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The Math Behind the Hybrid Hype 1194

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the chart-and-graph-lovers dept.
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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The Math Behind the Hybrid Hype

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  • Re:"only" (Score:3, Informative)

    by lpangelrob (714473) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:46AM (#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.

  • by Flying pig (925874) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:50AM (#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.

  • most fuel-efficient? (Score:5, Informative)

    by spud603 (832173) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:51AM (#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.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:56AM (#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:
    http://mrprecision.blogspot.com/2005/05/why-public -transport-cant-work.html [blogspot.com]
  • Re:only winner (Score:3, Informative)

    by Corwyn ap (819325) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:57AM (#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.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:59AM (#14025911) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:04AM (#14025961) Journal

    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.

    That's oil cartel/Detriot propaganda talking. There are people driving battery operated vehicles from the early 90s (that's right BEVs -- not hybrids) that say they still get similar performance out of the batteries as they did when they first bought the car. Hybrids are new enough that it remains to be seen how well the batteries will hold up.

    In any case the recycling programs that already exist for batteries (in particular, lead-acid car batteries) are hugely successful. There is no reason other then pessimistic cynicism to assume that these programs couldn't scale to successfully recycle all batteries related to automotive technology without releasing harmful chemicals into the environment.

    What's easier to control? The chemical leakage out of a recycling plant with measures in place to prevent it or a tailpipe on your SUV?

  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ctrl-Z (28806) <timNO@SPAMtimcoleman.com> on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:05AM (#14025970) Homepage Journal
    Lead acid batteries, which I think are what are used in most hybrids, are the most recycled commodity in the country.

    I think that hybrids generally use NiMH, not lead-acid batteries. For instance, the Toyota Prius [wikipedia.org]. But I think that NiMH batteries are just as recyclable.
  • by raygundan (16760) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:06AM (#14025974) Homepage
    The batteries in the Prius are not lead-acid, as another poster pointed out. They're NiMH. In addition to that, they are warranted for 8yrs/100k miles, and expected to last the lifetime of the car without replacement, so it's unlikely that there will be much more than one battery pack per car lifetime on an average basis.

    Toyota recycles them completely, chemicals, metals, case, wiring, etc... and pays a $200 bounty to encourage people to do so. Their recycling program has been in place since the Rav4 EV, so it's a fairly mature process by now.
  • by hatless (8275) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:06AM (#14025983)
    I'm guessing the reason the article's author chose to structure things in terms of a bunch of new cars (hybrid and not) vs. a 1999 Honda Accord is because the author owns a 1999 Honda Accord. This alone gave the article an unnecessary slant. The basic conclusion -- that hybrids are more expensive to own on an installment plan than comparable standard and diesel cars -- is valid, but the gratuitous comparison to a six-year-old car exaggerates the differences by making everything a bad proposition compared to his 1999 Accord.

    Heck, how do I get a 1999 Accord for $4000 anyway? By lucking out at an auction? By buying one off my favorite aunt? Last I checked in my area, 1999 Accords in decent condition fetched at least 50% more than that even through private sellers. Use of honest numbers for comparison woud help. That and factoring in repair costs. I doubt his 1999 Accord is still under warranty, making average repair costs more expensive.

    Also, his favorite new-car-to-new-car comparison was between the Prius and the Toyota Corolla. The Corolla, though bigger for 2006 than past models, is a compact and the Prius is generally regarded as mid-sized, Edmunds database notwithstanding. And comparing a Prius to the stripped-down base Corolla is also a bit dishonest. The base Prius is equipped comparably to one of the upgraded Corollas that sell for $15,000-$16,000, not to ths stripped $12,000 model. Want a decently-equipped Toyota for $12,000? Go look at the Echo or whatever they renamed it. That's even smaller.

