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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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  • only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:34AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by onepoint (301486) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:43AM (#14025733) Homepage Journal
      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lowrydr310 (830514) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:59PM (#14027116)
        When I was living in Southern California I rode my bike to work about twice a week. It was normally a 8 mile drive, however there was too much traffic along the road. Instead, I rode three miles extra to ride on the wonderful bike path that stretches from Redondo Beach to Santa Monica/Malibu. Riding along the beach was a wonderful way to start and end my workday!

        Now that I'm living elsewhere and have a longer drive to work, I've looked into alternatives to save fuel. There's no carpool/vanpool from my house to work and public transportation is out of the question (It's possible, but involves a 3 mile drive to train station, three trains, and 2 hours).

        For now I'm stuck with my Honda Accord however at 33MPG I can't complain, even if gas was $3 a gallon again. I noticed that when gas prices were over $3 a gallon, most of the people complaining were drivers of SUVs and pickup trucks. I personally don't have a problem with gas being $3 or even $4 a gallon. The cheaper the better, but the net effect of higher gas prices would be lower consumption. I still miss the days when $10 would get me over 300 miles with my 89 Honda Civic!

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

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:46AM (#14025766) Journal
      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by loveandpeace (520766) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:48AM (#14025783) Homepage Journal

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Locutus (9039) on Monday November 14, 2005 @02:57PM (#14028181)
        As energy prices go higher and higher, more and more will start to realize that green can be econonmical too. But, that "money-draining nightmare" you mention is well entrenched in many because it has been just that, money-draining, in the past when energy was considered cheap. Not to mention that "conservation" is a dirty word in the US because it's unAmerican. Keeping up with the "Jones" and spend-spend-spend is promoted everywhere.

        Regarding this "Math Behind the Hybrid Hype" article, did it include saving related to lower vehicle maintenance costs? Nobody ever mentions these things, which I believe will reduce repair/replacement costs:

        1) The brake pads will wear less because of regenerative braking
        2) NO transmission repair costs, it uses constant mesh planetary gears instead
        3) minimized eng wear because the electric motor handles high torque demands
        4) minimized eng wear because the engine is spun up BEFORE any cylinder ignition
        5) minimized eng wear because the engine fires 2 cyl and then the other 2 on start
        6) The engine was designed lighter because of the shared load so bearing wear is reduced
        7) minimized eng and exhaust system wear because of first 5 minute warmup cycle

        The site is down so I can't verify if he included these in his "math" but since even other Prius owners don't seem to consider these, I figure he missed it too. BTW, I own a 2001 model Prius and it has been a very reliable car so far and we expect more of the same. We will know if that continues since we typically keep our vehicles for 10 - 15 years.

        And I agree, anything which opens eyes to environmentally better consumables is a good thing.

        LoB
    • Re:only winner (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Golias (176380) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:48AM (#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 (Score:3, Informative)

        by Corwyn ap (819325)
        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:5, Informative)

          by Ctrl-Z (28806) <tim.timcoleman@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 ahfoo (223186) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:43AM (#14026360) Journal
            And this is a key point that the author overlooked in the economic analysis. It's similar to saying the world's space programs have all been a total economic waste and reaching that conclusion by eliminating all of the economic side effects that have resulted from the technology that went into those space programs. That's a political statement, not an analysis.
                    The large-scale production of NiMh battery arrays that go into hybrids is rapidly reducing the unit price of these high energy density storage devices. Now, is it really a great lap of logic to think that low-cost high energy density rechargeable electricity packs might find use in other products besides hybrid vehicles once the price is right?
                    Not only has the price of large arrays of NiMh cells gone down dramatically in a short time, but the early stages of an upramp in large arrays of Li-Ion batteries is beginning as well.
                    But wait, there's more!
                    Supercapacitors. Did you know that the regenerative braking system in Japanese hybrids uses arrays of supercapacitors? Again, the technology has been around for a long time, the real issue is price and the price doesn't come down until we get economies of scale and we don't get economies of scale until we get a consumer grade product that uses masses of these devices.
                    The availability of these high energy density devices at low prices is almost guaranteed to have fall-over effects in all sorts of different consumer markets. Unless you take those significant advantages into consideration, it's really just a snipe to draw a conclusion about the lack of economic value in a hybrid car.
                   
