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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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  • by brejc8 ( 223089 ) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:35AM (#14025653) Homepage Journal
    Here in Europe the fuel prices [] are vastly different. Where in the US the price this year was between 37.9 and 26.82 UK pence / litre, in the UK it is currently 91 . So you would have to multiply the savings in petrol by 3 or so.
    Fortunately in Europe we also have a system of public transport which most environment minded people (like myself) prefer to use rather than pretend we are doing our bit through the purchase of a new car.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • ongoing cost (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tezbobobo ( 879983 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:38AM (#14025687) Homepage Journal
    Fuel prices are protected in China and America, this has to be taken into account. So should the change in cost of running over time. In Western Austrlia we are debating desalinationplats versus pipelines. the major bonus in desalination plants is that as the technology gets better the costs get cheaper. The artcle fails to deduce the drop in cost and increase in productivity caused by new fuel production and use technologies. And etcetera...
  • Re:only winner (Score:1, Interesting)

    by TedCheshireAcad ( 311748 ) <ted&fc,rit,edu> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:38AM (#14025694) 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.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:40AM (#14025716)
    Except you could help the environment a lot more by spending the money on pollution credits, so it really isn't a great decision on that front either.
  • Well, duh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dschuetz ( 10924 ) <<gro.tensad> <ta> <divad>> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:44AM (#14025741)
    Anyone who purchases a hybrid without doing at least a really basic cost analysis is an idiot.

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

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

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

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

    [it's also displaced our Explorer as our primary errand-running car, which is certaily helping *our* bottom line somewhat...]
  • 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.
  • Vanity (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Salo2112 ( 628590 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:47AM (#14025776)
    The only reason to buy a hybrid is show other people how much you care about the environment: it's a statement, not an answer.
  • well that depends... (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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • Re:The "environment" (Score:1, Interesting)

    by floodo1 ( 246910 ) <floodo1@garf[ ].org ['ias' in gap]> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:50AM (#14025806) Journal
    except that in the US we designed all of our cities to practically require people to use cars.
    i know that my town is a text book (literally) case for urban sprawl. you really have no choice but to have a car :(

    maybe instead of taxing gas we could just tax vehicles based on efficiency! generally its better to solve the problem, rather than do things like tax gas to fix vehicle efficiency. you're working on the "lets tax cigarettes to get people to stop" principle which is very flawed.
  • Re:The "environment" (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.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:55AM (#14025865) Homepage Journal
    "Fortunately in Europe we also have a system of public transport which most environment minded people (like myself) prefer to use rather than pretend we are doing our bit through the purchase of a new car."

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

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

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

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:55AM (#14025872)
    Okay, Free-Market Fucknut. Two things to consider. First, ever wanted to get laid? Non-economical motive. If you showered before going on a (hypothetical) date, you were also exhibiting long-term thinking.

    THe much-loved Free Market Economy is an invention of man, not a natural phenomenon. Yes, it is a compelling metaphor, but it currently is the root cause of so many poor decisions in which ling-term consequences and any sense of human compassion are ignored because 'that's just the market'. This so-called free market is one that is constrained as much as a socialist market, its just that the constraints on a free market serve the wealthy thorugh serving corporations, wher ea socialist market serves the poor throuhg serving the government. Both have their issues of friction - I know that socialist models still have poor to a drastic extent, but arguing that the 'free market economy' is the best is farcical because of the lack of a real free market. And arguing it is natural is like arguing that Moore's Law is a a law of physics.
  • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:57AM (#14025883) Journal
    To those (many, many) /.ers shaking their heads in disgust over the "only winner" comment...

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

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

  • 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:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:00AM (#14025923)
    What, you're going to drive to work in pollution credits?
  • by goober1473 ( 714415 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:03AM (#14025945)
    The new trains rolled out by Virgin in the UK have actually been shown to be less economical than a small car, they are very nice trains. By giving the passenger more comfort the efficiency has dropped quite a lot.
  • In that case (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:10AM (#14026021)
    the cost of producing and purchasing hybrids should be shared by everyone on the planet, not just by purchasers of hybrids.
  • by frdmfghtr ( 603968 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:14AM (#14026062)
    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.

