Hybrids are a vehicle that many environmentalists choose to drive in order to try and do their part for the environment. Plug-in hybrids are becoming more popular and include the upcoming version of the Toyota Prius and General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt. However, many question the cost-effectiveness and true fuel consumption decrease from an increased use of hybrids.
The National Research Council (NRC) in the United States recently released a report covering these factors of hybrid vehicle use. The council is an extension of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately for drivers of hybrids, the report indicated a lack of cost effectiveness.
The reason that hybrids are in general less cost-effective than their regular vehicle counterparts are the batteries. The lithium-ion batteries are expensive and the more battery a vehicle has, the more it costs and the less cost-effective it is. However, hybrids that rely more heavily upon gasoline cost less and will therefore become cost-effective quicker.
For instance, the Chevrolet Volt can be driven forty miles before switching to gasoline. According to the report, this will cause the Volt not to be cost-effective until 2040 if gasoline does not go above $4 a gallon. The reason for the lack of cost-effectiveness is the increased battery power in the vehicle in order to attain the forty miles of driving time before switching to gasoline.
The upcoming Toyota Prius plug-in will be hitting the market come 2011. This vehicle will only travel approximately ten miles before using gasoline. This will make the Prius cost-effective around the year 2030.
The report also indicated an essential neutrality of gasoline consumption due to hybrids. If hybrids made up 40 million of 300 million vehicles, they indicated that there would be little change in fuel consumption by the year 2030.
However, some in the field of hybrids are arguing with the report, stating that the figures used to determine cost-effectiveness were incorrect. Manufacturers of the Volt have indicated that the cost of the battery the NRC used was more expensive than reality.
In addition, those in the field have indicated an ever-changing technology which will increase cost-effectiveness and improve fuel consumption. Internal combustion engines are expected to improve, in addition to the use of bio-fuels. Also, gasoline prices were assumed to stay at or below $4 a gallon which, if changed, would alter the NRC findings.