        • 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]
      • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cgenman (325138) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:15AM (#14026068) Homepage
        It would be interesting to see a similar paper on Total Environmental Impact.

        It would be interesting to see a paper on Total Economic Impact including environmental costs. It has always bugged me that environmental impact papers don't generally include the cost of asthma-related hospitalizations, increases in lung cancer, the detrimental effects of acid rain on equipment, etc.

        The kyoto protocol was one way we've put a price on air pollution. How much would the equivalent amount of environmental pollution cost on the open market?

        • Re:only winner (Score:3, Insightful)

          by s20451 (410424)
          Claims of increased disease rates, such as asthma, are inevitably fuzzy because they can have more than one cause and vary significantly from place to place. In many cases, it is difficult to say what exactly causes a disease, and it is possible that local combinations of factors are causing effects that are attributed to pollution. So such cost/benefit analyses are inevitably controversial and potentially misleading.

          For example, some controversial estimates of casualties from Chernobyl ran into the hundr
      • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Manitcor (218753) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:24AM (#14026157) Homepage
        I notice an often missed point in many hybrid articles. Hybrids derive thier electric power from regenrtve braking and only make use of thier electric motors when crusing and driving around town. 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.

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

        The mentioned incentives to allow hybrid cars to use the HOV lanes actually hurts since they see thier best fuel econ in stop and go traffic.

        For real high economy, low enviromental impact look toward diesels for the time being. New diesels produce much lower emissions (sometimes better than thier unleaded counterparts) get excellent gas mileage (north of 40mpg for many models). Further by desgin diesel engines are multi-fuel so when the next replacement for dino fuel comes around, most likely your diesel engine can run it with little or no modifcation.

        Yes a diesel engine costs more, it will also last longer and be more reliable than gas engines. Not to mention for the real geek you can make your own fuel for pennies a gallon.
        • 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 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: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: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:4, Interesting)

        by will-el (78139) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:26AM (#14026180)
        >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.

        The prius battery is actually quite small- about the size of a small suitcase. It is composed of 280 D cells (actual consumer D cells were used in the initial Japanese models). In terms of energy, it holds about a HALF A CUP of gasoline. This is all that is needed to smooth out the peaks and valleys of energy demand during stop and go driving, thus allowing a smaller (hence more efficient) gasoline engine.

        >What would it be like to manage the disposal of these batteries >if there was suddenly tens of millions of such cars driving >around?

        Recycling. The nickel in the NiMH batteries is valuable enough that recycling pays for itself. They can be melted down and used again and again and again... The electrolite is plain old
        potassium hydroxide; caustic but no more "hazardous" than bleach.

        For an outstanding whitepaper on the prius drivetrain (including mathcad models), see:
        http://home.earthlink.net/~graham1/MyToyotaPrius/P riusFrames.htm [earthlink.net]
      • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Alex P Keaton in da (882660) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:00PM (#14026547) Homepage
        Ugh- I always get beat up for saying this, but in my opinion, each of us should be judged on gallons per commute or gallons per week, not miles per gallon. Driving 500 miles per week, which is common, in a "green" vehicle doesn't make you more eco friendly than the guy who drives 50 miles per week in an SUV that gets half as many miles per gallon.... I am not saying go buy an SUV. I am saying that if you have a Civic with a "Love you mother" bumpersticker with a pic of th earth, and commute 50 miles each day each way, you really can't scoff at the guy in a suburban commuting 8 miles each way....
      • by irritating environme (529534) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:17PM (#14026706)
        Papers like these are crowning examples of why economics is not just imperfect, but a fundamentally flawed "science". Cost and pricing, according to economic theory, are supposed to represent actual real-world values of labor and resources consumed to produce something. The fact that economics cannot properly account, even remotely, the degradation of the environment and account for how this will impact us in ten to 100 years means that its recommendations should be taken within a strictly constrainted box.