    The TCO advantage still belongs to the quality non-hybrid gasoline and diesel vehicles, but not as much as indicated here. And as gasoline prices pick up again this spring and likely top $3/gallon for good, the smaller-than-stated gap will narrow considerably.
  • by noahbagels (177540) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:17AM (#14026092)
    Hey there,
            I'm looking for a car and really wanted a Prius. We test drove on last weekend and I loved it (was ready to put down my deposit). One problem though, my wife (6'4") was too tall to sit in either front seat of the Prius. This wasn't just "Wanting more room". She couldn't sit there at all, without a pretty major contortion of her legs just to get the door shut for a 5 minute test drive.
            Here are some real stats: Toyota's happily made the Prius about 300 pounds heavier than the Civic Hybrid, so that it enters the "midsize" category of cars. See, cars are categorized by weight, not size. As it turns out, the Civic is larger in every external dimension (H,W,D) than the Prius, and yes - my wife fits in one just fine.
            I actually have no problem with the Prius, but it's funny that you get nearly $1000 more tax incentive with the Prius than the Civic as of Jan 1, 2006, because the Prius compares better to it's "weight class/midsize" than the Civic Hybrid compares to it's "weight class/compact". For safety & size, I'd go with the civic.
            One more thing - a well equipped Civic with 6 airbags standard (and I would assume Corolla, but haven't done the research) will get 40mpg highway and cost you about $7k less than the Prius.
  • by spud603 (832173) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:19AM (#14026109)
    Depends on what you mean by "dirty".

    diesel releases much smaller amounts of greenhouse gasses (CO_2, CO, SO_2, etc)
    diesel releases more particulates that contribute to smog and cause asthma.

    so you're right in part.

    anyway. the reference was to fuel efficiency.

  • by the_pooh_experience (596177) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:24AM (#14026158)
    Uhh... he did include gas prices from $2.50/gal to $10.00/gal on every single chart. This isn't good enough for you? I don't know that he would be well versed in fossil fuel futures, and even if he did include these, I don't know that I would believe them.
  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Informative)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:25AM (#14026169)
    What would it be like to manage the disposal of these batteries if there was suddenly tens of millions of such cars driving around?

    Current hybrids use Ni-MH batteries, which aren't particularly toxic from a disposal perspective, and, more importantly, conatin valuable metals that can be recovered through recycling.

    Toyota, for example, pays a $200 "bounty" for dead batteries, because the nickel in them is quite valuable.

    Ni-MH is probably the most "eco-friendly" battery technology. It's certainly worlds better than Ni-Cd.
  • Re:only winner (Score:3, Informative)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:29AM (#14026210)
    The problem is there is a finite amount of processed lead in the system. Ramping up the amount of lead in the system to meet such a massive new use will require large scale mining of new lead. Which is itself a very damaging process for the environment, requiring massive amount of energy and leading to serious polution of waterways.
  • Re:only winner (Score:4, Informative)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:34AM (#14026260)
    Hybrids derive thier electric power from regenrtve braking and only make use of thier electric motors when crusing and driving around town.

    Not quite. The Prius, for example, uses a power-split device that allows power to be directed from the engine through two motor-generators and the battery. This eliminates the need for a traditional transmission.

    If you have a 40 min highway commute the 4cyl gas engine is going to be doing most of the work and you wont even see the improved gas mileage of a hybrid.

    While hybrids are essentially conventional vehicles at high-speeds, they are conventional vehicles with engines that are appropriately designed to supply sustained power necessary to maintain speed. Because of the electric system, there isn't a need for a large, inefficent motor to provide acceptable accelration.

    The Prius, for example, uses a 76hp I-4 engine that uses the Miller cycle. Such an engine would be highly underpowered in a similar weight conventional vehicle.

    Its emissions will be the same as any other 4cyl car as well.

    The Prius, 2006 Civic Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid, and Escape Hybrid are all AT-PZEV certified. While there are some PZEV certified conventional vehicles (e.g. certain models of the Ford Focus), they are rare. The Prius and other PZEV vehicles are cleaner than non-PZEV vehicles, even at highway speeds.

    New diesels produce much lower emissions (sometimes better than thier unleaded counterparts) get excellent gas mileage (north of 40mpg for many models).

    No production diesel can currently meet California emission standards in the US. Mileage per gallon cannot be compared between diesel and gas as a measure of effiency because diesel has over 30% more energy per gallon than gasoline.

    NOx emissions are particularly problematic with diesel engines. The higher compression ratios create considerably more work for the catalytic converter.
  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Informative)

    by QMO (836285) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:35AM (#14026271) Homepage Journal
    And here I was thinking that asphalt was the most recycled stuff in the country.
    I'm in the United States.
    Are we in the same country?
    Are you thinking percentage recycled, or mass recycled?