    Interesting...I've had my Prius for over 2-1/2 years and over 75,000 miles, and I haven't had to replace the battery yet. The battery carries a 100,000 mile warranty, and is designed for the life of the car.

    Where does the 2-4 year number come from?
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:17AM (#14026090)
    They only burn less because they usually have a higher utilisation. And they only always have higher utilisation during rush hours.

    e.g. []

    Conventional mass transit isn't the answer. Packetised mass transit is... []

  • Re:The "environment" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:19AM (#14026108) Homepage
    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 over- or under- hyped, but toxic? You're kidding. It's not happening, especially in a developed nation like the United States.

    The other thing to consider is that we are not going to wake up one morning and suddenly hear on the news that 'peak oil' has occurred and now there is no more oil left and the world as we know it is going to collapse. People (you!) see it coming a long ways away, and as the supply diminishes, the price of gas will increase, purely as a result of economics. And what will happen then? People will develop substitutes for their previously oil-burning activities.

  • 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?

  • 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: riusFrames.htm []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:26AM (#14026188)
    Bit of a taugtology when you get down to that moderation thing. In the end, you do take a stand whether you choose to or not. Some take their stand by sitting down and letting others decide for them, other like to act on what they believe in. The latter will always easily be labeled as extremists by that sit-down majority who disagree with the stand they take. This is simply an ad hominem attack though and not a meaningful criticism because it's too generalized to be meaningful. You cannot generalize and speak in meanginful terms at the same time because in order to mean anything you have to be specific. Do you get it? You fucking moderate sloth!
            Anyway, back to the point. Nah, nevermind this rant would screw up my otherwise interesting comment.
  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:27AM (#14026190) Journal
    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).
  • Re:The "environment" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by archen ( 447353 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:27AM (#14026194)
    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... well you can see where the gridlock is there.

    And a part of that is additude. I walk to work every day. It only takes me 20 minutes, but people thinking I'm fucking crazy not driving. Maybe the fresh air and excersize is un-american =)
  • 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.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Skye16 ( 685048 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:31AM (#14026237)
    Some. And in your case, it makes sense that you drive - or ride the bus, rather. In my case, even a bike ride would have taken around 45 minutes - and that's assuming the weather would have been hospitable, which is a pretty rare event in and of itself.

    But not every community is like yours and mine. In some cases, you can easily walk your children to school. In some cases, you can even walk, or take public transportation, to work. Yet people choose not to, for whatever reason. Obviously there are times when it makes more sense to drive - say, in a gigantic rain storm, or snow storm, or even "I have to go get groceries after work". But, other times, there are no good reasons other than "I'm really fucking lazy." And people wonder why we're known as "fat, stupid, lazy Americans."
  • 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:2, Interesting)

    by kidtwist ( 726601 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:37AM (#14026295)
    With the Prius, a 40 mile per hour highway commute would be ideal for achieving good mileage. It's not simply a case of the electric motor being used when going slow and gas engine being used when going faster, it's a case of both motors being used together as required. Also, because the gas engine is not being used at low acceleration, the it's RPM is kept in its most efficient range. The EPA's Prius city/highway ratings (higher in the city/lower on the highway) are not accurate for most drivers. Most of us get significantly higher on the freeway.
  • 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.
  • by kidtwist ( 726601 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:44AM (#14026374)
    If you think Toyota is 'paying' you to bring in dead battery packs, you may be delusional...since they will then charge $2,000-$3,000 (or more) to replace them in your vehicle. No, they'll buy them from owners of Priuses that have been totaled. In that case the owners certainly aren't looking to replace them.
  • Re:only winner (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:48AM (#14026415) Homepage Journal
    Well, there's a good an bad side. I think it's safe to say that capitalism tends to break down when it comes to utilities. This is because the vendor has no market to GAIN, only to LOSE, and so market share loss is all important, and that drives companies to try to lock people in with no interest in how much it disenfranchises them. Because of this strain on the capitalist system, utilities tend to be regulated... all except for gasoline, for some strange reason.

