I have an economy vehicle (motorcycle) that was $6K new, gets 50+mpg, costs about $100/year to insure, and does 0-to-60 under 4 seconds. The question was how would I cope. I am not advocating that you do the same, like many policy-loving hybrid advocates.
As a Leaf owner (and a previous hybrid owner), the cost/mile has been going down dramatically. The issue is range for the EV. If you can afford 2 cars, the commute vehicle for 95% of people could be an EV with its 60-100 mile range. The theoretical gasoline engine is about 35% efficient (from a Carnot cycle conversion point of view). Realistically speaking it is less than 20%. The EV converts 95% of its battery power to traction. If you compare the energy efficiency of an EV to a 30mpg car it is about 6 times more efficient. Interestingly, the cost of electricity is about the same as gasoline for the energy content. With time of use metering, it costs me about 1.5c/mile to drive the EV. No gasoline powered car will come close to this number. With solar panels, this number will approach 0c/mile operating cost. Yes, there are fixed initial costs, but cost of energy will never go down in the long term and so you will be ahead long term. It is also great that one never has to enter a gas station again except for the few times you need to drive long distance.
One of the things that I don't see in most of these discussions, is if gasoline is $7 a gallon will electrical energy be any cheaper? I also don't think the west coast power grid could handle the increase in draw if the percentage of electrics increased 10%. I would convert to hydrogen myself. I have investigated using fuel cell technology to split water using a photovoltaic array. a properly designed fuel cell can produce hydrogen at up to 3000 psi if designed to contain it. Your tank can become a super efficient battery. Cars can run it directly using technology that is available now. Range suffers a bit but it is still much better than EVs. There was a lot of fuel cell technology available 5-8 years ago but I believe many of the manufacturers have been bought up by automakers who want to "black box" the technology. I am no conspiracy type, rather I think they want to position themselves for best profit. The fact is that we could also produce our own fuel, without road use taxes probably doesn't thrill the government who gets the lions share the cost of most gas taxes. If many converted to H2 there would likely be a bill to monitor your mileage to tax you enough! I am also a motorcycle rider to help on the cost of fuel front.
Electric vehicles seem to be the Holy Grail of vehicles - "They don't pollute", well, at least not to locally. Hybrid - How can a vehicle that turns chemical energy, into mecahical energy, into electrical energy be more efficient?
There have been readily avaiable options out there for cheaper operation, but most people don't like them. The various VW diesels, I had a Dodge Neon that got 40MPG at 70MPH - stock. Motorcycles 40 - 80 MPG.
Problem with electric vehicles is range - 40 miles? Would leave me 2 miles from home on an average workday. Forget about checking in on the transmitter site or the sales office 60 miles away. An how many folks wouldn't get to work, forget about getting home , beacuse the mileage from the batteries is just no practical? And to increase the range you have to add weight, and that in turn hurts the range. And what about enough electricity to charge them if everyone went to electric, and the old economic rule of supply and demand - more demand for electricity is going to drive prices up. And with coal being made the boogy man, electricity is going to get more expensive in order to build new or rebuild old generatin facilities. So it just got more expensive to heat/cool/ventilate my house and cook my food and heat my water... It okay because it is for what someone has deemed "a good cause"? How many of these "good causes" of thiers can you support?
The VW diesels sound nice, but is it true te cost of the special oil you have to run in the engine. Definately something that must be considerred as the cost of ownership.
Motorcycles are a great method of transportation. Most places they can't be the only means - up north it gets too cold and icy for a portion of the year, and in the south it gets too hot. (I have lived in western New York and now live in south Texas) so there are a few months when one might be less than desirable, but they are an option, if purchased with a thought to gas consumption rather than image (huge cruisers get no better mileage than a small car) Many if driven with some attention to speed and acceleration exceed 40MPG.
As an interresting anecdote - about 6 years ago I had a Dodge Neon. 4 Cyl. Back and forth to work I got 30 - 32 MPG. I took a trip for work from northern Indiana to southern Tennessee. I averaged 40MPG at 70 MPH. When I got back there was a discussion on a web forum about mileage and efficiency. One individual there argued that his hybrid, which he got 35MPG was more efficient that my Neon that had just gotten 40MPGF. His reason - His was a hybrid so it had to be more efficient.
The other side of the equation is those who, for status or ignorance, have to have the biggest vehicle they can find to prove something. And you see them everyday with only 1 person on board. 40K for a status 4WD behemoth, or 40K for a puny hybrid...
Another though is the complexity of the hybrid vehicle. My vehicles can, for the most part be maintained at home. Oil changes and grease jobs, spark plugs and cables, brakes. None need any special technology and most can do it without much difficulty. What happens if something electrical or electronic has a problem (and sooner or later it will) Can I fix it, or do I have to pay someone $60 per hour to fix it? How much does that add to the cost of ownership? And how long will those batteries last, and how much to replace them? And how will those batteries do when it gets cold out, and they lose 30% of their capacity because of the cold? Can't just put them in my pocket like I do for my RC planes.
Diesel - for some reason they are not popular in the USA. Why? the fuel smells funny? They are different? It would also seem that government regulations seem to be against them. Diesel Smart Car in Canada at 50MPG, gas in US at 30MPG? Europe likes them, but they have never caught on here, except with a few that jsut love them. Complexity also is a factor. You have the engine, and a fuel injector pump/system that costs almost as much as the engine. (past experience as a Mercedes diesel owner) If you don't treat your fule it can be very expensive to have an injector or pump repaired/replaced.
Everyone has their own decisions to make for coping with gas prices. The comments to date here have been relevant, and dealt with all the variables feeding universal as well as personal factors to list in the decision matrix: cost, financing costs, depreciation, insurance, maintenance, fees & taxes, repairs, milage driven per year, mpg of their current vehicle vs. newer one, personal options to minimize their costs, etc. I drive a 10 year old Suzuki Aerio SX which I bought in 2004 when it was 2 years old. While depreciation has been low, repairs were high, as several major components were replaced. I have been considering replacing the Suzuki with a 2 or 3 year old car, and was quite surprised when doing an 8 year "cost of ownership" calculation that fuel amounted to 26% for 8k m/yr and 40% for 15k m/yr. My point? Before you make any changes to trade in your gas engined car for a hybrid or a diesel, do an honest cost of wnership calculation. You may be surprised at the relative costs of fuel to other expenses, especially depreciation. When I was working I often traveled to Europe where they have had high fuel prices for many decades. Many folks there drove tiny, uncomfortable vehicles (1500cc stick shifts) to deal with the costs. Today, fuel prices are still high, but diesels are have become very popular. Do your cost of ownership calculation. An honest one. You may be surprised as I was.
@Dave - You raise an interesting question. Why is Diesel fuel so expensive? It is a less refined product compared to gasoline meaning that you can yeild more of it from a barrel of crude. Yet, here in Kaleefornya, it is always a few points higher than premium gasoline. Back when I purchaed my old '84 300D 12 years ago, diesel was 20-30% less than the cheapest gasoline. Now, California is further penalizing diesel owners by requiring them to pay (~$80) for a so-called smog check. They don't even measure emmissions, they just check to make sure you have not made any changes to vehicle's intake or exhaust system. Takes about 5 minutes.
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