        However, economics has become the modern religion of politics, with its "experts" word taken as golden writ, despite the path of ruination it leads us to. The world continues to ramp up nonsustainable consumption of all resources, especially as China, India, and other countries modernize. The only route to redefining the costs and economic behaviors is government regulation, which is now so passe and under steady assault, both explicitly through increased conservatism, and practically by offshoring all manufacturing in unregulated countries.

        Of course Slashdot happily plops shit like this paper on slashdot as the holy scree of the economists, as if that is the end all be all. W00t! Hybrid owners p0wn'd, we're l33t kewl.

        please.
        • by jambarama (784670) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {amarabmaj}> on Monday November 14, 2005 @04:26PM (#14028938) Homepage Journal
          I'm sorry but this is the type of idiocy that runs rampant (conservatives as well as librerals use it). If you don't get the result you want you claim the science is wrong. Economics is not a fundamentally flawed science. What you are calling economics is actually finance. This guy ran a financial analysis NOT an economic one.

          With a proper and more full economic analysis you would include costs to the environment (say the cost of cleaning up extra pollution, or the opportunity costs of using the oil for gas, or economies of scale when more people purchase hybrids). Poor analysis isn't the fault of economics, it is the fault of the economist.
      • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dasunt (249686) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:51PM (#14027609)

        I once looked up the amount of pollution caused by the manufacture of a new vehicle. It has a significant environmental impact.

        I once calculated the environmental impact of driving an old junker versus buying a new car, and driving the old junker for five more years ended up being ahead of the new car.

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

      by Shakrai (717556) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:59AM (#14025907) Journal

      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.

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

        by saskboy (600063) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:10AM (#14026023) Homepage Journal
        "Who here wouldn't own a battery powered electric vehicle if it had about 300-350 miles of range?"

        That's not enough range for half a million drivers in Saskatchewan, and it wouldn't do well in winter. A hybrid can provide heat to the passengers without an electric heater which might be too much strain on a vehicle's battery?

        I'm not saying battery cars shouldn't proceed to be adopted, but not everyone can have one for what they need.
        • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jazman (9111) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:27PM (#14026807)
          Good point. Anything that wouldn't work in Saskatchewan obviously wouldn't be any use anywhere else on the planet.
      • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Aumaden (598628) <Devon.C.Miller@g ... minus herbivore> on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:19AM (#14026114) Journal
        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?
        I suspect time and availability of recharging are factors.

        When the gas tank gets low, it's a few minutes at the station to refuel. With batteries you're looking at a few hours to recharge. Also, where can you plug in to recharge? In an apartment without reserved parking, you can't guarantee being able to get to a plug. I can imagine most landlords having a problem with long extension cords running across the parking lot.

        If a gasoline-powered car runs out of gas, the driver can hitch a ride to a station and back with a couple of gallons. What do you do when if/when your batteries run out? Getting towed is expensive.

        The early electric cars were also just plain ugly [ieee-virtual-museum.org].
        • Re:only winner (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Shakrai (717556) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:36AM (#14026283) Journal

          I suspect time and availability of recharging are factors.

          They are factors but not insurmountable ones. For 95% of your activity simply recharging your BEV overnight would be good enough. Think about it -- you go to work (30 miles in my case -- that's probably average for the US), work all day, then you go home. Even if you go out and party until last call your car still has several hours to be recharged before you go back to work.

          Also, where can you plug in to recharge? In an apartment without reserved parking, you can't guarantee being able to get to a plug. I can imagine most landlords having a problem with long extension cords running across the parking lot.

          And that should stop Detroit/et all from investing in this technology? Those are hardly insurmountable problems. It's not a big leap of faith to picture "BEV friendly" apartment complexes or worksites.

          If a gasoline-powered car runs out of gas, the driver can hitch a ride to a station and back with a couple of gallons. What do you do when if/when your batteries run out? Getting towed is expensive.

          Well there's no reason to run out of gasoline or battery power other then stupidity on the part of the owner. I've never run out of gas.

          My whole point is that this technology should not have been abandoned. Why isn't it still being researched? What about that new battery chemistry that we read about awhile ago that recharges to 90% in only a few minutes? Could that scale into BEV sizes? Why the hell isn't nobody researching and building these things? I would buy one -- so would a lot of other people.