    "Over 70 million metric tons of asphalt paving material is recycled each year. Today, asphalt pavement is America's most recycled material." from http://www.hotmix.org/history.php [hotmix.org]
  • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:42AM (#14026342) Homepage
    brejc8: 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.

    No, unfortunately in Europe our population distribution is massively unbalanced, squeezed into tiny mega-cities constrained by historical boundaries, that have great public transport, and everyone who lives in a rural area gets f**ked over.

    My local bus timetable [carlberry.co.uk] (local being two miles away). Yup, that's right; Tuesday-Friday we get 1 bus a day; you can go, but you can't come back until tomorrow. On Mondays we get two busses; sadly they go to different places so you still can't get home. No busses at all on Saturdays or Sundays. None of these busses go within 5 miles of where I work. None allow bikes on board.

    Given the total lack of understanding of rural communities by European townies and so-called "environmentalists" (who, ironically, usually have about as much knowledge of the countryside as I have of the Docklands Light Railway), quite frankly I'm just waiting for the day when they draw up the cattle trucks to forceably relocate all country folk to London. No doubt the townies would still complain about the cost of housing even then (CLUE: stop all trying to live in one small space, duh).
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:44AM (#14026376)
    I didn't say I'd do anything of the sort. I meant exactly what I wrote. Doing something, or having an an attitude or opinion, that is seen as distasteful by many people will have repercussions, including economic ones.

    You bet. Keying someones vehicle often ends with a mouthful of broken teeth in the keyer's mouth - or a jail term. "Repercussions" indeed.

    Wave your environmental flag all you want, educate people and make a positive contribution. That's all great. Descend into vandalism or worse, and you deserve what you'll inevitably get.

  • by Peter La Casse (3992) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:46AM (#14026390) Homepage
    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.

    I see this asserted periodically, but I've heard that it's not necessarily true for ordinary (non-hybrid) city buses that burn diesel fuel -- that all the stops and starts can give fuel efficiency that's actually worse per person than that of automobiles. There are secondary effects in the buses' favor (more people taking buses might lead to fewer traffic jams), but I'd like to see some real data before taking it on faith that mass transit is always better environmentally.

  • by JPriest (547211) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:58AM (#14026528) Homepage
    I don't have a bus stop or cab company within 40 miles of here. The closest thing we have to eco-friendly transportation around these parts are bicycles and motorcycles (which BTW, my bike is cheaper in cost and gas mileage than a prius). if you are just making the commute alone to work, motorcycles are great. If you still want to look like an artsy girly-man, get a moped at 1/8th of the cost of a hybrid car.
  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Informative)

    by yellena (79174) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:59AM (#14026541) Homepage
    [i]No production diesel can currently meet California emission standards in the US.[/i]

    Not true. The current diesel fuel standards in the US prevent the cleaner diesel engines from being sold. The engines exist and are being sold everyday in Europe. It's our dirty diesel fuel that is holding them back. Thankfully our diesel standards are set to go up in the next year or two which will open our markets to these very efficient and clean diesels.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Informative)

    by ppanon (16583) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:00PM (#14026544) Homepage Journal
    Nitric (or nitrous? I forget) oxides are also produced as a result of gasoline combustion leading to nitric acid when combined with atmospheric water vapour, and acid rain. While the sulphuric acid generated as a result of coal combustion is much nastier, the nitric acid produced by internal combustion engines is not inconsequential.
  • Re:Vanity (Score:5, Informative)

    by pla (258480) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:01PM (#14026557) Journal
    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.

    Okay, mr-stereotypical-SUV-driving-cellphone-talking mcdonalds-sucking-American-corporatist-pigdog, some of us actually do care about the environment.

    Very few people can tell that I use all CF lighting in my home and pick my CPUs based on power consumption (Athlon 64 all the way, baby!). My lawn "only" looks healthy, not the bright-chemo-green I could get by dumping fertilizer and weed killer on it. No one but me can tell that I go out of my way and pay more to fill my (SO's) car with B20 biodiesel. That I use biodegradable laundry detergent and non-chlorine bleach. That I manually duplex all my printouts, thus using only half the paper (and for personal use, I'll even do 2- or 4-up per side as well). That I post on Slashdot using 100% recycled electrons.

