Here's an interesting article from Car & Driver on the subject:
You may want to read this.
Hybrid issues, and a rising star at Indy.
BY BROCK YATES
I'm not exactly a betting man, but I'll give you 100 to 1 odds that if
you're reading this nonsense you are not a hybrid-car owner. That's probably
a good wager, considering that the new miracle vehicles are stuck at about a
one-half-percent market share of the roughly 17 million annual new car and
light-truck domestic sales and that you are vastly more likely to tear up
the asphalt in a gas-swilling, earth-choking, mega-speed road rocket like
the rest of us motorized Neanderthals.
Of course, if we pay attention to the Cassandra-like fulminations of the
liberal media, we might be led to believe that hybrid vehicles are our only
hope to save us all from ozone asphyxiation and indentured slavery to the
Arab oil barons. To ignore their PC incantations and to continue our binge
buying of conventional internal-combustion engines will, according to these
all-knowing scribes and electronic chatterers, doom civilization to a dark
age embroiled in a heat-soaked Sahara.
Yeah, maybe. Then again, maybe not. Yes, we understand the feds are giving a
one-time $2000 tax credit to hybrid owners, and 16 states are offering
come-on tax breaks ($1500 in Oregon, $4173 in Colorado), inspection
exemptions, and single-driver use of HOV lanes as incentives.
Moreover, the hybrids being sold by Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Ford, and, soon,
Chevrolet are all reasonably priced. Example: The hot-selling Toyota
Prius-with a three-month waiting list in most markets-can be purchased for
under $22,000 loaded (although most experts estimate that Toyota is taking a
$2000 hit on each sale). The Pious-oops-Prius costs about $5000 more to
manufacture than a conventional Corolla and retails for about three-grand
Now let's jump ugly about the whole situation and talk a little reality. The
guys at Edmunds.com, who run hard numbers about the car business as well as
anyone, estimate that a Prius owner would have to drive at least 66,500
miles annually for five straight years, or gasoline would have to soar to 10
bucks a gallon, to equal the cost of operating a cheaper, conventional
Then we have the battery pack, that heavy lump of nickel-metal hydride juice
boxes that presumably improve fuel efficiency (but not that much, according
to our road tests). Although the warranties are for eight years or 100,000
miles, battery replacement will cost $5300 for the Toyota and Lexus hybrids,
and the Ford Escape replacements run a whopping $7200.
Moreover, the industry types aren't talking about total battery life. Will
they actually last 100,000 miles? How will this affect resale value? Will
the systems stay at full efficiency, or will they slowly drain power as they
age or operate under heavy use? These are questions that remain to be
answered, understanding that storage batteries, be they dry cells in your
flashlight or exotic Ni-MHs, all have finite lives and store less power with
And now comes word that the computer brain inside the gas-electric grids in
some Priuses is tending to go nuts. This causes instant blackout stalling at
either 35 mph or 65 mph-the latter possibly in the fast lane of an
interstate where 50-ton semis running 90 mph can crush compacts like beer
This brings up an undiscussed issue: At some point, all these hybrid
batteries will die and have to be disposed of somewhere, somehow. These are
hardly biodegradable items like spoiled vegetables. They are in fact
self-contained toxic waste dumps. How and where millions of these poisonous
boxes will be deposited in the new hybrid nirvana has yet to be considered,
much less resolved.
And speaking of the environmental component (the glamour issue centered on
the brave new world of hybrids), a number of EMT and fire crews have
announced that they will refuse to rescue victims trapped in such vehicles,
openly fearing electrocution or fatal acid burns.
As with the now-defunct electric-car miracle, where it was quickly realized
that the national power grid could not energize millions of vehicles without
massive expansion of horrors-nuclear generation-the dark side of the hybrid
miracle is now beginning to surface.
Says a dealer friend whose immense franchise network includes several brands
offering hybrids: "There is no advantage to owning a hybrid in terms of fuel
mileage when the extra cost of the vehicle is added in. Period. Do the math.
This is a feel-good purchase. Hybrids are a statement about the environment,
and they simply do not square with economic reality.
"The truth is, although the Prius is selling like mad, hybrid Honda Accords
and Civics are backed up on dealer lots. Why? Because they look like
conventional Hondas, whereas the Prius has unique styling. It has an iconic
status among the Greenies. Like it or not, that's real life."
Until hybrids become economically feasible in terms of cost, reliability,
and valid fuel savings and make real sense regarding performance and
disposability, we're going to be driving conventional
internal-combustion-powered vehicles-either gas or diesel -until rogue
asteroids clean us all out.