Prius Hybrid - Disadvantages of Hybrid Cars
The Hybrid Icon
The name Prius is virtually synonymous with the word
Hybrid. When the Prius was first introduced, the car was costing
Toyota $40,000 to build and they were selling it for $20,000 at
the dealer. Being first to market with a hybrid was just that important
to them. And it is why I think the Prius is the icon of hybrids.
The Prius does a superb job of getting high gas mileage.
Owners are reporting gas mileage greater than 62 mpg on fueleconomy.gov.
And they're also reporting lower numbers in the 32 mpg range. The
average still works out to be 46 mpg.
How Do Hybrid Cars Work?
The hybrid automobile system uses a conventional gas
engine as the primary source of power. The gas engine is mechanically
linked to the wheels. An electric motor is also mechanically connected
to the wheels. The gas engine and electric motor directly move the
wheels of the car; however, not always at the same time.
The hybrid batteries get charged when the brakes are
applied, or when the engine computer tells the gas engine to charge
the battery. The recaptured energy from gasoline means the gas engine
doesn't need to run all the time. But it does mean that all the
energy in the battery comes from converting gasoline into electricity.
Because all the mechanical energy in a hybrid comes
from gasoline, it is calculated like a gas engine in the efficient-mileage
rating chart. And because the hybrid system does recapture lost
energy, it does really improve efficiency.
However, like many engineers that I've talked to,
I have had an intuition that hybrids aren't as efficient as everyone
thinks they are. In fact, the Prius is about 40% more efficient
than most cars on the road. That's really quite impressive. However,
the 2008 Porsche 911 is also 40% more efficient than most cars on
the road too. And the Porsche 911 has no hybrid system. Then again,
the Porsche 911 averages about 19 mpg.
Costs: Prius VS. non-hybrid Civic
Efficiency benefits or shortcomings aside, the great
gas mileage is ideal for the ultimate economical car. The costs
and benefits of owning a Prius have been weighed many ways in various
publications. The Rocky Mountain Institute did a thorough cost analysis
between a 2008 Honda Civic and 2008 Toyota Prius. The comparison
required that the car be owned for three years, driven 12,500 miles
per year on $4 per gallon gasoline, $575 in maintenance, and a 24
Total payments before the resale:
The Prius is said to sell for $18,135 after 3 years
The Civic is said to sell for $12,290 after 3 years
If the Prius can retain its value after three years
and it is sold after three years, it will come ahead of the Civic
by $1704.26. Of course, if the $9,000 battery in the Prius fails
out of warranty, then that cost will easily eat up the marginal
gain several time over.
A difference of $1700 over three years isn't going
to sell a car. We're basically splitting hairs here. And the end
result is a loss of $10,000 to $13,000 dollars over three years.
And then you'll have to buy a new car since you sold your daily
But I thought a hybrid would save more gas
Anyone can see that 46mpg could save more gas than
a 29mpg car. But how much more? A quick glance may show a 59% savings
by choosing the Prius (46-29)/29=59%. However its easy to be deceived.
The savings is really 35%! (34-22)/34 Does that
still sound like a lot of savings?
The Prius averages 46 mpg and consumes
about 22 gallons per 1,000 miles.
12,500 miles x 3 years x 22 gallons per 1000 miles
= 825 gallons
825 gallons x $4 gallon gas = $3,300
The Civic averages 29 mpg and consumes
about 34 gallons per 1,000 miles.
12,500 miles x 3 years x 34 gallons per 1000 miles
= 1275 gallons
1,275 gallons x $4 gallon gas = $5,100
$5,100 - $3,300 = $1800 in gas money savings from
the hybrid after three years on $4/gallon gasoline.
The Prius costs $5,633 more than the Civic. After
three years, the Prius has yet to pay for itself even on $4/gallon
gasoline. It is still owes $3,833 to the Civic.
What's The Point of all this?
The point is that paying more than $1000 to get more
than 30 mpg won't result in an economical net gain. Hybrids do not
pay for themselves. And the fuel/carbon savings isn't that substantial
over a 30mpg car.
The Disadvantages of Hybrid Cars Are:
There is not usually a return on the investment.
The fuel and emissions saved over a 30mpg car is not
Hybrid automobiles are completely dependent on gasoline.
Replacing hybrid batteries may cost about $10,000.
Large lead acid, and metal hydride batteries are not
What is an economical
The MPG Illusion
The MPH Illusion
Hydrogen Fuel Cells and
the Honda FCX Clarity
Find out how to
improve gas mileage in your car
Here's a fun video by Top Gear of the BBC. The Prius
gets 17.2 mpg on the track!
Refresh the page if the video isn't working properly.
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