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The Math Behind the Hybrid Hype

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the chart-and-graph-lovers dept.

Math 1194

markmcb writes "OmniNerd has posted a thorough mathematical analysis of purchasing a hybrid vehicle that dispels much of the hype associated with this modern buzz word. The author considers all of the major factors to show just how much money a hybrid vehicle will or won't save you. In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."

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Redeem yourself at #teens4christ. (-1, Troll)

Junktouch (930372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025649)

             (_ _)
        ___  (o o)
      _-   -_(   )   CmdrTaco is having me
    /-        O O    for lunch. Having me
   / |       ||      in the arse, also.
  *   ||-___-||
      ~~     ~~

Think about your breathing. You must
inhale and exhale manually or suffocate.

only winner (5, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025651)

> the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment.

That is to say, everyone and everything on the planet.

Re:only winner (1, Interesting)

TedCheshireAcad (311748) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025694)

Aah yes, still clinging to the hope that a person's "love for the environment" can defeat the free market economy. Let me know how that works out for you.

Re:only winner (2, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025745)

Aah yes, still clinging to the hope that a person's "love for the environment" can defeat the free market economy. Let me know how that works out for you.

You are aware that normal people do appreciate non-monetary values as well, don't you? I'm sure you have heard of it. And if you do need a monetary motivation for everything, just factor in the extra cost of having your SUV keyed every couple of months...

Re:only winner (2, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025825)

"just factor in the extra cost of having your SUV keyed every couple of months"

Yeah, THAT will put you on the moral high ground.

Re:only winner (4, Insightful)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025835)

What is with this argument? Exactly why is it bad to focus on greener technology while still providing people with transportation, energy, food, etc? It seems like some economists shun green like it's guarenteed to single handedly collapse the current market, while some environmentalists see the market economy as the single driver of the destruction of the planet.

As is with just about EVERYTHING in life, moderation is always better than extremism. Large companies that drive market forces should still strive to pollute as little as possible, and anyone that things that the world is fine and not in need of a little love from newer technology is crazy. Anyone that thinks we shouldn't strive to develop newer and better technologies that do in turn pollute less is truely delusional.

Please excuse the bad spelling in this post.

Re:only winner (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025780)

I'll take it you intend this as a criticism of free market economies?

Or do you not think that cutting consumption of fossil fuels is a good idea?

Enough with the Free market as nature crap. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025872)

Okay, Free-Market Fucknut. Two things to consider. First, ever wanted to get laid? Non-economical motive. If you showered before going on a (hypothetical) date, you were also exhibiting long-term thinking.

THe much-loved Free Market Economy is an invention of man, not a natural phenomenon. Yes, it is a compelling metaphor, but it currently is the root cause of so many poor decisions in which ling-term consequences and any sense of human compassion are ignored because 'that's just the market'. This so-called free market is one that is constrained as much as a socialist market, its just that the constraints on a free market serve the wealthy thorugh serving corporations, wher ea socialist market serves the poor throuhg serving the government. Both have their issues of friction - I know that socialist models still have poor to a drastic extent, but arguing that the 'free market economy' is the best is farcical because of the lack of a real free market. And arguing it is natural is like arguing that Moore's Law is a a law of physics.

Re:only winner (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025716)

Except you could help the environment a lot more by spending the money on pollution credits, so it really isn't a great decision on that front either.

Re:only winner (-1, Redundant)

mr. mulder (204001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025721)

Here, here! Yay!

I'm already signed up for a 2006 Toyota Prius. It's the best choice in vehicles I have ever made. No guilt whatsoever. []

Re:only winner (5, Insightful)

onepoint (301486) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025733)

Congrats, You are the first winner of the " I care about something " award. At least you point out that we are all winners if we follow the long term view of helping the planet.

sometimes it's as simple as walking your kid to school 3 times a week. just a little nudge in the right direction from many people and the planet wins. Small steps towards the benefit of mankind.

heck, I'm learning to Rollerblade, this way I can skate to work 2 times a week. it's an idea that I might end up liking a lot.

Re:only winner (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025766)

Brandon U. Hansen (the authoer of the study) is a winner for having citations.

While the colorized graphs and tables* are a nice bonus,
it is incredibly refreshing to see something with proper citations posted to /.
This is truly News for Nerds.

Note to CmdrTaco, ScuttleMonkey, et al:
We'd appreciate more articles like this

*wonder what software package he used.

Re:only winner (1, Informative)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025911)

The tables look suspiciously like they could be Excel. Maybe they're OpenOffice or some stats program the output of which I've not seen yet, but they're well within the range of what you can get out of Excel. What makes them unusually nice is that he actually used a decent, not-too-obtrusive color scheme which actually enhances the legibility of the material, instead of obscuring it (which is what most people do) by using some obnoxious combination of contrasting colors. At any rate, it's just a nicely-done spreadsheet.

The graphs are fairly nice though, and don't say Excel so much. I think they could be GNUplot or some derivative product...?

But I agree, the citations are nice. A step above the usual vaporware press releases or hype journalism, anyway.

