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Hybrid cars: diminishing returns?

Let’s put aside all the tech features and “advancements” commonly associated with hybrid cars for now, and focus on what many new car buyers are wondering: How much money will buying a hybrid car really save me? ? While we could say “a lot” comparing a hybrid to a gas guzzler of some sort (say a Cadillac Escalade or a Chevy Camaro SS), this would be a totally unfair and rather pointless comparison that is used only to divert fuel from the hybrid to the saving dollars. proportion. Instead, let’s take a look at how a real-world scenario would work with two very comparable cars: the Honda Insight vs. the Honda Fit.

In the hybrid car lane, we have the Honda Insight. A reboot of the Insight name, the new Honda Hybrid vastly improves on the previous model by adding 2 doors, seating for 5, generous cargo space, and overall styling far more current than its quirky vacuum-cleaner forebear.

In the opposite lane, we have the Honda Fit sipping fuel. Also recently revamped, the Fit packs a big punch in a small package – 4-door, 5-seat, and VERY generous cargo space, especially when the seats are folded down.

In terms of power, the specs show the Honda Fit as the clear winner in horsepower, with 117 hp and 106tq, while the Honda Insight outperforms the Fit in torque; putting 98 hp and 123 lb. foot of torque with gas and electric motors running. Despite the apparent disparity in numbers, multiple tests conclude that both the Insight and Fit have comparable power bands and generally feel similar when getting up and going while driving in the real world.

So now that we have the general specs for our competitors, it’s time to look at all the important fuel economy numbers that separate full-time from part-time gas burners. . .

For our purposes, the reported overall fuel economy is a mixed city / highway driving average calculated using data from various test sources. As always, mileage will vary depending on factors such as driving style, road conditions, tire inflation, etc.

Overall though, we can safely say that the Honda Insight, with its gas-electric hybrid powertrain, will generate an average of 40 mpg city / highway mixed, while the fuel-efficient Honda Fit will generate around 30 mpg under the same conditions. Immediately, we see a net gain of 10mpg with Insight, but how exactly do these savings translate into your pocket?

Suppose you drive an average of 15,000 miles per year. Since fuel prices are nowhere near their peaks seen during 2008, we can (for now) safely peg gasoline at around $ 3.50 per gallon nationwide. In total, we are seeing $ 1321.50 per year in fuel costs with a Honda Insight, while the Honda Fit will cost us $ 1750.00 per year for its fuel. That is an annual difference of $ 437.50. Pretty decent savings on fuel costs, to be sure, but it’s not the end of our dollar-for-dollar comparison.

Now that we have the Honda Insight’s annual average fuel economy down, we need to calculate the difference in the base price of each car. As is currently the norm with hybrid cars, the base Honda Insight’s tech wonders cost slightly higher, with an MSRP of around $ 20,000 for the base model. In contrast, a comparable Fit Sport will cost you around $ 18,000 currently, which is about a $ 2,000 difference when buying a basic Honda Insight. That’s about 4 1/2 to 5 years of ownership to erase the difference of buying a hybrid car over a conventional car, after which the dollar gains from fuel savings should fully materialize.

While 5 years seems like a bit long to really make real dollar savings, there are other factors to consider when considering a hybrid car: For one thing, like it or not, gas prices are much more likely to rise. in the next years. . As the world economy slowly recovers, so will the price of oil. And while we are far from the high prices of the summer of 2008, we are already experiencing a slow rise in the price of crude oil. Since oil is a finite resource, fuel prices will continue to rise in the future; making the dollar gains from fuel savings more apparent, and it recovered more quickly as the price of crude rose.

Finally, while this discussion has so far focused on money, there are also ecological ramifications to consider. Most hybrid cars are marketed not only to the consumer who wants their fuel bill reduced, but also to those who want to have a less negative impact on our ecosystem. While that impact is a topic for another article, overall it appears that while positive green gains may seem small, they are still positive; And it’s still a good additional reason to consider a hybrid as your next car.

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