Reader: Hybrids not worth it

2013-01-17 08:44

CAPE TOWN - The green car market is struggling in the USA, hampered by high prices and a limited choice on battery-powered vehicles. Automakers believe their time will come...

Dave Sergeant, a vehicle analyst with JD Power, said: "Everybody thinks that everybody else should be driving a green car."

Automakers have launched a host of hybrid and battery vehicles in recent years with huge fanfare in response to political pressure from the Obama administration to improve fuel economy but green vehicles are still struggling to find their market.


Wheels24 reader Riaan van Wyk believes going green is not worth the hassle:

"I did the following calculations. A Toyota Yaris 1.3XS CVT costs R194 700 (I am using the CVT model since the hybrid only offers this gearbox option).  The Hybrid (electric motor and 1.5 petrol engine) Toyota Yaris 1.5XS HSD CVT costs R230 600 – the difference is R35 900. 

Fuel consumption (manufactures claim) is 5.4litres/100kms (petrol) against 3.8 litres/100kms – saving 1.6 litre per 100kms traveled.  This translates to R18.35 per 100kms taking coastal fuel price of R11.47. 

This is a saving of R0.1835 per kilometer if you drive the hybrid – you will need to drive 195 000kms to break even (no interest taken into account). If you finance your vehicle this will increase even more.

What's more, you don’t have a choice of transmission. 

If you opt for the manual Yaris XS (R183,000, this means at 195 000kms plus 64 000kms just to break even.  At this time your car would have done over 250 000kms – repairs and maintenance?  Battery replacement?  It is just not worth it at the current cost of these cars."
Email us and we'll publish your thoughts on Wheels24. Or use the Readers' Comments section below...


  • Jeremy - 2013-01-17 09:07

    Riaan you're absolutely right - even though you only deal with the issue of fuel consumption. Other issues - you're supposed to buy hybrid cars because they're "green." But if you take into account the method and materials used in their construction, they're really not green at all. And battery cars, particularly in SA where we tend to drive longer distances, are basically useless. They have minimal performance, they're out of charge after maybe 150km - and will take up to 12 hours to recharge. They're also expensive to buy and to maintain. I think the future probably lies with hydrogen powered cars, like Honda's Clarity, once a cheap and efficient way of extracting hydrogen from crude oil has been found, which will happen eventually.

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 09:49

      Jeremy, please do everyone a favour and get off the "But if you take into account the method and materials used in their construction, they're really not green at all" bandwagon. You are spreading a myth that was disproven within days of it being created, yet lives on today because people keep regurgitating it: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9750840-1.html (Basically CNW Market Research's "Dust to Dust" report upon which this entire rumour is based, has been totally debunked as absolute garbage). That being said, I would agree that hydrogen fuel cells are more likely the future, with Hybrid cars being an intermediate solution only.

      Jeremy - 2013-01-17 09:58

      Zathris - there are dozens of websites which give reasons NOT to buy hybrid cars - and you can't deny that the lithium and cobalt in their batteries is mined in an extremely destructive manner. That's no myth.

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 10:15

      Jeremy, there are not just dozens of websites/forums/blogs that tell you not to buy hybrids, there are probably millions. But they pretty much ALL trace back to a very small handful of sources. The most infamous one is CNW's Dust to Dust report. Another infamous report was published by the Daily Mail (more like Daily Fail - it's basically a tabloid filled with terrible journalism aimed at the lowest common denominator) in the UK that talked about the Nickel mines in Sudbury Ontario and how Priuses batteries were causing an environmental disaster there. It included shocking pictures of strip mining operations taken in the 1950s (but presented as being present day). That article had to be retracted, and the journalist had to make a public statement apologising for writing garbage. But most people never bother to check up on this. They simply assume it's true, and express this opinion on the internet (on forums like this one), which means more people read it and assume because so many other people on the internet are saying the same thing that it *must be true*. If you actually stop to think about it, or do some real homework, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that these rumours are false.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2013-01-17 10:48

      @Jeremy Thorpe: You seem to ignore all the posts I have written regarding the issues of producing batteries. You obviously havent bothered reading anything I have written as you are stil peddling the same debunked garbage about hybrids, electrics etc. People like you dont want to be told that the cars they drive are not good for the environment, so as a defence mechanism you trash any technology (using factually deficient information) that improves efficiency and is better for the environment so that you can feel "better" about your unwillingness (lazy attitude) to except the environmental crises we are facing and to embrace new tech. Stop peddling the same debunked garbage and do some proper research on the issues first before commenting.