    You can't tell any of those things from a casual observation (well, I suppose if you came into my house you might notice the color of the CFs rather than incandescents). Therefore, I can't possibly have a "oh, look at me saving the environment! Look, look, I care!" motive. Nor can you attribute it (like the FP) to purely financial goals - Some of those save me money, some cost me more. The net gain goes straight to helping YOU breathe better.


    Unfortunately, I suspect that more often than not, you have it right. But hell, I'll take even the slight improvement of faux-environmentalists over a proud SUV owner any day.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Informative)

    by Bobosan (917446) <bobosan&gmail,com> on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:02PM (#14026573) Homepage
    Actually, the new Cummin's Disel engine for the ram trucks, the 600 model is emission's certified by California. There was a big deal because for the first time, Cummin's didnt have to design a seperate engine for the California market.
  • Re:only winner (Score:3, Informative)

    by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr&bhtooefr,org> on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:19PM (#14026724) Homepage Journal
    But the guy in a Suburban could likely (note that some people DO need the gas guzzlers. Most don't) drive a Civic, and commute 8 miles each way using less fuel than he did with the Suburban.
  • by superid (46543) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:21PM (#14026739) Homepage
    Prius mileage is VERY variable. In the coldest part of the winter we get in the low 40s or even the high 30's occasionally (disappointing). In the rain, or slush it gets very bad too (increased rolling resistance).

    When it's warm we usually are in the 50's on average. In really hot weather with an ideal traffic pattern, and a driver interested in maximizing battery usage, it's pretty easy to hit 60 MPG

    The 66.5 I quoted was one particular commute, my wifes actually, she arrived home and beeped the horn, refusing to shut off the car until I came out to witness the 66.5.
  • by spectral (158121) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:21PM (#14026745)
    The hybrid batteries (at least on the Prius) are NiMH, which are also rather recycleable, and you get 8 year warranty on it. I'm assuming Toyota is pretty confident that they'll last at least that long, otherwise they wouldn't be offering it.
  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:29PM (#14026826)
    No production diesel can currently meet California emission standards in the US. Mileage per gallon cannot be compared between diesel and gas as a measure of effiency because diesel has over 30% more energy per gallon than gasoline.

    And that somehow nullifies the comparison? Why?

    And, your data is completely wrong. Diesel contains 139,000 BTU/gallon. Gasoline contains 124,000 BTU/gallon. (both figures rounded to nearest 1000) That's about 10%, not 30%.

    However, the diesel combustion cycle is MUCH more efficient than most gasoline (Otto) combustion cycles. The Atkinson and Miller cycles can increase gasoline combustion efficiencies, but usually in a narrower operating region. THAT's where the difference comes in.

    NOx emissions are particularly problematic with diesel engines. The higher compression ratios create considerably more work for the catalytic converter.

    And continuing studies show that NOx emissions are not the "root cause" of air pollution that scientists once thought they were. "Cats" on diesel engines are near worthless, and NOx is almost completely handled by combustion technology. Run a modern diesel on 100% biodiesel, and even the emissions argument goes out the window. Your "net" CO2 emissions are drastically reduced (they would go to ZERO if the biodiesel production uses methanol derived from an organic source instead of natural gas.) Someone also addressed the cost "premium" of buying a diesel vehicle. The cost for the diesel upgrade on the new Passat is $255 (you read that right, two-hundred fifty-five 'murican dollars), and the reward is roughly 35% better fuel economy, and the ability to run on a renewable, sustainable fuel. How much over MSRP are people paying for Prii again?

  • Re:only winner (Score:4, Informative)

    by electroniceric (468976) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:29PM (#14026831)
    Very, very well put. Battery-powered vehicles have another couple big reason to support them beyond emissions.

    First, electric engines have a much higher limiting efficiency than combustion engines, at almost any power output. Simply put, electricity is easier to turn into mechanical motion than the chemical energy in hydrocarbons. That means power-hungry drivers can get the power they love at lower energy cost.

    Second, by using gas for cars, we are committing ourselves to running two parallel and totally non-interoperable energy distribution infrastructures, which in itself is massively wasteful and polluting, quite aside from the polluting output of the hydrocarbon energy. At least when it comes to motion-making (the converse of #1 is that electricity to heat is a very poor conversion), we should be pushing for a combined distribution system, with modular inputs and outputs. This compatible-architecture gives you the same kinds of benefits as the Internet: open standards for energy are good just like in software.

