Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hybrid Economics... family haulers

We're possibly in the market for a new more family-like vehicle. Like many, we're interested in sacrificing as little fuel economy as possible if we leave behind our civic.

One thing that occurs to me is that it might make sense to get a bigger hybrid vehicle, thus offsetting our decision to buy a larger car with a decision to buy a more efficient engine. Except the economics are rather astounding.

Looking at one such vehicle (the Toyota Highlander), the hybrid costs an astounding extra $10,000 and gets only ~6MPG better. Now these 6 MPG make a bigger difference in a SUV or minivan than they would in a sedan (the marginal benefit of each MPG is bigger the lower the MPG you start with), but still, this is pretty insane.

If I assume the price of gas rises to $6 a gallon (pretty hard to imagine), it would take a smidge over 14 years for this thing to pay for itself if we drive the same amount as we've driven over the past decade or so (that's 12,000 miles a year, or 171,000 miles total). It I assume a more reasonable price of $3.20/gallon, it will take almost 27 years or 320,000 miles. It's hard to imagine a battery lasting that long...

This problem is slightly exacerbated by my looking at a bigger-is-better car market -- the wise folks at Toyota figured that ecoconscious consumers wanting a hybrid would still rather have less efficient 4WD for example -- but only slightly.

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