Wired recently ran a story on revised EPA miles per gallon estimates. In particular, the estimates for Hybrids were significantly reduced:
As an owner of the Civic Hybrid since 2001, I am happy to report, that the revised estimate is pretty much spot on.
What interested me the most were the revised estimates for the regular Civic. I knew the old hybrid estimates did not reflect my experience and assumed the regular Civic estimates were off as well so I never felt I had good data to answer the question: "Are hybrids a good deal?"
First of all, no one buys 'hybrids.' One buys 'a hybrid.' And as the chart above shows, not all hybrids provide the same benefit over their non-hybrid siblings. Speaking of siblings, both of my brothers have Toyota Priuses. The Prius has no exact non-hybrid counterpart, but it gets better mileage than the Civic Hybrid and the standard Civic is not a bad comparison to the Prius for comparison's sake. We are fans of the hybrid, but do the numbers back our enthusiasm?
I have 83,200 miles on my Civic Hybrid. Comparing how many gallons of gas I have used and how much it has cost me to buy that gas compared to how much gas I would have bought with a regular civic, I find I have saved a couple of thousand dollars. I used a gas price of $2.70 since that is the figure used in the Wired article. I also run the numbers at $2.50 a gallon.
83,200 / 42mpg = 1981 gallons @ $2.70 per mile $5348.70 (@ $2.50 = $4952.50)
83,200 / 29mpg = 2869 gallons @ $2.70 per mile $7746.30 (@ $2.50 = $7172.50)
I have used 888 fewer gallons saving $2397.60 @ $2.70 or $2220 @ $2.50 per gallon. The hybrid cost several thousand dollars more than the standard model, but I got a significant tax credit so I have basically broken even. And with gas now over $3 per gallon, I stand to come out solidly, if only slightly, ahead.
Part of the recent adjustment in gas mileage estimates for hybrids has to do with the impact of not idling. When I come to a complete stop, at a stop light for example, my engine shuts off automatically. The EPA used to consider this with Miles Per Gallon estimates. While I agree that this does not impact the miles per gallon rate, as I am not traveling, the gas I do not burn, sitting in traffic or at a stop light, IS gas I do not use. So the savings noted above are underestimating my actual savings a bit.
So I use less gas, save a little money, pollute less... but some of you are asking- why not take public transportation? I live outside of Boston, unwilling to pay half a million dollars for a home closer to where I work, and unwilling to pay rent when I could get a mortgage on a house with payments close to my rent (back in 2001) just outside the city. So biking or taking a bus is out of the question.
We do have a commuter rail station near our house. The monthly pass for this is $210. My wife and I work in Boston so we commute together. Our cost to use the train would be $420 per month or $5040 per year.
$5040 per year. I actually took the train this morning -we use it when we need to. It lost power and had to stop completely and restart twice so I was a bit late getting in.
$5040 per year. We bought our hybrid in 2001 and have used it to commute for 6 years. With the cost of using the commuter rail over that period of time ($30240), I could have bought a new hybrid, paid for all the gas and tolls and had money left over to buy a mutual fund.
The interwebs are sticky full of "hybrids are lame" and "hybrids rock" articles and now I have added another. My 2 cents are- it depends on which hybrid and how you will use it and what other options you have for transportation as to whether it is worth it or not. In some situations, like mine, I came out slightly ahead. If the car holds up, I'll come out moderately ahead. And polluting less and consuming less gas has its own value on top of the $ savings!