Hybrid Cars. A NO NO

In 1899, the first hybrid car was created by Henri Pieper, a German living in Belgium, with Ferdinand Porsche developing a more advanced version a year after. While hybrid cars were invented over 100 years ago, it wasn’t until 2000 that the Toyota Prius became the first hybrid was launched in North America. 100 years from conception to mass produced.

As the price of gas continues to rise, as well as the concerns regarding the environment, more families are looking towards saving money when travelling from home to work, or from home to the beach. Unless you are fortunate enough to live close enough to your place of employment to walk, nearly everyone requires and owns a vehicle.

Nearly every major automotive company now has supplemented their traditional gas powered vehicles with either full electric or hybrid vehicles. A lot is made of the lower litres per 100 kilometres as well as being better to the environment. Along with the purchase of a hybrid car, you get a superior feeling that you are more green than your neighbours who still drive gas guzzling cars. After all, you have a little badge on the back of your car that states that you drive a hybrid! You use less gas so you will have more money left over for the fun things in life. Right?

Before you rush out to trade in your 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Sportwagon for a Toyota Prius, perhaps you should pull out a calculator and check the numbers. How much money are you actually going to save by driving a hybrid rather than a normal car? How long are you going to keep your hybrid?

A quick look at three car companies, Ford, Toyota and Honda, reveals several hybrid versions of their normal cars. It will also reveal that on average, a hybrid car costs more to buy. That makes sense, after all, isn’t a hybrid more advanced with more technical bits inside that make it better?

Let us say that you are looking for a family car, one that you can drive to and from work as well as road trips. For various reasons you have come down to three companies, the aforementioned Ford, Toyota and Honda and are trying to decide between the base version of the normal car, or the base version of the hybrid.

 

Make Car Type Price Diff in car price
Ford Fusion Hybrid $29499
Fusion Base $16999 $12500
Toyota Camry Hybrid $26990
Camry Base $23700 $3290
Honda Civic Hybrid $24990
Civic Base $14990 $10000

That is pretty clear isn’t it. You pay more for the hybrid version. The base Camry is nearly $10,000 more than either other vehicle and the exception. So what is the difference in fuel consumption? Is it a lot?

Make Car Type 100 city 100 hwy 100 combined
Ford Fusion Hybrid 4.6 5.4 5
Fusion Base 9.5 6.2 7.85
Toyota Camry Hybrid 4.5 4.9 4.7
Camry Base 8.2 7 7.6
Honda Civic Hybrid 4.4 4.2 4.3
Civic Base 7.2 5.4 6.3

These numbers are from the respective websites. It is quite apparent that you get better mileage with a hybrid than you do with the base model gas driven vehicle. The biggest improvement appears to be when driving in the city, stopping and starting, driving at slow speeds. For the sake of argument, let’s say that you drive 20,000 km a year. If you live in St. Thomas and work in London, that is roughly what you would be driving a year. Gas prices are bouncing up and down, mainly up though so it is difficult to predict how much gas will cost in the next few years. Let’s hope for the best and guess $1.5 a litre. Expensive but you do need to drive don’t you. How much money a year will it cost you to fill up your vehicle?

Using the combined fuel consumption of the Fusion Hybrid as an example, 20,000km a year at 5 litres per 100km at the average price of $1.50 a litre for gas gives you a fuel cost of $1,500 a year. Another way to look at it would be 20,000km divided by 100km (measurement of choice) gives 200, which when multiplied to the number of litres per 100km, 5, gives you 1,000. 1,000 multiplied by the price of gas gives you $1,500. It is easier than it looks! So using that formula:

Make Car Type Gas Cost/Year Diff in Gas Year
Ford Fusion Hybrid $1500
Fusion Base $2355 $855
Toyota Camry Hybrid $1410
Camry Base $2280 $870
Honda Civic Hybrid $1290
Civic Base $1890 $600

That is pretty impressive numbers. You are saving that much just by driving a hybrid? That is almost another trip to Vegas! Why doesn’t everyone drive a hybrid if this is how much you save a year? Oh wait, aren’t you forgetting something? That’s right, the price of the vehicle to being with, but surely that isn’t going to make much of a difference is it? Let’s see:

Make Car Type Price Diff in car price Diff in Gas Year Years diff
Ford Fusion Hybrid $29499
Fusion Base $16999 $12500 $855 14.6
Toyota Camry Hybrid $26990
Camry Base $23700 $3290 $870 3.7
Honda Civic Hybrid $24990
Civic Base $14990 $10000 $600 16.6

Do you see that Years column on the right hand side? That is how many years you will need to own your vehicle to saved enough money to match the base model gas powered car. It is scareily simple math. Just divide the difference in car prices by the difference in gas per year. You have to own your vehicle a long time before you have actually saved money. If you sell your hybrid before this time, you are losing money.

Obviously the factors at play, distance per yer and gas prices will vary from person to person and year to year but these can be taken into account as well. The more you drive, the longer it will take to catch up financially. The higher gas prices go though, the sooner it will happen. And incase you are wondering how high does the price of gas have to rise to make it worth while buying a Fusion Hybrid? It’s higher than anyone would be willing to pay.

So other than the fact you would have to own your hybrid for many years and not drive a lot to make up the money quickly, who wouldn’t want a hybrid? Well there is that one thing we haven’t mentioned, batteries. Most hybrid and electrical vehicles have not been on the roads driven in real life situations for more than ten years, most a lot less so no one really knows how long the batteries are going to last. Just like your laptop, the batteries in the car will slowly die and need replacing. That could be a couple of thousand not including labour.

Is that the worst of it? Well, no.

Remember when you bought the hybrid to save the world, help the environment and to let everyone know that you cared more than everyone else. Well about that. Right now there are three major types of batteries used by hybrid cards. Let’s start with the least dangerous, lithium-ion. This is what are used in laptops and mp3 players. Then we have nickel-metal hydride are more dangerous because they are a carcinogenic. Lastly we have the good old lead-acid battery which obviously contains lead.

So much for saving the planet!

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