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Hybrid/Electric Vehicles: Should I Buy? 2117

nissin writes "I'm ready to buy my first vehicle, and would like to hear your experiences with either hybrid or electric vehicles. Are they a good alternative to conventional vehicles, or just a geek toy? Do they perform well in the city? How about on long road trips? I am also interested in hearing about other alternative, yet practical, forms of transportation that I may have missed."
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Hybrid/Electric Vehicles: Should I Buy?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12, 2003 @02:59PM (#6945202)
    we do not buy ecological vehicles!
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:00PM (#6945212) Homepage Journal

    A friend in another city has a hybrid. According to him the pickup is slow but the fuel economy is great. Pure electric would be super if you didn't have to make long trips and always had an electrical outlet to charge when parked.

    Pet Peeve #843287: SUV drivers that whine about the price of gas. You bought that overpriced penis extension, learn to live with the consequences.
    • What if you made a full internal combustion car with a lightweight aluminum chasis, a variable speed transmission, low resistance tires and sleek aerodynamics?

      The hybrids are pretty much the same except they suffer heavy batteries, gain regenerative braking and have smaller lighter IC engines.

      • by pmz ( 462998 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:18PM (#6945601) Homepage
        What if you made a full internal combustion car with a lightweight aluminum chasis, a variable speed transmission, low resistance tires and sleek aerodynamics?

        This has pretty much been done. Aside from the full CVT, I believe this kind of car is called one of "Saturn S Series", "Honda Civic", "Toyota Corrola", etc. These cars pretty much all have a spaceframe chassis, small 4-cylinder engine, smaller tires, etc, and they represent just about the best mass-produced conventional cars can do without becoming a "Toyota Echo" or "Geo Metro".

        I personally have no problems with the idea of a hybrid car. However, all we need, now, is economies of scale bringing down price. The relative simplicity of a hybrid car (electric + smaller gas engine) should allow up-front costs and maintenance costs to go even lower than current cars (eventually, that is).
    • by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:09PM (#6945391)
      Pet Peeve #843287: SUV drivers that whine about the price of gas. You bought that overpriced penis extension, learn to live with the consequences.

      Pet Peeve #1: All Americans who whine about the price of gas. If you really want to whine, come to the UK where our Government has turned taxing petrol into an art form.

      • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:41PM (#6946045) Journal

        Pet Peeve #1: All Americans who whine about the price of gas. If you really want to whine, come to the UK where our Government has turned taxing petrol into an art form.

        Now, I don't know how much y'all pay for the petrol / gas in the UK, but here in Norway about 80% of what we pay at the pump end up in the coffers of the goverment - taxes, excise duty on petrol, VAT, VAT on the taxes and the CO2-tax...
        I visited the US (West Virginia to be spesific) this summer, and I commented on how cheap the petrol was; just 1$49 for a US gallon (3.7 liter), while back home I pay the equalent of 4$90 for a US gallon (the price at the pump today was 9.49 kroner / liter). So honestly, the people in the US has nothing to complain about as far as the cost of gasonile goes... in fact, if the cost of it was higher in the US, we might see more sensible cars rolling of the productionlines, and less of the gas-guzzling SUVs.

    • more on hybrids (Score:4, Informative)

      by glassesmonkey ( 684291 ) * on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:14PM (#6945499) Homepage Journal
      I'm not sure how the pickup is slow.. The beauty of electric DC motors is the constant acceleration. I'm sure the set points in the current profile that hackers will one day be able to get into the cars to change the performance curves.

      For more geekier chemistry on electric/hybrids, here's Princton's chemistry website about hybrid electrics [princeton.edu]

      At a stop light, they are silent and no emissions. Silent start-up and DC-motor acceleration until the gas engine kicks on. Cool reuse of breaking energy into charging batteries instead of boring friction and heat in conventional cars. Can be used as a power plant, say, in power outages, or maybe one day, cars plugged into grid can run gas engine to produce electricty during peak times. And they sell pretty well [evworld.com]

      From a cost point of view, they'll never beat out the super-efficient gas motors mini-cars. Battery life and cost of replacement (currently >= value of older hybrid vehicle). The impact on environment for spent toxic chemicals. Engine repairs. (I'm not sure if you've ever look in one, but they are jam-packed with every inch filled and basically unserviceable in terms of the ever fewer small jobs you can do yourself). Oh, and you *MUST* use specially licensed high-voltage service techs, which are few and far between currently. Will cause gas prices to rise -- see econ 101 supply vs. demand
      • Re:more on hybrids (Score:5, Insightful)

        by vondo ( 303621 ) * on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:41PM (#6946047)
        Will cause gas prices to rise -- see econ 101 supply vs. demand.