    Given that a perfectly functional electricty infrastructure already exists, getting power to most commuter cars is pretty straightforward: some digitally lockable power cords at your parking garage or meter that can deal with charging for power. Or some system of exchanging drained batteries for charged ones. None of which is that hard, particularly if the gov't chips in some $$$ to get the ball rolling.

    Third, the most promising portable energy solutions all point towards electric engines: fuel cells, hydrogen, etc. So we should be getting as many kinks as possible worked out of electric car engines, including performance, disposal, fabrication supply chain, etc, as they are the future.

    The fact that an implementable technology like batteries has been completely shunted aside in favor of vapordrive is indeed infuriating.
  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:37PM (#14026890)
    They finished it two or three years ago. They did it together with some funding from the federal government. However, before they even showed it at a car show, another arm of the government had changed the law so that Diesels cannot qualify as PZEV (partial zero emissions vehicles), and so they no longer made sense for the companies to even consider making, as they wouldn't help them make their low-emissions mix of production.

    As to Diesels making power, they don't make much power. Power is horsepower, Diesels are low on HP. They make a lot of torque, but due to the gearing necessary due to the low redlines, most of that doesn't make it through to the wheels where it would do you any good. And Diesels only make all that torque with complex turbocharging setups (see the new Mercedes 3.2L tri-turbo engine).

    With low-sulfur gas and direct gasoline injection, gasoline engines also don't have to close the throttle plate when you let off the gas. They do quite well on the highway.

    As to the 45mpg, it's nice. Do the math though. With Diesel costing $0.50 more per gallon right now, the breakeven point of getting your extra $1K or more back that you paid for that engine instead of a gas one is well outside of 100,000 miles.

    Say a gas engine gets 26mpg and Diesel 33mpg. You use 4 gallons per 100 mi in the gas engine, 3 in the Diesel. Gas costs $2.50/gallon, Diesel $3.00. So you use $10/100 mi in the gas engine, $9 with the Diesel. So you save $1 for every 100 miles. To save $1000, you have to drive 1000*100 or 100,000 miles. That's before you pay the extra for Diesel maintenance (particulate filters are the newest extra cost). And yes, I know the Diesel does better than 33mpg, but the gas engine does better then 24 also. The numbers get worse if the Diesel gets 40 and the car 29, which is more on track.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Informative)

    by Engineering_bully (900092) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:39PM (#14026905)
    The plots are easily reproducible in matplotlib [sourceforge.net] using Python, or if you want to go the commercial route try PV Wave [vni.com] by Visual Numerics.

  • by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:42PM (#14026943) Journal
    The article throws out a lot of math but the bottom line is it only compares the improved gas mileage vs. the purchase cost and residual value of the car. This is a very short sited way to look at the situation. It is equivalent to GM concentrating on the next quarterly results and failing to plan for the next ten years (the situation they find themselves in now). It fails to also include a reduction of insurance costs that is being offered by some insurance providers, and a significant tax credit available for the near future. However, ignoring this, there is a number of indirect costs that would also be reduced in the long run. The hybrid car represents a start to a better and safer future for the world. Everyone in the US, both wealthy and poor, should consider the following:

    First of all, reducing the US dependency on oil, whether domestic or foreign, is something each of us can do that will directly and immediately impact the war on terror. That's right. In case you didn't realize it, the US is fighting the war in Iraq because of oil. It's not to say that there aren't other causes (there are), and it's not to say that our foreign policy hasn't been driven by our oil requirements before (it has), but if the US didn't need a stable supply of oil we'd still be fighting the injustices in Iraq by diplomacy instead of by force. The war in Iraq costs each US citizen about $0.83 per gallon of gas (at least 5 billion per month war cost divided by 6 billion gallons of gas per month used in the US). And the US attempting to control the politics of the middle east to provide a stable source of oil for the US economy fuels terrorism (whether valid or not). Bottom line, citizens everywhere and especially in the US can take money out of the hands of terrorists if we reduce our dependency on oil.