Re:only winner (4, Insightful)

loveandpeace (520766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025783)

Many thanks for pointing out that when the environment wins, so does everyone else.

While it might not be the cheapest technology out there, even the article that allegedly "debunk" the cost effectiveness of hybrid technology goes a long way to show that environmental options are not the money-draining nightmare they have been presented to be.

Re:only winner (5, Interesting)

Golias (176380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025785)

the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment.

Oddly, this particular analysis is only looking the economic factor, which anybody who's ever priced out a hyrbrid knows that owning a gasoline car is still cheaper.

It would be interesting to see a similar paper on Total Environmental Impact.

Gas-only cars burn more gasoline, which means not only more pollution from the car's exhaust, but also more demand for oil refineries.

A hybrid car requires less gas, but it also has a massive battery which will need to be disposed of safely in a few years. What would it be like to manage the disposal of these batteries if there was suddenly tens of millions of such cars driving around?

I'm sure things would still favor the hybrid by a pretty good margin, in spite of issues like this, but it would be interesting to see a complete comparison. (One that is not from somebody trying to sell us on the idea of owning a hybrid.)

Re:only winner (3, Informative)

Corwyn ap (819325) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025894)

Lead acid batteries, which I think are what are used in most hybrids, are the most recycled commodity in the country. Over 95% recycled. Into more batteries even (i.e. not down-cycled). All the infrastructure is already in place.

The environment also loses. (1, Insightful)

jasonhamilton (673330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025891)

Look at how much toxic chemicals is in a battery. Now factor in that you have to replace the batt every 2-4 years. Not only does it end up costing you more, but you're not doing much besides thinking you're helping.

Re:only winner (3, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025907)

That is to say, everyone and everything on the planet.

And the oil companies and the auto makers who get to wring some more life out of their outdated internal combustion technology.

Wikipedia's article on battery operated vehicles is pretty damn interesting. Why was that technology abandoned? There's no reason why with modern technology we couldn't build an all-electric car that had comparable performance to any hybrid (they already did in every category save range) and similar range (the missing piece). Who here wouldn't own a battery powered electric vehicle if it had about 300-350 miles of range?

In fact such a car would probably be cheaper (subtract the internal combustion engine, replace it with a nearly maintenance free electric motor(s), possibly subtract the transmission, subtract the cooling system, add batteries) and a lot easier to maintain -- brakes/wheel bearings/etc would be the only items left -- and the brake pads could last a lot longer with regenerative breaking.

I still think it doesn't happen because it would put too many people out of work in Detriot/Japan/Germany -- and to a lesser extent because of the oil influence. But that's just my paranoia. Wish I had the investors and the wherewithal to give it a shot on my own.

Depends where you live (4, Interesting)

brejc8 (223089) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025653)

Here in Europe the fuel prices [] are vastly different. Where in the US the price this year was between 37.9 and 26.82 UK pence / litre, in the UK it is currently 91 . So you would have to multiply the savings in petrol by 3 or so.
Fortunately in Europe we also have a system of public transport which most environment minded people (like myself) prefer to use rather than pretend we are doing our bit through the purchase of a new car.

Re:Depends where you live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025697)

Ah yes, nothing like cycling behind a slow moving bus belching all that black soot in their air!

Re:Depends where you live (0, Troll)

urmensch (314385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025730)

Thanks for the barb at the end! That was nice.

I'm definitely going to purchase a mass transit system instead of a hybrid vehicle this time.
Meanwhile, you can pretend that your mass transit doesn't burn fossil fuels...

Re:Depends where you live (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025749)

But it's much more effective.

And large part of it indeed potentially doesn't burnfossil fuels (trams/light trains/trolleybuses)

Re:Depends where you live (1, Insightful)

yobbo (324595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025753)

Meanwhile, you can pretend your car holds 200 passengers.

Re:Depends where you live (3, Insightful)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025791)

Nobody is saying that mass transit systems dont burn fossil fuels, but they burn far less on a per person, per mile basis than private transportation.

Frankly, your comment just makes you look like a fool.

Re:Depends where you live (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025837)

I think you misunderstood -- the crux of his comment was simply stating that we cannot just go out and buy mass transit. It was in response to the aggressive statement that we in the US buy a new car instead of going out and, somehow, buying ourselves mass transit.

Re:Depends where you live (1, Insightful)

dsginter (104154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025737)

Fortunately in Europe we also have a system of public transport which most environment minded people (like myself) prefer to use rather than pretend we are doing our bit through the purchase of a new car.

You do realize that the situation in Europe would be identical to that of the US if gasoline/petrol was priced similarly, right? I know several Europeans who came to the US with this attitude only to eventually find themselves purchasing a gas-guzzling SUV.

Don't get me wrong - I don't believe that either side has it right. The US is correct in that everything should be done in order to lower the cost of energy. Europe has it correct in that moderation should also play a role. IMHO, the best middle ground is to place only a small tax on nonrenewables and use that to develop sustainable energy resources/infrastructure.

