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Math Hardware

The Math Behind the Hybrid Hype 1194

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:36AM (#14025666)

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

  • 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...)
  • Only one solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <> 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.

  • 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.
  • by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:44AM (#14025737)
    Fortunately in Europe we also have a system of public transport which most environment minded people (like myself) prefer to use rather than pretend we are doing our bit through the purchase of a new car.

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

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

    Unfortunately, it is probably a bit too late for that. There's just too much money in it for money-grubbing politicians.
  • 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.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:44AM (#14025745) Homepage
    Aah yes, still clinging to the hope that a person's "love for the environment" can defeat the free market economy. Let me know how that works out for you.

    You are aware that normal people do appreciate non-monetary values as well, don't you? I'm sure you have heard of it. And if you do need a monetary motivation for everything, just factor in the extra cost of having your SUV keyed every couple of months...
  • by yobbo ( 324595 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:45AM (#14025753)
    Meanwhile, you can pretend your car holds 200 passengers.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:49AM (#14025791)
    Nobody is saying that mass transit systems dont burn fossil fuels, but they burn far less on a per person, per mile basis than private transportation.

    Frankly, your comment just makes you look like a fool.
  • 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).
  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:50AM (#14025807) Journal
    Fundamentally, there is a problem with the way the US is underpricing fuel.

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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:only winner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:51AM (#14025825)
    "just factor in the extra cost of having your SUV keyed every couple of months"

    Yeah, THAT will put you on the moral high ground.
  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <basenamedave-sd@ ... minus poet> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:52AM (#14025835) Homepage Journal
    What is with this argument? Exactly why is it bad to focus on greener technology while still providing people with transportation, energy, food, etc? It seems like some economists shun green like it's guarenteed to single handedly collapse the current market, while some environmentalists see the market economy as the single driver of the destruction of the planet.

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

    Please excuse the bad spelling in this post.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:53AM (#14025837)
    I think you misunderstood -- the crux of his comment was simply stating that we cannot just go out and buy mass transit. It was in response to the aggressive statement that we in the US buy a new car instead of going out and, somehow, buying ourselves mass transit.
  • by sdaemon ( 25357 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:53AM (#14025839)
    I think...didn't I just say...why yes I did: What we lack are effective battery systems.
  • by gmuller ( 908544 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:53AM (#14025849)
    "Fundamentally, there is a problem with the way the US is underpricing fuel."

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

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

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

  • as opposed to.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tont0r ( 868535 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:55AM (#14025862)
    the author considers all of the major factors to show just how much money a hybrid vehicle will or won't save you. In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment."

    as opposed to getting an SUV and having the only real winner be the car manufacture?
  • by jasonhamilton ( 673330 ) <jason.tyrannical@org> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:57AM (#14025891) Homepage
    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.
  • by brejc8 ( 223089 ) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:02AM (#14025940) Homepage Journal
    I think you misunderstood. The attack was not at the lack of public transport (I have been in many cities in the US and there is adequate public transport for me to never find the need to get taxis etc). It was an attack at the culture of fixing any situation with the purchase of material possessions rather than changing ones behaviour.
    Wife is angry => Buy her some diamonds
    Children are screaming => Buy them McDonalds
    The environment is collapsing => Buy a car
  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:03AM (#14025950)
    So you want the US Government to take more of my money, because... why? Because your country's government takes more of yours? That'd make ya feel better, would it?

    Oh, wait, I get it, you think somehow if gasoline were taxed more here the benevolent philosopher-geniuses in our Congress would take that money and reallocate every penny back into some kind of pro-enviro, alternative energy initiatives, Your're raving.

    If the government taxes me more, it taxes me more, and that's our only guarantee. There is no illusion amongst anyone who has been around the track here at least once that the additional taxes will be used for The Good of Mankind.

    Something else to consider. The US is a B-I-G country. People Drive here, with a capital 'D.' The distance I go some days to visit a single client would have me crossing international borders were I in Europe. And when I drive, I spend, and my spending is taxed, in various states. Gas gets too expensive, I travel less, I spend less, and I spend a lot less out of state. So higher federal gas taxes lead indirectly to decreased state sales tax revenues. Sure, I'm oversimplifying a bit, but you see that it's all a bit more complex than it may seem from 'Over There.'

    Plus, we have *actual* roads here in the US, built for six lanes of modern traffic, not those single-lane chariot paths that are passed off as roads in Europe (and Boston, for that matter...). Man, if I lived in The Netherlands or Belgium, I'd be driving a motorbike, nevermind a Prius...
  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <> 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 arivanov ( 12034 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:05AM (#14025968) Homepage
    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.
  • by pldms ( 136522 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:05AM (#14025972)
    You do realize that the situation in Europe would be identical to that of the US if gasoline/petrol was priced similarly, right?

