Some how I often seem to wind up on the other side of the discussion with Lou Frenzel His recent Communique blog entry, Hybrid and Electric Cars Suck, hit a cord. As you might guess, I drive a hybrid.
Actually we have a pair of hybrids. My wife loves her Honda Civic hybrid which we have had for a number of years. This past year we finally gave up our Honda van for a Toyota Prius. She likes the smaller Civic but the Prius is what I had been waiting for. The Civic is older but regularly hits the low 40's while the Prius' average has been about 47mpg even after climbing over the mountains to go out to Pittsburgh.
The Nissan Leaf was a consideration because we are a two car family. Availability was an issue because I wanted to replace the van before it needed major work although it would have been a smaller, more costly option. It would have been an interesting exercise because our regular driving habits are well withinn its range. I suspect the Leaf will wind up in households like ours or where driving requirements will always be within the electic's range.
I did discover some interesting facts about electrics when I wrote the All-Electric Vehicles Prepare To Shock The Automotive Market article. The Baker Electric and other electric vehicles were quite popular almost a hundred years ago and cities like New York had a charging infrastructure in place. Electrics were prefered because the gas engines were harder to start, noisier and the electrics had better pep at that point. Cheap gas made a big difference though hence our current situation.
Of course, one of Lou's requirements was not on my list, performance. Going from a van to almost any electric or hybrid would be a step up given the van's mass and handling. The Honda van was actually quite good but no comparison with a Volvo turbo we had before. The turbo definitely beats almost any hybrid or electric with the exception of something like Tesla Motors Roadster or Model S. Then again, even the Volvo was a lot cheaper.
I have to agree with Lou as well as some of his fans. Hybrid and electric performance is there but it comes at a price that is still rather high. The payback for either type of platform will likely take the life of the car if ever. Still, given the rise of gas prices, the payback is looking better and better.
On the other hand I agree with those that look at a car in terms of transportation. Here the Pruis works just fine. I haven't had a problem merging with highway traffic and I tend to run in the fast lane when driving long distance. I just wind up with a lower gas bill than most.
Of course, deisels should really be part of the discussion. The old diesel VW Rabbit got 50mpg almost thirty years ago. Turbo diesels get good mileage and have plenty of power but they tend to cost as much as electrics if not more.
The new crop of hybrids and electrics are changing the price and performance bars so this discussion will be much different in a couple of years. From my perspective, the faster we move to electrics and hybrids the better because that is how the cost will really come down. It wil also mean that a plug will likely be available when you need it. Right now it takes a bit of planning if you are not returning home on a regular basis.
By the way, my son just picked up a Honda Insight. No, not that older 2 person Insight. This is one of the newer ones on par with the Prius.