        How's that again? You must have taken a very different econ class from any I ever did.

        The "supply" of oil is a function of the price. Higher prices mean more oil becomes economically recoverable. If the demand for oil drops, the oil that is cheapest to pump gets pumped. The rest sits in the ground.

        Of course, the problem is that the cheapest oil to pump isn't governed by free market forces, it is price controlled (OPEC), so requiring less isn't necessarily going to mean much downward pressure on the price, but it certainly won't cause the price to go up.

        Maybe you are thinking of economies of scale, but oil production is so far beyond the point where that is changing.

  • Waiting it out (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wawannem ( 591061 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:00PM (#6945216) Homepage
    Personally, I am going to give the technology a few years to mature. I remember reading recently about GM dropping a line of Hybrid cars because the EPA in California banned a particular type of appliance required for re-charging the vehicle. I think it will soon take hold, but I am giving it a bit of time for many of these details to be sorted out.
  • Wait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Armbrust84 ( 688423 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:00PM (#6945228)
    Wait a few more years, you will be grateful. The advantages of having new technology early are many, but so are the drawbacks. I understand that this is not a "new" technology in the strictest sense, but it is not a mature one. I am waiting, and I would advise you to do so also.
  • Expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sys$manager ( 25156 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:01PM (#6945234)
    Considering a hybrid is something like $40,000 canadian, and I just bought a 1987 Honda Civic for $900 that gets 40+mpg and runs perfect, I would spend my money elsewhere. But I'm cheap.
  • Prius rocks (Score:5, Informative)

    by nate1138 ( 325593 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:01PM (#6945236)
    As the proud owner of a Toyota Prius, I can definitely recommend one. I'm not too hot on the looks, but the mileage rocks, and it's been very reliable so far. And it isn't as pokey as you may expect a hybrid to be. You may also want to look at the Honda Insight (If it is still being made).
  • by X ( 1235 ) <x@xman.org> on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:02PM (#6945257) Homepage Journal
    2 of my friends have hybrids (one the Insight and the other the Prius), and they both like them. They are great on the city streets, very quiet and lots of pickup from a standing start thanks to the electric motors. For longer trips, you'll love the quiet, the fuel economy, and the insane distances you can go without needing to fill up your tank. The downside tends to be that they have poor pickup at freeway speeds.

    The other big issue is the feel of the ride. Some people love it, others don't. They have low-friction tires and stiff suspensions (to minimize the amount of energy loss). This tends to make the car ride more like a sporty car (you feel every bump) than a luxury car (soft suspension smooths out the bumps). Some people love that, others hate it.

    Overall, I'd suggest taking it out for a spin, and see whether you like it. They are practical cars though.
    • by MerlynEmrys67 ( 583469 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @04:23PM (#6946834)
      I've had a Prius for 18 months. It is the best car I have ever owned... Fill it up once a month.

      The downside is the insane distances it can go while doing long distance driving. Try going 500 miles between fillups (better than 7 hours) without stoping to empty YOUR tank.

      I don't know what people are complaining about pickup... I've not had any problems... but then I am not a leadfoot to start with and tend to keep it under 70 MPH anyway

      Wierdest thing to happen to me in a Prius... Going over the Grapevine N of LA... going up at 70 MPH engine whining away... get to the top of the hill and start going down - and the engine cuts off. Complete silence. Very spooky going 70 with the engine off

  • by RelliK ( 4466 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:03PM (#6945265)
    Electric vehicles can't go very far or very fast, and when you drive one people will think you're gay.(*)

    (*)Sponsored by the gasoline industry of America.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:03PM (#6945268) Homepage Journal
    So why ask slashdot? The moral of the story seems to be that hybrids are ugly (except, arguably, the toyota prius) and slow (the prius is the best of them in this regard) but get great mileage. They get better mileage in town than on the freeway, because of regenerative braking. Oddly enough they are not all that aerodynamic. In spite of its "futuristic" (read: ugly) lines, the Honda Insight has a .24 CD, and my '89 Nissan 240SX has a .26 CD. But anyway...

    Hybrids get great mileage, and they work. What's not to like? Buy a Prius, or a hybrid Civic. Or, wait a couple years, because Toyota is supposedly going to sell everything in a hybrid model by 2005.