    I don't see how that follows at all. Is your argument that people use public transport because of the cost? In my experience (UK) it's usually cheaper to drive, especially if the car has more than one person in it. I take the bus to work each day, and that's much more expensive than the car.

    So why don't I drive to work? Well being sat in a traffic jam isn't my idea of fun. Given the choice I'll take sitting down with the paper. Most European cities weren't designed for cars (especially at current volumes), so maybe that's why we use public transport more.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:09AM (#14026015) Homepage
    "just factor in the extra cost of having your SUV keyed every couple of months"

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

    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. And if the poster wants to put an economic perspective on everything he does (itself arguably one of those distasteful attitudes), he had better factor in the costs of that as well.

    Taking a crass, economic view of environmental problems will tend to make you seem like a cheap, tightfisted, asocial b*stard to the people around you - which will quite often not be a net positive when angling for a raise or promotion at work, for instance. That is a cost, and needs to be taken into account if he's to be consistent about it. Similarily, the net social benefit or liability of the car he chooses is a factor. That may well make his cost-benefit calculation come out very differently.

    Of course, I strongly suspect the poster is just engaging in after-the-fact motivation - he doesn't want to care about the environment, he thinks those who do are sissies, and just uses economy as a way to motivate his views without looking like an banjo-wielding hick.
  • 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.
  • by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:11AM (#14026037)
    You do realize that the situation in Europe would be identical to that of the US if gasoline/petrol was priced similarly, right? I know several Europeans who came to the US with this attitude only to eventually find themselves purchasing a gas-guzzling SUV.

    Not much to do with oil prices; more to do with infrastructure. I can't imagine getting by in the US without a car, unless I was based entirely in one of the larger cities, say New York. Otherwise, how are you to get to the mall to buy food and clothing?

  • 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:5, Insightful)

    by Aumaden ( 598628 ) <> 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 [].
  • by goober1473 ( 714415 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:22AM (#14026143)
    Hey it's me almost... I drive a BMW 325Ci, it drinks fuel 29.5mpg is normal. However I bought this car from new and now it's paid for. I currently use about £200/month keeping it in fuel. If I were to go and buy a new car to replace this car, I would want to reduce my fuel consumption. However I would have to start paying for a car again, lets just say that I bought a car that did 60mpg (not likely, especially in the UK where we sit in traffic more than move), anyway I am now saving £100/month and the environment is better. But for me to be financially unaffected I would need to have a car that the repayments were only £100/month, so my current trade in vaule is about £11000, if I use this as a start deposit I can go for something about £14600 - assuming 0% interest on my loan. Then I need to think about the deppreciation of the new car v's old car, clearly I would lose more on the new car but how much? Anyway as the prius does about 60mpg at best, the problem is that the base price of this car is just under £18000, without depreciation I am worse off buying a new car due to the tradin, old/new fuel costs and new car costs. Also, my current car has already been built. I only have the environmental impact of the car now to worry about, a new car leaves the current cars impact still there plus the new car. To the the concept of buying a new car to save on fuel just doesn't work even with the UKs high fuel prices. Even the argument that the new car is more reliable is just stuipd, I recently had a LandRover salesman trying to tell me that it would be so much better to buy a new Discovery (about £800/month) as the reliability aspect would save me cash - I guess it might if I had to pay about £8k a year fixing my car, last year I spent about £500 on maintenance!
  • 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.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:35AM (#14026263)
    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 some slick mud). Yes, that trip cost about 60 bucks in gas... but back when I had a smaller SUV (as my other passengers currently own), we'd have required at least two vehicles in a caravan to do the same trip. An while I get around 17-18mpg because of the big V8, two (or more) smaller vehicles making the same trip would have used much more fuel per person.

    So, I'm unusual, perhaps, in that I actually use an SUV for what it's intended to do. Most of the rest of the time, I'm working from home, and don't drive anywhere. A five-day-a-week communte in that vehicle would, of course, be crazy (unless I had a big carpool going - which is totally unworkable for most techie-types that I know, given the odd hours).
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:35AM (#14026265)
    Most Hybrid vehicles use a form of Lead Acid battery. My father works in the Car Battery industry, so I can say this with some reliability.

    Lead Acid batteries are one of the most recycled items on Earth. Lead from recycled batteries is WAY cheaper to extract and reuse than remine from the ground, to a very very large degree ( IIRC, 50% less in cost ). This provides a huge economic impetus for the lead acid battery makers to recycle.

    So when you go to a store for a new car battery, and drop the old ones off, those old batteries are not dumped into the trash stream, or into a hazardous waster landfill, but recycled and sent back to a lead smelter. Most stores give you a discount when you bring a old battery in. Why? It's good for you, and good for them. You get a discount, they get a cheaper source of lead.

    At the smelters, the whole battery is chipped up in a special chipper, and mixed with soda ash, and sent into a water tank. The water is reused of course , the plastic bits float, and the lead compounds sink. The lead is resmelted, and the plastic is mixed with black dye pellets, and as much as possible, reused to make new battery cases.