          Hell, if Detroit would invest half the money into BEV technology that they spend on marketing for the H2 and Grand Cherokee.....

          • 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.
          • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

            by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:31PM (#14027422)
            For 95% of your activity simply recharging your BEV overnight would be good enough.

            And for the other 5%? A range of 300-350 miles between recharges means that I can't make any plans to travel any further than ~150 miles as the crow files from my home. That's not even enough to make it from New York to Boston and back. What will become of the Great American Road Trip?

            It's not a big leap of faith to picture "BEV friendly" apartment complexes or worksites.

            Yes it is. Hell, very few communities in the US even provide BICYCLE LANES. If an environmentally-friendly travel device that's nearly 150 years old can't make any headway, what are the odds that a brand-new, much more expensive device could? Between zero and nil.

            Well there's no reason to run out of gasoline or battery power other then stupidity on the part of the owner. I've never run out of gas.

            Congratulations, you're not stupid! You may have noticed, though, that many motorists ARE stupid. How do we deal with them? Pretending they're not there or not important isn't an option.

            My whole point is that this technology should not have been abandoned. Why isn't it still being researched?

            Oh, I'm sure it still is -- just not with plans for bringing it to market in the near-term. Even if current all-electric tech meets YOUR needs, the industry's research has convinced them that the technology isn't ready for prime time.

            Maybe in 10-15 years.

  • by brejc8 (223089) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:35AM (#14025653) Homepage Journal
    Here in Europe the fuel prices [theaa.com] 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.
    • "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 driv

    • 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]
    • 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).
  • "only" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvilNTUser (573674) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:35AM (#14025656)

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

    And that isn't enough?

    • Re:"only" (Score:3, Informative)

      by lpangelrob (714473)
      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" (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 2nd Post! (213333)
        Except that EVERYONE who can afford an SUV, sports car, or luxury car can afford a hybrid.

        Upgrading from v4->v6 or v6->v8 has a similar markup to buying a hybrid.

        So affording a hybrid is not the limiting factor here; the world would be a better place if every unnecessary SUV was replaced with a comparable hybrid (even if it was a hybrid SUV).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:36AM (#14025666)
    umm...

    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.

    • Well... Actually the article is a complete load of total and utter bullshit.

      It compares fuel based savings versus cost of repayment which is incorrect.

      You should compare versus combined depreciation + cost to run.

      While the overall conclusions may end up being the same the numbers are likely to be quite different.
  • It's not the money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by superid (46543) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:37AM (#14025675) Homepage
    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.

  • So True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by $calar (590356) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:37AM (#14025676) Journal
    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.
  • by PrinceAshitaka (562972) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:37AM (#14025680) Homepage
    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.
    • Yup, and it's also worth mentioning that some of us can't even make use of hybrid technology (regardless of the initial and ongoing costs) until the vehicles can actually do what other vehicles can do. Yes, one of my family vehicles is a full-sized SUV with a big engine. On a drive this weekend, I hauled about 900 pounds worth of people, 275 pounds worth of dogs, and about 350 pounds worth of gear, and drove about 450 miles (several of which were over some poor rocky, muddy roads, and part of which was in s
  • The "environment" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dynamoo (527749) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:37AM (#14025683) Homepage
    "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.

    • by OakDragon (885217) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:46AM (#14025770) Journal
      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.

      • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:04AM (#14025955) Journal
        The U.S. doesn't "underprice" fuel; Europe taxes and regulates the bejeezus out of theirs.
        The US subsidizes the price of fuel by not accounting the externalities such as the public health costs of the pollution (most respiratory diseases are a direct result of car exhaust) and the costs of the US foreign policy and the wars needed to pillage, rape and plunder cheap oil abroad.
        • by zerocool^ (112121) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:31PM (#14026850) Homepage Journal

          However, the arguement is that Europe "taxes the bejesus" out of their gasoline in order to encourage mass transit and energy saving vehicles.