    So, I can approve of moving from total reliance on gasoline to a partial reliance, but we're replacing it with a reliance on electricity, which is still generated primarily by the burning of fossil fuels; loses a fair amount in transmission (far more waste than shipping gasoline, and you get to use all of the other parts of the crude oil when you ship gasoline for things like plastics, heating oil, lubricants, adhesives, etc.); and the filtration is not quite as efficient, though it's MUCH better than it was 20 years ago. Also on the plus side, however: you CAN use trash burning (one of the most environmentally friendly operations going in the modern facilities) to generate electricity; you can also use nuclear power, which concentrates your waste problem into a much more managable space which would be easy to deal with if we didn't have a "not in my back yard" mentality in the U.S.

    The ideal solution is what Brazil is doing. Make alcohol out of sugars (for which you need heat, so it's not a waste-free process -- they use beets as the starter), and then burn the alcohol in cars that can take a mix or alcohol and gas in any ratio. Alcohol isn't toxin-free, but you still have significant controls on car exhaust, but it's far cheaper so people can actually afford even stricter regulations on filtration.

    One thing I don't see in the article is discussion of the impact of braking. Regenerative breaking is a huge win, but really only helps in city driving, and even then requires skill on the part of the driver. It's a huge win, but not one which is easy to quantify. I'd love to see a study which tracked a couple of groups: one that was told just to drive around the city for a day and one that was given a class on how to use the breaks and then told to drive around the city. I wonder what the real-world delta on fuel efficiency would be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:04PM (#14026588)
    No, the real winner is the Hybrid owner. The author makes the financial comparison "presently owned used car vs purchasing new hybrid", which is not the choice that the consumer makes, nor is it a fair comparison. A better analysis would've pitted the cost difference between a new Hybrid and a new equivalent gas-only model with same features. Or a used hybrid vs. a used equivalent gas-only model of the same year. You'd see that the Hybrid saves thousands of dollars over the lifetime.

    Furthermore, since when does anything an American *wants*, need to be cost justified? Those spinning rims? They don't pay for themselves. Knobby tires? I don't think so. Black light interior lights and woo-woo muffler? Forget it. Entire villages of starving people could live off the amount of money that an average American spends maintaining his/her image.

    I think the author would be best to use $7.50/gallon for his calculations. According to T. Friedman in a recent interview on NPR, the true cost of gas, counting the billions of dollars in subsidies, tax breaks and corporate welfare doled out to the oil industry, is somewhere between $7 and $8 per gallon. You don't pay $7.50 per gallon at the pump, but you do in your income taxes already.

  • It's time. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by baudbarf ( 451398 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:08PM (#14026624) Homepage
    I believe that the time is ripe to publish my own findings on this subject.

    My research was specific, so my results are too. The bottom line is that if you purchase a Honda Civic Hybrid you save $5,638.32 and 30 hours of your life in comparison with the purchase of a Honda Civic GX.

    I've factored in things that most people don't consider, such as:

    Oil changes are slightly more expensive for the hybrid Civic, because synthetic oil should be used. However, oil changes are required every 10,000 miles, unlike the 5,000 of the Civic GX.

    At least through the end of this year, in California, purchase of an HEV will get you a $2,000 tax writeoff - which boils down to approximately $600 in actual money.

    While the initial cost of owning a Civic Hybrid are higher than a Civic GX; the cost OVER TIME is lower, and my calculations take that into account. In order to save money with a hybrid, you'll have to be in it for the long haul, to the tune of about 80,000 miles. At 80,000, you start saving money over a Civic GX.

