FUEL ECONOMY AND YOU
With gas prices soaring and hybrid vehicles capturing everyone's attention, it's time to take a look at the economics of fuel economy.
The following is a hypothetical scenario with which to illustrate how gas mileage affects what you pay at the pump. We'll say the average driver puts 10,000 miles on a car annually, and that gasoline costs $5 a gallon at the pump. Obviously, miles driven and pump prices will vary dramatically, but these numbers make the math easy, and a clever person can plug in their own numbers for a more accurate analysis. So, we'll start with a car that gets 15 MPG and end with one that gets 45MPG. Currently, these numbers reasonably reflect the low end and the high end of the fuel economy we expect to see on the cars we work on. And yes, currently the hybrids are AVERAGING 45 MPG.
20 MPG = $2500.00
25 MPG = $2000.00
30 MPG = $1666.65
35 MPG = $1428.55
40 MPG = $1250.00
45 MPG = $1111.10
So, what do we see? Well, the difference between a gas guzzler and a fuel sipper appears dramatic, but on closer inspection there is a point to be made. Quite a few of the cars we work on, most notably the smaller Hondas and Toyotas, get 35 MPG. If the Hybrids are only getting 45 MPG, that means that in comparing a conventional (efficient) internal combustion engine vehicle to a hybrid vehicle, the annual cash savings is $317.45. By doing the math, we now have a baseline by which to begin a real comparison. However, the objective of this article is not to provide a definitive conclusion on the true value of a hybrid, so we will wrap it up by pointing out the other factors that should be considered:
Initial cost of vehicle purchase
Preventative maintenance costs
High mileage wear and tear repair costs
Environmental impact and cost of vehicle manufacture, and vehicle disposal
How much car you need. Most people are attracted to hybrids because they don't have to compromise size and power for fuel economy.
The final point to make is that there is a basic assumption that the choice of a car purchase may have a significant impact on the environment. Yet, the inherent problem is that in our society we expect to have individual, personal transportation, and our infrastructure is laid out such that the average person is lucky to work NEXT to the city in which they live, let alone within 20 miles of it, not to mention all of the extra-curricular driving we do. So, at the root, hybrid cars are actually just a technological fix for a social problem. For the environment to survive, we need to think about working closer to home, controlling sprawl, and, simply put, making urban planning and infrastructure a priority for ourselves and our politicians.