Hybrid cars: a week in the electric lane

T and I have just spent a week driving around a new Honda hybrid, all in the name of journalism (he also recently enjoyed some Xbox 360 review games; long may that continue. Gaming is not a cheap hobby).

General observations about modern cars, from the three new vehicles I’ve had cause to be in over the past couple of months: all the bells and whistles, buttons and levers, that they now slap on steering wheels, are kind of distracting. However, I definitely like the move to put the speedo up top above the rest of the dashboard – it’s incredibly hard to miss that way, and hopefully will help if you’re prone to careless speeding.

We did nearly 400km on $50 of petrol (!!!) though most of that can probably be attributed to the difference between our 15-year-old car and a new model vehicle rather than electric-specific savings. With fuel prices the way they are (and only going up), having to return the Honda IMA definitely stung.

Hybrids are still new enough that they’re not even on our budget radar, but when we’re older and wealthier, then WHY to THE HELL NOT? It does remain to be seen, though, just how well the technology ages – a more complex system is more prone to things going wrong.

Of course, the pipe dream would be for a real full-electric option. HaloIPT is one neat Auckland company spun out of the university (which has since sold to a UK firm) working on inductive power transfer technology that would overcome some of the barriers around charging car batteries. Now, if only industry would stop dragging its heels on mainstream electric cars …

Would you buy a hybrid? Why or why not?

14 thoughts on “Hybrid cars: a week in the electric lane

  • Reply Linda October 16, 2012 at 02:26

    I bought a hybrid (a used Toyota Prius) last March and am loving it. http://awindycitygal.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/my-march-madness/ I’ve been thinking about writing a follow up post about my experiences with mileage, etc now that I’ve had it just over 6 months. There is a screen in my display that gives me constant feedback about my MPG and the lowest I’ve ever seen it report is 41 MPG (if Google has converted this correctly it is just under 66 KPG.) And I love all the buttons on the steering wheel! I’m still getting used to them and some of the other fancy things I didn’t have before like navigation, but in general I’m really liking the features.

    • Reply eemusings October 16, 2012 at 08:11

      I’d love to read a post like that!

      The Civic had all those bells and whistles – green lights for electric, blue when running on petrol. For most of the time it was displaying 6 litles per 100 km.

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie October 16, 2012 at 14:04

    We have a Honda civic hybrid. DH is an engineer, so that’s why. He turned off all the bells and whistles after a month, but he had fun playing with them in all their distracting glory during that time.

  • Reply SP October 16, 2012 at 14:54

    I like the idea, but we got nervous about the price point combined with the battery. Plus, rumors that the environmental cost of making them outweighed the savings. (honestly, I never dug into that, so it could be totally false).

    We did, however, go with a Golf TDI (deisel) which gets really impressive mileage compared to what was available on the market for gasoline engines.

  • Reply The Asian Pear October 18, 2012 at 03:29

    I like hybrids but I can’t do full electric. Not only are they slower and can’t go far but there’s no charging stations where I am. I do find hybrids WAY more expensive than a normal car. This initial investment should be taken into consideration.

  • Reply Funny about Money October 20, 2012 at 15:12

    I’ll wait, I think, for the next generation.

    Friends of mine have a Prius. At around 30,000 miles the batteries died. It cost them THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS to replace the things! They’re retired–he’s a retired Episcopal priest. So you as you can imagine, that was a hit they couldn’t afford.

    It looks to me like every dollar you save on gasoline with one of those things needs to be socked away in a savings account to cover replacement of the vehicle’s batteries. I’m not self-disciplined enough to do that…I would want to spend the savings on useless trivia like food. And I think you can buy a high-mpg gasoline-driven car for a lot less money, spend modestly on gas, and have a vehicle that will run trouble-free for 100,000+.

    • Reply nicoleandmaggie October 21, 2012 at 13:26

      Our civic’s battery died after 4 or 5 years and they replaced it for free. The new battery restarted the warranty.

      • Reply Linda October 23, 2012 at 01:57

        I did a lot of reading and research on the battery issue before I bought my hybrid. I think FAM’s story was one that I recalled reading and which made me hesitant. After all my reading about the battery issue, though, I don’t understand why these friends of FAM had to pay for a new battery at 30K miles. The battery in a Prius has a warranty to 100K miles. So something about their experience is off. On the Prius chat forums (a community of Prii owners) there weren’t any such horror stories, even though these are not all shiny robot owners who are shills for Prius. (In other words, there are posts from people who are unhappy or struggling with some aspect of their car and experience driving it.) The Prius I bought was used and had been completed serviced through the Toyota Certified program before I bought it. For an extra $1,000 I purchased a maintenance plan that will cover everything except tire replacement for 7 years or 100K miles. So if the battery did go out for some odd reason, I’m definitely covered and no worried at all.

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