    The battery replacement issue: Yes, this is the big deal that the oil company shills like to bring up every chance they get, but it's really a non-issue. $2,000 to replace the batteries still leaves you with over $5,000 saved. And, I have in my posession (see the link) maintenance records of a Civic Hybrid logging 129,000 miles and never having an HEV battery replaced.

    Miles per gallon: It's common knowlege that the EPA mileage on a Civic Hybrid is a bit on the optimistic side. That's why I took my MPG data from actual Hybrid drivers. Note that my numbers are for people who KNOW HOW TO DRIVE A HYBRID - they won't work for your 16 year old son who's trying to drag race the thing at every green light. (and on a related tangent, Hybrids have great torque because acceleration from a stop is heavily assisted by the electric motor - so in a short race, your hybrid might beat a regular Civic. Don't put any money on it, though... I'm not a racer, so I'm not sure)

    The good news here (if you can call it good) is that the higher that gas prices go, the wider a gap there is between hybrids and the "normal" kind of car, (whatever we'd call it in this context).

    Please let me know if I've made any mistakes in my reasoning - I don't want to fool myself any more than I want to fool the rest of you - so if I've made a mistake (and I often do), I certainly want to be put straight about it. The beautiful thing about this spreadsheet is that you can easily put in numbers that match your situation and see updated totals. Is the price of gas higher or lower where you live? Change it! []

    I wish I'd had more time to format my results nicer - maybe add some charts or something. But the OpenOffice Spreadsheet which I'm linking you to was really created for my own personal use. I hope it's useful to somebody!
  • 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.

  • by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:21PM (#14026742)
    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?

    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).

    But you never addressed my real point - 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? 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. Coming to the US and purchasing an SUV actually decreases the total cost of owning a vehicle relative to Europe in most cases.

    Again - I don't believe that the US has done it correctly. However, I don't believe that taxing the hell out of the most basic element of an economoy is the roght method, either.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:28PM (#14026818)
    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.)

    I'm not so sure for a couple of reasons. First, the pollution involved in making and disposing of the batteries for these things is really nasty, and nobody's really done much to try and figure out how to make something even remotely resembling an apples-to-apples comparison of different kinds of pollution. I don't know anything about laws governing disposal of cars, but if they allow for these batteries to be dumped into landfills or disposed of improperly in some other way, you can be pretty much guaranteed that they will. I'm reminded of computers - what is it, 70% of computers that are taken to "recycling" centers end up just being shipped to countries with weaker environmental laws and dumped there. I'm sure the industry will find a similarly bad way of disposing of the nastier parts of HEV's and justify it with economic motives if they are given half a chance.

    The second is that HEV's are nothing more than whistling in the dark. There's a quote from McDonough and Braungart's book Cradle to Cradle, "Less bad is no good." The idea is, incrementally reducing pollution isn't a very good solution for two reasons. First, it makes us think that we're in the clear. A Civic Hybrid driver may fall into thinking that because his car pollutes less than most other cars out there, that he isn't causing horrible envrironmental damage every time he drives it. He may use it to ratlionalize living in the suburbs and driving 45 minutes round trip to work, or driving to the corner store that's within easy walking distance in order to pick up a loaf of bread. But that's really quite wrong - the person who pollutes less is really the guy who drives the Chevy Impala but lives in the town where he works and uses his damn feet every once in a while.
          Second, reducing pollution incrementally only slows the rate of environmental damage. So now it's not your children that have to pay the price; it's your grandchildren. Big whoop. Granted, this isn't a serious problem on its own, since continued incremental improvement could certainly lead to a sustainable society over time, but the first problem often gets in the way. Environmentalism (at least in the US) has almost died out in a lot of ways; most people I know seem to think it's enough to just recycle when recycling is the tiniest little piece of a half-assed cop out compared to all the things that need to change if we're going to have an environmentally and economically sustainable future.