          In the U.S., while in principle this would be a good idea, there just isn't the urbanization that there is in Europe. European cities aren't built for car commuting - hell most of them had to be upgraded for horses 1400 years ago. Narrow, winding streets, and cobblestones, do not encourage cars. In the U.S., everything is younger, and most of it is built to accomidate cars, with wider streets, etc. As a result, the U.S. has always had that huge suburban and rural population that drives into work. In many places, there just isn't a mass transit option. I lived in metropolitan Memphis for a long time; there's no mass transit to speak of there, other than an aweful bus system. It's too close to the mississippi and too close to the water table for a subway (no one has a basement in Memphis). But, you know what they do have? A "beltway" (I-240) and a LOT of parking.

          It's only feasable to use mass transit for everything if you live in one of the cities like Washington, DC, which has an excellent metro system and inbound rail system, or New York, who's subway system, while not pretty, can get you anywhere you need to go.

          Driving places is a culture in America. Very few of us live close enough to walk, or even bike, to work. A friend of mine told me about an exchange student from Estonia whom he befriended, and how when they went to D.C. one day, and Dimitri saw the "Springfield Interchange" (the Mixing Bowl), it flipped him out. A road that's seven lanes wide in each direction, with flyover ramps going everywhere, people merging at 60 miles an hour 10 feet apart... it was like nothing he'd ever seen before.

          Raising taxes on gas to $6-$8/gal in the U.S. would crush the economy. We're just not built for it. We're slowly emphasizing mass transit and there's been a small movement towards local community envolvement (i.e. not driving 50 miles to work, but working where you live), and we'll get there... but let's not get drastic.

          ~W
    • by chill (34294)
      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 [google.com] 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"?

      -Charles
    • by Moby Cock (771358) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:50AM (#14025809) Homepage
      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" (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FooAtWFU (699187)
        What is the point of enriching a nation if it become toxic in 50 years?

        While I appreciate your concern for the environment, I'll draw the line somewhere before we say that burning gasoline (or other hydrocarbon-based energy sources like coal and oil derivatives) in accordance with a 'cheap energy' bit of economic planning has the capacity to make the nation or the world 'toxic'. You have license to shout all you want to about global warming and CO2 emissions and melting glaciers which may or may not be ove

    • by Mr. Competence (18431) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:50AM (#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" (Score:3, Interesting)

        by archen (447353)
        Although the U.S. is twice the size of Europe, many who live in cities do not use public transportation. If a city offers any transportation it is almost an after-thought. The U.S. could probably cut it's CO2 emmissions by 1/3 or more if everyone who drove to the city within 5 miles took a train.

        That's obviously a loaded assumption because no one puts the effort into actually making a public transportation that does not suck, so people stick to cars, thus not stimiulating interest in public transportation
    • by gmuller (908544)
      "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 gas
    • Re:The "environment" (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:53AM (#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.
  • Faulty Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apsmith (17989) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:39AM (#14025699) Homepage
    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...)
    • by Zcar (756484) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:45AM (#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.
    • 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 raygundan (16760) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:27AM (#14026195) Homepage
      This is a critical point. Without taking the resale value into account, the calculations are useful only in determining what your monthly payment is-- not what your lifetime cost for the car is.

      By my math, if I'd bought a Prius instead of a Civic HX in 2001, I would just now be crossing the point where I was ahead. I would not, however, have that money in hand unless I sold the car. I would have paid out more per month, but I would also get more back on selling.

      On the other hand, it's almost never a winning financial bet to buy a hybrid when you already have a working car. New vs. new, a hybrid will just barely edge out a similar but cheaper car over five years or so, but it would have to be a staggering difference in fuel economy to beat out a paid-for car.
  • Only one solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:40AM (#14025710) Journal
    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.

  • Well, duh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dschuetz (10924) <[gro.tensad.divad] [ta] [hsals]> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:44AM (#14025741) Homepage
    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...]
  • by mac123 (25118) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:44AM (#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.
    • Toyota don't dispose of the batteries, they recycle them. They aren't throwing the heavy metals in a hole somewhere. (Another poster mentioned they pay a $200 bounty for bringing the battery for recycling as an incentive).
  • Economic sense? Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:46AM (#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.
  • by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:47AM (#14025772) Homepage
    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.
  • well that depends... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sdaemon (25357) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:47AM (#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.
  • by FellowConspirator (882908) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:49AM (#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.
  • by Corwyn ap (819325) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:50AM (#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).
    • 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.
  • 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 Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:21AM (#14026132) Homepage

      I'll second that.

