car longer makes better financial success. That isn't the engine that drives the economy in the US though. What drives our overconsumption style economy is, well, overconsumption. If people only bought the things they *NEED*, our entire economy would collapse over night.

Re:Short Study Timeframe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195014)

So the time frame is only over 5 years? Cars can and do last longer than that.

I wonder if people driving hybrids out of a desire to be more green are more likely to hang on to their cars rather than trading them in?

Then again, hybrid technology marches on, so a newer car may be even "greener" to operate. Will there be a study that tally's up the cost of ownership and eco-footprint of staying on the leading edge of green technology?

As far as I am concerned, anything other than not owning a car at all is fig leaf to some degree (and yes, I own a car).

Re:Short Study Timeframe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195074)

What did they compare the Prius to since it does not have a conventional equivalent?

The Prius is a modified Corolla.

Re:Short Study Timeframe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195266)

Agreed. I've never kept a car less than eight years, and it will probably be 11 or 12 this time around.

duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33194834)

But as we often point out, most people don't buy hybrids for payback -- they buy them to make a statement about wanting to drive green.

Perhaps if hybrids offered payback, some number of people who currently don't buy them would?

Fuel prices aren't static (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194836)

Fuel prices aren't static and are likely to go up. Then again, considering the length of ownership, the increase may not make a difference.

The truth is you should not be buying a car on any "gimmicks", but rather on figures that match your driving pattern. For example some cars probably do better doing long distance, while others are better in the city. While manufacturer's figures aren't always accurate, they are probably accurate enough to decide whether you are making a energy consumption saving, no matter the energy source. The only question, beyond dollar cost, how can you establish which vehicle is more economical in terms of impact to the environment when they may use different fuel types (electricity, LPG, diesel, petrol, etc).

Note, that I consider a hybrid engine a gimmick, if it is not actually achieving what it is was marketed to do.

Why limit to 5 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33194844)

Why the 5 year limit on the study? Seems an odd period of time. A hybrid doesn't seem like the type of car you buy then sell off early. I would expect them to be more for the type of person that keeps a car for ~10 years.

What's the payback on an Escalade? (1)

SteeldrivingJon (842919) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194854)

Or a sportscar?

Re:What's the payback on an Escalade? (1)

teeloo (766817) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194976)

That's not a valid question in this case. You need to compare the costs of running the different versions of the same model, ie - gasoline/hybrid or gasoline/diesel.

Re:What's the payback on an Escalade? (1)

SteeldrivingJon (842919) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195136)

Of course it's a valid question. The point is, with no other cars is there even a possibility of "pay back" because they're just a depreciating expense...

(Well, I suppose some rare investment-quality appreciating cars might count, but those aren't common so beside the point.)

Re:What's the payback on an Escalade? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195362)

Immediate.

My Escalade gets 0.71 ho's/gal, vs 0.0 on your Toyota Camry

Only true if you ignore the externalities (5, Insightful)

guanxi (216397) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194864)

The hybrids only cost more if you ignore the externalities [wikipedia.org] . That is, if you conveniently ignore the cost of our climate warming up, and the cost in blood and treasure of maintaining access to oil, then sure, the hybrid costs more. Bicycles are even cheaper, if you ignore the cost of your time and of becoming a smear on the expressway. How about hitchhiking?.

Re:Only true if you ignore the externalities (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195002)

Yes, but everyone else is still driving their 4 mpg trucks to work and back, so we all still get the negatives of the externalities either way. Why pay more to make other people's lives easier?

Tragedy of the commons, if you will.

Re:Only true if you ignore the externalities (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195078)

Bicycles are even cheaper, if you ignore the cost of your time and of becoming a smear on the expressway.

If you live so far away you need to ride your bike via expressway, don't do it. Also, there are benefits gained by riding on even a semi-regular basis (ie, fitness).

Re:Only true if you ignore the externalities (5, Interesting)

God'sDuck (837829) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195268)

...there are benefits gained by riding on even a semi-regular basis (ie, fitness).

