Hybrid cars: beyond the hype

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by pseudobrit, Feb 11, 2006.

  1. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #1
    Years ago I had a guidance counselor tell me why he found the hippie culture so disappointing: he saw many a professed hippie whose idea of communing with nature was going into the woods for a weekend, smoking pot and leaving piles of trash everywhere. The message may have been good, the ideals noble, but the execution was counterproductive because too many shortsighted, selfish and trendy types jumped in on the craze.

    Which is what hybrids are about: selfishness.

    Hybrid cars are the new SUV, but the SUV didn't cloak its nature. It's a shameless roadhog and gas guzzler and those buying them didn't care and didn't care if you knew they didn't care. Now the hybrid is the trendy vehicle everyone's dying to get their hands on. Except this time around, you can feed the automobile culture while feeling good about yourself. It's the way to maintain the status quo while feeling revolutionary. It's aimed at those who will buy it not so much because they care, but because they want everyone to think they care.

    They use a standard amount of energy and oil to manufacture and come with the added bonus of being laden with a limited, expensive and dangerous array of toxic batteries.

    The real kick in the ass comes when you're paying $2000 over MSRP and twice as much total for a Prius than what a more powerful Corolla with similar mileage results would cost you. The nature of the engine management system seems uncannily designed to exploit the EPA estimates while real-world results are mundane.

    Spending (at least) $8,000 extra for a car that might save you $300/yr in gas? Why, that'll pay for itself by 2030!
    Order me one in Sucker Green:
     

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  2. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

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    #2
    that aside they still use more fuel than a diesel.. just 2 weeks ago or so the oemtc (automobile club austria) published a review where they tested a jeep cherokee diesel against a lexus hybrid (and the non hybrid version) ... needless to say the lexus hybrid got beaten .. hard ... (and the jeep was even heavier and had permanent 4wd)
     
  3. blackfox macrumors 65816

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  4. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #4
    I agree they're trendy, a lot like iPods really :D

    The problem missing from that equation is the development of certain technologies. Regenerative braking is but one of them and the search for a better battery has never been stronger in part due to their current inherent toxicity.

    Hybrids are but a stepping stone. They aren't much on their own but without them it would be hard to make any true progress.

    The same could be said for a lot of solar technology back in the 70s. It was too expensive, too faulty, too trendy but without that step in the process, we wouldn't be where we are today.

    California has a multi-billion dollar solar rebate program going on. It'll definitely lower the cost of solar panels due to the increased market for them but I often think it would be better to invest that money in efficiencies rather than power generation. In reality they go hand in hand. Reducing demand for energy is just as important as finding new sources.
     
  5. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #5
    I don't own a hybrid, so I won't pretend to defend the virtues, real or perceived, of owning one. But I think you are blending two very different issues here. An individual may well choose to buy a hybrid car at the higher price because they are genuinely interested in burning less fossil fuels. It seems cynical to me to assume that everyone buys one of these cars does so for the "wrong reasons." Also, the payback period for a high-mileage vehicle is going to depend a great deal on how many miles you drive in a year. For me, it would take a lifetime, since I drive only 5,000 miles/year, and I already own a very small car. But for a super-commuter turning in a Suburban, the calculation would be very different.

    Finally, whether or not you regard hybrid cars as merely a trend, you have to admit they are a far healthier trend than the last one, SUVs. I think we're currently seeing a transition much like the one we witnessed during the 1970s, when the land yachts of the '60s and early '70s disappeared in favor of smaller more efficient vehicles, mainly from Japan. You must admit, this turnover in the automobile fleet had real-world consequences.
     
  6. cslewis macrumors 6502a

    cslewis

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    #6
    I've always wondered why people don't choose a high-efficiency diesel over a hybrid. They cost less to buy, they're usually more fuel efficient, they can run biodiesel with very minor modification, and you don't have to worry about the environmental effects of toxic batteries.
     
  7. pseudobrit thread starter macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #7
    If the vehicles aren't returning the mileage the EPA estimates (and typically they aren't) then anyone who buys a hybrid to burn less fuel is buying for the wrong reasons.

    In fact, the only area a hybrid car outperforms a standard comparable gasoline version is in emissions. Which makes sense, since they were originally designed to reduce emissions in smog-laded urban areas. Then the EPA tests results came back and the marketing blitz began.

    What about the recent focus on developing hybrid SUVs? They'll still be big and thirsty in real world results.
     
  8. pseudobrit thread starter macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #8
    Biodiesel can be run in any modern diesel with no modifications.
     
  9. cslewis macrumors 6502a

    cslewis

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    #9
    Really?

    Well to use straight vegtable oil, the engine has to be modified... right?
     
  10. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

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    #10
    yes it will need most likely better filters which aren't too expensive ...

    for biodiesel: at least in austria the diesel you get at the station contains at least 5% biologic produced oils .. it was 3% but it got raised recently afaik

    in 2-3 years the law is going to require 7% but i'm not sure if it's 2007 or 2008

    in fact this 5% percentage of biodiesel improves the quality slightly but going beyond 8-10 or something like that will reduce the performance again through lower density

    edit: today's fancy fuel:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_gas
    ;)
     
  11. pseudobrit thread starter macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #11
    Not the engine. To run SVO you need a heater in the fuel line.
     
  12. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    #12
    It's still a new technology. If people buy it to feel better about themselves it only helps to make them want to bring out more models in the future. Hopefully that are better. Plus, every little bit helps. People are going to buy SUVs, though 20MPG isn't great, it's better than 10. My car runs on CNG as well as gas, but that was just a happy coincidence. I didn't buy it to be a better person.
     
  13. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #13
    Virtually no cars make the EPA fuel economy ratings. In fact, I understand that the EPA is in the process of reformulating the way the ratings are calculated, to more accurately reflect real-world driving.

    I have no idea, since they aren't on the market yet.
     
  14. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

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    #14
    hybrid engines ? or biodiesel ? both have been around since decades (for the hybrid engine there were prototypes back in 1912 from Porsche who used it later as well) .. sure hybrid mostly got used in stuff like tanks or submarines or vegetable oil in times of war but it's still far from new
    or something civilian : a trolleybus

    and the first car manufacturer who offered a commercial available hybrid wasn't toyota.. it was the 1994 Audi 80 duo followed by the A4 duo ;)

    but you have to congratulate toyota for their excellent marketing in the US
     
  15. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    #15
    Modern day gas/electric hybrids. The current implementation is fairly recent and still has a way to go. I realize there were predecessors that did the same types of things and used similar technology, but the current stuff hasn't really been widely used and practical cost wise until the last couple of years. Of course, I guess it depends on what your definition of fairly recent is as well. And I won't speculate on why it hasn't been developed as it could have been.
     
  16. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Shhh!!!! Even if you think that everyone who buys a hybrid is a grade A moron, remember that they're paying for the R&D that will eventually make hybrid technology cheap and affordable. Please don't discourage those early adopters! Their sense of self-satisfaction may be their only payback.

    Everybody, please ignore this guy and go buy Hybrids, MacBooks, Video iPods, and Plasma TVs. (Buy, you early adopting fools, and help establish the market and drive the prices down!) :)
     
  17. pseudobrit thread starter macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #17
    I don't. I bought into the hype for awhile myself.

    I only recently came to realise the hybrid technology does nothing to reduce our dependence on oil and in fact perpetuates the automobile-only world we've trapped ourselves in.

    I don't give a whit about future hyrbid technology or advancing it. Better to buy a Corvette or M3 and enjoy the really good and pure motoring while it lasts, eh?
     
  18. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Well, of course the best thing to do is live near decent public transportation and get rid of your car. I did the former, and was about to do the latter, but in November some dummy gave me a high paying gig that I can only drive to. At least my wife takes the metro - gets her to work in 15 minutes.
     
  19. jelloshotsrule macrumors G3

    jelloshotsrule

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    #19
    like ij said, no cars actually get what they advertise. and how is the emissions the only way? are there a lot of gasoline cars, in the same size class, that get the same mileage as hybrids (civics, etc)? i'm not sure if you're counting diesels or not, but hopefully not because that's a tough call to make when you deal with the crap that diesels spit out (not getting into biodiesel here). and yes, i know diesel car engines are much cleaner than trucks (mostly unregulated), but they still spew some nasty stuff.

    i think hybrids are a decent stop gap. they are not the answer, but they are a temporary help.
     
  20. pseudobrit thread starter macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #20
    From what I've gathered, real world mileage returns between hybrid and non-hyrbid models are not substantially different, and certainly not enough to justify the added cost and hype.

    The curious thing about diesel engines is that they're only as clean as the fuel they burn. ULSD standards will result in increased refining costs but significantly reduce the emissions from th engines.
    If we had the stringent European standards we'd be better off still, but trucking companies and their lobbyists would rather have rotgut garbage-truck grease 20 cents cheaper than get rid of the dirty diesel image.

    Note too that diesels put out more NO2 than a gasoline engine but also half the CO2 and not enough CO to kill yourself with the old "idling in the garage" trick.

    I think of hybrids like weak painkillers. They seem to mask the underlying disease well enough while doing nothing to fix it. Meanwhile, the disease festers and worsens.
     
  21. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #21
    According to Edmunds, their Prius has averaged 40.8 MPG over 30,000 miles. By way of comparison, they recorded a 26.0 average on a Camry. The difference is nearly 60%. Whether that's worth the added cost and "hype" is question for each individual car-buyer to answer.
     
  22. pseudobrit thread starter macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #22
    The Camry is a different class. Roughly, Prius = Corrolla. I've heard of Civic hybrid owners getting 35mpg.
     
  23. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #23
    I think these distinctions are getting a little arbitrary. The Prius doesn't precisely equal anything, but if you want to compare it to the Corolla, go ahead -- I doubt the MPG advantage will totally disappear. I also wouldn't place too much reliance on anecdotal evidence, and not especially on second-hand anecdotal evidence. Edmunds drove their car for over 30,000 miles, so I trust their figures are pretty reliable.
     
  24. aquajet macrumors 68020

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    #24
    Is that 35mpg overall, because that's not at all impressive. My parents' 1996 Civic DX automatic gets 42mpg while commuting on the freeway.
     
  25. pseudobrit thread starter macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #25
    Mid 30s are probably reasonable to expect from the Corolla. There's just no way you can compare the Camry to the Prius as the two are in entirely different classes, and the Camry has an optional V6.

    I'll give the Prius more credit than Edmunds saw but even then I can't see it returning more than 25% better fuel economy over the Corolla.
     

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