To get a feel for what might be possible in saving money this post is a check into the current costs, as general sense of how a hybrid or electric car might work in your budget. I suspect you’re like me – conservation is really about the money – a particular fuel or energy supply is a distant second. I’m just being honest, as lots of bias, prejudice and political considerations get in the way. But the equivalent of under a $1 gas has me focused.

The obvious conventional comparison is the ubiquitous Toyota Camry that prices from about $20K to over $32.5K. There are two main choices in power plants, an I4 and V6 with auto transmissions in nearly all. That puts the fuel mileage zone wide enough for low 20s to mid 30s. So we’ll just call it 30 mpg, we’re doing this on the napkin after all and 30 is a fairly good number over the sold fleet and the usual trip length. Your current ride would be unique to you – so I’ll explain as we go along.

I’m only going to track the fuel costs, leaving all the other expenses out. They would be significant, and subject to location, driving history and the service choices one will make. The point is to not upset your life, or incur a new expense. That makes the one variable, the fuel/energy cost the issue. Lets call the gas cost $3.00 a gallon and hope in the meantime its going down.

That makes the conventional Camry a $0.10 per mile fuel cost. So, if you’re a “standard” 1500 mile a month driver the monthly bill is $150.00.

Toyota Prius

With over a million sold worldwide the Toyota Prius is up first. A Prius is about $23K if you can find one – they are scarce. The Prius is listed for 60 highway and 51 city mpg. Using the DOT statistical “round trip commute” and $0.105 kilowatt-hour charging prices the commute would run $0.046 per mile. If all the monthly 1500 miles were done in short trips at city speeds, the fuel bill would be $69.00. If the 20 commutes for 600 miles are stricken off and the remaining 900 miles are highway and longer trips the 60 mpg rating kicks in and the cost is still about $0.046. With a several thousand dollar initial cost advantage and better that 50% monthly fuel savings over the Camry one can see why they are scarce. But this is a hybrid with a full engine, transmission and drive line kit in addition to the electric motor/generator set – also known as a parallel hybrid. There is still a lot of hardware in this car.

Hymotion Plug In Prius

The Hymotion modified Prius converts the car to a plug in hybrid with a charger and added batteries. The cost adds about $10K so you’d be in as far as the larger Camry. Hymotion is selling these to fleet customers now and expects to grow their facilities to include consumers in 2008. The $10K will get your commutes of 600 miles down to $20.40 or $0.034 each and the 900 highway miles to $39.60 or $60.00. It’s really hard to justify $10K to save $9.00 a month.

Tesla Roadster

The famed Tesla, a full electric vehicle that is suggested to be followed by the “Whitestar” to compete with the Camry gives us some opening numbers for a full electric car. With no fuel to buy the numbers get really low. At $0.022 per mile, any miles highway, city, long trip or commute the whole monthly bill is simply $33.00. That $117 a month saved is making real headway. Should two things come through, the Whitestar gets to market at a price that competes with a Camry and the range stays at or betters the current Tesla Roadster’s 250 mile range, this would be a true U.S. milestone for choosing personal transport.

GM Volt

GM is promoting the Volt concept to be sold perhaps in 2010. The Volt is a “series” hybrid without a transmission and driveline substituting a smaller engine, generator, controller, electricity storage (some combination of batteries and capacitors) and electric motors. It is expected to charge from the grid, too. The cost per mile is driven down a little more, to $0.021 a mile yielding a monthly-commuted miles cost of $12.60. The catch is when the trips get beyond 30 miles or so the fuel kicks in and the gains diminish as the trip gets longer. Say you’re going 100 miles out and back with no charger at the far end. The cost per mile is back to the Prius zone, at $0.045 per mile or $9.00 per trip or $40.50 for the full 900 monthly miles. GM is offering the numbers here and reserves the right to change them. The interesting thing is the range on a fuel tank is currently 640 miles.

What we learn is that hybrids offer a big cut in fuel expense, which could shift a lot of monthly income to other needs. We also can see that the mass production is missing which postpones the drop in initial cost, except perhaps in the case of the current Prius. With electric hybrid school buses, small and medium duty city delivery trucks, transit system buses and the older hybrids using hydraulic drives in construction equipment, agricultural implements, and industrial transporters the list of people familiar with the feel of hybrids is going to grow a lot.

But it comes down to the money. The Prius hybrid still hauls around the full internal combustion engine, transmission and drive line with the added electric hardware. This method drives up the cost and limits the physical resources for electrical storage as well as the allocation of the price dedicated to more efficiency. Toyota’s point that makes it to the press is their concern that people will “plug ‘em in.” I agree in the short term, but the owner won’t forget many times before catching on. It’s a lot of money saved in the end.

The choice becomes what the buyer wishes to do. I prefer the series hybrid, as I’m not going to buy two driveline kits, as there isn’t a reasonable point for buying two drive systems. If I forget to plug in a series it will still go, but the price per mile is doubled up. OK, I can live with that. I’m sure I’ll forget, but I’m sure it won’t be often. Doubled up is still less than half the fuel cost for a 30-mpg conventional car.

The other aspects are: I expect that the controller, a device to handle the charging off the grid, from the engine and from regenerative braking, and handles the feeding of the electric motor to replace the transmission. A chunk of the fuel tank will be occupied by batteries and the engine will be smaller and optimized for running the generator. My take is that 20 or 25 miles of battery is enough for my situation where another person might want 40 or 50 miles of battery range. 640 miles of range is huge in my view, as I would be content at 400 miles. I rather hope the manufacturers grasp that these issues are obvious choices best left to the consumer.

Today the hybrid and electric vehicles offer the effect of $1.50 gasoline again, well, OK gasoline at less than $0.63 a gallon in the best situations. So I’m in, where do I buy my car?


5 Comments so far

  1. Pages tagged "equivalent" on February 1, 2008 7:48 AM

    […] bookmarks tagged equivalent An Early Look At the Hybrid and Electric Car Opera… saved by 17 others     Kronicng112007 bookmarked on 02/01/08 | […]

  2. Cars » An Early Look At the Hybrid and Electric Car Operating Costs on February 1, 2008 11:34 PM

    […] Brian Westenhaus wrote a fantastic post today on “An Early Look At the Hybrid and Electric Car Operating Costs”Here’s ONLY a quick extractThe obvious conventional comparison is the ubiquitous Toyota Camry that prices from about $20K to over $32.5K. There are two main choices in power plants, an I4 and V6 with auto transmissions in nearly all. That puts the fuel mileage … […]

  3. The Quickest Way To Lose Weight on February 3, 2009 12:48 PM

    Great blog. Keep up the great work. All the best, Jairo

  4. norman on February 18, 2009 12:40 PM

    AC & Heat must reduce mi. range. Repacemnt & dispoal of batteries cost must be significant.

  5. Greg Aakhus on July 20, 2009 10:37 AM

    Where is the cost of electricity? I pay $.11 to .44 per KWH for my electricity (tiered rate structure). Electric cars use about 300-600 watts per mile. Using 75% for charging and batter efficiency that would give you an operating cost just for the electricity of between $.05 to .40 per mile. Just charging your electric car would put you above the $.11 electric tier, so that is unrealistic. Add battery maintainence, etc. and the cost of electric vehicles are much more than gasoline (even with all the taxes).

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