Unfortunately, it is probably a bit too late for that. There's just too much money in it for money-grubbing politicians.

Re:Depends where you live (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025782)

Too bad that also prices of vehicles, especially the hybrid ones, are much, much higher (at least here, in PL)

Re:Depends where you live (2, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025865)

"Fortunately in Europe we also have a system of public transport which most environment minded people (like myself) prefer to use rather than pretend we are doing our bit through the purchase of a new car."

Do THAT many people, in general, really give a damn about the environment? I think most people after the hybrid cars these days are going for it primarily for the gas savings. The price at the pump is driving sales...and while I would guess the 'greeness' of the cars is a nice benefit, it isn't the driving factor towards purchase, otherwise, you'd have seen these cars sell faster in the past.

I just don't think that the general public is that interested in the environment yet. I only know one person really...the recycles stuff. Hats off to him, as that in his neighborhood, they don't even come by to pick up recyclables...HE has to take it to them. Most people I know wouldn't go to that trouble. Hell, most places I know of...they will pick up the recyclables curbside, just like the trash, and yet most people don't bother sorting out recyclables (glass, cans, paper)...just chuck it all together in the regular garbage. I've never recycled anything myself just a pain, and I have limited space in my kitchen...not enough room really for a separate can for paper, one for glass, one for addition to the trash can. I'm thinking this may be a big reason many people don't do it...etc.

And also...why do they make the hybrids so fugly? Man...can't they design a good looking car these days? What happened to sporty, eye pleasing designs?

Anyway...just my observations. Are there really THAT many people that go out of their way, to inconvenience themselves to protect the environment? I'm wondering if in Europe, if you had the land mass we have in the US, with everything spread out so much...where public transport isn't quite feasible...if ya'll would be as addicted to the auto as we are? Would attitudes be different?

Mass transit is only useful for 10% (2, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025881)

Maybe 15% of the population. It just isn't a viable solution for the other 85% -> 90% of people who need to travel. Not only that it isn't physically possible for it to be a viable solution for the other 90%, the transport maths simply don't add up for conventional mass transit.

More details on exactly why here: -transport-cant-work.html []

"only" (5, Insightful)

EvilNTUser (573674) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025656)

"In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment"

And that isn't enough?

Re:"only" (2, Informative)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025767)

Well, no.

The less people that can afford the car, the less hybrids that will be out there. Not everyone can afford the $3,000 markup that hybrids carry, and especially when they're told it won't save them the cost of said markup over time.

Re:"only" (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025869)

If you think so, please buy me a hybrid car.

Thank you.

So the only real winner is the environment... (0, Redundant)

ZipR (584654) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025657)

What's wrong with that?

Not a bad thing (0, Redundant)

VikingDBA (446387) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025660)

"In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."

I hope this wouldn't be considered a bad thing.

Re:Not a bad thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025709)

It's not, but some people are deluding themselves to think that they'll be saving themselves money too.

Good enough for me... (0, Redundant)

aborchers (471342) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025662)

"it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me...

buying a new car is almost always a losing bet (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025666)


buying a new car is almost -always- a losing proposition, financially. If money is a concern, a 3-year-old Accord or
Camry is probably the best way to go.

Re:buying a new car is almost always a losing bet (1)

uriah923 (867690) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025747)

I don't think you read the article.

It's not the money (4, Interesting)

superid (46543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025675)

I bought my prius to replace my 15 year old celica. I didn't buy it to save money, I bought it because it was an interesting/cool car in my price range. The fact that it is a hybrid entered into MY purchase equation but it wasn't the only reason.

The fact that I've gotten as much as 66.5 mpg (after a 50 mile round trip commute) is just icing on the cake.

Note to VW: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025769)

1. Take yer 55 mpg turbodiesel
2. Put it into a light truck (bring back Rabbit, if you have to)
3. Sell it at a reasonable price (comparable to diesel VW sedans)
4. Profit!

Truth is, I'd rather take a diesel that burns more expensive (for now - may not be the case, when biodiesel really takes off) fuel and loses 10 mpg, yet is based on proven technology and does not suffer on freeway. VW, are you listening? Bring back a diesel light truck, and my next vehicle just might be a new VW.

Re:It's not the money (1)

SageMusings (463344) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025902)

That's funny...I have asked several Prius owners what they get as far as mileage. The top answer has been 45MPG so far. Now I suppose it is possible you could eek out a bit more but that might involve highway-only driving at low speeds.

Now my motorcycle gets 55MPG without even trying. Am I a conservationist? No. To most motorists, I'm a moving target and welcome diversion. Most Californians would rather talk about the environment and road congestion problems than use the best alternative to those ills available to us now.

So True (5, Interesting)

$calar (590356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025676)

My dad works for a local government and was required to investigate the use of hybrid vehicles for use in his department, as a form of gasoline reduction measure, to save money. However, since this local government doesn't have to pay taxes on the gasoline it purchases, it can get it for very cheap. He also found that it would take well beyond the life of the vehicle to become profitable.

