While the Toyota Prius sells in eight days, the Honda Accord hybrid
takes some two months to exit the lot. The Honda Civic hybrid is no
Prius either - it takes 36 days to move.
Clearly, the Prius's conspicuous display of uber-greenness is key to
its success. But it also features a radically new driving experience.
It's quite a thrill to hit the accelerator and slip along in near
Not so for Honda hybrids. Because the gasoline engine is working most
of the time - getting an electrical boost during acceleration - it
drives much like a regular car. Honda says its technology is fuel
efficient and cheaper, but that may not be enough to wow drivers.
Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.
: Honda says its technology is fuel
: efficient and cheaper, but that may not be enough to wow drivers.
Honda missed the point.
Their hybrid just too ugly - and the blame falls partly on that funky
looking, fender-covered thing they tried to peddle (the Insight??).
That may be true for the Insight, but the Civic and Accord Hybrids look just
like regular Accords and Civics.
Persoanlly, I think the Toyota system is superior, although I remain
unconvinced that I really care that much about hybrids in general. However,
I think the size of the Prius, and the very positive press are major factors
contributing to it sales sucess. Also the distinctive, if unual styling
lets the world know that the driver really cares about the environment. The
enviromentalist driving a Civic Hybrid might not get noticed....
Insight (CVT) - 57 City / 56 Hwy / 56 combined
Insight (manual) - 60 City / 66 Hwy / 63 combined
Civic Hybrid - 49 City / 51 Hwy / 50 combined
Prius - 60 City / 51 Highway / 55 combined
Accord Hybrid (2005) - 29 City / 37 Hwy / 32 combined
Ford Escape (FWD) - 36 City / 31 Hwy / 33 combined
Toyota Highlander Hybrid (FWD) - 33 City / 28 Hwy / 30 combined
Toyota Camry (4 cylinder, 5 sp manual) - 24 City / 34 Hwy / 28 combined
I suppose the reason is the Civic buyer can get a better perspective on the
premium price one must pay to buy a hybrid when looking at the came car with
the different power plants. That premium will buy nearly ALL of the fuel
for a conventional powered Civic. In the case of the Prius most buyers do
not think to compare it to the Corolla for size, price, and fuel mileage.
To say nothing of the fact dealers never mention the huge battery
replacement cost somewhere down the line.
You know, I've heard this comment about battery life and huge battery
replacement cost before. So I'm curious, just how long is the life
expectancy of a hybrid battery? Would that mean that the resale value
of a used hybrid would drop faster with time than a similar model
It is a good question and one which I suspect the car makers know the
answer to, but are keeping quiet about. The battery technology being
used is a larger implemenation of the same rechargeable battery types
already deployed in laptops, cordless power tools, digital cameras, cell
phone and the like. I have had more laptop batteries totally fail to
take a charge than I would care to think about. They typically work
great at first, but months or years down the line need to be replaced at
a high cost.
With cordless power tools (drills, etc.) it is often cheaper to buy a
whole new one than it is to replace the power packs. Typically a couple
of years of moderate use is all it takes for those battery packs to be
Lithium batteries, for example, are generally rated for 300-500
charge-discharge cycles before being useless. Typically as the number of
cycles adds up, the capacity deteriorates.
Nicad batteries are generally considered usefull for around 700
carefully managed cycles.
I believe that the Prius and other presently available hybrids use Nicad
for this longer cycle life, even though Lithium batteries offer a
higher power density.
There are no 5-10 year old Nicad laden cars on the road right now, so
only time will tell. My guess is that somewhere around 2009-2010 there
are going to be a bunch of surprised and angry customers, many of them
the second owners of these vehicles.
A google search using hybrid battery replacement reveals much. The
consensus of many critics seems to be that hybrids, for the price, are
not yet cost effective and are now just a "feel good" car for well off
The Prius does not use NiCads. It uses nickel-metal hydride (NiMH)
batteries. And the Prius system only discharges htem to about 80% of
capacity. These batteries have very good life, and the limited dicharge
enhances this further. I believe that in normal usage, you can expect the
battery to last 150,000-200,000 miles.
No matter how one choose to spin it, the Prius will need a new battery pack
at some point in its life and the cost at that time will be so high, in
comparison to the value of the vehicle, that its value with spent batteries
will by virtually nothing. Who is going to foolish enough to replace a
$4,000 battery pack in a $4,000 vehicle?
I don't think that is a safe conclusion at all. With a number of Prius
approaching the 200K mile and 5 year mark, there have been few enough
outright battery failures that validating them is difficult (obvious hoaxes
are common). It is more likely as Toyota indicates; most will never need a
replacement battery. If somebody does need one, used batteries are often
offered for $400-$1000 US on ebay, courtesy of road accidents. To test the
battery, the multi-function display includes a diagnostic screen that
reports individual cell health (one of those secret sequence things) and the
cells are individually replaceable.
Every vehicle dies of something. I've scrapped a Mercury Capri because it
needed a new driveshaft (integral u-joints!) and the price was over $200. To
assume HV batteries will be the death of most hybrids is quite a stretch,
especially given their track record.
Can you pass on the sequence, please? I'd love to have it handy
for my UK-spec T4 Prius (new Aug 2005), for occasional checking.
More generally: there are so many ignorant people, ready to make
sweeping and ignorant statements about hybrids that I've learned
to disregard them, or (for fun) pick out the weasel-phrases used
to insure against contradiction. The bleeding things work, now.
I am assuming Toyota (with Honda, and whoever else undertakes to
manufacture advanced vehicles) do accelerated life testing &c &c
with a view to ensuring customers don't get mightily cheesed off
before they've had value for money. Time, not ignorant opinion,
FWIW my Toyota dealer tells me today that the UK price for a new
main Prius battery (w/o labour charges or taxes) is GBP 1321.35,
which I hope helps to focus the discussion. (Side note: earlier
this year I posted a substantially lower price, also supplied by
my dealer; but I think he must have misunderstood the question.)