    So that new car battery you buy is made from old batteries. From the black plastic case to the lead in it.

    My father mentioned that the battery recycling rate is > 95%.

    Now some people are too lazy to drive in and drop off old batteries. Once a year my dad would hold a 'recycling' event at the factory. I helped unload one year. We had farmers come in with the whole back of their pickups full of old car/tractor batteries, including real old ones made of wood and sealed with pitch. For each battery, they got a Susan B Anthony dollar. I know some people made off with about $20 that day.

    Now, compare the "Evil" lead acid battery to Lithium Ion, or NiCad. Both of these are harder to recycle. Both of them are more likely to end up permanently in a landfill.

    And example of their problems: tory=2249 []

    Apparently they are having problems reaching even 55% recycling rate for NiCads...

    So when you get a hybrid, don't feel bad about Lead Acid Batteries. They are one of the most recycled items in the world. Just be sure to take them in for recycling when the time comes.
  • by akepa ( 213342 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:38AM (#14026299)
    In the end, it seems the only real winner after a hybrid purchase is the environment.

    All of us depend on "the environment" for our existence. So if the environment is a winner, then we're all winners.
  • Re:"only" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <.gundbear. .at.> on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:42AM (#14026343) Homepage
    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).
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JackAtCepstral ( 870238 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:44AM (#14026370) Homepage
    Amen. My next-door neighbor drives her kids to the bus stop and they wait in the running car until the bus comes. I see this all over the place on my commute to work in the morning (45 minute commute, my wife and I carpool, btw). In my neighbor's case, it's amazingly sloth because the bus stop is three doors down from their house. Yes, she drives them 100 yards to the bus stop every day.
  • Re:only winner (Score:4, Insightful)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:45AM (#14026388) Journal
    I just wish the two transit groups could get along. I live at the border of two seperate transit companies. For me to take the bus _should_ only be 1/2 hour or so (compared to the 10-15 min drive). Instead, because I'd have to switch off between one bus to another (different companies) bus, then transfer again, the total time is just over an hour. . . unless I miss the transfer, then it's 1.5 hours. Ain't gonna happen.
  • Re:only winner (Score:1, Insightful)

    by thomasf ( 925315 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:47AM (#14026406)
    Much more relevant than the battery is the fact that electricity is only cleaner if you use clean resources to produce it. In the United States, where something like 50 percent [] of all electricity consumed is generated by burning coal (a substantially dirtier energy source that gas, although gas itself accounts for 10 percent), hybrid cars are still more experiemtn/novelty than solution.
  • Re:only winner (Score:3, Insightful)

    by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:50AM (#14026436) Journal
    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 hundreds of thousands, by counting everyone who died "prematurely" from cancer. However, many people die of cancer anyway; "prematurely" depends on definition; and the former USSR was already heavily polluted with non-radioactive contaminants. Other estimates claim that there is no causal link between the radiation and any increased mortality.

    I am not saying that comprehensive are not possibly worthwhile. However, the reason why they don't appear is probably that the potential for criticism and abuse are tremendous.
  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danheskett ( 178529 ) <> on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:54AM (#14026487)
    Why should we have to pay more for our phone service/electricity/roads/etc, etc, etc just so you can afford yours? If you like living in the middle of nowhere so much then be prepared to pay for it.

    Three reasons.

    First, much or most of the non-office style work is done outside of cities. Most city dwellers don't want to work at a meat packing plant or live next to one. Most city dwellers don't want to work at a waste water treamenet plant, or live next to one. Most city dwellers do not want to live next to trash incinerator, oil refinery, pumping station, truck depot, concerete plant, or pig farm. Yet just about all city dwellers want sewer service, water, eletricty, delivery trucks, and all the stuff that can't be cheaply or "not in my back yard" done in the urban centers. I've lived next to a 4000 acre chicken farm before. I have a feeling that all the egg and chicken eating residents of NYC would be less than willing to give up central park to raise chickens on. So that's the first reason. Unless you want these things in the city, you have to be prepared to support less-than-urban areas.

    Reason #2, is that these "red staters" grow the grain, raise the cattle, and do the argicultural work without which the country cannot literally survive. Look at where the food that we both consume and export is grown: the breadbasket. Again, this is not possible to achieve in an urban center. Urban centers are net importers of items like food and energy.

    Reason #3 is that development trends are such that you can't really create new urban centers, and so, people are stuck living in the "middle of nowhere". New communities that do pop up are generally suburban; we aren't seeing a lot of new cities being built. If the rural population tried to move into the urban centers what you'd see is an even tight real estate market and yet another escalation of housing rates. This would just lead to even more sprawl.