  • Electrics... (Score:3, Informative)

    by BJZQ8 ( 644168 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:03PM (#6945273) Homepage Journal
    Electrics or hybrids are nice...but just wreck one...or have one break for that matter. Nobody but the dealer will touch them because nobody but the dealer has the training and equipment to do it. Insurance companies are extremely wary of them too...I toured an insurance company and they were busy smashing them into things and seeing the effects if the batteries got shorted or spewed acid all over everyone...certainly not worse than having flaming gasoline sprayed on you, but there was a real danger of electrocution.
  • by rednaxela ( 609701 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:03PM (#6945285)
    I have a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid and I love it. Average about 45 mpg. Use it to commute on the DC beltway - plenty of pickup for merging and passing. Have taken 2 4-6 hour trips with the car, and it's just fine - like driving a regular Civic. Really, the only noticeable difference between the Hybrid an the regular Civic is that you can feel the car nose forward just a bit as you press down on the brake pedal and the generator that is driven by the brakes kicks in. You should also note that you can take $2000 off your adjusted gross income on your 2003 taxes, and many states provide addtional incentives. Excise tax was waved in Maryland ($2000), and you can drive in the HOV lanes in Virginia without a second passenger. Bottom line - it's a great car, and a good deal to boot.
    • by pichuco ( 683112 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:47PM (#6946144)
      Got the same car. Love it. Not too long ago I read some article (in Ars Technica [arstechnica.com]) about how driving the HCH changes the way you drive. It's absolutely true. I'm from a country where people drive with intent to kill. Stop signs are taken as suggestions. Always drove fast, recklessly and (my wife would argue) stupidly. I was brought up that way, sorry. Anyway, since I got the HCH my only goal while driving is to maximize the mileage. This model comes with an instantaneous mileage reading and a cumulative one. So now I rarely go over 68 mph. I'm getting 57~58 mpg on the road, and around 48 in the city (I have the manual shift one - another cultural hangup). There's just one thing that I started doing that is definitely moronic. I tend to lock on big semis and tailgate them to improve the mileage even more. Feel like Lance Armstrong. Except he's not retarded, I think. Anyway the technology on these guys is pretty awesome. You get to a stop sign, and the engine stops. Start rolling again and the engine starts as you press the accelerator. A thing of beauty. Plus it's really quiet, and if you choose to ignore it, you would never know that you are not driving just a regular Civic. Finally, you get an obnoxious smug feeling when the idiots on the SUV zoom by you. (Though you could hit 100 mph if you were not so compulsively trying to break the barrier of 60 mpg).
  • by starfighter_org ( 530923 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:04PM (#6945289)
    If you look at the fuel efficiency info on the EPA site, you'll notice that the TDI (Turbo Diesel Injection) Volkswagons can get around 50MPG. They start easy in the winter, unlike the older diesels. Check out www.tdiclub.com. I just got a 2000 TDI Beetle and it's awesome. Also, there are a few modifications that give you loads of extra power from the engine. Some will even increase efficiency and give you more power. These are great cars, go check em out.
    • by Dave Muench ( 21979 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:21PM (#6945667)
      Mod the above comment up.. TDI Volkswagons are great. Anyone who thinks they are noisy or slow should go drive one and drop their 1980's preconceptions. Diesel is available nearly everywhere (you just have to know where to look) and pollutes far less (not just what comes out your tailpipe, but the refining process is simpler as well). TDI VW's also only require oil changes every 10,000 miles, saving you time and money there as well.


      Hybrid electrics are a joke, a stopgap technology until something better comes along. Don't bother.
    • Diesel is Dirty (Score:4, Informative)

      by doctor_no ( 214917 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:42PM (#6946057)
      Diesals are cheap, so if you only care about saving money it's a good alternative, BUT if you care about the enviroment it's far worse than petrol and hybrid alternatives.

      It is true that modern diesel engines produce a lot less carbon dioxide than before, so some people claim diesels are enviromentally friendly, but diesels produce much more of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and toxic particulate matter (or soot) into the air we breathe than petrol counterparts. These particles, because they are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs, can cause or exacerbate a variety of serious health problems.

      Even with the EuroIV(2005) and EuroV(2008) regulations, diesels are still much larger pollutants than petrol engines, and release more arsenic, lead, sulfur, and other particulate matter into the enviroment.
      • Re:Diesel is Dirty (Score:4, Informative)

        by doctor_no ( 214917 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:14PM (#6947575)
        Here are the facts:

        1.) To meet SULEV standards, that current Petrol hybrid Toyota, meets you need to make less than 0.5 g/kWh of nitrogen oxides pollutants, for Diesel EuroIV standards that will be enacted in 2005 the minimum is set at 3.5 g/kWh. Most diesels cars on the road don't even meet these EuroIV standards today. Even the best Diesel standards produce six times more nitrogen oxides than the Hybrid cars discussed.

        2.) low-sulfur diesels aren't widely available in the US, the country that produces the most pollutants from automobiles in the world.

        3.) Bio-diesels are great but aren't available almost anywhere.