I think it's kind of unfortunate, really, why hybrids cost so much more than conventional vehicles. The tax incentives in this case were of no use, as I said, because this agency didn't pay taxes.

The real cost of transportation (1)

dptalia (804960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025895)

Is the tax we pay per gallon of gas. The U.S. government has made more money on gas taxes [] than the oil companies have, even with "windfall profits".

Take these stats for what they are meant to show (4, Interesting)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025680)

This data does not take into account someone who is already willing to lay out 20-30K on a SUV and deciding to switch to a hybrid instead. It has been long obvious that hybrids were not yet the most cost efficient way to travel. Though if you already own a 30K SUV, and you trade it in for a hybrid, you will see savings. Take these statistics for what they are. The most interesting point being in figure 13 where it seems with gas at 2.50 a gallon, a car that gets 50 - 60 mpg would have to cost less than 13,000 to be the cheapest new bought transportation.

The "environment" (3, Interesting)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025683)

"In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment." That surely is the point, isn't it? Uh.. oh I get it.. it must be a troll!

Fundamentally, there is a problem with the way the US is underpricing fuel. In Europe prices are much higher (US$6 per gallon is typical) which provides a financial incentive to create cars with lower fuel consumption, primarily though making more efficient engines.

Until the US starts to tax gasoline products in order to encourage fuel efficiency, then the US will continue to drive around in inefficient gas guzzlers. Heck, they would in Europe too if the tax regime wasn't different.

Re:The "environment" (5, Insightful)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025770)

The U.S. doesn't "underprice" fuel; Europe taxes and regulates the bejeezus out of theirs.

I'm always fascinated by the capacity of the US citizen to asked to be taxed further.

Re:The "environment" (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025789)

Umm, the U.S. does tax [] gasoline [] .

Re:The "environment" (2, Interesting)

floodo1 (246910) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025806)

except that in the US we designed all of our cities to practically require people to use cars.
i know that my town is a text book (literally) case for urban sprawl. you really have no choice but to have a car :(

maybe instead of taxing gas we could just tax vehicles based on efficiency! generally its better to solve the problem, rather than do things like tax gas to fix vehicle efficiency. you're working on the "lets tax cigarettes to get people to stop" principle which is very flawed.

Re:The "environment" (2, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025807)

Fundamentally, there is a problem with the way the US is underpricing fuel.

Please define "underpricing" for me. With the oil companies making record profits [] it seems there is plenty of room for the price to go down. That strikes me as "overpricing".

Or are you thinking along the lines of a nanny state where the children aren't doing what the gov't thinks they should so is going to raise taxes through the roof as an "incentive for proper behavior"?


Re:The "environment" (4, Insightful)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025809)

I think I disagree with your premise that the US energy model is 'fundamentally flawed'. Surely, it makes sense that cheap energy will stimulate economic growth and add to the wealth of the nation. To this end, it is justifiable to have affordable gas. Venezuela is using this idea right now, last time I checked they were retailing gas for 4 cents/L.

With respect to this line of reasoning, the big white elephant in the room is the environmental costs. What is the point of enriching a nation if it become toxic in 50 years? What need to be happen is for the global economy, not just the US, to come to some concensus on the future of energy availability. More and more signs point to peak oil occuring now or in the next 5 years. That means from now on (or not far from now) energy will be a premium commodity and the costs associated will inflate. Inventing efficient gasoline cars is a useful tactic to stem the tide of oil scarcity, but oil is still dirty. Technology like fuel cells and hydrogen power must be the focus. Preserving the oil economy is folly.

Many people realise this and have argued that the global oil economy is a disastrous thing. I, for one, have no confidence that it will change, however. We are addicted to oil. Everyone in the developed world is addicted to oil. We are not going to stop. It is like an alcoholic who drinks himself to death. He knows he is killing himself but he keeps drinking. That is us. We will use oil until the world is toxic or the economy collapses plunging us into chaos. I'll be dead by the time it happens but unless there a radical shifts in the next ten years I think we are doomed.

So, to single out the US oil stategy is unfair. We all suck.

Have a nice day.

Re:The "environment" (5, Insightful)

Mr. Competence (18431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025814)

Just a couple of simple points:
1. I currently pay $2/gal and $1 of that is tax
2. The US is over twice the size of Europe so that does present some barriers to public transportation.
3. Actually, I agree with you in principle, just wanted to make the above points.

Re:The "environment" (1)

PetrusMagnusII (309326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025821)

Well I agree that gas in America is half to 1/3 the price of gas of gas in Europe/Japan, I don't think just raising the price of gas would fix the problem.
The reason gas prices are kept low is the same reason American internet it sucks when compared to Europe/S. Korea/Japan.. Everything is so spread out. Each state is essentially a country if it were Europe, but with much much less population. I grew up in Wisconsin, Madison until High School. To go from one side of the town to the other by car was a 15min ordeal, however by bus, we're talking 2 hours. Things aren't organized or planed at all in America, they just do it. As a result, you have to go all over the place to get simple daily things done. Where as here in Japan, just walk down the street and you've got everything you need. The bus doesn't just go from one side of town to the other, it goes through every little nook and cranny along the way.
I would like to see lots of changes in America, however most just are not possible until the American population multiples by at least 100 times. And considering how few Americans there are now compared to how much every in the world seems to hate all of them/us, think how much everyone would hate America if there where 100 times more of them/us.