Serious benefits. For all the biker-putty on the roads, the mortality stats I've seen show that even casual bikers have longer life expectancies, since the odds of getting roadkilled are so much lower than the odds of being killed by heart disease.

Re:Only true if you ignore the externalities (2, Insightful)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195172)

How about hitchhiking?.

Untimely demise by chainsaw

Re:Only true if you ignore the externalities (2, Insightful)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195252)

The externalities are dependent upon distance driven, not fuel economy directly. People need to drive less, live closer to where they work, etc. Fuel economy is only a patch to the problem of suburban living.

Re:Only true if you ignore the externalities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195260)

Is a non plug-in hybrid any better for the environment? Its energy source is still a gasoline engine. Unless you can plug it in I think you're better off getting a highly efficient gasoline/diesel powered car.

Buy used (1)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194876)

My 2007 Prius was $13500 used with 45000 miles, which is about $1500 more than a similarly equipped Corolla with similar mileage and age.

I bought it from out of state, so I qualify for a tax credit. Even if I did not, it works out to be cheaper long term than a Corolla.

I bought shoes. (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195146)

I live fifteen minutes walking from my own tiny shop. I have no car. I wonder how many MPG my shoes get and what's the payback rate I get on them after five years. The subway takes me to the movies on Saturday. I wonder how many MPG and five-year payback rates that gets, too.

Five years!? (3, Insightful)

rnelsonee (98732) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194890)

Well, it usually takes over 100,000 miles to break even, so the study, which only considers 5 years, is fairly useless. On a thread last week, someone calculated that a Prius will take 320,000 miles to to break even (and I checked the math, as we all like to do!). And the average Prius will last longer than 5 years - especially since those with a "greener" lifestyle know how bad buying a new car is for the environment.

I'd imagine about half of the cars pay back the owner in fuel costs. And it's obviously variable as gas prices are fairly volatile lately...

Re:Five years!? (1)

BatGnat (1568391) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195356)

After 100,000 miles the Most Hybrids are out of warranty.

$3000+ when the batteries need replacing, did you factor that cost?

Re:Five years!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195372)

. And the average Prius will last longer than 5 years - especially since those with a "greener" lifestyle know how bad buying a new car is for the environment.

Yea, right. I tell that to myself every time I see a hybrid driving down the road--seen from my '91 Honda CRX HF [wikipedia.org] that still gets about 40 mpg highway, after 19 years.

Don't see any of those green folks driving one, though.

all the other costs (1)

pinkfalcon (215531) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194896)

I'm dealing with this issue now as my battery pack on my Honda civic just died and I'm looking at $3,000 to replace it.
It's only 6 years old and they are supposed to last 10 years.

When you think about all the toxic metals/chemicals in those batteries, it makes you wonder if they really are better for the environment than my 20 year old jeep that refuses to die.

Re:all the other costs (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33194966)

Your battery pack is 99% recyclable into new batteries

Easy to compare for some cars... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33194912)

They are comparing the vehicles to their gasoline counterparts...easy for a Camry vs Camry Hybrid...

but what did they compare the Prius to? A Corolla? a Camry? a Matrix?

Canadian car prices (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194948)

One has to wonder how Canadian dealers' sustained massive price premiums - despite the rise in value of the Canadian dollar - play into this study. If you could purchase a hybrid at the American price, which tends to be much easier on the car buyer in general, the difference might be more pronounced.

Outside the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33194956)

Outside the US we are buying more and more (hybrid) and (turbo diesel with particle filters).

Given the state of the US car industry, you're bound to follow in a few years. Petrol non hybrid card might get a lease of life with FSI and likewise tech, but it is going bye bye in the coming years.

Sounds like most "1st Gen" tech. (3, Insightful)

El_Smack (267329) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194964)

Think of today's Hybrids as the equivalent of the first iPod. "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame." It's the 3rd and 4th gen of these vehicles that will blow everything else out off the road, in a matter of speaking.