        4.) 90% of particulate matter produced by diesels are less than 1 micron in size, thse small particles are not easily exhaled, and stay inside the lungs for long periods of time, corroding cells and ultimately leading to tumor growth (http://www.vpirg.org/campaigns/environmentalHealt h/dieselExhaust.html).
    • by Insightfill ( 554828 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:43PM (#6946077) Homepage
      Agreed. While I ultimately bought the Honda Insight for my daily commute, I looked at the TDIs for quite a while.

      I visited a friend in Tucson once for a long weekend. He had the Jetta TDI at the time and including him, there were five of us in that car touring the city for days. With mountains. The car didn't even breathe hard.

      After 400 miles, the car still had half a tank left.

      People often look at cars as strictly a numbers game, but the TDIs (and hybrids and electrics) can be foolers. All get their pull from very strong, early torque. A good electric job with "only" 60 horsepower has tremendous torque early on, and can seriously give most Mustangs and Camaros a run for the money up to about 30MPH, which is how lots of us suburban/city people live: 0-30-0-45-0, etc.

      Another exmaple of great torque early on are VW's 1.8T engines, which are rated for (depending on model year) 150-190 horsepower, but are incredibly strong right off the line. The turbo is actually ALWAYS engaged, but engages gradually more as the revs climb, giving the engine a very flat torque and power curve. "Turbo lag", as the term normally means, doesn't exist.

      It's often said that people "buy horsepower but drive torque." Something to remember.

      For quite a while, the Insights were besting Miata's and many other "small" cars in class "H" races, I believe, not through big engines, but strong, early torque and very tight handling. I haven't kept up, lately.

  • Try the Prius (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Travoltus ( 110240 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:04PM (#6945299) Journal
    If you like getting 55 MPG, that is. :)

    Alternative fuels are necessary for national security, in my opinion.

    1) The US defeated Japan and Germany chiefly by starving them of oil. The Japanese and Germans had jet fighter planes sitting on the tarmac, ready to pulverize the best we had in the air, but they had no oil to fly them. One day the same thing could happen to America.

    2) The environmental impact of fossil fuels, of course, is horrible.

    3) With alternative fuels, we wouldn't need to be in the Middle East at all.

    Alternative, renewable fuel resources will take us a long way towards national and personal independence.
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <splisken06@ema i l .com> on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:05PM (#6945306)
    Two humps:


    Nuff said.

    (Note: Don't go dromedary. Lazy as can be. Uncomfortable. Spend a little extra for the second hump. It's worth it.)

  • Get a Prius! (Score:5, Informative)

    by HTMLSpinnr ( 531389 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:06PM (#6945337) Homepage
    I own a 2002 Prius, and have pre-ordered a 2004 (new and improved). In short, I love my car. It's got plenty of power for your daily commute, and with my 20-25 miles per day driving, I can easily go two weeks or more between fillups. I've also made the trip from Southern California to Phoenix AZ on 6-7 gallons. It's also beneficial to know that I'm not polluting nearly as much as the big SUV's I share the road with, since the current model is SULEV rated, and the new one also carries the AT-PZEV rating for partial zero emissions.

    The current model doesn't carry a whole lot, and you can't tow with either generation, but for most of us, that's not a regular issue. The new version is a hatchback with fold-downs eats, so it solves the "carrying stuff" issue.

    There's plenty of Yahoo! Groups and other forums on electric or hybrid cars. A couple I personally hang out on and post alot of good geek info:


    See you there!
  • buy a motorcycle (Score:3, Informative)

    by erikdotla ( 609033 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:06PM (#6945338)
    Buy a motorcycle. Excellent on gas, better than 90% of cars out there. You get to experience the road in a way cars cannot show you. You're not trapped in a box, observing the world through glass. On a bike, you're part of the road, the scenery, nature.

    If you buy a jap cruiser, you can spend as little as $5,000, up to $30,000+ for high-end bikes or Harleys. I own and highly recommend the Suzuki VL800 Volusia. A phat 800cc cruiser for around $6500.

    I fill my tank for $7 (~3.8 gallons) and go 175 miles.
  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:08PM (#6945389) Homepage Journal
    I considered hybrid back in the summer of 2002. I went shopping for a Honda Civic. For $5,000 more I could have gotten the hybrid version. I did a math projection for 5 years, and I simply did not save $5,000 in gas. (It's worth noting that I only drive 10 miles a day.) My memory's fuzzy on the details of my math, but I remember thinking gas prices would have to at least double in order to break even. There are probably other ways to justify that cost, but that's what stood out for me and why I didn't go hybrid.

    Also, here in Oregon, there were complaints that with higher fuel efficiency, there is fewer tax dollars coming from gas to repair roads with. So they cranked up the registration fees of hybrids. That's another cost I would have to have endured.