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 11:04

      Regarding your statement about Cobalt and Lithium mines: Many mineral extraction techniques are detrimental to the environment. And EVERY car uses a LOT of minerals. If you want to point at bad mining techniques used to extract minerals for hybrids, then you have to assume the same for all metals used in all cars. So why pick on Hybrids? Because they use around 2-3% more raw materials than a regular car? At one stage there was an argument about how much Nickel was being used in Prius batteries (about 30kg for the battery, not all of which is even nickel) and how much of a disaster this meant to the environment. 1.8 MILLION Priuses means 50 000 tons of nickel being used by this car since 1997! THINK OF ALL THE NICKEL!!! Now look at how much nickel we produce globally. In 2010 it was estimated to be around 160 Million tons. For one year. So in that year alone, 300 times more nickel was mined than was necessary to power every Prius ever built in the last 15 years. That is the problem with sensationalism. People can't put things into context and miss what's important. If you drive 20 000 km in a year in a Prius size non hybrid vehicle you will consume 1.5 tons of fuel. So by driving a Prius you'll save around 500Kg a year of oil that needs to be extracted (and please don't try deny that oil extraction is green). In ten years you'll save 5 tons of fuel, (and put about 10 tons less CO2 in the air) But yeah, lets focus on the <30kg of Nickel or ~5kg of Lithium...

  • sihlangu.hokweni - 2013-01-17 09:48

    In Support of @Jeremy Thorpe:SA Buyers of both the 1st

  • john.turner.58760608 - 2013-01-17 09:53

    Battery powered cars, such as Nissan's Leaf, are useless. If we change to electric cars, think how many power stations will have to be built to charge all these cars. The environmentalists will go bananas. In S.A., we barely have enough electricity to keep the lights on, let alone charge battery cars.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2013-01-17 10:53

      Battery cars useless? Perhaps I should refer you to the following link: teslamotors.com Visit the link and see REAL innovation...see what can be done with limited resources (much less than car companies have at their disposal). See that a startup has done what no car company has been able to acheive due to lack of innovation.

      John Turner - 2013-01-17 11:03

      But you still need a power station to charge it.

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 11:11

      Actually, no. Currently our power grid runs pretty inefficiently because we consume very little electricity at night, and especially the early hours of morning. You can't just switch off a coal power plant because people aren't using the electricity. You have to keep it pumping out power at a constant rate, to meet peak demand. This is why demand side management is so important. The objective is to try use a constant amount of power at all times across the entire grid. Provided electric cars had intelligent chargers, you could absolutely get them to charge only at night (or other times) while the grid has excess power going to waste. Eskom already do this with geysers in homes (albeit not in every home). But fundamentally there is no reason why they couldn't do it with car chargers. Managed properly, Battery powered cars can be run entirely on energy that was previously going to waste, in effect making their power "free" and their emissions "zero".

  • zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 10:02

    Riaan, I don't dispute the economics of driving a green car. No question they are going cost more. But I would have to argue that the debate should not simply be about the economics. By electing to drive the hybrid in this case you would be reducing your consumption of fossil fuels by about one third. Sadly, our reality is that clean energy does not come cheap. This is why we rely so heavily on fossil fuels. The truth is that we actually "should" all be driving green cars. The reality is that as long as this means spending more money, we won't. People will fight tooth and nail to avoid short term expense, no matter how dire the long term consequences may be.

      Jeremy - 2013-01-17 10:42

      Give it up Zathris. You're wasting your breath Hybrid cars use petrol engines, they're only marginally more fuel efficient than the regular equivalent (certainly not "one third", they cost a helluva lot - and you haven't responded to my earlier point about the lithium and cobalt in their batteries. They're a feel-good alternative - but that's about all!