    Next, the hybrid car allows the auto manufacturers to develop the technology needed to replace the gas powered ICE (internal combustion engine) while still remaining profitable. Major changes represented by a "hydrogen economy" is very risky from a business perspective. The established players (GM, Ford, Exxon, Shell, etc.) are reluctant to change quickly because of the risks involved. New players have difficulty securing financing because of the same risks. The hybrid provides a crucial platform in terms of the real world for some of the enabling technology (flex fuel, PV modules, battery, energy conservation, software control, etc.). You don't go from a well understood technology (discrete gas powered ICE) to new tech (multiple power sources, multiple transmission inputs, computer assisted power management, etc.) without growing pains and without real world usage.

    Third, the hybrid car lets us transition off of oil one step at a time. It avoid the totally impractical necessity of a whole new and unproven infrastructure for cars (whether hydrogen, electricity, or whatever, whether for fuels or vendor supplies, or trained technicians, etc.) to be in place before we can start transitioning. Without the hybrid car, the cost of transitioning to a new form of auto power would be much much higher. So, the fact that the hybrid can work off the existing infrastructure while improving efficiency, paving the way for oil independence, and provide a platform to develop the required tech is an uncounted cost savings.

    Most practically, however, a plug-in hybrid car ties in very nicely with future efficiency gains in electricity production. As power companies get more efficient and cleaner at producing electricity, you can use that electricity to charge your car at home if you have a plug-in hybrid. And because the hybrid can still use gas from any old gas station, you are not stuck depending on electrical outlets away from home. Battery tech is improving by leaps and bounds as well. I predict in 5 years the batteries in a plug-in hybrid will be able to provide 200 miles of driving range. While 200 miles isn't as much as a full tank of gas, it is enough for most daily driving. T
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Informative)

    by Strider-BG (103059) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:44PM (#14026958)
    The answer to your hydrogen question is of course another question that is currently unsolved by all the manufacturers and environmentalists. Where will the hydrogen come from? Right now the bulk of hydrogen comes from Natural Gas. Nice for the ozone layer, bad for our dependence on foreign oil. Your other option is to crack water. Those molecules are VERY stable and it takes a LOT of energy to split them. And once you've done that fuel cells waste 30% of their energy to heat. There's a great article in Car and Driver about this. People talk about Hydrogen as if it's a SOURCE for energy; it's not. It's merely a storage medium. Nope, the only way we can move to a Hydrogen economy would be to build a whole 'lotta nuclear power plants.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id =27&article_id=9978 [caranddriver.com]
  • just hit google... (Score:2, Informative)

    by decompiler (690527) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:53PM (#14027064)
    it took a 10 second google search for "hybrid battery disposal" to find these three results on the first page:

    toyota's recycling initiatives [toyota.co.jp]
    hybridcars.com's FAQ [hybridcars.com]
    treehugger.com article with some good resource links [treehugger.com]

    seriously, man, use your noodle.
  • Re:The "environment" (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:13PM (#14027244)
    "2. The US is over twice the size of Europe so that does present some barriers to public transportation."

    What? Since when did 9,631,000 sqkm (US) become larger than 9,938,000 sqkm (Europe)?
  • by dptalia (804960) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:24PM (#14027349) Homepage Journal
    This article [jewishworldreview.com] points out that you're comparing apples to oranges too:

    But profits can't be judged by dollar amounts alone. What counts is the percentage of revenues those profits represent. "Our numbers are huge because the scale of our industry is huge," Exxon CEO Lee Raymond tried, probably in vain, to explain during last week's big Senate hearing on oil company profits. Exxon's profits last quarter amounted to 9.8 cents for every dollar of sales. Is that obscene? Well, it was more profitable than Shell (which netted 7.8 cents of each dollar of revenue) or Chevron (6.6 cents) or BP (4.6 cents). But compared to Coca-Cola (21.2 cents), Bank of America (28.3 cents), or Microsoft (33.2 cents), it was nothing to write home about.

    Oil companies invest billions. getting a billion (or even 100 billion) isn't that much. The government, on the other hand has "made" $2.2 trillion on gas taxes. Thats money you and I could have spent elsewhere.

    The government doesn't have enough to maintain roads? That's because the so called transportation money goes elsewhere - even money spent on transportation is more likely to go to new projects as that gets better visibility. Repairing roads isn't sexy and it doesn't get you votes.

