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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hybrid Cars... But Were Afraid To Ask, Part Two

Published May 16th 2007, 11:36pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

One of our young readers sent us the following questions about hybrid vehicles, saying "I am 13 years old and I had a few questions for you about my hybrid car project:
1. What is the top selling hybrid car?
2. Why are hybrid cars better than normal cars?
3. What are the benefits of a Hybrid car?
4. How does a hybrid car work?
5. What is the average cost of a hybrid car/sedan?
6. About how much would you spend on gas in a month using a hybrid car?
7. What city sells the most hybrid cars?
8. How long does a battery in a hybrid car last? "

While I was researching her term paper, it occurred to me that she shouldn't be the only person to benefit from this research, so here is what we learned. (Natasha's list of questions was long, so we've broken it into two parts. For answers to questions 1 through 4, please click to read "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hybrid Cars... But Were Afraid To Ask, Part One.")

Q: What is the average cost of a hybrid car/sedan?
Typically, hybrids can cost several thousand dollars more than their traditional counterparts. Pricing for the top-five best selling hybrid vehicles ranges between $20,000 to $40,000. The Prius, which costs just under $20,000 could be compared to the Yaris, which retails for as low as $11,000 and offers 34/39 mpg. At the higher end, the Lexus RX 400h retails around $38,000 and could be compared to the Lexus RX 330 which sells for about the same price, but only offers fuel economy of 18/24. In an apples-to-apples comparison, consider the Honda Civic, which retails from  $22,600 to  $24,350 as a hybrid offering 49/51 mpg and between $15,000 - $25,000 with a traditional internal combustion engine offering 30/40 mpg. The Ford Escape Hybrid retails between  $23,508 - $24,89 with 33/31 mpg, while its ICE counterpart retails between $19,320 and $26,380 with 20/29 mpg.

Ap_consumer_reports_title Consumer Reports  performed detailed financial analysis of a half-dozen hybrids last year and determined that only two of the six hybrids recovered their price premium in the first five years and 75,000 miles of ownership. So while these facts and figures show you might save some money on fuel, be advised you pay for it up front by buying a more-expensive vehicle.

Q: About how much would you spend on gas in a month using a hybrid car?
Money Well, this is entirely determined by driving style, and the number of miles you drive each month. My own 1998 Honda Accord averages about 23 miles per gallon over my city commute. If I drive about 250 miles per week, or 1000 miles per month, then I will use about 44 gallons monthly.  With gas prices at $3.56 per gallon, I could expect to pay about $155 to the local gas station each month.

Okay, let's do the same math using the figures for the 2007 Honda Accord Hybrid, which promises 29 mpg in the city: A thousand miles at 29 mpg is about 34.5 gallons of gas, or $123; a savings of $32. Remember, however, that few drivers of hybrid vehicles actually realize the numbers quoted by the EPA. I'd like a new car, but I'm not sure I want to pay the $23,720 - $25,226 suggested retail for the hybrid over the $18,250 - $21,819 I might pay for a similar gasoline-powered Accord if I'm only saving about $400 per year on fuel.

Q: What city sells the most hybrid cars?
Impossible to say, as vehicle sales reports do not identify where the sales are located, but it would be easy to assume that more hybrids are sold in areas with denser population and more commuters, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. I'd love to hear from anybody who actually has sales data to answer this question. 

Q: How long does a battery in a hybrid car last?
Ap_about_hybrid_cars_logo About.com says "Although no one can predict exactly how long the hybrid batteries will last, the manufacturers stand behind their products. For example, on hybrid components, Honda provides an 8- year/80,000-mile warranty; Toyota provides an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty. And don't forget, just because the warranty has expired doesn't mean the battery will immediately fail. There are plenty of hybrids that have gone beyond the warranty period without a failure."

Thanks for your question, Natasha! I hope our other readers will find the information here just as useful and informative as your teacher.


By Brandy Schaffels
Contributing Editor

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