How much do they expect people to drive? (1)

landimal_adurotune (824425) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194974)

I drive 36,000+ miles a year on average - I would have killed for a VW Diesel GTI but they were not selling them in 2008. I was getting around 15-18MPG in a van with no AC or heating and I had my break-even threshold set at $2.37 a gallon. My plan has always been to drive the Prius until the wheels fall off and the battery stops charging, and even then I might do an after-market mod to make it plug-in. I get tired of people making me defend my purchase all the time. TFA based the miles driven at 20,000km - I drive 3x that. Plus I paid just $28k for the car not $40k as in TFA (might be a difference in USD/loonies there though).

I didn't buy one for the payback (5, Interesting)

Lank (19922) | more than 3 years ago | (#33194996)

Look, is it so hard to believe that someone would buy a hybrid to make a statement not to others, but to the car manufacturers making these products? I own a Honda Civic hybrid. It's not much to look at and it certainly doesn't turn heads. On the other hand, I bought it new from a Honda dealer in California when they were trying to push a lot more expensive cars on me. Why? Because I want Honda to know that I'd rather be green than cool or hip or whatever. I want Honda to know that it's important to ME so in the future they'll make cars better-suited to ME.

From one of the linked articles, "Translation: The kinds of people who buy Toyota Prius hybrids in the U.S. may indulge themselves in private, where no one else will see them, but want to be seen in public with less luxurious, greener products to bolster their reputation."

I call bullshit. I didn't do it to bolster my reputation. I put my money where my mouth is and instead of getting on a soapbox and telling everyone to go out and buy a hybrid, I actually bought one.

I don't care that I probably spent more than I'll recoup from the fuel-efficiency. For me, it wasn't about that.

Re:I didn't buy one for the payback (4, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195196)

The thing is, if you are TRULY concerned about the environment (and must drive a car), then you would buy a used car.

The amount of energy and resources and toxic chemicals involved in the car manufacturing process FAR outweighs any "statement" you make with a hybrid.

And if you REALLY REALLY care about the environment, you would carpool, or take the bus (if it's available), or walk or ride your bike.

What I'm saying is, you aren't being "green" by buying a hybrid. You're just pretending. You're a poseur.

Flaws in comparisons: Unique cars & trim level (4, Informative)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195000)

They have flawed comparisons in their "hybrid-only" cars.

They compare the Prius to the slightly smaller and noticeably less well appointed Matrix XR. The Prius has a unique spot in Toyota's lineup, falling between the Corolla and Camry. The Matrix may be closest - being basically a Corolla wagon, but it is still smaller. The $1700-over-5-years buys you more than a $1700 upgrade in car size and appointment.

Same with the Honda Civic DX-G vs. Insight. The Civic is a smaller, less well appointed vehicle, the upgrade to an Insight is more than worth the $1200-over-5-years difference.

Not to mention they quote some of the hybrids at higher-than-base packages, while the conventional equivalents are base. (Or they compare versions that have higher-than-base stock to the base conventional, such as all the Lexus models - which all come at higher-than-base packages compared to their non-hybrid equivalents. The LS coming at 'fully loaded' as the only choice on the hybrid.)

over 5 years? (1)

RelliK (4466) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195016)

Here is the actual study (took a few clicks to find it):
http://www.bcaa.com/downloads/BCAA_Hybrid_Cost_Analysis_2010.pdf

A car lasts a lot longer than 5 years. If you want to calculate the cost over 5 years you'll need to subtract the resale value of the car, which will be higher for a hybrid. It doesn't appear they've done that.

While I agree that cost savings of a hybrid vehicle are overblown, this study is misleading. Also, another benefit of buying a hybrid vehicle was that until recently you could drive one in a commuter lane (in California at least), even without a passanger.

Re:over 5 years? (1)

RelliK (4466) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195132)

Hate to reply to myself, but here is what I mean:

"Long-term depreciation and resale values remain unknown so are assumed to be neutral."

(from the pdf).

US studies always conclude oil is better. (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195038)

Oil is cheaper, more efficient, better for the economy, for the country, for jobs, more "American" (whatever that means). Oil might even be more ecological. I cannot fathom what motivates such conclusions. I just wonder if it has anything to do with money, and the the term "petro-dollars", and prices and profits and stuff. And I assume "yes", and I have no friggen clue why, other than my own brain seems to say so.