      Not only do VW TDIs get phenomenal fuel mileage, they also make power. Something hybrids do not do. Granted, I modded my TDI, but it's making 300 ft lbs of torque and still getting 45 MPG. If VW actually built an anemic TDI (that is, one that only made as much power as your average hybrid) I would bet it would double the fuel economy.

      Diesel motors are more efficient by design. They have lower exhaust temps (less energy wasted through heat) and they don't have a throttle (when your foot is off of the throttle on a gas car, you've turned the motor into a vacuum pump - again, wasting energy).

      That being said, why hasn't anyone built a diesel-electric hybrid car? Surely it would maximize power & economy?

      • 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.
      • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday November 14, 2005 @02:19PM (#14027864) Homepage Journal
        >I modded my TDI, but it's making 300 ft lbs of torque

        258 for an unmodified Prius, *at zero RPM*. Low end torque is where electric motors shine.

        >(when your foot is off of the throttle on a gas car, you've turned the motor into a vacuum pump - again, wasting energy).

        When your foot is off the throttle on a hybrid the engine stops (unless it needs to charge the battery, run the air conditioner or keep the catalytic converter warm).

        >anemic TDI (that is, one that only made as much power as your average hybrid)

        Take another look. Only five years ago there was the three-cylinder Insight and the domestic-model Prius which had just enough power to be in a Tokyo traffic jam. Today's models are plenty adequate for freeway onramps and contingency maneuvers. The current Prius does 0-60 in about 10.5 seconds, which is not high performance but not anemic either.

  • 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 localman (111171) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:03PM (#14026582) Homepage
    I've had a 2004 Prius since November 2003. I'm very pleased with my car, and I'll keep it for many years to come, I think. One thing that keeps coming up is that I didn't save any money. What I don't understand is why that focus is applied to the hybrid and not other cars? You can pretty much get a fully functional, well engineered car today for around $12K. So every dollar you spend over that is just for personal taste. When someone buys a $60K BMW, I don't hear people saying "You know, you didn't save any money".

    I guess the idea that you might save money with a hybrid casts the image that most people who buy them are out to save money. I'm not. At $24K, the Prius is only a bit more expensive than other cars of it's quality -- but like a BMW purchaser, I would have bought it for even more. BecasuseI think it's cool. I like the idea of using as little oil as I can while still living a convenient and comfortable life. I like the idea of polluting as less. And most of all, I like the idea of voting (with my dollars) for changing technology in automobiles.

    So, just want to point out that not everyone who buys a Prius is doing it for a financial reason -- probably not more than with any other car.

    Cheers.
  • Incremental cost (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grayputer (618389) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:11PM (#14027227)
    Ahhh, did anyone check the math. It looks a bit off. First he uses a 1.15 multiplier to account for 'other costs' THEN adds it to the loan value (i.e., interest oriented). If you read the endnote that is based on the fact that loans are for 115% of the value (payoff on old car?). How is that a legit 'cost' of the new hybrid car?

    Second he is using the full cost of the hybrid. He is assuming that you dump a perfectly good car and buy a hybrid, NOT that you are bright enough to buy a hybrid when it is time to buy something. That is, he is assuming it is the full cost, not the incremental cost of the hybrid. While that MAY be a correct financial analysis, it is unlikely to be a real world analysis (IMO).

    If I want a $22K hybrid and my other choice is a $18K car/SUV at 25MPG, then the 'additional capital expense' is $4K NOT $22K. $4K * 1.15 (assuming I use his magic math) is $4.6K incremental cost at 5.25% over 60 months that's about $88/mo in payment. Given the gas savings and higher trade in allowance, the case for a hybrid may be closer than he paints. Of course that assumes the competition for your car dollar is an SUV at 25 MPG if it is a small car at $15K and 30MPG then the hybrid case is less good.

    The real issue is during a "I'm going to buy a new car, what will it be" purchase period. It is fair to deal with incremental costs and incremental improvements in gas mileage/trade-in value. As I read it, the article assumes a 'forced trade' at full cost, not incremental costs. I'm not sure that is a fair comparison.

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.

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