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 11:19

      What, give it up and let ignorance win? Maybe I should. But I won't. Yes of course Hybrid cars are still "bad" in that they use petrol. But they are less "bad" than any other alternative currently readily available. I know some people follow the motto of "why choose the lesser of two evils" but that is simply not rational. As Ernst said, you have constructed a rationalisation as a defense mechanism to avoid facing up to the truth about green vehicle and what that would mean to your life. Which is not to say that I am perfect as I don't drive a hybrid either. But at least I don't actively delude myself and others so that I can have a clear conscience.

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 13:15

      I just figured out who Jeremy Thorpe is, and why his name sounds familiar. And to be honest I am shocked. As a professional newsman, and a very well renowned one at that, you should really be aiming to get your facts right. The fact that your arguments are very clearly based on CNW's bogus "Dust to Dust" report is sad. Very, very sad indeed...

      nkgudih - 2013-01-17 22:35

      Mr.Zathris,why argue with this people.Leave them to continue denying facts.Funny neither of these anti hybrids never driven one or take sometime to learn more about hybrids concept & it's transition benchmark into future drivetrains.to ullistrate the lack of knowledge, they are still under the impression hybrids are for fuel saving, just like they will argue and believe key objective of ABS brakes is for braking. Otherwise, I read these comment here often and u can deduce its clueless children with access to Internet and less time to do their work and all they do they through their emotional tantrums here, like most 702 DJ, they simply know too much. By the way I drive a Prius ( sure, it will not win any beauty contest, but other contest it will come out with flying colaours) lastly, and best of all, it's a Toyota

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-18 10:06

      @nkudih: To answer your question of why I bother: It has been said that all it takes for evil to prevail is that a few good men do nothing. Lies like "Hybrids are terrible for environment" are so commonplace because mostly the people telling the lies are ignorant of the truth. They hear it from someone, assume it to be true and then pass the message on. It's a vicious cycle which, in this case, has resulted in a significant portion of society (if not a majority judging by the votes on some of my comments) believing in a lie! "Dust-to-Dust" should never have been released to the public before it was scrutinised. By the time it was properly debunked, the original lie had so permeated popular opinion that it is now like a weed left untended in a garden for years - very difficult to eradicate. Unfortunately this particular is actually potentially rather harmful to all of us because it is used to undermine efforts to curb CO2 emissions - an issue which is likely to become very important to our collective future wellbeing. When Jeremy took it upon himself to hop onto the comments FIRST and tell the lie (even if inadvertently - he probably meant well...) he made it so that others reading here will leave with a delusional opinion. Only by swiftly rebutting such garbage can one hope to gradually stamp out this lie that serves only to hurt our society in the long run.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2013-01-18 10:51

      @Zathris.voulge: Well said mate.

  • naolifant - 2013-01-17 10:05

    i would buy the Lexus GS450h F Sport anyday!

  • thaluki.malema - 2013-01-17 10:17

    Fact - Hybrids are far less environmently friendly that tradional vehicles.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2013-01-17 10:39

      Your statement is not based on fact. It is based on flawed studies that have been debunked countless times. 80% of the emissions caused by cars (from production to end of life) occur during the time of use; that is when feul is burned. A hybrid drastically reduces feul consumption and emissions during this time. The production process of hybrids dont produce significantly more emissions than the production of a normal car...

      John Turner - 2013-01-17 11:07

      Ernst, hybrid cars are not environmentaly friendly due to the materials used in their construction. It has been argued that over the lifetime of a Range Rover and a Toyota Prius, when all the factors such as fuel consumption, material recyclability, and materials used etc that the Range Rover is more environmentaly friendly vehicle.

