Part 1 of this series focused on diesel and gas options. Part 2 explores the pros and cons of hybrid and electric vehicle types.
If you’re interested in hybrid and/or electric car options, you’re probably a go-getter who finds excitement in all things futuristic, new, advanced and efficient. Can’t say we blame you! Most of the headline-grabbing advances in auto tech seem to be happening outside the realm of conventional gas and diesel. So, what can we really expect to see in the future?
Tip of the Hat to Hydrogen (Who’s always been “Number 1”)
You got us: it’s neither hybrid nor electric, and the technology might not be mass-produced for some years to come, but hydrogen cars are simply too cool to ignore, so we’re shedding a little light on the situation.
While hydrogen-fueled cars are slowly entering the picture, with about 3,000 of Toyota’s Mirais scheduled to be released by the end of 2017, we suspect it’s going to be a while before manufacturers refine the technology, convince the public of its safety, build fueling stations, train professionals on servicing new parts and make the vehicles cost-effective for a majority of consumers. The technology lives but it’s limited. Hundai’s Tuscon is a new hydrogen-cell car that, like the Mirai, is only available in select parts of California. All this being said, things have come a long way since the turn of the millennium. The prospect of hydrogen, hybrid and electric cars makes this an exciting time to geek out over car tech.
Hybrid Pros and Cons
The Toyota Prius may be the poster child for hybrid efficiency, but luxury, utility and SUV options are becoming as much a part of the hybrid mainstay. The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid is back after a year-long break, during which Honda shuffled manufacturing facilities. The new model looks to compete directly with the Toyota Camry Hybrid and is a great example of the trend we’re seeing in newer hybrids. The interior is sportier than the comparable Camry hybrid and costs $3,000 and some change more, but it has better fuel economy (Accord, 48 mpg / Camry, 40 mpg). Despite these differences, the most significant factor here is the overall change in direction we’re seeing from hybrid producers. Consumers want more than just bread-and-butter gas efficiency. They want style and the feel that they’re driving a real car, not a modified go-cart with a backseat bench. The best indicator of this change is the fact that more luxury hybrid vehicles are hitting the market each year.
The bottom line on hybrids is that you’re going to spend a little more to save on mileage over the life of your car. Like we said in Part 1 about diesels, if you don’t actually keep your car long enough to see the mileage rewards, what’s the point? If you want better mileage but price is the sticking point, you can always buy a hybrid used, save a few thousand and still get great mpg.
Hybrids are also smaller and less powerful than their gas counterparts. If 4-cylinder engines just aren’t your thing, there are a few hybrid trucks out there (the Chevy Silverado 1500 Hybrid comes to mind), and an upcoming Ford F-150 scheduled for 2020 that looks interesting, but other than that, you’re not touting much power and speed when you go hybrid. But you already knew that, right?
Final thought here: we talk to a lot of car guys and gals in our line of work, and not many of them get very excited about wrenching on hybrids The tech is beyond a lot of DIY-folk who grew up rebuilding old Fords and Chevys; some just prefer the simplicity of working with purely mechanical parts. Nothing wrong with that.
As you might expect, we think hybrids are awesome and keep getting better. They retain their value pretty well, and the higher upfront cost compared to conventional gas is well worth the long-term savings. Just don’t expect a nice return on investment if you’re going to swap cars every couple of years for the newer, prettier model. Hybrid drivers, especially those who find the premium 40+ mpg range, make significantly fewer trips to the gas pump but may have increased repair costs. Unless you somehow rack up crazy repair bills, this sort of financial give-and-take should still work in your favor if you decide to go hybrid.
Electric Pros and Cons
Let’s first briefly (and non-politically) cover the controversial price of “going green.” It’s appropriate to put quotes around the “green” label, as carbon emissions come in many forms, including the way your grid produces electricity. In fact, the Devonshire Research Group, an investment firm that attempts to put “true value” on tech companies, believes Tesla has an overvalued stock and an image whose eco-friendliness is over-hyped. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that it takes energy to produce our electricity, which sometimes means carbon emissions (especially if your electricity is produced from coal), and we know that auto manufacturing is likely never going to be 100% green. When all is said and done, the gas we burn in conventional engines is still leaving a larger eco footprint than electric vehicles. If being eco-friendly is important to you, an electric car is definitely a step in the right direction. (And run your dishwasher at night, take shorter showers, don’t let the water run when you brush… you know the drill.)
But let’s look into that other price: the one you know is waiting for you on every sticker on every car in every dealership in America; the one your frugal father used to have vivid nightmares about; the one that made you stop car shopping altogether. Yeah, that one. There’s a wide price range in the electric field (no pun intended), but you’re looking at spending at least $25,000 – $30,000 for a new electric car. That link should give you a sense of what hybrid and electric cars cost.
Price aside, one of the biggest drawbacks of electric vehicles is the limited driving range they offer. The upcoming Tesla 3 is getting a lot of hype for it’s 200+ mile range, whereas many other cars, like the Chevy Spark, are getting about half that distance per charge. If you have a garage that you can plug into every night and don’t travel much beyond the daily commute, you’re probably fine! Apartment renters might be out of luck, unless you see yourself waiting at a charging station every other day. (Pro tip: don’t do that to yourself.)
We would be remiss in writing this article if we didn’t point out the obvious: you’re going to save a lot of money with an electric car. The IRS offers tax breaks for many electric cars (including some hybrids, as well), which can save you up to $7,500. Additionally, charging an electric car costs a fraction of what you pay at the pump. It’s hard to pin down what you’ll pay because the price of electricity is always in a state of flux, and different states have different rates, etc. etc. One government estimate says you’ll pay $25 – $107 per 1,000 miles (Hawaii being on that high end). Those are hefty savings compared to gas. How electric vehicles are serviced is another question, however. The repairs are more expensive, as they are with hybrids. How you drive and how often you wind up in the shop should be taken into consideration, as well.
Buying a car is kind of like deciding when to have a baby, isn’t it? You’ve got to plan out every need and obstacle you may face along the way, brace yourself for short-term down payments and expenses, and have a reserve for incidents that might occur down the road. And like a baby, now may not be the right time. This is especially true when it comes to electric vehicles. You need a house with a garage to get your charging done, so forget about electric if you can’t house and charge the thing properly. Extended road trips might not be feasible unless you plan accordingly and find charge stations along the way, but this is likely to become less difficult with time. And last but not least, electric cars tend to have a higher sticker price than comparable gas models.
For now, weigh your options and conduct thorough research. With the exception of our little nod to hydrogen tech, the all-electric car is the most significant, and potentially difficult, purchasing leap to make. If it’s worth it to you and not a deep hassle to make the switch, we wouldn’t be shocked if you wind up loving your new electric car. Pun intended.