    You should take some time to do some math. How much does gas cost now? How much is it likely to go up for the period you plan on having your car?What's the cost difference in buying it today? Is there any real benefit?

    Short of some disaster that destroys or cuts off our oil supply, I can't think of a reason not to go with a traditional gas guzzler.
    • by NaugaHunter ( 639364 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:57PM (#6946362)
      Let's see...


      Yeah, it can't possibly double by 2007. Why, we'd have to get involved in a war in the Middle East and have accidents at offshore oil rigs and have problems with the Alaskan Pipe line and have an energy company-friendly administration that won't release oil reserves...
  • by JustAnotherReader ( 470464 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:09PM (#6945393)
    Ars Technica [arstechnica.com] did a really good review of the Honda Insight. You might find it informative.
  • Prius: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:10PM (#6945413) Homepage
    I have driven the Toyota Prius, and I like it. I plan to eventually pick up a used one in a few years as there is no way I plan to pay full sticker price for one.

    One neat feature the Prius has is a "B" setting on its automatic transmission. This is like regular drive, except it is used for long downhill stretches where breaking is needed, the "B" setting forces constant regenerative braking so you store much of that descent energy.

    As I understand it, Toyota plans on putting the dual in all their new vehicles after a certain point. I would certanly like on in my 1989 4Runner as the gas milage on that thing is awful.*

    * FYI I am probably one of the few people you see on the road who can acutally justify owning a SUV as I need it for teaching Whitewater kayaking and Mountaneering.
  • My experiences (Score:4, Informative)

    by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:11PM (#6945433) Homepage

    I've been driving a 2003 Toyota Prius since April. I'm very happy with it.

    It has decent acceleration, about the same as other cars I've driven. It's comfortable, quite roomy for a small car, the back seat has decent leg room. I get 45-48 miles per gallon, closer to 45 during hot periods when I use the A/C a lot. I paid about $21K, including options (I didn't get the GPS system). There's also a tax credit for hybrid vehicles that you should look into.

    The acceleration from a standing start is quite good because both engines (electric and gasoline) pull. The gasoline engine cuts off at stops, and in slow stop-and-go traffic only the electric motor runs, which is why the Prius gets better fuel efficiency in city driving than on the highway (the EPA rating is 52 city, 47 highway).

    The 2004 Prius appears to be a substantial improvement: it's larger, but gets even better fuel efficiency.

  • by opkool ( 231966 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:14PM (#6945497) Homepage
    Right now, TDIs are:

    * fun to drive (german engineering)
    * available from small Golf, sedan Jetta, wagon JettaWagen or trendy NewBug
    * very safe (tons of safety features by default)
    * lotsa torque (you drive torque, not horsepower)
    * great mileage (EPA certifies 49 hwy, 42 city)
    * you can run on BioDiesel (all or mixture of BioD + diesel)
    * soon, Diesel in the US will be very clean (extra low sulphur diesel, like in Europe and Japan)
    * diesel is proven technology
    * 700 miles on one tank (some guys get 1000 miles)
    * diesel fuel has waaay stabler price (no high huckups) than gas
    * low maintenance (no sparkplugs, longer oil change intervals...)
    * engines made by Audi engineers
    * you can easily tinker the engine yourself :)

    Check out http://www.tdiclub.com

    I own a TDI and is just great.

  • by 511pf ( 685691 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:15PM (#6945526)
    In the compact segment it was the remarkable Toyota Prius that took top honours with 4.5/4.7 and 63/60 mpg. This car is reliable too - a Vancouver-based Prius taxi was recently taken off the road with over 332,000 km on the clock and no major repairs. It was only taken out of service because Toyota in Japan wanted to strip it down and check everything out (the driver was given a new Prius at no charge). Perhaps even Toyota was amazed at this vehicle's astonishing durability, but some credit must go to driver, Andrew Grant.
    http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/tw/thrifty. htm [canadiandriver.com]
  • Green Vehicles (Score:3, Informative)

    by germinatoras ( 465782 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:15PM (#6945544) Homepage

    A good source of general information on fuel economy is the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide [epa.gov]. This will provide some good information and cold, hard numbers. Of course, the only way to know you'll be really satisfied is by taking one for a test drive.

  • by CausticWindow ( 632215 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:17PM (#6945576)

    Remember the Total Infomation Awareness project?

    Don't you think they read Slashdot?

    And what about your neighbours or the mail guy, have you already forgotten about the Terrorism Information and Prevention System?

    Better be a good citizen and get that SUV.

