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Which Hybrid/Electric Is Best?

With the plethora of new cars scheduled for release and currently on the market, it begs the question, what car would you actually spend your hard-earned money on? Sure, the economy is making it rough for people to purchase new cars with the severely reduced liquidity, but with the savings these cars could potentially produce each month, these cars might just be in the cards for some of you, assuming they meet production schedules. The options vary from entry level hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius (starting at $22,000) to the ultra chic Fisker Karma luxury sedan ($80,000). Let’s give a quick run-down of the cars before you vote (we want informed voters after-all):

1. Toyota Prius: It was the first mass produced hybrid on the market and thusly it’s become the defacto standard. It’s certainly reasonably priced, but does its boring looks and appliance-like feel turn off the average American driver (a very emotional group about what they drive) and push it towards one of it’s more conteporary compeditors? In the end, a solid and reliable car that’s moving on to it’s 3rd generation in 2010 which should drive sales further. The Japanese are known for their reliablilty and improvements to batteries and production should drive the cost down and the mileage up.

City: 48, Highway: 45, MSRP: $22,000 base price

2. Honda Clarity FCX: Shortly after Toyota released it’s Prius, Honda moved forward with it’s Insight project, released in 2000 and has been in production until 2006. At that time, Honda moved their fuel cell technology along enough to power Accord and Civics. However, some believe that though gas-electric hybrids are all good and well, the true future of electric cars is with the use of Hydrogen and electrolysis to create a purely electric car with ZERO emissions. Sure, Hydrogen fuel stations are few and far between, but by the picture, you can tell the Clarity FCX is aiming at a higher eschelon individual. Mass produced FCXes could be ready as soon as 2012, but right now you can lease if you live in California (where Hydrogen stations are available). This is the car for the true eco-heads with it’s complete lack of any greenhouse gasses, something not even the Prius can claim.

City/Highway: 68 MPG (equivalent), 280 Mile Range, $600 per month lease

3. Chevrolet Volt: Marketed as the next big thing in commuter cars, the Volt’s goal is to create a combination plug-in hybrid that should be able to take you to work and back home on a single charge and not needing to use any gas at all. With an expected range of 40 miles, should you go beyond that, there’s a small gasoline generator to power the car until you get to your destination. GM has put a lot of money into marketing the Volt as the next big thing and utilizing it for a push to create special tax credits for cars that get 100MPG+. While the concept cars GM has shown are certainly edgy, a full production version (scheduled for a possible release in 2010), we’ll see what the actual Volt turns out looking like.

City/Highway: 50MPG (no battery), 150MPG (with battery), 100MPG (average equivalent), MRSP: $30,000+

4. Tesla Roadster: Based on the Lotus Elise, the Tesla is the first electric car “Car Guys” wanted. Promising of a usable range (over 245 miles), awesome acceleration (less than 4 seconds to 60MPH) and a super sexy chassis based on 15+ years of development on the street and race track, the Tesla makes owning a electric car bearable. Though the small roadster isn’t the most practical car here, it’s certainly the one that involves the most user input to drive. It’s the one you’ll want to take to the local track or autocross. It’s the first car to break the stigma associated with driving a “green” car and for that, it’s made our list. Will it top yours?

City/Highway: 105MPG (equivalent), MSRP: $98,000

5. Fisker Karma: Built by the world renound car designer, Henrik Fisker, designer of the Aston Martin DB9, Aston Martin V8 Vantage and BMW Z8, the Fisker Karma is the car you buy as the President of your eco-friendly business. You’ll need 4-doors to fit your clients in, but you’ll need to not waste gas to protect your image. The Karma is another plug-in hybrid that utilizes solar cells on the roof as well as a tiny gas generator to keep your car going past the 50 mile electric only range (similar to the Volt). However, whereas most other makers design their cars to sell to the average consumer, the Fisker is for a more refined taste. It’s long, sleek body, premium interior and fully featured healm make this car the Mercedes S-Class of hybrid cars (though Mercedes is working on their hybrid S currently). With a Fisker Karma, you’re not only saving the environment, you’re looking like a million bucks doing so.