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 11:21

      @John. yes it has been argued, and proven WRONG. People who continue that line of argument are uninformed, ignorant, gullible or a combination of all three. Period.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2013-01-17 11:36

      @John Turner: "Range Rover is more environmentally friendly" And your argument is based on what? Top Gear? A hybrid causes less harm to the environment than a normal car of same size. This has been proven and you are merely peddling the same debunked studies to back up the ludicrous claims that aim to make gas guzzler drivers feel better about themselves....

      vickers.vermeulen - 2013-01-18 06:56

      @Ernst and Zathris. The dust to dust theory was so easy to debunk because the Prius was compared with a Hummer. (How stupid is that?) A dust to dust comparison between a Prius and a similar sized / similar performance car in diesel and petrol versions (Golf or Corolla) would be a lot more useful. Do you guys know if there are any such studies around?

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-18 09:52

      @Vickers: Dr Peter H. Gleick of the Pacific institute investigated the CNW report, and confirmed through thorough analysis that it was "fatally" flawed on many fronts. He published his findings in May 2007 here: http://grist.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/hummer_vs_prius.pdf In April 2008 Consumer Reports confirmed his findings: http://www.pacinst.org/topics/integrity_of_science/case_studies/hummer_vs_prius_redux.pdf Sadly these reports didn't spread like wildfire on the internet like the garbage dust-to-dust report did (people enjoy sensationalist crap that knocks down an icon to good honest and boring science). Anyhow, although Gleick's report doesn't try to compare the Prius to other small cars (the objective was to critique dust-to-dust), he does explain a lot of the principles that were used by dust-to-dust, and how they actually work. In particular he looks at energy cost of a vehicle over its lifetime and points to numerous studies indicating that most (75-90%) of the energy consumed by a car is consumed during operation (ie from petrol consumed). Even if you assume the Prius uses 50% more energy to produce than a normal car (I think that number is actually closer to 5-10%), if a Prius can save 20% on its fuel use, it will still beat a normal car by 5% over it's total lifetime. Using more realistic values (10% more to make, 30% fuel saving) the Prius would use 22% less energy over its lifetime compared to a similar sized, regular engined car.

  • chris.stuart.332 - 2013-01-17 12:26

    Agreed. It’s not always the best option to go for cars with low consumption but the maintenance will be high afterwards. I had a CDTI Opel Corsa, lovely little car and put on 150K km on the car. Average 5.5l / 100. Then the car started giving problems, had to replace injectors and diesel pump. (thing I wouldn’t need to change on a petrol engine seeing that they don’t have it). The total spend on this was over R30K. So all the petrol / diesel I save came back to bite me at the end. I shudder to think about these newer cars with huge batteries and electric motors. How much will this cost you if you decide to keep the car after the maintenance plan has expired or you decide to buy one of these hybrids second hand. And just to add, rather buy a new diesel than a new hybrid. The diesel will give very close to the same consumption and it will be cheaper

      zathris.voulge - 2013-01-17 12:58

      This argument is only valid if you assume the reduction in fuel consumption and emissions to have no value other than the money saved. Diesels do, yes, score a real saving over petrol models in terms of CO2 and natural resource use, although it is a lot smaller than that achieved by hybrids. Diesels typically achieve a 5-10% reduction in CO2 output compared to an equivalent petrol engine, while hybrids achieve closer to a 30% reduction. This is sometimes obfuscated by the fact that diesels use about 30% less fuel when measured in liters, forgetting the fact that diesel has a higher density (mass per liter) than petrol. To get an idea of what I mean, compare a VW Golf 1.4TSI with a 2.0TDI: The petrol engine puts out 15% more power, uses 33% more fuel and generates 15% more CO2. Normalising for power output, the CO2 emissions are actually identical in spite of the petrol engine using 15% more fuel... So if you genuinely want to make a positive difference to your carbon footprint, a hybrid is a much better choice than diesel, which is (at best) a marginally better choice than a petrol. If you're simply interested in your pocket, a petrol engine is probably the way to go.

  • kgaogelo.mashego - 2013-01-18 08:41

    A very simple comparison that to the end user there are no immediate benefits. Full steam ahead to me rebuilding (recycling) a 20 year old car with a naturally aspirated engine and fairly efficient.

  • neal.badenhorst - 2013-01-18 11:52

    I get the impression that people confuse "cost efficient" with "energy efficient". Hybrids are not cheaper to own at this stage, but their carbon footprint is lower.

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