I would expect this price to fall as design refinements are made
and production ramps up -- what to, who knows.
But what problems do they solve, and what other solutions are there for
the same problems?
They solve exactly one problem: recapturing braking energy to re-use on
acceleration. There's only one place where that works: city driving.
The requirement for braking came from the burning of petrol to create
acceleration in the first place. Must we burn petrol to create the
acceleration? Can anything else solve that problem?
They're also more expensive to make and to buy. That's a problem in and
of itself. If we're trying to save on petrol, can we use any other
motive source for acceleration?
If so, can that other motive source be purchased cheaper than the hybrid?
For example: can a diesel engine solve the problem better/cheaper/more
reliably than a hybrid?
Can I run a diesel and spend less money, or no more than the same money,
as a hybrid? Let's say I spend the exact same amount of money per mile
to motivate the diesel as the hybrid. Now it comes down to maintenance
and reliability. Is the diesel cheaper or more expensive to maintain?
What about the reliability--can I get the diesel fixed cheaper? What
happens when I go out in the country somewhere--can I rely on the magic
black box of software that the hybrid depends upon, or will a diesel be
more reliable because it doesn't depend on a computer just to run?
There are so many questions to ask yourself once you dig down.
I prize reliability and simplicity. The Toyota hybrid fails the
simplicity test horribly, the Honda hybrid much less so, the diesel
virtually not at all.
And frankly, it's all about MY pocketbook. Which one, over 200K miles,
cost me the least out of pocket to buy, maintain, repair, and insure?
You forgot one very impotent part of that equation....REPLACEMENT cost. The
hybrids, all of them, cost more to buy than conventionally power vehicles of
the same size and equipment. They will cost more to replace as well.
Especially if the batteries are depleted. The fact is the premium one pays
to acquire a hybrid will generally buy ALL of the fuel, used by a comparable
conventionally power vehicle, for three to four years. For the average new
car buyer in the US that replaces their new vehicle with another new vehicle
in three to four years that can mean all of the fuel for as long as they
generally own their vehicles. Personally I hope more buyers choose hybrids
to save the planet, that will stretch the supply of fuel for those of use
that prefer high powered, safer, large vehicles. The only problem I see is
if the consumption of fuel, in total, is going down the price of fuel will
rise for those that have trouble buying fuel at todays prices evn for hybrid
"Elmo P. Shagnasty" > And frankly, it's all about MY pocketbook. Which one,
over 200K miles,
hybrids don't just work by capturing braking energy.
They run a more fuel efficient cycle with a longer expansion stroke.
The Miller/Atkinson cycle. They can do this because acceleration is
supplemented by the battery. They also have a smaller engine b/c it
can use batteries to accelerate.
By using the Miller cycle they get a higher % of energy out of the gas
and into the drivetrain.
It's very ingenious.
Hydrogen is probably never going to "be here". You need a fuel source
to get hydrogen. Hydrogen is very hard to transport (harder than
natural gas which is difficult enough) and there are no cheap "fuel
cells". The advantages of a liquid fuel are great.
I think the next step is using a smaller gas engine and a
larger/cheaper battery that you can plug in. You could plug it in for
an hour a night and that would take you maybe 30-40 miles. On longer
trips and under acceleration the gas engine would turn on. That way
you'd be replacing gas with electricity, which can come from
Regenerative braking is very far down on the list of values in
hybridization. The essential purpose is to use the primary power source more
efficiently. Putting a 240 hp engine in a passenger car to cruise around
town at 35 mph is extremely inefficient. Using a 50 hp engine to do that is
far more efficient, but responsiveness suffers badly. We are in the infancy
of hybridization now, but as the power technology advances a 50 hp hybrid
can be more efficient than a 50 hp conventional car and provide better
responsiveness than a 240 hp conventional car. The difference is made up by
stored electric power.
In actuality, a car would have to be pretty small to warrant only a 50 hp
engine. The design becomes straightforward, though. The power necessary to
climb a 6% grade at the prevailing maximum speed (75 mph in the US) at
maximum gross weight is exactly the engine power needed. For a mid-size car
that is in the 100 hp range, maybe slightly less.
The side effects of running the engine at higher power levels are valuable,
too. Hybridization increasingly separates the engine from the driver
control, so there are no issues with suddenly mashing the accelerator.
Emissions are much easier to control as the engine comes under computer
I can understand why there isn't a lot of enthusiasm for the current
generation of hybrids. Not only do they have a limited track record, the
level of hybridization is not enough to knock anybody's socks off. (Well,
mostly not. See Honda's DualNote
http://world.honda.com/Tokyo2001/auto/DUALNOTE/ for a glimpse of what is
One problem with that is the fact that the stored electric power
eventually runs down. It would not be fun to be in the passing lane on
a long uphill section of road going around a vehicle only to discover
that your battery storage has just been exhausted and that the available
torque is suddenly reduced 50%. Yikes!
One thing hybrids bring into the equation is a significant depenence on
near term prior history to a degree which conventional engines do not.
It's all a matter of design. In your example, a properly designed hybrid
will not run out of passing power because the engine power was enough to
maintain full legal speed, while passing power is available because it was
not needed to reach the cruising speed. A major reason multi-hundred
horsepower engines are used in passenger cars today is to provide that
margin, in spite of the economy penalty the vast majority of the time.
Even in the previous generation Prius - the one we have - our battery has
never dropped to "empty" (actually something like 50% charge) although we
live at 7000 feet and have made trips with ful load to Washington state and
the LA area. I've never heard anybody complain about that happening, either.
It just isn't a problem.
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