Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

June 22, 2008

Not All Hybrid Cars are Created Equal

Category: Save Fuel,Technology – Tom Harrison – 12:27 pm

It is a wonderful thing that car manufacturers are moving to hybrid versions of their vehicles.

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!


  1. Current 50-70 MPG Production Cars are available – GM Europe

    Vauxhall 50.4mpg US
    Opel – General Motors Company
    Fiat 34.4 city 51.40 hwy combined 43.5 mpg US
    Renault 37.2 city 57.60 hwy combined 47.90 mpg US
    Citroen city 51.40 68.90 hwy combined 61.40 mpg

    Ford Focus ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi Urban Fuel 50.4 mpg Extra Urban 78.3 mpg Combined 65.6 mpg – Range 765 miles – Available in UK

    Models Miles per gallon (MPG)
    1 – 83.10 mph CITROEN C1 MPG
    2 – 83.10 mph TOYOTA Aygo MPG
    3 – 80.70 mph FIAT Grande-Punto MPG
    4 – 78.40 mph VAUXHALL Corsa-MY
    5 – 76.30 mph FIAT New-Panda MPG
    6 – 76.30 mph PEUGEOT MPG
    7 – 76.30 mph CITROEN C2 MPG
    8 – 76.30 mph CITROEN C3 MPG
    9 – 76.30 mph VAUXHALL Corsa-MY2006 MPG

    Comment by lloyd08 — July 5, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  2. From Advertisement > All you need to do now is tell us if you have a part exchange vehicle, any GM Card Rebate points or if you want finance from GMAC (UK) plc..
    All we need to confirm your order is a fully refundable £20 administration fee. £7595.00 = $15.133.00 US — 07/02/2008

    Astra is a model-name which has been used by Vauxhall, the British subsidiary of General Motors (GM), on their small family car ranges since 1979. Astras are technically essentially identical with similar vehicles offered by GM’s German subsidiary Opel in most other European countries. For the first two generations, the nameplate was applied to UK spec right-hand drive versions of Opel Kadett (which it was sold as in the Republic of Ireland in right-hand drive), and since 1991, Opel also uses the Astra nameplate, so Vauxhall and Opel Astras are essentially identical vehicles.

    Comment by lloyd08 — July 5, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

  3. In a bitter touch of irony, of course, there are two reasons these vehicles are not sold in the US. First, is that American’s “won’t buy them” (because marketing makes such cars look undesirable).

    Second, and more ironic: these cars do not meet the US safety and emissions standards of US cars.


    Comment by Tom Harrison — July 6, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

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