Lifehacker asks if a hybrid is worth the money. They reference an excellent article written by OmniNerd, which is worth a read by anyone considering the purchase of a hybrid vehicle.
Since I recently purchased a 2007 Toyota Prius hybrid, I thought I'd comment.
First, the OmniNerd article is very well written and researched. Many thanks to the author. The conclusion is basically that the cost of hybrids is higher than the return you will achieve through the reduction of gas consumption. I think this conclusion doesn't surprise most people, but it's great to back it up with some good math.
OmniNerd also points out that hybrid batteries will need to be replaced in 8-10 years. They did not add this cost to the total cost of ownership of a hybrid vehicle in their calculations. If they did, the hybrids would have looked even worse. However, they do note that hybrids appear to be holding their value better than a comparable non-hybrid.
For me, the cost of the vehicle is a sunk cost -- I save until I can buy a car, then pay cash. I'm a delayed gratification kind of guy. As such, the OmniNerd calculations of the loan payments versus a paid-off 1999 Honda don't really factor into my mind. For those that are financing, the monthly payments certainly would.
For me, I feel like I have an extra $25 in my wallet every time that I visit the pump now. I like that feeling. I'm 6-weeks into ownership of the Prius with 2,400 miles on the beast already. Overall mileage for me is currently 47.7 MPG. Your mileage may vary.
OmniNerd neglects to mention the lower emissions as a value of the hybrids -- one that is harder to put a price on. The stats on the windshield showed the Prius to have one-fifth to one-tenth fewer emissions than non-hybrids. I like that feeling, too. Whenever I sit at a 3-minute stop light with the engine completely off and think about the 50 other cars around me chugging gas and spewing emissions while we wait our turn, then multiply that number times the hundreds of thousands of red lights across the world at that very moment, it certainly makes me think.
Who has done that math?
It's gotta add up.
Oh, and OmniNerd has no way to calculate the value I receive by using the carpool lanes because I drive a low-emissions high-mileage vehicle. Lower stress, longer life.
So, yeah, I paid more up-front than a comparable non-hybrid car. No argument about that. But, I was happy to do so for all the other benefits.
Finally, Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive really is a masterful piece of engineering. Hybrids will become a natural part of most cars in the next 5-10 years. Battery technology will also improve in that time (I look forward to the introduction of Lithium-Ion batteries, naturally), and you will see common MPG ratings of 80+ MPG within 5 years (perhaps much sooner).
So, back to the math. If we all doubled our mileage, our oil consumption would drop in half. That's easy math. Triple it and it drops to one-third. You get the idea. Progress continues, and I welcome it. I'm happy to support the innovators.