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The Future Looks Greener Choosing Hybrid, Alternative Fuel Car

Community  /   /  By Justin Petrovay

It looks like by 2015 we will have the option of over 50 different alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles to buy in the US. Many of these will be larger vehicles. We will have Plug-in Hybrid Porsches and Jeeps with Diesel engines. The trend that was once at the periphery of our transportation options, and typically meant smallness or driving something odd looking (like the Honda Insight with its hidden rear wheel), it is now becoming part of the mainstream with vehicles built to meet our need for roominess and esthetics. Rising gas prices, environmental consciousness, and the widening availability of fuel efficient technologies will put more of us into situations where we will have to seriously consider buying one of these plug-in, electric, diesel, or hybrid, but “normal” looking and sized vehicles.

These alternative drive-train options are always pricier than their gas only versions, and unless you drive unusual amount of miles each year, the cost difference may never actually justify the purchase alternative versions. As a dealer I had to explain this to a number of customers who were looking for the most cost efficient mode of transportation, but did not drive more than 12-15,000 miles a year. Environmental considerations aside, to financially break even between buying a small car or its hybrid/diesel sister may take years (just calculate MSRPs and annual fuel costs between these Honda Fit vs. Honda Insight, VW Golf vs. VW Golf TDI, etc). I am, however, glad to see more and more full size sedans and SUVs getting electric, plug-in, and hybrid versions over the next couple of years. I believe this is a meaningful step in finding ways around burning so much fossil based fuel.


Additionally, we may also learn to appreciate the troubles with how we currently measure fuel consumption. Unlike in other parts of the world, where cars’ fuel efficiency is measured by how much fuel they consume over a specific length (100km), we look at how many miles can you do with a specific amount of fuel (1 gallon). This creates an inaccurate perception about fuel efficiency and true cost of ownership when considering small cars vs. larger cars.

Going 10 miles more with gallon of gas will save you twice as much money in where you are doing it in a car improving from 15mpg to 25mpg (large sedan), than going from 25mpg compact to 35mpg compact. For example: over the course of a year where you drive the typical 12,000 miles, if you swap from a 25mpg compact to a respectable 35mpg version you would save 138 gallons of fuel (or $500 with today’s gas prices); but your more accommodating 15mpg sedan going to 25mpg with hybrid technology will save you more like 320 gallons of fuel (or about $1,150).

If manufacturers will pull it off –and so far the signs are good – this 10mpg improvement would help us narrow the price gap between gas and alternative option vehicles twice as fast. And no, I don’t see the mpg system going away anytime soon, but I’m more confident that as mainstream vehicles becoming fuel savers (and saving us money by larger strides) eventually swaying more of us to consider greener options.

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7 Comments on "The Future Looks Greener Choosing Hybrid, Alternative Fuel Car"

4 years 2 months ago

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Jason B
4 years 2 months ago

Great points. I find that the majority of potential hybrid buyers do not look at the big picture when making a purchase decision. A hybrid will usually cost about $4,000 (Civic Hybrid) to $5,000 (Prius) more than a non hybrid. By my calculations (driving 15,000 miles per year with gasoline at $4 per gallon and average fuel econy ratings) a Prius buyer would have to own the vehicle for more than 9 years and drive about 139,000 miles to finacially break even with a Civic LX purchase. A Civic Hybrid buyer would have to own the vehicle for more than 8 years and drive about 123,000 miles to financially break even with a Civic LX purchase. One must also consider the resale value of a hybrid vehicle with over 100,000 miles. The value of these vehicles plummets because of the concerns over old batteries and electronics. Yet a Civic LX holds its value well.

4 years 2 months ago

Thats the ticket right there, no lets say you drive 30,000 miles a year, and you drive your cars to 250,000 miles, then the hybrid, is twice as good deal then a $20,000 civic, and in the middle of the country not many people are making a “statement” with a hybrid except they that they are frugal. Frankly with the miles and years you stated, I would drive nothing remotely in category of a prius or a civic.

Kenenth N. Shareef
4 years 2 months ago

Good article… I’m one of those folks that driver 20-25,000 miles per year. We just purchased a Chevy Volt. had it 7 weeks and all ready have clocked 7000 miles. We can see the savings already. We also own a diesel Mercedes that we run on veggie oil ( used WVO that we get for local restaurants).

Mike Presto
4 years 2 months ago

Interesting, but I think there is more to the purchase decision than just the financial return on hybrid vs. regular engine. People who buy hybrids aren’t dumb or unable to do the math. They often buy these cars because they want to make a statement (“I care about the environment,” for example). Or, they buy the cars because they enjoy the smooth operation of an electric motor… Or they feel good about driving something that uses less fuel… Or they like the technology and want to be seen as early adopters.

I don’t consider these reasons to be any better or worse than the ones we car enthusiasts use to justify, say, buying the V8 option over a V6 or a 6 over a 4. After all, the car will cost more buy and to operate over time. Really, unless you take your car to track days, the extra power isn’t necessary on the street. Is there any financial calculation needed to justify buying a 335i over the 325!? So why do we have to justify buying an alternative fueled vehicle purely in terms of fuel cost?

4 years 1 month ago

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4 years 8 days ago


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Matt Earle
Freeman Automotive