    Finally, I think you are overestimating the effect of the rural and surban subsidy, and understating the unreimbursed services provided by the rural population. The founding fathers recognized from day one this divide between the urban and rural citizen and this led directly to the split system of representation - the two per State senate and the population based House.
  • by skyshock21 ( 764958 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:58AM (#14026533)
    THe much-loved Free Market Economy is an invention of man, not a natural phenomenon.
    I have to whole-heartedly disagree. The way the Free Market Economy works is deeply rooted in the Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest which are both most definitely observable phenomena occuring in nature.
  • 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 Blkdeath ( 530393 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:03PM (#14026580) Homepage
    To the the concept of buying a new car to save on fuel just doesn't work even with the UKs high fuel prices.

    Based on what you've said, no, you're not in a position to purchase a new vehicle and therefore it won't pay for itself. Were you in a position to make a new vehicle purchase (age, damage, wear+tear, excess maintainance, etc.) then you should find the type of vehicle you're interested in and compare the regular version against the hybrid variant. Figure the difference in price, the total time you expect to own the vehicle, and the fuel savings per year (which in many cases can be upwards of 50%). Based on fuel savings, you can extrapolate how long it will take to account for the difference in price before the hybrid starts effectively paying for itself.

    Remember that you can spend an eternity trying to find a way to make a car pay for itself but unless you drive a taxi/limo, you're attempting a lost cause. Cars are by far the worst investment you can make but they're a neccesary part of life, so it's a cost of living. Anything else will just give you a headache. :P

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:07PM (#14026611)

    There are some fundamental mistakes in his calculation.

    As well as ignoring resale value (already mentioned), another basic mistake is that he only compares fuel costs for the duration of the loan, not the lifetime of the car. This makes the whole calculation invalid and gives a misleading impression when comparing different loan lengths.

    In effect he assumes that you will just junk the car as soon as the loan is paid off.

    A reasonable calculation would take account of resale value, running costs and expected lifetime of the vehicle, and for example would need to estimate the price of petroleum over that lifetime - not just take the current price.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by johnlcallaway ( 165670 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:34PM (#14026872)
    My Honda 750 weighs in at a measly 460lbs and gets 57mpg. It only cost $6,500 new, the insurance is less, is probably less damaging to the highway systems, and is a hell of a lot more fun than a Toyoto. Since the MAJORITY of cars I see on the highway only have one person in them, it seems like a mass conversion to motorcycles in many areas would impact the environment with less economic impact far more than Prius. Living in Maine for 20 years, and now Phoenix, it is possible in most areas of the country to ride a motorcycle at least 6 months out of the year.

    To all the 'get a bicycle, it's even better for you', I don't plan on riding 90 minutes one way to work. In 108 degree heat 4 months out of the year and carrying 2 gallons of water with me. My motorcycle is the comprimise I'm willing to make. (Yes ... I ride my motorcycle in 108+ heat, wearing a helmet and leather/nylon mesh jacket. It's actually cooler with the jacket in that heat than without it, I think it acts as an insulator in that level of heat. Just don't wait at a stop light for more than a couple of minutes, it's a killer.)
  • by jrp2 ( 458093 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:36PM (#14026880) Homepage
    "The author was probably aware of these issues, but he didn't include them because don't factor into the consumer decision."

    Really? If that were the case, almost zero hybrids would have been sold. The math in this article is not rocket-science, he is stating the obvious, and I imagine 98+% of the people buying them are full aware of the simple economics. I think your point may be valid for many, but certainly not all. Many, many people have bought hybrids (or are considering one), paying a definite premium, solely because they believe they are doing the right thing for the environment and the next generations of earth inhabitants.

    It definitely does factor into many (not all) consumer's decisions.
  • by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:40PM (#14026924)
    I've had my Prius for over 2-1/2 years and over 75,000 miles

    Obviously you're a highway driver which means you're not even capitalizing on the main benefit of the hybrids (very high in-city mileage). You've saved somewhere around $1000 in gas over owning a Corolla, so you've certainly lost significant money on your decision. And somebody is going to have to recycle that toxic battery at significant electical and chemical cost. A win for the environment? I'm not so sure.

    You could do the enviroment a much bigger favor if you'd ditch the hybrid and get a job where you weren't putting 82 miles on your car every single day of the year.

    [I don't mean to single you out - it's the knee-jerk environmentalists that I'm criticising here.)
  • by efuseekay ( 138418 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:40PM (#14026925)
    As for needing wars to get that oil, these wars come about by interacting with a stunted, xenophobic society. It is unfortunate that this happens.

    This is the kind of rationalization about wars that scares the hell out of me.

    If you have to go to war repeatedlly to maintain your energy policy, despite having being bitten once 30 years ago, then something must be wrong with your policy. Especially when alternatives to oil already exists.

    It's just that the populations of Islamic societies don't want to be in contact with Westerners.

    This blanket generalization scares me even more.

    But just to say oil is evil, etc. is not a solution.

    Nobody is saying oil is evil. It is the irresponsible use of a limited resource, in an enviromentally damaging way, maintained by a myopic national energy policy which uses wars as a policy tool, that is evil.