    Me, I'm not planning on buying a hybrid any time soon. My bicycle kicks the hybrid's ass up and down the street and takes its parents' names so it can come back for them later. I'm filling my gas tank about 1/3 as often as I used to, too.
  • Re:only winner (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:34PM (#14026874) Homepage Journal
    Well, there's a good an bad side. I think it's safe to say that capitalism tends to break down when it comes to utilities. This is because the vendor has no market to GAIN, only to LOSE, and so market share loss is all important, and that drives companies to try to lock people in with no interest in how much it disenfranchises them. Because of this strain on the capitalist system, utilities tend to be regulated... all except for gasoline, for some strange reason.

    That's because gasoline is a commodity, not a utility. Anybody with a well can put crude on the market, and anybody with an operating refinery can purchase the crude and distill it, then sell the products which consist of everything from asphalt, heating oil, natural gas, to plastics. While we have organic equivalents to all of this, oil is just so cheap...

    I tend to prefer the coop model for utilities, which generally consist of water, sewar, gas, electricity, telephone, and maybe cable. Roads in a sense as well. Those items where running a seperate network for compitition just isn't going to happen. Telephone and cable are starting to have competitors, as new technology allows them to compete with each other, and things like satellite and cell phones allow competitors to enter without having to run a network.

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

    by Grab ( 126025 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:39PM (#14026914) Homepage
    35-40MPG only applies on the Ford Escape HEV (disclaimer: I worked on the software for the Ford Escape HEV), where the basic Escape gets less than 20MPG. It's a big fuck-off SUV, which is the reason - you may have noticed some difference in body shape between an Escape and a VW Rabbit, maybe?

    Prius and Insight are small saloons, which are much more aerodynamic. They typically get 50-60MPG.

    Running cars on hydrogen is easy. Storing enough hydrogen to get a decent range is hard. Generating hydrogen efficiently is harder. Similarly, pure-electric cars have been around for over 100 years, but no-one's yet found batteries that'll hold charge comparable to a full gas tank, or a recharging system as effective as a gas station. Partly the problem is lack of research, and a major reason for lack of research is a lack of "environazi" pressure on governments to wake up and smell the CO2/NO2/particulates/smog. Cost-wise and energy-density-wise, gasoline is a great solution, it just happens to have the problematic side-effect of screwing up the environment (both locally and globally).

  • 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:2, Interesting)

    by OldAndSlow ( 528779 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:15PM (#14027270)
    While hybrids are essentially conventional vehicles at high-speeds, ...

    Not quite. I've been drive an 05 Prius for about a month now, and watching what the power train is doing has made me as sensitive to hills as I am on a bicycle. At 60 on a downhill, the engine sometimes cuts off and the battery assist is sufficient to maintain speed.

    Starting on level ground, the engine doesn't come on until I'm doing 15 (if nobody is behind me. If I'm in typical commuter traffic, it is polite to accelerate faster than the battery alone can). Starting on an uphill, the engine comes on immediately.

    It is really a lot of fun to watch the engine & battery do their on & off dance. By the way, I get better mileage on highway driving. I get somewhere in the low 30 in neighborhood driving and somewhere around 60 on divided highways. 46 overall.

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

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:22PM (#14027334) Homepage Journal
    Yeah or you can run them on biodiesel or veggie oil... Veggie oil is the cleanest, but has maybe 10-12% less energy than a diesel fuel. Biodiesel has less of some emissions and more of others...
  • Re:only winner (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lowrydr310 ( 830514 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:24PM (#14027361)
    BINGO! I've always agreed with this concept despite it being a very unpopular opinion with just about everyone I know.

    The problem with gas guzzlers in the US can be traced back to three things: GM, Chrysler, and Ford. Every time the subjects of efficiency standards and pollution come up, the big three automakers whine and say they'll lose money.

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

    by swthomas55 ( 904301 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:28PM (#14027391)
    Finally, I think you are overestimating the effect of the rural and surban subsidy, and understating the unreimbursed services provided by the rural population.

    I used to live in New York State in the 60s and early 70s. Periodically, someone would start agitating about NYC seceding from the state and forming its own state. But it never happened. One reason it never happened is that NYC is a net money sink. More state money flows into NYC than flows out of it via state taxes. So in at least one case, the "rural" areas are subsidizing the urban areas, not vice versa.