  • Neither!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by barfy ( 256323 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:19PM (#6945625)
    Electric Vehicles are usually fairly enviormentally unfriendly. When you consider how the electricity is generated, and the amount of lead in current electric vehicles. Hybrids are better, but if you factor in the amount of resources utilized in it's creation, there is only one reasonable alternative. BUY A USED CAR. Reduce - Reuse - recycle. These are much more powerful words when it comes to resource utilization. The money saved on the vehicle (probably 10's of thousands of dollars) can be spent on EFF, OSS, GAS, or all the twinkies you can eat. And the amount of resources saved by not building *you* a new car, is much more "enviromentally" friendly the how much petrol you will be burning.
  • by Jerk City Troll ( 661616 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:21PM (#6945659) Homepage

    My girlfriend got a 2003 Civic Hybrid with a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) last April. This vehcile is phenominal. As soon as I have the money, I will be getting one myself.

    With proper driving technique, I've gotten it as high as 52.6mpg (average). (There is an instantaneous mpg meter beneath the average gauge that shows you what you're getting as you go over hills and so forth--it really helps you adjust your driving for maximum efficiency.) Without much thought, it usually averages between 43-46mpg. With a 12.7 gallon (it might be 13) tank, I've gone as far as 620 miles.

    The engineering is quite nice, the car has been very reliable. The ride is remarkably smooth and the acceleration is silky. Handling is amazing. One nasty downside is the car is very light, so it hydroplanes easier than most vehicles. I would highly recommend getting AA-AAA rated tires (like Falkens) if you drive in wet areas a lot. They will help reduce this.

    The interior is great too. If you didn't know it was a hybrid, you would think you were driving a regular car (albeit the console is very slick, kind of a retro look). It's a very spatious, full-sized sedan. The backseat floor does not have a hump in the middle and is also quite generous space-wise. I cannot say enough about the interior: it's a very decent size.

    A quick summary of how it works: you have a small, 1.3L gasoline engine (I think 52hp). Right on the drive train, just before the transmission is the electric motor (that contribute an aditional 41hp for a total of 93). When electricity is "pumped" into the motor, it obviously reduces the load on the engine. This is used for acceleration and hill climbing. When idle, the electric motor does what all motors do when pushed externally: it generates power to charge the battery. The brakes are regenerative. When you stop at traffic lights or stop-signs, the engine stops to save gasoline. Since it has solid state ignition, it has zero turn-over, so it starts instantly (as soon as you let off the brake).

    Apparantly, there are also a variety of hacks that can be done to cause it to favor the electric motor more for those of us who are really light on the gas pedal. I haven't really investigated this, so consider them rumors.

    My recommendation: get one ASAP. You will not be disappointed with this car. It could use a few extra trimmings, but even in its simplicity feature-wise, it's a very enjoyable car. My girlfriend calculates it will pay for itself in a matter of 5 years. Nothing much more to say. At least go test drive one.

    Oh, and we also looked at the Toyota Prius. Those things suck ass. They are very rough to drive. The computer screen is always full of motion and it's very distracting without lending much usefulness. Furthermore, it's cramped inside and the vehcile controls are just... bizarre. The engine compartment is also very cramped. Doing work on that vehicle would require taking a lot of shit apart, ergo it may be very expensive to service. Handling sucked. Overall, the Toyota Prius is just as shitty as its Echo counterpart.

    One last note: you may want to hold off on a hybrid from anyone though. Honda has plans to market a fuel-cell powered electric car in the US within the next couple of years. Those will be far more interesting I think, if they ever actually reach dealerships.

    Disclaimer: I do not work for Honda in any way. They just happen to make a spectacular hybrid vehcile.

  • by Jerk City Troll ( 661616 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:25PM (#6945741) Homepage
    Are they a good alternative to conventional vehicles, or just a geek toy?

    They are a great value. Your mom would be proud of you.

    Do they perform well in the city?

    If driven properly, you should see as high as 46-48mpg in city driving. If you drive with little concern for economy, you usually get around 43-45mpg.

    How about on long road trips?

    Again, driven carefully, I've gotten as high as 52.6mpg on my girl's Honda Civic Hybrid. That is accomplished by driving around ~55mph and slowing a bit when climbing hills. If you drive aggressively (say, 65-70mpg constant), you get around 47-48mpg. They can certainly keep up with traffic, mind you.

    Remember, this experience is with a Honda Civic Hybrid, not a Prius. Your milage (arf) will vary.

  • Honda Civic Hybrid (Score:5, Informative)

    by dsz ( 93759 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:26PM (#6945758) Homepage
    I very happily own a hybrid vehicle - a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid [honda.com] - and would recommend it highly to the right kind of person.

