Six (Lame) Excuses Not to Buy a Hybrid
With an almost never ending list of myths and rumors, few vehicles are as misunderstood as the hybrid.
Almost every review or video posted on AutoGuide.com about a hybrid car has at least one reader comment about how the battery will deteriorate beyond repair, or that once you get a hybrid, you’re not a true driving enthusiast.
With so much misinformation about hybrid vehicles being spread around, we’ve decided to debunk six myths about gas-electric cars.
Few realize that there was a first generation Prius that was based on Toyota’s Echo subcompact. The price of that early hybrid: $19,995. While the next generations of Prii have increased in price, the current Prius is available for just $24,000, and is far from the cheapest hybrid out there.
This price increase is on par across the range of other segments too. The Hybrid Camry gets 43/39 mpg city/highway and costs $3,000 more than the non-hybrid which gets 25/35 mpg city/highway. It also makes more horsepower. The question always is how long will it take to pay back the add cost of the hybrid over the non-hybrid model just by saving gas?
According to fueleconomy.gov the Camry Hybrid will take five and a half years to pay back that price increase. Other hybrids, like the Civic Hybrid, Prius c, Insight and Sonata and Optima Hybrids, all take at about four or five years to pay back the difference, which is about half of the normal lifetime of a vehicle.
There’s no avoiding the fact that the Prius is slow. But it is slow to get better fuel economy. Many cars use an Eco mode that smooths out the driver’s inputs to achieve better fuel economy. Thankfully, the Prius has a ‘power’ mode that makes the car a bit more responsive – and in our tests it resulted in only minimal changes in fuel economy. Other hybrids don’t compromise driving dynamics over fuel economy.
Lexus’ new batch of hybrid vehicles, the ES300h and GS450h, have both been praised for their fun to drive persona.
The GS450 in particular sends a total of 338-hp to the rear wheels, and has two driver selectable sport modes in order to make the GS as fun and lively as possible.
“The different drive modes support the fun to drive character of the GS,” says Bill Kwong from Lexus product communications. “Sport S mode is when the driver wants to feel acceleration while maintaining ride comfort. This mode changes the powertrain control, enhances throttle mapping and changes transmission gear shift timing,” says Kwong.
For those who want to kick it up a bit more, there’s Sport S + mode. In Sport S+ the vehicle enhances the adaptive suspension and loosens up its traction management to let the car get a little more loose on a track. With a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds the GS450h still manages to get 29 mpg city, 34 highway and 31 mpg highway.
Smaller hybrids can also be fun. The Honda CR-Z and Lexus CT200h deliver instant torque thanks to their electric motors, and sustain that fun to drive attitude with peppy four-cylinder engines. The CR-Z is also the only hybrid available with a manual transmission.
“The CR-Z has the highest take rate of manual transmission (outside of the Civic Si) in the entire Honda range,” said Chris Martin from Honda public relations. “The car was designed from the get-go to be a sporty, yet fuel efficient car, and the manual transmission is key to that,” he explained.
The CR-Z is perfect for the driver who wants an engaged feeling with the car and still wants good fuel economy.
Even Porsche has a hybrid sports car (yes it’s a sedan, but it’s very much a sports car): the Panamera S Hybrid. This car is a combination of luxury and performance, zipping to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, along with a top speed of 167 mph. The Panamera S Hybrid delivers a total of 375 hp by pairing an electric motor with a supercharged 3.0L V6, and hooking them up to a fuel-friendly 8-speed automatic transmission. All this leads to 22 mpg city and 30 highway.
Supercars aren’t exempt from using hybrid technology either. German automaker, BMW has looked to hybrid tech to improve the performance of its cars, with the upcoming BMW i8 highlighting the brand’s efforts. While the i8 isn’t out yet, this plug in hybrid looks like a supercar and has some surprising performance credentials for an eco-friendly cruiser. An estimated 78 mpg rating comes by way of a 170-hp electric motor powering the front wheels, which joins forces with the 223 hp, three-cylinder engine that powers the rear-wheels. The two engines provide all-wheel thrust that will take the i8 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds.
That’s not the only hybrid powered supercar. Acura is planning to revive the NSX with a hybrid drivetrain while the new 784-hp Porsche 918 Spyder can lap the Nurburgring in 7:14, putting it in the upper echelon of supercars. The 918 Spyder uses two electric motors, and a 4.6-liter V8 to make all of its power, but some engineering wizardry will assist in helping the car get an estimated 78-mpg.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you really do believe that the Prius is a mess of a design, there are better looking hybrids out there. Some don’t look very different at all from non-hybrid models, like the Toyota Camry hybrid, which looks identical to its gas-powered model, save for the extra badges.