  • by RoadWarriorX ( 522317 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:47PM (#14026989) Homepage
    When hybrids become mainstream, I would think that the macroeconomic impact would be somewhat higher. The oil companies always tout supply and demand to explain the high price of gasoline and their record $32 billion profit in 2005. So, if people start driving hybrids, the actual gasoline usage would be halved, assuming that their everyday usage of a vehicle has not changed on average. Therefore, there would be an oversupply of gasoline, which in the basic theory of supply and demand, would drop the price.

    But will that happen? Maybe not. The oil companies and OPEC like being profitable, so they would reduce production accordingly in order to keep the price high. That's why they always call OPEC a cartel [] right? It's just a fancy word for monopolistic orgy.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by doppe1 ( 856394 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:06PM (#14027180)
    This is where it's the governments job to fix taxes so that the 'free market' can decide on the "correct" choice. If you increase tax on the more polluting fuels the the cleaner fuels become a more economic viable option and the free market will then choose it. This has been happening in the UK with very large tax on petrol to force people to use public transport, car share, etc. Unfortunately, the US politics is run by oil companies, so until you take the business out of politics, then the correct choice for mankind will not be chosen.
  • by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:08PM (#14027197) Homepage
    What would be the best of both worlds would be a marriage of Hybrid and BioDiesel. The Hybrid side of things would keep the mileage high, and the BioDiesel would keep the emissions much lower and much more of the fuel supply internal to the U.S.
  • 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.

  • by narcc ( 412956 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:12PM (#14027238) Journal
    How's that again? It takes more energy to *produce* a hybrid? You're insane.
  • by jahudabudy ( 714731 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:14PM (#14027255)
    The office building I work in is located in one of those "We have everything in the world right here" communities: it has a church, a bank, a grocery store, a movie theater, several resteraunts and pubs, etc. One of my coworkers lives in this community, literally one block from the office. She drives to work EVERY DAY! She also drives home for lunch, then back to work, EVERY DAY! She lives two blocks from the gym; yep, she drives to the gym to work out three times/week.

    Not terribly surprising, she is also the most useless sack of crap we have in our department: comes in at 9:30 - 10:00, takes a two hour lunch, goes home at 3:30-4:00. And constantly bitches about how swamped she is, while farming as much of her work out as possible. Too bad our department head is too soft to actually fire anyone... </rant>
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @02:03PM (#14027721)
    My point is that if, historically, oil prices in Europe had been identical to those of the US, Europe would have similar infrastructure (i.e. - more malls).

    Yes and no. It's more a function of town planning. In the 60s and 70s the UK built a number of "new towns", moving people out of some of the more deprived areas in the cities (which were then flattened and rebuilt). Many, if not all, of these new towns are based around the car. Centralised shops vs local shops, the whole infrastructure requires a car really. This seems to be a continuing trend, in fact I believe it is nigh on impossible to get planning permission for e.g. a shop in these "residential areas". It's like someone is playing a very bad game of sim city!

    There are many malls of course now, and the majority seem to be out of town. However, the ones near where I am do seem to have decent public transport links.

    why do these Europeans buy *SUVs* when they could have remained "environmentally responsible" and purchased a compact or subcompact as they would have in Europe?

    Because they are selfish, brain-dead morans. Here's my logic: People buy SUVs for a number of reasons, all of which are false. First there is the issue of percieved safety. People feel safer in them, despite the fact that they are entirely unstable; especially if you go over 50 mph. The number of SUVs on the road cruzing at 90 mph is staggering. I'd like to see them swerve to avoid a colision with their high centres-of-gravity. This "safety" aspect is also 100% selfish. Colide with a small car, who comes off worse? Fuck you buddy, as long as I'm alright.

    Another reason why people by these heaps of junk is that they like the elevated driving position. Again, 100% selfish, as your high vehicle means I can no longer see the road through their windows. So, their improved vantage point is at my expense. When driving at speed, you should be watching the car 3 or 4 infront, not the one in front of you. Unless you want a SUV spare tire embedded in your brain.

    One reason might be the olde cock-contest. Big is better, gotta "stay one up on the neighbours" as we say over here. SUVs became fashionable for a while with the 2.4 children brigade.

    I'll tell you why - the selection of a vehicle has more to do with the fixed percentage of disposable income that a person is willing to spend on a vehicle and related expenditures.

    To a certain extent. However, there are many expensive beautiful executive and sports cars costing way more. Perhaps, bang-for-buck you get "more" for your SUV, I couldn't say. I've never priced them as I literally hate the damn things. At least now bullbars are banned, making things slightly better for the pedestrian, but the chances are you are still going under the wheels as opposed to the up-and-over design of most cars.

    Nothing annoys me more than seeing a SUV loaded with one person. Well, perhaps the SUV owner illegally stopping outside the school to drop the kids off. God forbid that they might get any exercise from the 5 minute walk!