  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Informative)

    by bjn (168572) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:31PM (#14027425)
    Part of the reason fuel taxes are high in Europe is that, post the '70s oil crisis, governments decided to keep fuel prices high so as to reduced demand, generally by efficiency measures. That way dependancy of foreign sources of energy would be reduced and the next inevetable oil crisis would not cause the kind of problems the one in the '70s did.
  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Informative)

    by rsborg (111459) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:47PM (#14027578) Homepage
    Gee. $200 is a HUGE consolation against the $7k you get to spend on new batteries every 100k miles. I have to disagree w/ the article about the maintenance costs "balancing out".

    Replacement costs are down to about $3000 [greenhybrid.com] now.

    Battery replacement costs have dropped to about $3,000 today from $10,000 or more in 2001 -- about the same cost as replacing a worn-out gasoline engine in a conventional vehicle.
    Also Toyota warranties the battery for 100K miles/8 years... at the end of said time, I'm sure the replacement cost will be much lower. Where did you get your $7000 figure?
  • by fyrie (604735) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:48PM (#14027586)
    I just googled "prius battery lifespan" and came back with 8-10 years. http://carpoint.ninemsn.com.au/portal/alias__carpo intau/tabID__6491/ArticleID__5487/DesktopDefault.a spx [ninemsn.com.au] Batteries are now $3000. Hopefully they'll be much cheaper by the time you would need one.
  • by Eagle'sFlight (693778) on Monday November 14, 2005 @03:16PM (#14028333) Homepage
    As the site was apparently /.ed before I could read it, I can not speak to the math therein.

    As a hybrid owner, I can speak to the fiscal feasibility of owning a Honda Insight.

    When I purchased my car I was driving 66 miles one-way to work in a 1990 Chevy 1/2 ton with a 4.3 V6 engine.
    At 15-17 miles per gallon that's 7.76 to 8.8 gallons/day (132 mile round trip).
    7.76 * $1.80/gal = $13.97/day in gas
    5 days/week * $13.97/day = $69.84/week
    4 weeks * 69.84/week = $279.36/month
    Today's gas price in my area is $2.50/gal this brings this total to $388/month
    (FYI: The truck was paid off so there was no note)

    With the hybrid:
    Car note of $265/month (Purchased used with 7,600 miles for $11,500)
    Decrease in insurance of $20/month
    Subtotal $245/month
    @ 65 mpg = 2.03 gal/day
    @ $1.80/gal = $73/month
    @ $2.50/gal = $101.54/month

    Totals:
    @ $1.80/gal = $318
    @ $2.50/gal = $346.54

    Difference of:
    @ $1.80/gal the Car is more expensive by $38.64/month
    @ $2.50/gal the Truck is more expensive by $41.46/month

    Even when the car was costing me more money in the end I had something tangable.
    With the truck all the cost was in fuel which has no resale value after use.
    It may be good for the environment, but for my particular situation it was a financially sound purchase as well.
  • Re:only winner (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @03:39PM (#14028530)

    Just curious, but what happened to good people putting their own money where their ideas are? Why are there so many calls for the Govt. to chip in "$$$" - (by that I assume a six-digit or higher amount of tax dollars)- to initiate change in economy? I don't remember reading that Henry Ford was subsidised, or that the Govt. gave $$$ to that-(at the time)- special-interest group to build the infrastructure.

    If this is such a good thing, (which I think it is), why don't people initiate it themselves? If they believe in it so much, why don't they use their own money instead of using the taxes of the general populace who don't agree with them yet?

    this is not a troll, I am seriously wanting to know where the risk-takers are hiding, and why they are not jumping on this 'great idea?' The reason I hate seeing money funneled from the Govt. to is because when the Govt. does give $$$, it tends to be less than half as effective. (ie. To get the same effectiveness, the Govt. spends three to four times as much $$$ as a private company.)

  • I agree, mostly (Score:3, Informative)

    by TamMan2000 (578899) on Monday November 14, 2005 @04:31PM (#14028978) Journal
    You got just about all of it correct, but CO2 is not the only emmision product of biodiesel combustion. NOx is perhaps the most important difference between biodiesel and unleaded. And this has nothing to do (directly) with the fuel itself. The major source of the NOx problem is the higher opperating temperatures in diesel engines (which you will recall from thermo class is also the reason they are more efficient), so there is little that can be done currently to solve the NOx problem..

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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