The hybrid vehicle seems like a great idea; they save gas and increased use will lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil. Hybrids also cut down on carbon dioxide emissions we belch into the air and the idea of driving a car powered by both electricity and internal combustion is chic by anyone’s standard, not just the environmental types.
They must be the answer to all of America’s energy woes; so what then could possibly be wrong with them?
The tax credits and carpool lane pass come in handy, and with rising gas prices that high mileage on the factory sticker sure is alluring. Surely, nothing there is a trade-off, the auto manufacturers would never bandy words to suck us into some scam for the next generation of status symbols. The truth is, saving a few bucks at the pump (after years of usage) is the only benefit.
That’s right, hybrids, when down to brass tacks, aren’t so spend-thrifty after all. An ugly and undesirable habit of the hybrid lines that none of the dealers like to mention is the rate of depreciation. All hybrids, even the glittery SUV models, which come standard with Sirius and heated seats, depreciate an extra 2-3 percent annually over standard internal combustion vehicles in five years. Many auto manufacturers and auto-loan companies argue that hybrids in fact do hold their value longer. What they don’t reveal is their claim is based exclusively on the Toyota Prius, the only hybrid out there with true grit. Most hybrid versions simply haven’t been driven long enough for ample reliable data.
Unlike many of the European and Japanese models, hybrid systems in the United States are often used for power boosts rather than increased efficiency, which defeats the whole purpose of this technological marvel. This is the result of the auto-manufacturers’ attempt to appeal to both conservationists and mass-market consumers trying to avoid being sissified. The rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) uses super-heavy nickel metal hydride batteries which in turn houses a medley of powerful motors and miles of extra wiring, thus placing hybrid models in a higher weight class than their conventional counterparts, and ultimately slashing up to15-mpg from their mileage potential.
Some hybrid models, such as the Mercury Milan and Toyota Highlander, are equipped with all sorts of exquisite internal gadgetry and large V6 and V8 engines, so their loss of potential mileage is immense and the hybrid system is basically another chic upgrade, a testament to the owners elevated taste. Similarly, the hybrid Honda Accord only saved a mere 2-mpg when compared to its standard V6 counterpart. However, just like the aforementioned models, the Accord scored better in performance tests due to its jazzed and manly horsepower.
The main selling point of the hybrid is obviously the huge savings on gas, a noble feature in times of erratic petroleum prices. The hybrids will save money no doubt, but the time to accrue enough gas savings to satisfy the initial price mark-up (payback period) can be drawn out, and in some cases ridiculous. According to Consumer Reports, the Honda Civic hybrid sedan, which costs about $3,000 extra and gets an extra 10 miles per gallon over the standard version, saves an average of $237.99 annually in fuel when driven for 15,000 miles. Savings like this go unnoticed in the flurry of today’s rampant, unchecked consumerism. Divide the price mark-up by annual gas savings and the approximate time to fulfill the payback period and actually start “saving” is almost 12-and-a-half years. So, why even bother?
None of this is to say that hybrids are bad; they do sport benefits such as extremely clean emissions and qualifying models are privy to federal tax credits. Alas, these credits are only temporary incentives since they will be phased out as more hybrids are purchased. If people are going to buy hybrids they might as well do it for themselves because they think it’s hip and need the benefits of this cutting edge status symbol for whatever reason.
If saving money and low environmental impact is the honest goal for today’s frugal car buyers, the best deals are going to be the standard models on the sales lot. The best strategy however, is to chuck the car altogether for mass transit and bicycles.