Poorly chosen time parameter (1)

bigspring (1791856) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195056)

Why would they choose 5 years when the standard warranty length for hybrid components from most OEMs is eight years?

5 years? (1)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195068)

fuel costs of 16 hybrids over five years

Really? 5 Years? Is that really the lifetime of a car?

Re:5 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195330)

i am guessing that 5 years is about the time the batteries will start to fail. which will probably end up being a costly repair?

Re:5 years? (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195340)

Sadly, it is the expected lifetime of a car nowadays...

When I was doing the calculations before I bought my hybrid, I did a 10-year comparison. Over 10 years, all of the "full hybrids" come out noticeably ahead. And if you compare proper trim levels, even some of the mild hybrids (the pickups, for example,) will come close or even ahead.

This was a big problem with the big claim last year that a Hummer was "greener" than a Prius. They claimed a lifetime of the Hummer of 300,000 miles, while they claimed a lifetime for the Prius of only 100,000 miles. Improper timeframes can have a big effect.

'92 Tercel (1)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195154)

A college roommate of mine had a '92 tercel, not unlike this one:
http://sandiego.craigslist.org/ssd/cto/1887281413.html [craigslist.org]

We measured 41MPG on a road trip once, and 34MPG around town when using a light foot. The cars MSRP was around $13k.

To contrast, another friend bought a '08 prius hybrid a couple years ago for a little over $34,000. The car gets around the same gas milage, maybe a littel worse the the '92 tercel got. Go figure.

Obvious problems with the study (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195166)

The British Columbia Automobile Association projected the fuel costs of 16 hybrids over five years against their purchase price and financing fees. In a study released in late July, only a single one of the 16 hybrids cost less to buy and run than its gasoline counterpart.

The first obvious problem is that while most of their comparisons seem superficially, at least, apples-to-apples comparisons (comparing hybrid and conventional versions of the same base vehicle), the Prius-to-Matrix comparison is apples-to-grapes. OR, specifically, "midsize to compact".

The second obvious problem is they combine a short time window (5 years) with the assumption that the depreciation will be equal for all vehicles over the time period. There's actually two problems with that: 5 years is an artificially short term to consider fuel cost differences over, and 5 years is definitely a term of which depreciation will vary significantly vehicle-to-vehicle, and make a huge difference in terms of total cost. The only reason a 5 year comparison of fuel costs would be the right term is if the assumption is that the car will be flipped for a new one in that time period, in which case the depreciation in resale value is critical.

Assumptions (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195190)

It took a few levels of clicking, but I was able to get the actual BCAA report [bcaa.com] . Thankfully, at the end, they list the assumptions that go into the calculations. Here they are, so that we can try to keep the semantic bickering to a minimum:
  • Total 5-year cost includes initial purchase price, financing and fuel costs at $1.17 per litre, less applicable tax rebates. Does not include maintenance or insurance costs.
  • Annual driving distance is 20,000 kilometres.
  • Long-term depreciation and resale values remain unknown so are assumed to be neutral.
  • The Toyota Matrix/Prius comparison was used due to similar design and specifications.
  • MSRP and PDI information obtained from CanadianDriver.com or direct from manufacturers.
  • Financing rates assumed to be the same on both vehicles. Monthly payment calculated using Loan Payment Calculator on Coast Capital Savings website.
  • Fuel consumption data from National Resources Canada - 2009 Fuel Consumption Guide or direct from manufacturers.
  • The full results of the Hybrid Cost Study, with all 36 vehicles and more details, is available at: www.BCAA.com

Seems reasonable. It would be interesting to know how things would pan out if they extended the time horizon further, to 7.5 years or 10 years, which would de-emphasize the capital cost difference and enhance the fuel savings. While it was prudent to leave it out due to a lack of data, it would have been nice if the depreciation or resale value could have been factored in. I have heard that hybrids tend to have higher resale value, but that could just be anecdotal.