The Lexus hybrid lineup has also received a healthy update in terms of styling, with the ES, GS and LS sedans all getting a stylish, aggressive looking spindle-grille.
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid adds an extra helping of post-modern style to its look, and while some think it looks like a fish, others will argue it has a space-age look that makes it stand out in a positive way.
All sorts of cool and stylish details are found on today’s new hybrids. Light-emitting diodes, (LEDs) not only look cool, but help with power-consumption as well, which is why more and more hybrids feature the flashy tech.
As ugly as the Prius is, there’s a reason other cars mimic its look. They have such an interesting shape mainly to improve aerodynamics, helping it achieve better fuel economy numbers without having to resort to bigger batteries or motors, which would also increase weight.
The impressions of the first generation hybrids haven’t worn off yet. Buyers still believe that hybrids only benefit those who drive mostly in urban environments. While its true that early hybrids weren’t as good on the highway, that just isn’t the case now.
Thanks to more advanced batteries, electric motors can drive for longer distances, and at higher speeds than before, making a hybrid vehicle just as efficient on the open road as they are in the city.
While the early Prius models were excellent in town but suffered out on the open road, the current model gets 48-mpg on the highway, nearly as impressive as its 51-mpg city rating.
The new generation of hybrids from Ford, like the C-MAX and Fusion Hybrid, are both rated at 47 mpg in the city and highway.
According to Gil Portalatin, Ford’s Global Electrified Powertrains Manager, the new 2.0L engine has been revised with reduced friction components, which will work more efficiently. Additionally, the car’s smaller, lighter lithium-ion battery has a higher energy density.
They can even travel up to 60 mph on electric power alone, and the total range of the C-MAX is more than 500-miles, making it a great idea for long road-trips as well as city driving. Other changes like removing the engine from end accessory drive, reduced engine load and weight, making the car more efficient. The EV mode also benefits from an exhaust gas heat recovery which allows for a quicker engine warm up.
This is a huge myth that people still don’t understand. Most modern hybrids don’t need to be plugged in. Some cars, called Plug-in hybrids, can be plugged in, but don’t need to be charged in order to run.
In the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid and Honda Accord plug-in hybrid, the system has a bigger, better battery, which allows for a longer distance of all-electric driving. In this mode, the car acts like a modern electric vehicle, like the Nissan Leaf. When the battery drops to a low enough level, the gas engine turns on, and assists the electric. In this situation the car acts like a normal hybrid vehicle. Through regenerative braking the car can recharge its battery.
These cars are an option for drivers who want an electric vehicle, but don’t want to be limited by a battery’s range.
Almost all modern hybrids, from the Prius to the Fusion Hybrid, use both gas and electric motors, and don’t ever need to be plugged in.
Since hybrids use batteries, many people are under the impression that after a while, the battery will lose its effectiveness, and the car will be worthless, or require an expensive battery replacement.
“The battery-replacement concern for hybrids is a common one, but it’s unfounded,” Says Karl Brauer, CEO of TotalCarScore.com. “While the battery packs in hybrids do lose their charge capacity over time, the rate of loss is low and it has a minimal effect on a hybrid’s overall fuel efficiency.”
Brauer explains that it’s not uncommon for a hybrid to go over 100,000 miles without any loss in its charge capacity. “Better still, most hybrid models offer excellent warranty coverage on the battery pack,” he says.
If you’re still uneasy, automakers offer extremely generous standard warrantees on hybrids. Toyota has an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on the Prius, which also works if you’re not the original owner of the car. Hyundai also has a long warranty for hybrids at 10 year 100,000 miles.
This means that resale values shouldn’t be affected by these concerns. In fact, historically the Prius has won numerous resale value awards.
“As a result, resale value on hybrid models is about on par with the equivalent non-hybrid vehicle,” said Brauer. “There can be some variation between models, but in general hybrids do as well or better than traditional vehicles in terms of resale value.”
With hybrid technology constantly advancing, the future of hybrid vehicles is very bright. New hybrids will have more advanced batteries, more electric motors and updated transmissions. Other automakers have started selling plug-in hybrids, cars that don’t use gas motors to power the drive-wheels. These kinds of hybrids use the most advanced technology, but aren’t as refined as current gas-electric hybrids. With so many options out there, there’s almost no excuse to not consider a hybrid vehicle for your next car.
Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.
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