  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:28PM (#14027392) Homepage
    If they could make a hybrid or alternate source car that looked, and ran like a
    sports car, I'd be interested..

    You, sir, might be interested in one of these []... or perhaps even one of these []. Hope you're rich..... ;^)

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

    by basingwerk ( 521105 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:51PM (#14027606)
    > mouthful of broken teeth in the keyer's mouth
    Yes, but violence can put you in gaol too. Keying SUVs now is far better than using nuclear weapons to knock out industrial polluters in 35 years time, when we are in survival mode.
  • Bio-diesel (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shigami ( 922637 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @02:12PM (#14027794)
    Hello, The post maybe on hybrid, but what would the effect be of a bio-diesel, ethanol, hydrogen, or myabe a bio-diesel battery combo?
  • Re:only winner (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @02:16PM (#14027836)
    Get a motorcycle or power scooter. My motorcycle gets 60-80MPG in LA traffic and you always have a commuter lane since it is legal to lane split between cars here.

    Just get a nice 250-650 standard and avoid the gas guzzling racer crotch rockets that only 1% of the world population can ride effectively and big fat monster engine cruisers that have more chrome than common sense. If you do most the maintenance yourself and buy cheaper and longer lasting touring tires instead of high performance rubber, you bike will be significantly cheaper than owning a car and you can get rid of the cage.
  • 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.

  • Re:Common knowledge (Score:2, Interesting)

    by baudbarf ( 451398 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @02:31PM (#14027961) Homepage
    My research indicates otherwise. []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @03:16PM (#14028328)
    ...precisely because of their introduction in hybrids. Now I can buy a wideband O2 setup for engine tuning for about $350 USD, instead of the $1,000 it cost before hybrids.
  • Re:only winner (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @03:16PM (#14028335)
    Automakers will never want to increase efficiency standards. It's up to the current administration, which isn't gonna go there. They cut almost all funding for fuel efficient research and decided to put some token money into fuel cell research to put a green spin on it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @04:03PM (#14028739)
    like at =/20050402/ZNYT05/504020759/1283/BUSINESS10 []

    "If you cover people's daily commute, maybe they'll go to the gas station once a month," said Mr. Kramer, the founder of CalCars. "That's the whole idea."
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheCoroner ( 737381 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @04:06PM (#14028773)
    I have owned a Prius since 2001 and most of what I like about it has nothing to do with the fuel economy. I like the fact that when you stop at a light the car doesn't make any noise or vibration. I like the fact that the continuously variable transmission doesn't clunk from one gear to the next. I like the fact that it seems to drive with very little effort or exertion on the drive train, I've put 60K miles on the car and it runs just as good as the day we picked it up, the gasoline engine has probably seen far less extreme running / wear as a comparable small gasoline vehicle. I enjoy the low end torque and lack of any acceleration delay.

    If I had a choice between a 10K Toyota Echo and a 20k Prius I'd have chosen the Prius based on handling and drivability regardless.

    I'm also a little mystified by all of the bashing of the mileage reports. I consistently get 50 miles/gallon highway and 45-48 city.

    I haven't seen the report because the site is dead but I'm wondering how they are factoring in $3,4,5/gallon future gas prices.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Neoprofin ( 871029 ) <(neoprofin) (at) (> on Monday November 14, 2005 @05:09PM (#14029352)
    I couldn't agree more. During the summer I break out my 89' Camaro because it makes me feel cool and it's fun to drive. It also gets 22mpg max. My girlfriend recently bought a Toyota Carolla that gets great gas milage, I still use less gas then she does.