    First, the good news: I drive my car about 40 miles a day (driving commutes suck!) and get around 55 miles per gallon. My commute is about 70%/30% highway to city driving. When I drive it around the city (which I generally try _not_ to do - Boston is bike-friendly enough, plus I live near the T), I get mileage closer to 50 mpg, and when I've gone on longer roadtrips it's up near 60 mpg.

    More good news: It's a real car. It seats five. It has a reasonable sized trunk (not huge, though). With a few exceptions, it's very similar to the non-hybrid Civic, so my car is comfortable, well equipped (CD player, power everything, ABS, etc.) and pretty well designed. I wasn't interested in the Insight 'cause it's small and somewhat awkward and not what I call a "real" car.

    The not-so-good news: The one large complaint I have about the car is that the back seat does not fold down (that's where they stashed the batteries).

    Some economics: I spent a little less than $20K on my car. The hybrid is about three or four thousand more than the regular Civic. I'll get a $2000 deduction on my 2003 income tax (giving me about $600), and I'll save some (but not tons) on gas vs. the regular Civic that probably adds up to over about $1500 over 100,000 miles. So basically, I break even. If I had bought a used car, I would've spent far less money, even in the long run.

    I think I made the right decision when I bought my car because:

    • I wanted a car
    • I wanted to pollute less and use less gasoline than the average car
    • I wanted to support hybrid technology and send the message to auto makers that people were interested in these cars
    • I happened to have enough money to do the above

    So, the bad news is that supporting hybrid technology and being good to the environment (while still owning a car) is an expensive proposition right now. The good news is that the more and more people are buying the cars and that if you can afford them, they're quality automobiles.

    I'd be happy to answer questions about the Civic or my decision-making process. I also collected some links and made some notes about the car - you can see those here [dsz123.net].

    • by Jerk City Troll ( 661616 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @04:10PM (#6946609) Homepage

      Yes, Civic Hybrids are fairly expensive vehicles for what you get. It's a matter of weighing the appropriate price-performance ratio.

      It should be interesting to note that while Honda sells these for about 20,000$, Honda manufactures them at 30,000$ (according to a salesperson at Herson's Honda in Rockville, MD).

      So while it's good that we're supporting hybrid technology and trying to encourage auto manufacturers, they may not move forward as quickly as we'd like. Perhaps with increased popularity, they'll produce a higher volume and refine the manufacturing process? Who knows.

      Unfortunately, according to the same salesperson, Honda is interested in selling these vehicles so they can reduce the average vehicle emmissions of all cars they sell. This allows them to legally sell more SUVs and other gas guzzlers (hence they are willing to make a 10,000$ write-off on every Civic Hybrid). Nothing for free it seems. What a lousy trade-off.

  • by mrv ( 20506 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:45PM (#6946102) Homepage
    2000-current Honda Insight, 2-seater:
    http://www.hondacars.com/models/model_overview.asp ?ModelName=Insight [hondacars.com]

    2003-current Honda Civic Hybrid 5-passenger compact sedan:
    http://www.hondacars.com/models/model_overview.asp ?ModelName=Civic+Hybrid [hondacars.com]

    2001-2003 Toyota Prius 5-passenger compact sedan:
    http://www.toyota.com/prius [toyota.com]

    2004 Toyota Prius 5-passenger midsize liftback:
    http://www.toyota.com/prius/minisite/index.html [toyota.com]
    (for those who dislike Flash, info here:
    http://www.toyota.com/prius/minisite/html/printabl e.html [toyota.com] and here http://www.toyota.com/prius/minisite/specs/specs_b ody.html [toyota.com] )

    if you live in Japan there is also the hybrid
    Estima (7-8 passenger minivan similar to the Previa),
    and the mild-hybrid Crown large sedan.

    if you can wait a year or so, Ford should have out
    their hybrid Escape (info: http://www.hybridford.com [hybridford.com] (Flash only),
    a "small" SUV/CUV that actually has towing capacity.
    Lexus should also have their RX330 hybrid (the
    RX400H) small SUV/CUV out (see http://www.lexus.com/about/hybrid/index.html [lexus.com]
    with Toyota shortly following with the hybrid
    Highlander cousin.

    I've also heard of the GM/Saturn Vue, the Nissan
    Altima (I think that's the model), and the Toyota
    Sienna, as next on the block with hybrid powertrains
    (i.e. full/assist hybrids).
  • by meehawl ( 73285 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [maps.lwaheem]> on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:55PM (#6946311) Homepage Journal
    Whatever about the mileage improvements of a gasoline-electric vehicle, many posters have already pointed out that current clean-burning modern diesel cars already get 50-70 mpg. All the major manufacturers (yes even the American ones, though of course the Europeans are ahead in diesel technology) are bringing out diesel-electric hybrids [google.com] over the next few years. This innovation should add around 50% to the mileage of typical diesel cars. Within 10 years we will see 100mpg diesel-electric hybrids.
  • I drive one (Score:5, Informative)

    by jACL ( 75401 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @04:30PM (#6946945)
    Have had it for a year, and learned a lot about them.

    There are three hybrids being sold right now:

    - Honda Civic Hybrid
    - Honda Insight
    - (2003) Toyota Prius

    The Hondas use a gas engine as their primary engine with an electric engine (which doubles as a generator during braking) as a secondary source of acceleration. Think of this arrangement as a gas engine with a massive-battery-powered electric supercharger. If the electric engine fails, the gas engine will still get you there -- it just accelerates slower.

    The Prius is the other way around -- its primary engine is electric, and a secondary gas engine gives it the acceleration. In the Prius, it is possible to drive (with very little gas pedal pressure) on electric alone -- something the Prius owners call "Zen driving." If the gas engine fails, you can still drive on the electric.

    I know people who own both a Honda Civic Hybrid (HCH) and a 2003 Prius. I personally own the HCH. I would have no hesitation in buying one again. I average 54 MPG in the summer, and 45 MPG in the winter. Range is ~600 miles per tank; I drive 50 miles a day, and fill up twice a month. I have heard that it is possible to get ~700 miles/tank in a Prius, but have never got a first hand report of that.

    The Honda had one early bug with deep, cold weather -- very occasionally, the electric system would shut down and not restart until the car was shut down and restarted. A flash of the computer firmware fixed it. Many people reported this problem. It also had an issue with a squeak in a support pillar, fixed by shimming with a business card. Maintenance visits are scheduled for every 10000 miles. Gas mileage is better on the highway (51 mpg) than the city (49 mpg).

    The 2003 Prius has had more problems. Issues were with "highway wandering" -- it feels like the car wants to migrate around the road -- and shaking of the steering wheel at low speeds. Cause: the entire power steering rack needed to be replaced. There's also the gas engine failure called the "Big Hand" that's fixed with a similar car reboot, but it's caused by the Accelerator Pedal Assembly needing to be replaced. Many people report that they've had both of these problems. Maintenance is more frequent at 7,500 miles. Gas mileage is better in the city (51 mpg) than the highway (49 mpg).

    I don't know anyone who drives a Honda Insight. Supposedly they still make ~1500 of them a year, but rumor has it that Honda is going to be dropping them.

    Near-term and Farther-out Models:
    The Prius has been out longer than the HCH, and is getting a technological refresh in 2004. The 2003 Prius and the HCH are both 4-seater compacts, but the 2004 Prius will be a mid-size, with better mileage (59 city, 51 highway) and better acceleration (0-60 in 10 instead of 12). There is currently a waiting list for them.

    Cars/Trucks/SUVs due to be released as hybrids in 2004:

    Honda Accord,
    Honda CR-V,
    Ford Escape

    2004 or 2005:
    Chevy Silverado
    Saturn Vue
    GMC Suburban

    Here's an in-depth look [ucsusa.org] at Hybrid technology from the Union of Concerned Scientists (Google HTML translation here []).

    Here's the best description [arstechnica.com] of what it's like to drive one.

    There is a federal tax deduction of $2000 [fueleconomy.gov] for buying a new hybrid. Several states also offer their own tax deductions or credits -- check here [dsireusa.org] to look them up. Some states (but not all) also let you drive them in their high occupancy lanes, even though you may only have one driver in it.

    Oh, by the way -- I know that the 2003 Honda Civic Hybrids are
  • by cgleba ( 521624 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @09:32PM (#6949428)
    Driving non-agressively in my 1997 2.2L standard
    2-door Dodge Neon I get 41 highway and 33 city -- and the car was very cheap to buy, there are no modifications and the car has 132hp and a .34 CD (not spectacular at all).

    In the end, the Prius, for example, can only do at most 10% better then that so it does not justify twice the cost. I bet if I made my Neon as aerodynamic as the Prius (.26 CD) and put on the same tires (less rolling resistance) I could get near the same gas mileage as the Prius.

    Gas mileage is also *heavily* dependant on driving style due to the laws of conservation of energy -- the top things overall that I found increase it are:

    1) Standard transmission -- almost all cars with a
    standard get better gas mileage then an
    2) Drive 55 -- Going from 75mph on the highways to
    55 increased gas mileage by 26%!
    3) Anticipate lights (let the car roll to slow
    down when you see a red light ahead of time
    rather then breaking at the last minute) saves
    a lot, too.
    4) Coast down hills
    5) Accelerate slowly

    If you follow these rules and buy a compact car you'll get near the hybrid's gas mileage with no fancy technology.

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