    I don't believe that taxing the hell out of the most basic element of an economoy is the roght method, either.

    Yeah, but it makes a lot of money for the treasury, so guess which option they are going to pick? Our government doesn't have the same level of "investment" (sorry, "campain contributions") from the oil industry. I'd imagine if the US were to take a similar tack, Hariburton et al would instruct congress to vote against it.

  • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @02:09PM (#14027767)

    Have you ever considered the possibility that public transportation is much more popular in Europe due to the greater population density?

    The population density of the UK is 8 times that of the US. On average, the UK mass transit system gets 8 times the potential travelers for the same amount of track.

    Other than a few cities, finding a public mass transit system that runs on time is a rarity in most areas of the US. Intercity mass transit is better -- there is greyhound, which is mostly dependable -- but expensive and slow.

    Currently, I'm considering a nice used motorcycle. It isn't mass transit, but it is fast, dependable, and relatively efficient on gas.

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

    by 2short ( 466733 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @02:46PM (#14028091)
    "Also- which is better- 4 people carpooling 50 miles in a vehicle that gets 15-20 MPG, or someone commuting alone 50 miles in a Prius?"

    4 people carpooling 50 miles in a Prius.
  • 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.

  • by drew ( 2081 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @03:06PM (#14028253) Homepage
    Does he take into account tax credits and deductions available for hybrid cars? There is a $2000 federal tax deduction for buying ahybrid vehicle, which is probably worth about $400-800 depending on tax bracket and other factors. Plus some states have additional tax incentives for hybrid vehicles. In Colorado, I believe you can get a state tax credit for the full price difference between a hybrid and the closest comparable non-hybrid.

    Of course, my wife and I probably would have bought a Prius regardless of cost difference had it been an option for us. Unfortunately, at the time we bought our car, there was a year wait to get a new 2004 Prius, and we needed a new car ASAP.
  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @03:59PM (#14028707) Journal
    Sure, the graphs are pretty and nerdy, but the math is wrong. He gets the "how much you're saving on gas" half correct, but the "how much the car costs" math is totally incorrect, so the "do you save money?" conclusions aren't usable. The problem is that he doesn't calculate the cost of owning the car for the length of time you own it - he calculates the monthly payments you make while you're initially paying for the car, ignores the period of time after you've paid off your loan, and then talks a bit about "value retention" (percentage of original value the car is worth at various ages) but doesn't include it into his calculations. That's especially wrong when he's comparing it to the cost of retaining an existing car - he's not really getting apples-to-apples comparisons, which not only affects the financial calculations but also the environmental impact (hint: the old car is going to stick around burning gasoline and consuming repair parts until it dies and gets junked and some parts get recycled - the issue of whether you or somebody else owns it doesn't change that.)

    The real way to make a good economic comparison is to compare buying a new hybrid vs. buying a new conventional-engine car, and do a time-value-of-money calculation [] to get present values of the cars and gasoline. Sure, monthly payments are what hits you in the wallet when you're making them, but they go away once you've paid off the loan, so you can calculate the Net Present Value [] of any interest you might pay to car dealers (might be positive or negative, depending on whether they're doing loss-leader loans to keep the car price higher.) Assume you're going to keep them both for the same number of years (otherwise it's way too messy; more on this later), estimate the effective interest rate for money over the next N years (which is not the same as the interest on your car loan...), estimate the future value of the car at the time you sell it (and calculate NPV), estimate the NPV of the price of any repairs you'll need to make, estimate the price of gasoline and amount you'll use over that period and NPV that.

    So does it pay off, or not? Depends a lot on what kind of car you'd get instead, how long you'd keep the cars, and on the assumptions you make about the future cost of money, gasoline, and used cars. If you're spending the same amount of money on the car (overinflated price of a hybrid vs. buying a fancy car), it's probably a win. If you're comparing the hybrid to an econobox, it's probably not a win. If you think cars last 15 years, and you're comparing the hybrid to a used econobox now, another one five years from now, and another one in ten years, it's almost definitely a big lose, but you get fewer coolness points for driving around in beaters during the first ten years (after that, your hybrid will also be a beater, and repair costs are much harder to predict than for standard cars.)

    I'm not the typical American car consumer - I buy cars with cash, generally new, don't drive very far most days, and keep them till they die of old age or are sufficiently close financially, so I spend less on cars and more on repairs (though replacing the engine in an old van did cost about the same as buying a used van of similar vintage, but since it had spent most of its years in California instead of New Jersey, the body was in really good shape.) A few years back, when my 1985 Toyota was getting old, we were thinking about keeping it running for a couple more years and getting an electric, but then the PT Cruiser came out, so we decided to go with the cool car instead... bought it on eBay.

  • by jambarama ( 784670 ) <> 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:3, Insightful)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @04:32PM (#14028985)
    What will become of the Great American Road Trip?