It would also be interesting to see how the distance traveled influences things. The 20 km/year figure is a decent average to work from. At first blush, I would guess that more distance driven would give an advantage to more fuel efficient vehicles. Of course, the breakdown in city vs highway miles makes a big difference.

In other words, it would have been nice if, in addition to the summary results, they could have made the full calculations available for others to tinker with.

Other conclusions (5, Interesting)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195204)

The actual numbers are quite interesting. [bcaa.com] The study seems to be doing a decent job of adjusting for other aspects of car quality and features. To do this, they directly compare hybrid and non-hybrid versions of various cars, or very similar cars by the same manufacturer when this is not possible.

What's interesting, to me at least, is how small the "hybrid loss" actually is for many of the popular models. The extra cost to buy and operate a Toyota Prius, over the Toyota Matrix XR, is apparently $1,718 over 5 years, or $343/year. This isn't that much to a person who cares about the environment. Consider, for instance, that this will apparently reduct CO2 emissions by 1242 kg/year. This means that it "costs" the environmentally-conscious consumer about 28 cents per kg of CO2 reduced. Doesn't sound too bad.

Also worth noting is that the vehicle costs were apparently based on MSRP. Thus any incentive program (e.g. government rebates) only have to be on the order of a few thousand dollars to make the hybrid cheaper overall. I would, personally, prefer it if the hybrid technology were cheaper no matter what (so that there was no excuse not to buy one), but the fact that the extra cost is so small makes it fairly reasonable to subsidize it in the name of environmental protection. (Or, conversely, taxing more-polluting vehicles or energy sources for the externality of environmental damage they cause.)

Again, I think it's well-known that it's generally cheaper to do environmental damage, and more costly to protect the environment. But I see these numbers as being very encouraging: the technology is now at a point where the extra cost of hybrid technology can be made quite small. (For instance it's only $290 extra over 5-years to own and operate the Honda Civic Hybrid vs. the Honda Civic EX. That shows how close we are to hybrid vehicles being cost competitive with conventional vehicles, even without government rebates.)

Organic argument (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195246)

This is always the argument I hear against organic food.

But it doesn't even taste any different, so it's a waste of money.

I didn't buy it because it tastes different. I bought it to use my money to create a demand for products like that, because of the benefit I see in those practices. The same applies for most people who buy hybrids. The rest are just being sanctimonious.

Missing the point (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195250)

The point is when a car is in the rush hour in a city it's average speed is often 10mph or below. Electric motors are better as they don't consume fuel when idle. They don't produce CO2 and other pollution when idle.

In fact, if all you want to do was drive around a city all the time then forget the combustion engine and just drive electric.

Why is the study only 5 years??? (1, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195256)

Most people won't have their cay paid off for 7-10 years, MINIMUM.

Why anyone in their right mind would expect a 5 year payoff is beyond me. You don't even get that kind of payback with a ground-source heat pump.

Oh - and also, the study has a massive flaw:

      "The analysis assumes a constant gas price of $1.17 per litre and a driving distance of 20,000 kms a year"

Constant gas price? Hilarious. The price of gas in Canada was already around $1.30+ / litre when Katrina hit. Wait until the next disaster strikes and it is > $1.50 / L. Then we will see who is lucky enough to be driving a hybrid.

This fits my own calculations (2, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195276)

My civic hybrid cost $4000 more than the non-hybrid version. I figured I would have to put about 100,000 miles on it to reach break-even, even with $3/gallon gas. However, I now have over 120,000 miles on it, so it is now actually saving me money. (There have not yet been any additional maintenance expenses because if it being a hybrid, but the IMA light on the dash is now on all the time.) Of coarse buying fuel-efficiency now partially protects you from future volatility in the fuel markets -- I'd be willing to pay extra for a true multi-fueler if one was available.

$2.77? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195284)

The reason why I bought one was a hedge against $4.00/gal or greater. Sure $2.77 may not seem like a lot, but if the world economy recovers, oil prices will rise and then how much time will it take for prices to reach $4.00/gal? Will it pass that mark? There's a lot of uncertainty in where it could go, so I'd rather lock in some measure of certainty by buying a hybrid and knowing that I won't get hit by a gasoline price shock. I am willing to pay more up front as a form of insurance, plus I expect to use my car for 15 years.

For the average person, gas savings is important (2, Interesting)

Servo (9177) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195322)

There are definitely folks out there who can afford to buy a hybrid without concern of gas savings, but most people are going to buy a vehicle that is within their financial means so the upfront cost has to face the reality of cost of ownership. I was one of those people who put enough miles on their car to warrant a hybrid. I did the math and it was cheaper to buy a brand new Prius than continue driving my paid off SUV, due to ongoing maintenance and fuel costs. Several years later, I opted to trade the Prius in for a "clean diesel" that delivers nearly the same MPG but with more comfort and space than the Prius offered. It costs me a bit more overall but due to my changing needs and cramped legroom I think its worth it. Environmentally speaking, I like having a vehicle that pollutes less, but I can't afford not to drive something as fuel efficient which is ultimately why I bought one.

Not an accident (4, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195324)

There's a reason that gas cars are cheaper. The oil companies are not stupid. They know the price point at which alternative fuels become competitive with gas and they keep the price a little below that. The price of oil is not high enough for anything else to compete....and it'll stay that way barring government interference. It's good for oil companies, they're rolling in the dough. It's good for consumers, gas is cheap and plentiful. It's good for politicians, their voters are happy with them. When glitches happen to the fuel supply and price drives high then all sorts of alternative power supply comes out of the woodwork. The price never stays high for long though. No one wants expensive fuel.

Diesel? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195338)

Why oh why can't they do studies on how long it takes to pay back on a Diesel engine car?

I did my reading, and Diesel engine cars are about as green as regular cars in their manufacturing process, and far greener based on the increased mileage and almost Nil emissions (with the new Bluetec engines).

So, I bought a new VW Golf TDI, because I wanted a new car (although I seriously thought about the older TDI as well). In the right conditions (45mph, 75 degrees out, highway with no stops) I've seen it do as much as 56mpg. HOWEVER, mostly it averages closer to 37-40 between city/highway with the way I drive.

Europe really has realized this, and has had lots of great Diesel options for years. The US really needs to get on board! Diesels are greener with comparable gas mileage to hybrids, and the gas generally isn't that much more expensive.

No interest in making statements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195354)

I've had a Prius for 7 years. Couldn't care less about it being "green". Bought it for three reasons:
1) Fuel economy (I drive 100-150 miles a day for work).
2) HOV (the time I save by being able to drive in HOV is very valuable)
3) $2K federal tax credit.

Has the expense of the hybrid engine paid for itself? Oh, yes, especially counting the period of time that gas was ~$4 a gallon and the hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours I've saved via HOV.

For me, it made sense and I've been exceedingly happy.

Math doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33195360)

The cost analysis sheet lists a Ford Escape Hybrid at retail of $34,899. That's all well and good, but the five-year ownership number (including purchase price, fuel, and financing, but NOT maintenance/repair) somehow makes it to $54,388. Even assuming their numbers of 12,000 miles and fuel at $4/gallon and a (conservative) 30mpg assumption, that's only $8000 for fuel. So what the hell is the other $12,000 for? Even accounting for sales tax, that's still $8000-10000 in finance charges. That's like 10% interest.

Pro tip: if you're paying $10,000 in financing on a $35,000 loan, you're doing something horribly wrong (although you're also making some banker somewhere really happy.)

[Disclaimer: I own (and am still paying for an Escape Hybrid)]

Don't count your chickens yet.... (2, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195368)

Most hybrids are only a couple of years old, and will be on the road for at least another decade. At the moment, my Prius is an environmental statement and a fun engineering toy, but beginning around 2012-2013, I expect it to start looking like a very good investment.

Of course. (2, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 3 years ago | (#33195386)

As with all economics related to energy, we're not factoring any of the environmental costs in. So a hybrid might cost more, or it might be saving thousands of dollars. Without factoring in things like pollution, and destructive weather caused by climate change it's really hard to know.

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