Re:The "environment" (3, Insightful)

gmuller (908544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025849)

"Fundamentally, there is a problem with the way the US is underpricing fuel."

How is that problem "fundamental". And I'd wager that "Fundamentally" there is a problem with the way Europe is overpricing fuel. "Fundamentally" The problem is that you think the government should have a say in how much fuel costs, when "Fundamentally" the price of fuel is the same everywhere, the only difference is other governments are making a lot more in revenue off of it than America is...

"Until the US starts to tax gasoline products in order to encourage fuel efficiency, then the US will continue to drive around in inefficient gas guzzlers"

We need more tax on gasoline? I'm sorry to tell you this, but in America almost half the price of gasoline has tax built in. Thats huge. Which begs the question, how much is your goverment maing on it? Why doesn't this piss you off? You're getting gouged at the pump by your own governing body, with the perception that they're furthering some economic cause.


Re:The "environment" (3, Interesting)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025851)

Until the US starts to tax gasoline products in order to encourage fuel efficiency, then the US will continue to drive around in inefficient gas guzzlers.

And for those of us who drive fuel efficient cars and can't afford the gas already, you recommend what course of action?

How about we just tax the hell out of SUVs? Take the average lifetime of an SUV in miles, multiply it by your gas tax hike, and add that to the sticker price. Roll it into the loan payment. Make it apply only to cars that get fewer than x miles per gallon, with the limit announced a couple years in advance so that manufacturers aren't left with a bunch of unsellable inventory all of a sudden. Drop the x by a mpg per year until you get your target mileage. No punishing people that are already struggling that way. Punishes people who drive their SUV 8 blocks a year, sure, but there's not that many of them. There are plenty of poor people, and they're already in rough shape.

ONLY winner? (1)

Trolling4Columbine (679367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025686)

"In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."

Let's not forget the auto manufacturers and their markup for sticking the word "hybrid" on their vehicles.

ongoing cost (2, Interesting)

tezbobobo (879983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025687)

Fuel prices are protected in China and America, this has to be taken into account. So should the change in cost of running over time. In Western Austrlia we are debating desalinationplats versus pipelines. the major bonus in desalination plants is that as the technology gets better the costs get cheaper. The artcle fails to deduce the drop in cost and increase in productivity caused by new fuel production and use technologies. And etcetera...

Re:ongoing cost (1)

CPUGuy (676781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025786)

Did you read the entire article?

Re:ongoing cost (1)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025896)

Would quite say prices are protected, but that other countries tend to intentionally inject additional costs into fuel prices and is one of the more regressive taxes around.

To be blunt (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025690)

>In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."


Only winner is the Environment? (0)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025693)

Big deal! I bet that's great for those of us who LIVE in the Environment. That's only, what 6 or 7 billion of us? Call me when they come up with something that matters. I'd do anything for another EZ Cheez, but all we get these days is a cure for AIDS and cars that help the Environment. Engineers and scientists, sheesh. Call me when there's some real news, OK?

Faulty Comparison (5, Insightful)

apsmith (17989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025699)

He compares the Prius to a Corolla; really it's closer in quality and size to a Camry, which is much closer in price.

Also, the value retention part of it is key in treating it as an investment, but "OmniNerd" doesn't do that, he's just calculating the change in monthly payments. That completely invalidates the monetary comparison from the start.

I.e. the "Math" here is off base, by quite a lot.

Plus, my '05 Prius is very fun to drive, wouldn't trade it for just about anything (well, maybe one of those $40,000 sports cars...)

Re:Faulty Comparison (5, Insightful)

Zcar (756484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025755)

I'd be more interested in a comparison between, say, a hybrid Civic and a similarly equipped conventional Civic. Or a hybrid Highlander and similarly equipped conventional Highlander. Seems to me that comparison of the same model, one conventional and one hybrid, would better highlight any difference.

The environment is the winner? (1)

Robotbeat (461248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025707)

"In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."
I don't know about you, but I don't think that lead-acid batteries are all that environmentally friendly. I mean, at least with smog and CO2 the ecosystem will eventually clean up (once we run out of fossil fuels), but lead-acid batteries sitting in land-fills doesn't make it seem like the environment really wins out, here.

Re:The environment is the winner? (1)

worst_name_ever (633374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025773)

The Prius uses NiMH batteries, not lead-acid. I think it's also reasonable to assume that it's easier to contain solid waste (a stack of batteries) than to deal with the gaseous emissions from zillions of individual car tailpipes...

Re:The environment is the winner? (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025879)

I think it's also reasonable to assume that it's easier to contain solid waste (a stack of batteries) than to deal with the gaseous emissions from zillions of individual car tailpipes...