    In a world with tough energy challenges, we face tough choices. In a future world where oil is becoming increasingly rare, the "Great American Road Trip" is going to become a luxury that few can afford.

    America has an identity connected with the automobile. In a world where energy is becoming our biggest challenge, that cannot last but so long.
  • by bnenning ( 58349 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @04:55PM (#14029237)
    Cost and pricing, according to economic theory, are supposed to represent actual real-world values of labor and resources consumed to produce something.

    Absolutely false, unless you're Karl Marx.

    The fact that economics cannot properly account, even remotely, the degradation of the environment

    A great deal of economics is devoted to examining the problems of externalities.

    The only route to redefining the costs and economic behaviors is government regulation

    As if governments look out for the best interests of the common people. Look at the environmental conditions of the Soviet bloc during the cold war.
  • by SteeldrivingJon ( 842919 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @07:56PM (#14030653) Homepage Journal

    That's what I never see anyone ask: How long do I have to drive an SUV for it to pay for itself, or at least for the bloated price which gives the manufacturer their crack-like fat profit margin.

    Of course, the answer is: never. It never pays for itself. An SUV is a money sink, everyone knows that, so people discreetly ignore this.

    Meanwhile, they pose the question about hybrids, and play it up as if it's some kind of 'gotcha'.
  • by deacon ( 40533 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @09:30PM (#14031243) Journal
    There are reasons to buy a Prius. These are not them.

    1) The brake pads will wear less because of regenerative braking

    Well, let us see what brake pads for a prius cost:
    brake pads for a prius [] Oh. $28.79

    2) NO transmission repair costs, it uses constant mesh planetary gears instead

    I have Toyotas out in the back pasture that have been retired at 264000 miles due to rust. I have never seen a transmission failure/problem in a Toyota car

    3) minimized eng wear because the electric motor handles high torque demands

    Motor ( a 4AFE ) was still running when car was retired due to rust. Only weak spot on these cars is deposits on the valve stems which make the valves stick open. I just pull the heads, beadblast the valves and heads, have the seats cut and the valves ground, reassemble, total cost in parts is $80 to cut the seats and the valves, about $30 for head gasket and sundries.

    4) minimized eng wear because the engine is spun up BEFORE any cylinder ignition

    See Above!

    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

    This is just not an issue if you keep the oil changed. The engine will outlast the rest of the car.

    7) minimized eng and exhaust system wear because of first 5 minute warmup cycle

    Exhaust wear will be worse, because of the multiple heating and cooling cycle. An exhaust system kept hot 100% of the time will last longest because the most destructive corrosion does not occur at elevated temperature.

    To sum up: The prius will not save you money on repair just because it is a hybrid. Anyone who can assemble a PC can change the brake pads by following the instructions in the Toyota service manual which is available by calling Toyota MDC []

  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2005 @12:29AM (#14032209) Journal
    Oh, sorry, didn't notice your website in your slashdot reply posting headers. If I write something with major errors in it (as occasionally happens :-), I'd much rather have it corrected at the source than have somebody think it's cool and send it to Slashdot where half a million readers can tell me it's wrong, but I guess that's a matter of taste. You've obviously put a lot of work into this, and it wouldn't have been very difficult to take your figures and draw some correct conclusions from them. I took a swipe at this at the bottom of this article - owning the hybrids for a period of 2001-2006 appears to have been significantly cheaper than equivalent cars unless you've got a high cost of money.

    But ok, then, *you* didn't define your scope correctly or use it consistently, because you used it to draw incorrect conclusions outside the scope you thought you were looking in, *and* your math had some holes in it even within the scope you thought you were working in. Finance is an extremely critical engineering skill, because it tells you whether doing something is likely to be a good or bad idea, and the basics are not that hard.

    • Up in the summary you say that buying a hybrid is not economically worth it, which implies you're talking about a full economic comparison. But you're not - you're only talking about short-term cash flow during the lifetime of a car loan rather than the lifetime of the car.
    • At the end of the introduction, you say you're going to look at whether buying a hybrid is "worth it", which also implies a full economic comparison. But again, you're not talking about economics, you're talking about short-term cash flow.
    • Your gas-mileage calculations look correct, subject to obvious assumptions like the fact that the price of gas keeps changing and driving distances vary, though you need to compare the price of an "alternative non-hybrid vehicle" rather than "current vehicle" for other reasons. However, your driving distance assumption is 1500 miles/month, which you say in Footnote 25 is "conservative", but the DOE report you cite says the US average is 1000 miles/month, which makes your gas mileage calculations biased in favor of hybrids (though obviously people who drive more get more gas savings from hybrids; less obviously, they spend more on depreciation if they've bought an expensive hybrid.) On the other hand, their figures appear to be per-car - a 2-car household with one hybrid would probably use the hybrid for the person with the longer commute, though many social factors affect this (:-)
    • Down in Footnote 21, you say that your analysis is only valid for the life of the loan, and that after you've paid off the loan, the hybrid is at a significant advantage. If that's the scope you intend your analysis to cover, it needs to be said up front in big letters, because otherwise readers might assume your conclusions meant something about the economic value of owning the hybrid as opposed to the short-term cashflow.
    • In the section about "Car Payments", you're assuming that the buyer is using a no-down-payment conventional car loan from a finance company, as opposed to either paying cash or leasing a car. For many people, a car loan is a correct assumption, but amazing numbers of people seem to think leasing a car is a good idea, and the cost structure of that is somewhat different, including the fact that you need to give the car back at the end of the lease. Also, you're assuming that the loan is at market rates, as opposed to a dealer-incentive below-market rate. For a Toyota hybrid, that's probably realistic, but many American car manufacturers offer below-market loans as an incentive to buy their cars, which may affect things like Ford hybrid SUVs.
    • You also include a fudge factor of 15% above the sale price with a footnote that points to a credit union's car loan site, and you say it's "to account for typically incurred costs not included in the sale price." But as I read the credit union's web page, it
  • by NuShrike ( 561140 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2005 @01:35AM (#14032490)
    There's always buy the car you use everyday, rent/borrow the vehicle you need for special activities. You can win both ways there.
  • by Travoltus ( 110240 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2005 @02:34AM (#14032716) Journal
    "But pricing will take care of this. And this is very basic economics. It involves the laws of supply and demand. As the supply of the resource decreases, it's cost will increase past the cost of the next best alternative. At which point, everyone will stop using that resource. In other words, we will never (ever) run out of oil. It will, at some point before we run out, become to expensive to use. So no one will use it. No government regulation required."

    But many lives will needlessly be lost due to energy shortages (see: heating oil becomes too expensive [that is happening now], food becomes too expensive to transport cheaply [is this inevitable?]) and air and water will be needlessly polluted while the free market waits for reality to correct its wasteful, polluting ways.

    Your holy mantra of waiting for the market to correct everything is as evil and devastating to society as trusting EVERYTHING to the Government. Hell, why not just let computers rule us and govern our lives by credit and debit projections on a ledger sheet? That is ultimately what "what will the market do?" mentality leads to.
  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2005 @07:51AM (#14033592)
    What about the anything-into-oil technologies (Thermal Conversion)

    The question is: Where do you get the (huge) amounts of energy from that you need to run these processes on an industrial scale ? The only real answer is nuclear power. No way you're going to produce that much power any other way (well, maybe by burning fossil fuels, but that'd be kinda pointless, right ? ).

    This technology is essentially hydrocarbon recycling.

    Marketingspeak. Recycling usually implies more than one cycle, which isn't the case here. Once your produced hydrocarbons end up as motor vehicle fuel, they'll become CO2 + H20 in short order, which stops the "cycle". Of course, you can then go on and make hydrocarbons out of CO2 and H2O, but that requires event more massive amounts of energy and/or space.

    It would also present a parallel avenue of development for existing oil companies, creating incentive for them to actually support an environmentally friendly technology rather than to thwart it.

    No way they are going to develop anything other than oil as long as there's still huge profits to be this way. You can be sure they have at least a dozen of plans in drawers somewhere, safely awaiting the time when oil isn't profitable anymore.

  • Important points (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FredMenace ( 835698 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2005 @08:46AM (#14033762)
    As others have pointed out, that is an incomplete, and thus inaccurate, financial comparison. Of course that is very typical of such comparisons, most of which leave out the residual sale value of the car, and in this particular case even leaves out government incentives (including the possible advantages of free parking or using carpool lanes, which could save not only money, including bypassing bridge tolls and parking fees, but time, which can be equated to the same thing). While it does mention these things almost as footnotes, in typical fashion this one stacks the deck against the hybrid in some important respects in its main calculations, making a hybrid seem like a waste of money when it really might not be.

    (This may also be true of solar power: such analyses generally omit any possible increase in the selling value of the home as a result of the solar system. It's even plausible such systems could sometimes pay for themselves in the long run due to increased home value alone, let alone any energy savings in the meantime, but the people appearantly trying to discredit such technology usually don't want to look at those numbers.)

    In addition, as has also been pointed out, why on earth is energy-saving technology the only area that people should be forced to justify their purchases based on economic return? How do you justify that fancy paint job, those snazzy wheels, that killer stereo, that funky spoiler, that leather trim, or any number of other fairly useless features that increase the purchase price of a car? (Or even the 300 horsepower engine - it can tangibly increase acceleration capability, but what is the economic value of having faster acceleration? Is that benefit worth the increased cost of the car and increased fuel use?) How could anyone ever possibly justify buying a $70,000 Porsche, Mercedes or Hummer? Where are the demands for economic or financial analyses to justify the cost effectiveness of those vehicles? (And ditto for many factors affecting the price of a home, or any other purchase.)

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly