Like many of the incremental features introduced in cars over the years, the good ones catch on. Shoulder belts, air bags, anti-lock braking, and many others have made cars safer.
And now, many cars are available with hybrid engines. This adds to the price of the car a little (or sometimes, it seems, a lot). And a hybrid system makes the car greener, right?
Why, the Chevy Tahoe is the green car of the year if you can believe that. (It costs $11,000 more to get the “green” hybrid version, so the car can get a paltry 22 miles per gallon).
A hybrid system does not make a car “green”, it just makes a car a little less of a bad thing.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that higher gas prices make hybrids a better deal, or at least that’s the title. The article compares hybrid and non-hybrid versions of cars, considering the cost differential, and calculates a break-even period based on gas at current prices. So, yeah, it seems to make sense to buy the hybrid version of any given vehicle, all other things being the same.
But “all other things” are never the same!
22MPG is terrible mileage, and the Tahoe’s premium for it is enormous.
Hybrid vehicles simply use some extra energy that would normally be wasted (as heat). Good ones use that energy to make the vehicle go further on a gallon of gasoline. Several instead use the extra energy to increase the vehicle’s power for faster acceleration.
Some save a lot of gas and are no more expensive that an airbag system, like the Prius, of course, and the Altima, and Civic, and a number of others. Some are very expensive, and don’t save that much gas.
I am glad that the Wall Street Journal has done a piece showing that the payback period for buying a hybrid is now shorter. And yes, of course as a business publication, it makes sense for WSJ to take the “return on investment” angle. It’s not wrong, by any means.
One passing paragraph notes that one person is instead moving from two SUVs to a regular (hybrid) car and only one SUV, because the car looked good and got better mileage than the hybrid SUV he was considering.
Aha. So there is another option: buy vehicles that are more efficient than the SUVs we seem to have come to believe we need. Now you may have the option to buy that car with a hybrid and use the chart below to help decide whether the hybrid engine is worth paying more for.
Hey, lets buy a Lexus!