    I ride the bus.
    I consolodate trips together.
    I don't ride the gas
    I avoid rush hour traffic whenever possible

    Buying green is great if you have the money, acting green is a great start for everyone else.
  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @05:47PM (#14029660) Homepage Journal
    Anecdotals, reported right here on slashdot, showed one very good use for hybrids. During the hurricane katrina immense long evacuation lines, MANY normal cars ran out of gas just sitting idling,creeping along, whereas the hybrids, shutting off completely at standstill, conserved their fuel and were able to make it out on the one and *only* tank of gas they could get at the time. I have no idea what sort of "price" you could put on such an advantage, but it's pretty high if it meant the difference between a successful evac for you and your family or stranded in a storm someplace because you ran out of fuel or starter battery charge.

    And now with the aftermarket modding of hybrids into true plug-in hybrids, and some manufacturere making noises like they could offer them soon, the economics might be better, as one could conceivably keep the batts topped off from a solar array or wind charger at home, reducing reliance on both the grid and on fossil petroleum fuels.. now what the jerk government might do about road taxes then I have no idea, as this is such a variable and subject to non engineering related political change overnight. They would most likely switch to more monitoring and charge you by the mile traveled via some blackbox gizmo. That's one annoying part in all this, politics always gets involved. "here's a tax credit, go electric or hybrid!" "whoops, because our road fuel tax income just dropped, now we have to monitor you and charge by the mile and offer you an urban "congestion fee" alternative.

    With all that said, I would like a pure electric vehicle, with the generator part that makes it a hybrid contained in a trailer for longer trips. Best of both worlds then, and no need to cram all the hybrid drive train stuff inside the vehicle..
  • by Universe Man ( 73250 ) on Monday November 14, 2005 @07:08PM (#14030268)
    I was already sick of the "Hybrid cars won't save you lots of money, therefore they're all hype" argument, but this just goes way too far. What loser spent a week making all those formulas and writing it all up?

    Points these nutcases seem to not get:

    1) It is entirely possible that within the lifespan of a brand new car, gas will be many, many times more expensive than it is now--even more expensive than the hypotheticals of this argument allow for. A hybrid is a hedge against the possibility of out-of-control prices. Even if the event that necessitates a hedge's existence never happens, the purpose of the hedge is still valid.

    2) Buying a hybrid makes people feel good. You cannot put a value on that.

    3) When someone buys a hybrid, we all win, so just STFU already about the hype!

    No sane person has ever or will ever use a mathematical formula to decide whether to buy a hybrid.
  • Re:only winner (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SylvesterTheCat ( 321686 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2005 @12:10AM (#14032107)
    Honda Accord at 33MPG is a good start....

    Q: How would you like 45+ MPG? A: Get a VW Jetta TDI or Passat TDI...
  • The Environment (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hackel ( 10452 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2005 @02:52AM (#14032781) Journal
    The Environment is the ONLY "winner" that matters.

    Until this country (the US) and to a lesser degree the rest of the world realizes this simple concept, we will never solve this problem. Environmental protection must trump ALL other concerns from economics to convenience. This is non-negotiable, and governments must be used to enforce this as individuals (yes myself included) have proven repeatedly that they are too selfish and immature to do it on their own.
  • by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2005 @07:12AM (#14033497)
    What about the anything-into-oil technologies (Thermal Conversion) being developed by companies like []? This technology is essentially hydrocarbon recycling. If we start making oil from sewage, garbage, platic bags and old tires and stop pulling hydrocarbons out of the ground, we can clean up the planet and close the currently-open carbon cycle. With recycling in a closed system, as in nature, global warming and certain other environmental impacts cease to be an issue.

    With such technology in place, demonization of petroleum would then be less justified. The efficiency of hybrid vehicles would obviously still be relevent, but the issue would cease to be environmental and become purely economical.

    With current technology it's hard to beat the convenience of liquid fuel. Hydrocarbdon recycling technology would not require such a dramatic change of infrastructure as electric or hydrogen power - that in itself would have enormous economic and associated environmental benefits. 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.

    This is very relevent to those of us living in California, for example, where the government is spending billions in an initiative to roll out a hydrogen-based transportation infrastructure. That is CRAZY in light of Thermal Conversion technology.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen