I bought a Prius, -50 man points (Hybrid vehicle discussion)

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,326
So I've been online window shopping for a new car for the past few weeks. I have a V8 '93 Chevy pickup I have been using as a work vehicle. Since taking my new field service job, I am going to be driving 30K-40K miles per year. My truck gets 12-15mpg. Doing the math, I realized that I was paying more to drive my paid-off truck in liability insurance that I would pay to finance a $20K car that gets 35MPG with full coverage. So the search commenced. I put together a spreadsheet that would break cars down by sticker price financed by year plus fuel price for given EPA estimates per year and spit out a yearly price tag. What I found was that every hybrid car that had a non-hybrid counterpart was more expensive than the non-hybrid version even factoring fuel price for 30K miles per year. For example Jetta Vs. Jetta GDI Vs. Jetta hybrid, the hybrid and GDI are not cost effective until gas goes up to$9/gal or unless you drive >100K miles per year. So I was opposed to hybrids from the outset.

On my list of cars to visit in person, were most of the low-cost compacts from all the main manufacturers; Jetta, Kia Rio, Kia Forte, Ford Fiesta, etc. about 15 in all. I didn't actually visit all 15. After viewing a few, I noticed a trend; all the cars which looked good in the spreadsheet had absolutely no room for my tools and the occasional 50HP VFD. So I started to shift my focus from the compacts to the micro SUV/crossovers like Kia Soul, Mazda 3 wagon, etc. but I was severely disappointed with the gas milage; it was starting to no longer make sense to buy a car.

Then I pulled in to a toyota dealership to see what they had, and the salesman tried to push this used Prius on me. I told him I wasn't interested in hybrids or used cars but he insisted I at least look at it, and so I did. I was amazed by how much cargo space it had. The gauge cluster and all the widgets gave me a nerdgasm. I test drove it and he told me that they were offering a 7 year/100K mile bumper to bumper warranty. That give me more miles and more years than I would get with a lot manufacturer's (even Toyota's) brand new car warranty. So in my mind, for all intents and purposes I can consider this a new car. Someone else drove it around for 35K miles and took that "new car hickey" for me, so it puts it within my budget.

So I bought it. I transferred all my tools and spare parts (275lbs) into the back of the car and it didn't even squat noticably. I guess it has a beefy rear suspension, being a hybrid with a big ass battery pack over the rear wheels. I took it for a spin around town today with the tools and the family inside; driving like a granny, keeping the "eco meter" centered, I got 71.5MPG (according the trip meter, yet to be verified by tank fill) over a 9 mile trip of stop & go traffic.

So in summary, my opinion is that hybrids don't make sense in almost all cases and I think they're largely a gimmick. However, if you need a lot of space and excellent mileage and a quality dependable car, the Prius is hard to beat - as long as you buy it used .

Side profile pic is with 275lbs of crap in the back (pictured). When I had this crap in my wife's '95 corolla, it squatted the car until the rear wheels were up under the fenders. I could not go over speed bumps without scraping. No problem for the Prius. Also, in "power mode" the prius and lug this crap up a freeway entry ramp faster than the corolla; I think even faster than my truck.

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bountyhunter

Joined Sep 7, 2009
2,512
My brother in law has owned a Prius since they first came out. I commend anybody who helps us reduce dependence on foreign oil.

That said:

1) Hybrids do not get the mileage they claim. Originally, Prius claimed 60 mpg and they actually get about 42 - 44 in real driving. Motor Trend just tested the new Hybrid Ford Focus that claims 47 MPG... they got 31 mpg in real driving. Buyer beware.

2) Hybrids do not justify their added cost in gas savings alone, but the government subsidies make them a better deal. Out here, the dealers always have a $3k -$5k "jack up" on the sticker so only fools would buy them.... or people who can't do basic math.

3) Demand for hybrids depends on price of gas. Toyota had already started shutting down the US factories making them some years back from poor sales when Big Oil first started the big hikes (went up to $3/gal) and demand returned. In other parts of the world where gas is always above$5/gal, they are a better deal.

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,326
My brother in law has owned a Prius since they first came out. I commend anybody who helps us reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Yeah reducing the dependence on foreign oil while increasing the dependence on foreign cars. It's a no-win situation, even for the environment (some claim). I believe there was Top Gear episode a few years ago where they claimed that the amount of pollutants released into the air in the extraction and processing of the materials used in the batteries of hybrids was more damaging to the environment than burning the additional gas in a comparable non-hybrid car over its lifetime.

1) Hybrids do not get the mileage they claim. Originally, Prius claimed 60 mpg and they actually get about 42 - 44 in real driving. Motor Trend just tested the new Hybrid Ford Focus that claims 47 MPG... they got 31 mpg in real driving. Buyer beware.
In my mind there hangs a fog of mystery over the EPA estimates in cars - I have not done much research, but as I understand it, the EPA puts every car through the same test with the same guidelines and whatever the result is what the manufacturer must advertise. So if the EPA estimate says a car gets 50mpg, then the car owner should actually get that mileage if they drive according to the metrics of the EPA test. But they often don't. A Kia salesman told me that he drives a Kia Soul ECO, which has an EPA estimate of 31MPG, but he gets 40MPG. That was probably bogus sales talk, but it might not be impossible either, if he drives in a more conservative manner than what the car is driven for the EPA test. Give that car to a lead-footed hothead teenage boy and I bet it gets less than 20MPG.
2) Hybrids do not justify their added cost in gas savings alone, but the government subsidies make them a better deal. Out here, the dealers always have a $3k -$5k "jack up" on the sticker so only fools would buy them.... or people who can't do basic math.
Agreed.
3) Demand for hybrids depends on price of gas. Toyota had already started shutting down the US factories making them some years back from poor sales when Big Oil first started the big hikes (went up to $3/gal) and demand returned. In other parts of the world where gas is always above$5/gal, they are a better deal.
Yes, but if one really does the math, it still doesn't even make sense at $5/gal, or$6, or more. I was using real numbers before; in my spreadsheet I started fudging numbers to see what it would take to make a hybrid more economical than a base model of the same vehicle, and with increasing gas prices, it wasn't until I hit $9/gal that the hybrid started to compete with the base model in most makes. bountyhunter Joined Sep 7, 2009 2,512 Yes, but if one really does the math, it still doesn't even make sense at$5/gal, or $6, or more. I was using real numbers before; in my spreadsheet I started fudging numbers to see what it would take to make a hybrid more economical than a base model of the same vehicle, and with increasing gas prices, it wasn't until I hit$9/gal that the hybrid started to compete with the base model in most makes.
Hmmm. I did the math some years back and I recall it was about $6/gal for break even at 100k miles of driving. I was probably assuming a$2500 "premium" of the hybrid model and a mileage comparison of about 30 MPG (standard) and 45 MPG (hybrid). Today, many standard cars get mileage of 35 - 40 mpg which cuts into the hybrid 'advantage" even more.

Without government subsidies, the hybrid would already be extinct in the US.

bountyhunter

Joined Sep 7, 2009
2,512
In my mind there hangs a fog of mystery over the EPA estimates in cars - I have not done much research, but as I understand it, the EPA puts every car through the same test
True, but their tests bear no resemblance to real life. In the real world where we have to accelerate in a timely fashion, the EPA tests are ridiculous. In most cases, real numbers are 20% or more less than EPA. Sometimes a lot worse. This has been well known for a long time.

The disparity as to why some cars are so much farther off EPA has to do with how underpowered they are and how much you have to "tach up" the engine to get any power out of it. The new design technique of tiny, turbo inline four engines (to reduce weight) show an even wider disparity because any kind of normal acceleration will see the transmission downshifting several gears to force the RPM's up to where the narrow power range is.... and that guzzles gas.

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,326
True, but their tests bear no resemblance to real life. In the real world where we have to accelerate in a timely fashion, the EPA tests are ridiculous. In most cases, real numbers are 20% or more less than EPA. Sometimes a lot worse. This has been well known for a long time.

The disparity as to why some cars are so much farther off EPA has to do with how underpowered they are and how much you have to "tach up" the engine to get any power out of it. The new design technique of tiny, turbo inline four engines (to reduce weight) show an even wider disparity because any kind of normal acceleration will see the transmission downshifting several gears to force the RPM's up to where the narrow power range is.... and that guzzles gas.
Well, I should have this all cleared up here after a few weeks, at least as far as it applies to the prius. I plan to put it through several gas-tank-long tests in the coming weeks. One week drive lead footed, then granny style the next and so forth. I want to compare my results with the EPA claims and other owner's claims. Today's stroll was interesting, with the trip meter claiming 71.5MPG. If that meter is not lying to me, then that's pretty awesome! I have heard of some cars greatly exceeding the EPA estimates. Some owners are claiming that they get 70-100MPG from the 2002 Honda Insight, but they are probably driving painfully slow to get that. I might actually be able to milk 70MPG out of this Prius - we will see.

Brownout

Joined Jan 10, 2012
2,390
Congratulations. Hybrid cars actually get very good fuel economy, and they are getting better. I looked a year or so ago, and many happy owners were reportinng 48-56 MPG for thier Prius. No other automobile I know of has a combination of fuel economy and interior space/cargo capacity of the Prius.

bountyhunter

Joined Sep 7, 2009
2,512
Well, I should have this all cleared up here after a few weeks, at least as far as it applies to the prius. I plan to put it through several gas-tank-long tests in the coming weeks. One week drive lead footed, then granny style the next and so forth. I want to compare my results with the EPA claims and other owner's claims. Today's stroll was interesting, with the trip meter claiming 71.5MPG. If that meter is not lying to me, then that's pretty awesome! I have heard of some cars greatly exceeding the EPA estimates. Some owners are claiming that they get 70-100MPG from the 2002 Honda Insight, but they are probably driving painfully slow to get that. I might actually be able to milk 70MPG out of this Prius - we will see.
There used to be a website for Prius worshippers some where..... I remember reading on it that you must remove your right shoe when you drive to get the maximum "feel" of the gas pedal to allow for the lightest possible touch to maximize mileage.

No, I am not kidding. I swear I read that and they were not joking.

bountyhunter

Joined Sep 7, 2009
2,512
Congratulations. Hybrid cars actually get very good fuel economy, and they are getting better. I looked a year or so ago, and many happy owners were reportinng 48-56 MPG for thier Prius. No other automobile I know of has a combination of fuel economy and interior space/cargo capacity of the Prius.
I believe you will fid that "granny foot" city driving actually gives highest MPG, you might be able to get over 50 (?) Highway MPG is actually lower because the gas engine has to run a lot more. I have heard about 42 - 44 for 65 - 70 mph cruising (see graph).

That little increase from 65 to 70 mph is EXPENSIVE in fuel....

http://www.fuelly.com/car/toyota/prius

http://blog.wellesleytoyota.com/blo...-Max-Hybrid-Comparing-Real-World-Fuel-Economy

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THE_RB

Joined Feb 11, 2008
5,438

Did you run fuel savings vs cost of ownership/depreciation additional cost of vehicle etc? Remember the 5 year full battery replacement at $10k+ gives you an additional 2k per year cost too. How many years are on the battery now? And congrats with your shiny new car too! Brownout Joined Jan 10, 2012 2,390 Hybrid batteries typically last 10 years or more, and costs$3-4k for replacement. Batteries from out of service cars are coming on the market.

Combined cite/highway driving is about what I wrote in my post, ~47-56.

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WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
27,854
Battery prices are definitely coming down, which is good and which was expected all along. But another thing that was expected all along is also happening. How many people with a non-hybrid car can cough up $3k to$4k for some repair to keep the car going? Surprisingly few. Many have to park or sell the vehicle. The same thing is happening with people whose battery packs give out -- they can't afford to get a new one. Yes, they should have known that it was a cost that was going to happen and yes they should have been planning and saving for it. But, like their roof and other large ticket maintenance items, they don't.

For Stantor: I hope you like the Prius and I hope it works out well for you. But don't be too enamoured with the 7yr/100kmi warranty. The previous owner took off 35kmi and if you are driving 30kmi/yr you will be out of warranty in just a couple of years. Also, my understanding is that the actual lifetime of the battery is more related to how much the battery has been used (and the details of how) and less to how old the battery is. The 10-year expectancy is more likely better looked at as about a 100kmi to 200kmi expectancy. So you might be looking at shelling out that $3k or$4k for a battery in about another 3 or 4 years. So tack on another $1000/yr of expenses (and DO put money aside for that battery!). The good news is that 3 or 4 years from now, battery prices will probably have come down even more. As your battery wears, you may see a marked decrease in your fuel economy. While some batteries seem to keep their efficiencies right up to the end, others drop 1/3 to 1/2 more or less steadily over the last half of their life. From what I can tell, there doesn't seem to be any strong predictable way to tell which batteries will do which and it is probably related to how well treated they are over their life with perhaps just one or a few harsh instances having a huge effect later on. Oh, and don't put much faith in that 71mpg indication. At just 9 miles, that means it is basing it's calculation on about 2 cups of gas. The uncertainty in that value is probably pretty high. As I'm sure you've already done, a basic look at the numbers might be: 30,000mi/yr 60mi/gal vs 15mi/gal$4/gal for gas

$8000/yr for truck$2000/yr for hybrid
$6000/yr fuel savings$1000/yr battery expense
$5000/yr net savings So, even if you aren't paying any interest on the loan, you need four years to recover the cost. How much value will a 5 year old Prius with 150kmi to 180kmi on it have? Maybe a noticeable amount. You also have to consider whether your truck could stand up to four years of service with that kind of use. And you also need to look at the difference in annual maintenance between the truck and the Prius. I have no idea, but my gut feel is that the maintenance on a new Prius will tend to be noticeably higher than on an older truck. But, then again, does the engine and drivetrain have another 150kmi in them before you have to go through a tranny or something? Brownout Joined Jan 10, 2012 2,390 More than 97% of the over 2 million Prius' sold are still on the road. The majority are operating with thier original battery. http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2012-toyota-prius-v-first-drive-review http://www.motherearthnews.com/gree...y-replacement-zb0z1205zmat.aspx#axzz2VoWAmB5B Also this; since the charge and discharge of hybrid batteries are carefully controlled, battery life is extended even for high usage autos: Right now the Prius, and most older hybrids like the Escape Hybrid and the first generation Fusion Hybrid use Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. This chemistry is more stable but less power dense than lithium based batteries. In addition remember what I said about battery life? State of charge and charge/discharge rates are large factors. Hybrids extend their battery life deliberately by never fully charging nor fully discharging their batteries. In fact most non-plug-in hybrids use 60-70% of the rated capacity in the battery. Since they dont depend on the battery for 100% of the propulsion like an EV does, charge and discharge rates are lower which also extends battery life. And lastly, its less obvious when your hybrids battery does age because its not your only source of propulsion. As hybrids move to lithium batteries they are retaining these life extending measures, but even still they may or may not have the same life span as the NiMH batteries, only time will tell. In the plug-in world, only GM seems to be operating in a cautious fashion by only using about 80% of the Volt and ELRs battery pack vs nearly 95% of the capacity in Ford and Toyota models. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/the-truth-about-battery-life/ Last edited: WBahn Joined Mar 31, 2012 27,854 And someone that has their Prius parked in their garage because the battery pack needs to be replaced would show up in those statistics as being "still on the road with the original battery pack." Brownout Joined Jan 10, 2012 2,390 Last I checked, a garage isn't a road. WBahn Joined Mar 31, 2012 27,854 Ah. I didn't realize that when you checked vehicicle registration data to see which vehicles have been scrrapped that the records included whether a vehicle is in a garage. bountyhunter Joined Sep 7, 2009 2,512 Ni-MH versus Li-Ion is a big difference: The Ni-MH (or Ni-Cd) are a lot heavier then Li. However, Ni batteries really do not wear out from charge/discharge cycling. They fail from other effects like penetration of the internal insulator. You can literally deeply discharge/charge an NI battery thousands of times with no ill effect. Toyota has done a very good job with the NI-MH batteries, I first thought they would be like computers and phones and be dying at three to five years. They are doing much better than that. failures are actually quite rare. Li batteries are really more of a "constant energy" device which is to say they really only have so much energy to give in their life span. EV makers are forced to Li because they need to reduce the weight and get the higher energy density. I do know that the expected full use cycles on Li is a few hundred cycles, not thousands. I think owners will be very unhappy with life/cost of the batteries and that may well be the end of all electric vehicles. Time will tell. Another point not made: all of the battery types are really only "happy" in a very narrow temp range, like about 10C - 30C. Outside of that, care must be taken to slow charge them to prevent them from being damaged. IMHO, EVs will never be viable in climates where it gets too cold. I don't think Green Bay packer fans will ever be driving them..... Last edited: Brownout Joined Jan 10, 2012 2,390 The new batteries will be Lithium-Iron-Phosphate, not Lithium-Cobalt. The chemistry is proven to last thousands of deep discharge cycles (which they won't see in hybrids) and have long life. They are widely used in higher capacity applications. bountyhunter Joined Sep 7, 2009 2,512 Li-Fe Po4 are better for life cycles (see curve) and less prone to fire but they are NOT being used in either all electric cars or aircraft. They are using Li-Ion to squeeze the weight down. IMHO, that choice was insane and reckless but they didn't consult me. I am not sure if new Prius are using Li or which chemistry. Tesla is definitely using Li ion. Tesla Debacle Highlights Need For New EV Battery Technology ////the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after a Chevy Volt fire at the test facility have sparked doubt and criticism about cars powered by lithium-ion batteries. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rossken...ighlights-need-for-new-ev-battery-technology/ Nope, looks like Toyota is drinking the Li-Ion kool-aid as welll: Prius plug-in hybrid Main article: Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid The Prius Plug-in Hybrid (ZVW35) is based on the conventional third generation (ZVW30) with a 4.4-kWh lithium-ion battery that allows an all-electric range of 23 km (14.3 mi).[9] A global demonstration program involving 600 pre-production test cars began in late 2009 and took place in Japan, Europe, Canada, China, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.[61] Prius v Main article: Toyota Prius v In May 2011 Toyota introduced the Prius α (alpha) in Japan, which is available in a five-seat, two-row model and a seven-seat, three-row model, the latter’s third row enabled by a space-saving lithium-ion drive battery in the center console. The five-seat model uses a NiMH battery pack.[69][70] The Alpha is the basis for the five-seat Prius v launched in North America in October 2011 with a nickel-metal hydride battery pack similar to the 2010 model year Prius, and with two rows of seats to accommodate five passengers. The European and Japanese versions are offered with a lithium-ion battery, Attachments • 17.1 KB Views: 21 Last edited: THE_RB Joined Feb 11, 2008 5,438 Sorry I was wrong re battery prices, they have come down a lot since the 2000 era$8-$10k price tag. Seems about$3500 or so these days for battery and labour (if you get the dealer buyback of your old battery).

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So, even if you aren't paying any interest on the loan, you need four years to recover the cost. How much value will a 5 year old Prius with 150kmi to 180kmi on it have? Maybe a noticeable amount.
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I just been googling round the Prius forums. Actual fuel savings of $1800 -$2200 per year are common enough, at the higher usage end. Many people might drive a lot less than that.

Depreciation seesm to be a killer, people complaining that a 3-4 year old Prius is selling for 50% to 52% of its new $40k value. So you'd have to weight up saving$8k in fuel over 4 years (if you drive a LOT) vs taking a hit of -$20k lost when you sell. At least Strantor made a smart choice and bought his Prius second hand, so getting it at half price means that someone else lost that$20k.

To Strantor; I'd keep a log book from day one, writing down gallons of fuel put in the tank vs miles on the odometer each time you fill. Your real world MPG will be very easy to average after a few fill ups. As will your expected total yearly miles, allowing you to calc fuel savings per year.