You'd think so, but try explaining that to anti-nuclear zealots...

They don't sit in landfills, though (2, Informative)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025803)

The nice thing about lead/acid is that it is highly recyclable. It also uses a dirt cheap electrolyte (sulphuric acid), and most lead acid batteries now have recyclable plastic cases rather than vulcanised rubber. In fact the oldest and simplest technology - open cells - are the most efficient on almost all counts, including charge speed. (And yes, I do have a lot of experience with these things, I'm not just repeating things I've read.)

The problem is with modern battery technologies which _are_ hard to recycle and dangerous to dispose of. The more efficient they get in energy density, the nastier they seem to get.

Only one solution (5, Insightful)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025710)

There is no magic solution possible. No matter what technology is used, YOU STILL NEED THE ENERGY TO MOVE THREE TONS OF SCRAP FOR EACH HUMAN ON THE MOVE!

It is the whole model that is screwed-up.

Getting rid of the cars is the only solution. There is no way on earth (or in hell) to provide three tons of scrap (and the energy needed to move them) to each human on the planet.

Settle down Beavis. (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025889)

There's nothing to be gained by posting irrational rants with overinflated values.

There are VERY few cars that weigh three tons. Even the big SUVs do NOT weigh that much. Their GVWR may be just touching three tons, but if you think that means they weigh that, you need to go look up what it means.

I have a very large truck -- it weights two and a quarter tons, thats it. Thats a big honkin, sits five, rides 14 inches off the ground, and can tow 8000lbs truck. I've had it up to three tons total weight once -- when I was trucking a bedload of oil around rural Maine up and down mountains.

My other car weighs about 2000lbs. Thats one ton, not three tons. Most sedans are somewhere in the 1.5-1.75 ton range.

So if you want to post irrational rants, try to use accurate numbers. And while you're at it, suggest how each human on the planet is going to make a living when transportation resources, zoning and other factors ensure commercial and industrial space is gathered together, and not dispersed throughout residential areas. Don't suggest public transportation, since that demonstrates a lack of understanding about how much they cost, how much pollution they generate, and how the numbers showing cost benefits to them do not take into account that taxes are not paid on the energy consumed by public transportation services.

Nobody buys a hybrid ONLY to save money... (1)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025715)

No one that I can think of has bought a hybrid car to JUST save money. To most of them, they're buying them ONLY to be a bit nicer to the enviroment.

"The only winner here is the enviroment"?


Re:Nobody buys a hybrid ONLY to save money... (1)

wpiman (739077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025840)

What about sticking it to the gas company? That should be factored in.

Re:Nobody buys a hybrid ONLY to save money... (2, Interesting)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025883)

To those (many, many) /.ers shaking their heads in disgust over the "only winner" comment...

I think it is fair to say that one of the big selling points for hyrbrids would be that you can save some money. People are hyper-aware of fuel prices right now. The idea is whatever helps move people to cleaner and more efficient transportation is a good thing. By touting "savings" you can get people on board who don't give a rat's rear end about the environment. As long as it works, do you really care if they don't have the proper attitude?

Or you can be like a lot of /.ers and tax gas until it's $8.00 a gallon, or just issue a decree that all the citizenry will be issued 2 Segways per family, and that's it...

The environment wins? Really? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025729)

And what about disposal of all of those lead-acid batteries? How will that help?

Well, duh. (4, Interesting)

dschuetz (10924) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025741)

Anyone who purchases a hybrid without doing at least a really basic cost analysis is an idiot.

We purchased a Prius back in June. We knew that unless gas stays at like $3 or $4 a gallon, it wouldn't really pay off (and then Katrina hits, and we actually paid $3 a gallon for a few weeks).

It's not a cheap car, but fully loaded, it really wasn't that big a difference for us compared to, say, and Accord. And it gets better mileage. You can run the A/C in stop-and-go traffic with virtually no gas consumption (the gas engine cycles on for 30 seconds every five minutes or so).

Plus, it's incredibly geeky. What's not to love? We've even been able to fit a lot of stuff in it for weekend trips (suitcase, assorted other bags, cameras, etc., plus a stroller, pack-and-play, and, of course, the baby), even leaving the back seat pretty much free of extra boxes or bags. You'd never think there was so much space to look at it from the outside.

Bottom line: Don't buy it to save money. Buy it for the clean air impact, and especially to support the longer-term development of hybrid technology. Imagine if this were in *every* Toyota car -- their CAFE numbers would probably be up in the 30s or 40s (it's probably in the 20s right now).

[it's also displaced our Explorer as our primary errand-running car, which is certaily helping *our* bottom line somewhat...]

Missing some required data (5, Insightful)

mac123 (25118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025742)

Nice analysis, but like most of these type of analyses, they ignore some important factors:

Environmental cost of manufacturing NiMH batteries
$ Cost of replacing batteries at end of useful life (which is likely before the vehicle's useful life is over)
Environmental cost of disposal of NiMH batteries (likely 2 sets per vehicle during useful life, 100 pounds+ each set) That's a lot of heavy metals to dispose of.

Re:Missing some required data (1)

Beebos (564067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025876)

I own a Civic Hybrid and was told that the batteries should last ten years. After almost three years I have noticed no decrease in the battery capacity. So at this point I don't believe that I'll be replacing the batteries any time soon. I haven't done the analysis, but ten years of putting out almost no carbon and other bad stuff would be worth throwing away 1 set of batteries.

Money isn't everything... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025768)

We need every meaningful reduction in environmental damage we can get. I really hate analyses that focus/emphasis money as primary consideration for everything. If we can get the overall costs of a new technology even close to that of the current technology, and it *really* reduces environmental damage, we should jump on it. That said, I'm not entirely convinced hybrids are really reducing environmental damage in any significant way -- it is probably more of a feel-good measure to give us an excuse not to change our destructive habits, but that is another argument.

Economic sense? Why? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14025771)

Why must hybrids be the only product to prove themselves economically? If people bought stuff based solely on price/performance, we'd all be only eating bread, drinking water, living in small shacks, and driving white 15-year old Honda Civics. Boring.

I buy lots of things that don't make economic sense. I have expensive sports equipment like road bikes and scuba gear. My computer has lots of fast parts that I don't really "need".

Maybe there's more to things than just what your ROI is.

Have you ever taken an Economics course? (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025857)

The first rule of modern economic theory is that the way people spend money can be used as a measurement of their satisfaction.

It might get you some ass... (5, Funny)

Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025772)

This math does not take into account the ass factor. There are a lot of chicks that are hip to this save the rain forest crap and they may be more inclined to open up for a guy who "cares" about the ice melting. Think of these tofu-eating broads as an untapped market and get yourself some rubbers and a set of 21 inch rims on your Prius and you're ready to go. You might not even have to use rubbers with these girls if you play the latex is bad for the pandas card.

Re:It might get you some ass... (1)

dominick (550229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025834)

Mod parent up. I believe there has not been enough consideration of this new scientific method... the ass factor.

What about the electricity? (1)

FJ (18034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025774)

Does the environment really win or is the problem just being moved? The electricity must come from some place. Does the power plant produce more pollution to provide the electricity?

Just curious if anyone knows.

Vanity (1, Interesting)

Salo2112 (628590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025776)

The only reason to buy a hybrid is show other people how much you care about the environment: it's a statement, not an answer.

well that depends... (4, Interesting)

sdaemon (25357) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025777)

if you're the type of person that gets a new car every 5-7 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first, then no, you're not going to save money by purchasing a more expensive car. If, on the other hand, you're the type who takes care of your vehicle, maintains it, maybe even makes a few repairs on your own rather than taking it to the shop (or neglecting problems outright), with the hopes of getting 10-20 years (and 250,000+ miles) out of your vehicle, then you might actually save money in the long run, assuming roughly equal wear-and-tear and part replacement needs for hybrid and conventional vehicles.

My personal take on it is that hybrid and fuel-cell systems are still flawed due to their continued reliance on fossil fuels. An all-electric vehicle would be ideal, and indeed we have our electric motor science down pat. What we lack are effective battery systems -- pound for pound, gasoline contains far more energy than our best batteries. Until we can improve our electrical energy storage, we are limited to either having a very small "gas tank", in which we'd have to stop and recharge every 50 miles or so, or a very large, heavy, slow vehicle carrying a ton or six of battery cells in order to extend the range of the vehicle. Neither is a generally viable solution.

The car manufacturers are reluctant to further research these alternate systems, I think, due to the fact that if you take away or reduce the internal combustion components of an engine, you reduce the stress and heat experienced by the engine, which means the engine parts fail less often, which means they sell fewer new cars. No company is going to deliberately research ways to reduce their profit.

Re:well that depends... (1)

mac123 (25118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025820)

>>with the hopes of getting 10-20 years (and 250,000+ miles) out of your vehicle, then you might actually save money in the long run

Well it's a good thing that the battery packs last for 10-20 years.

Oh, they don't?
They only last 5-7 years?
And they cost how much?

Oh crap...I gotta revise that cost/benefit spreadsheet.

Re:well that depends... (2, Insightful)

sdaemon (25357) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025839)

I think...didn't I just say...why yes I did: What we lack are effective battery systems.

Oxen eat grass, not gas! (1)

Ben Varrey (919558) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025787)

Now, in the long run, a mathematical model would prove much friendlier to our individual pocketbooks if we car-pooled when we could, rode bikes over short distances, and kept a stable of oxen and a few extra wagon wheels for those long trips down the Oregon Trail.

Does the environment count for nothing? (4, Interesting)

FellowConspirator (882908) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025794)

Actually, the analysis is based on MSRP, but I doubt anyone pays MSRP anymore. In fact, I've two Honda civics, one standard (for my wife), and one hybrid. The hybrid came with more options standard and ultimately I argued the price down to about $1400 of the normal Civic. I've made that up between tax breaks and gas savings, but better still it's ULEV that can go 600 miles on a tank of gas. That's pretty good.

As far as maintenance costs -- both have been excellent.

More Math Problems... (5, Insightful)

Corwyn ap (819325) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025801)

The article seems to be assuming that Gas prices remain constant through the life of a car. Anyone believe that? How about the same calculations assuming a 10% per year increase in gas prices (which they were this year before Katrina).

What about TDI? (1)

oni (41625) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025805)

What about the newer generation of deisel cars like the Volkswagens? They seem to squeeze more energy per unit volume of fuel. Sounds to me like that would be good for the environment.

most fuel-efficient? (5, Informative)

spud603 (832173) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025824)

from the article:
Gas-electric hybrids are the most fuel-efficient passenger cars on the road and ecologically there isn't a more viable option. Until something big changes, though, the industry-high efficiency can't economically offset the steep sticker price.

This is quite a sweeping claim, and one that I would contest. The VW Jetta TDI (diesel) gets consistently 55-60 mpg -- about as good as the best hybrids out there. What's more, diesel fuel uses less fuel in its manufacture than regular gasoline, meaning that the "embedded fuel" is significantly lower.
I tend to agree that much of the hybrid talk is hype and that getting 25 more miles out of a gallon of fuel does not make your car "green". What's much more, though, is the idea that hybrids get better mileage than any other cars on the road. Diesels, particularly some of the models by VW and Audi (in Europe, at least), prove that efficiency is more than just fancy technology.

Re:most fuel-efficient? (1)

spud603 (832173) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025884)

A link:

New Audi car gets about 79 mpg [] .

CNN had a similar article a month ago (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025859)

Right after the duo of hurricanes hit the Gulf, CNN had a similar article a month ago. While it didn't go into hard math they said had some easy examples. Essentially they said (at current gas prices, you'd have to drive for x years to begin to begin to see a return) or (it's only really a bargain if gas were like ~$5/gallon).

Unfortunately I can't find the one with the math, only some others saying that the hype isn't all that real.

I read 2 of their articles, one with some actual math (which I can't seem to find) and another simply saying it might be worth getting a 4cyl car to avoid wait times and the premium on hybrids.

While I think hybrids are definately a neat idea, I think the premiums on them are too steep for most to consider. Bring the price down and start putting them in more models of cars.

as opposed to.. (2, Insightful)

tont0r (868535) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025862)

the author considers all of the major factors to show just how much money a hybrid vehicle will or won't save you. In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."

as opposed to getting an SUV and having the only real winner be the car manufacture?

The unconsidered factor (1)

div_2n (525075) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025864)

One thing this article and everyone I've seen discussing the issue fails to take into account is the cutting of demand. If everyone in the US began driving hybrids and other fuel efficient cars, the consumption of gas would decrease. Anyone with two ounces of knowledge of economics knows what that means--decrease in gas prices. This would further result in savings for consumers.

I also think if the government would give graded tax incentives for efficient vehicles and tax penalties for inefficient vehicles, that would help. In other words, at some level of fuel economy you actually start to get taxed MORE for buying a vehicle with efficiency below that level.

and they won't catch on because... (1)

jbaltz (219494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025882)

Yeah, I went through a similar bit of mathematics when I thought I might have needed a second car for the household. It turned out that buying a cheaper car (like a Scion, e.g.) versus a hybrid was still cheaper for the number of miles I'd be driving. You have to drive pretty heavily for the hybrid to work out economically given the premia on them...

SUV premium just switched over to hybrid premium. (1)

phorest (877315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025887)

As usual, the car manufacturers will start to paste the hybrid label on anything with wheels. There used to be an SUV tax (markup) because they were the hot product. They were able to reduce the price of their econobox cars because they were making so much freakin' money from SUV's. Looks like it has switched the other way, judging by the falling prices of SUV's.

We'll be buying a big +6000lb'er and guess what, they're cheap now! Thank you to all the hybrid buyers out there and congress for those generous tax-breaks on +6000 GVW vehicles.

No sense of economics (1)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025888)

You can tell that this person hasn't taken any economics courses. His statement alone about the length of a loan having a large effect on the cost and the interest rate a small effect is the perfect customer for a credit card or auto loan company, because he'll be taking the longest term, highest interest rate loan and paying the minimum every month.

The only things that matter are:
  - Total cost of ownership of a new Accord (using a discount rate for future expenses).
  - Total cost of ownership of a new Prius (using a discount rate for future expenses).
  - Assume that you pay either car cash and compare new car vs new car.

Fewer mechanicals in hybrids? (1)

Toothpick (23095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025890)

From TFA:
non-hybrids have more mechanical systems to break down

I would LOVE to know where THIS tidbit came from. I can't possibly imagine a way for a parallel hybrid to have fewer mechanical systems than an equally boring driving appliance without a big electric traction motor(s).

My environment? (1)

Decameron81 (628548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025905)

"In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."

I never really liked those damned trees anyway.

Carpool Incentive (1)

huphtur (259961) | more than 8 years ago | (#14025906)

Driving solo in the carpool [] is worth getting a Hybrid for!
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