City/Highway: 150MPG (equivalent), MSRP: $80,000

6. None of the Above: Though the cars above come with various amounts of cache, none of them offer the sound, the thrill and the experience of a good old petrol engine with 8, 10, or 12 cylinders of octane combusting power. Be it the newest California from Ferrari, 10-cylinders of high-revving fun from a BMW M5 or the glory of a 12-cylinder AMG engine, there’s nothing that can compare to the goose-bumps you get when dropping the transmission down to 3rd gear and flooring it through a tunnel or letting loose at your local track or autocross. The petrol engines offers so much to us both in utility and emotional support. With new developments in fuel efficiency, even our supercars are getting over 25MPG on the highway (look at the new Corvette Z06). Celulosic ethanol promises cheaper, reproducable energy sources that are cleaner than ever before. Maybe during the week I’ll drive my Volt to and from work. However, on the weekend I just want to press the loud pedal and go for a ride down my country roads.

So, which is it for you?

What Hybrid / Electric Car Do You Want?

                                             

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  • Well written article Randy.

    I still believe that without a much greater improvement in battery technology that hybrids as a real usable car are still far in the future. To me, the current crop of hybrids are a stop gate measure to please “green” people who don’t realize the cost to manufacture the batteries, or what we are supposed to do with them when they fail.

  • Jon Brdecka

    Its quite obvious that the conscious buyer in today’s world is looking to save gas and money and the earth… but wheres the fun in that! Lets hit the track!

  • I’ve got to agree with David. The resources to actually build these “green” cars is so above and beyond what normal cars use (due to their limited production scale and niche in the car market). In addition, the left over batteries are much more detrimental to people’s health and the environment as a whole than a large hunk of steel and iron. In a few years we’ll start to utilize materials that are more environmentally safe and battery / capacitor technology will increase such that we’ll have environmentally safe power cells.

  • No hybrid for my. Why bother? My 1995 Mercedes 300D gets 34 MPG, is dead nuts reliable, rides nice and cost me under $10K 3 years ago. Why would I want to pay 3x that to get all hassle with batteries and whatnot? Simple, reliable diesel is the way to go.

  • Airik

    Marketing vs hype vs reality.

    Why the push on hybrid cars into the market? Was it based on vehicle manufacturers producing for a niche market, or is it really because they care about global warming (is that fact or fiction?) and are trying to do their share to help us and the generations to come? Who provided them with the figures? The WHO, Greenpeace or some officially recognized environmental organization who worked with the automotive industry in collaboration?

    Outside of America, people have driven smaller more economical cars which aren’t advertised for 0-60 performance and having 12 speaker sound systems for decades.
    These same markets are offered cars which are more fuel efficient, run on diesel, don’t have useless outputs of power and don’t need double parking spaces to allow one to go get a scoop of ice cream or a favorite brew of coffee.

    Why hasn’t the US consumer been exposed to the same offerings?

    Perhaps because fossil fuels were never seen as an issue in the 50 and 60s and that mentally simply carried over into the present day where the industry is now playing catch up? Or is it because there was no need for efficiency back then?

    Can one say simply adopting the same approach [of less fuel guzzling, resource wasting automobiles] would be less costly than the development of a car to run on hybrid technology whose price points are INSANE and aren’t really marketed across the board to the right segment of people?

    Why a hybrid sports car? What’s next – a hybrid rocket, missile, jet fighter?

    Vehicles have evolved with development to run cleaner since the early and mid 90s.

    Is there really a lower cost of ownership to acquire and maintain a hybrid? Is it really being developed for those who commute the most among city dwellers or those who simply don’t even have a need for a fuel efficient car but rather buy into the hype only to revise their budgets to use saved money elsewhere?

    Can the government help with more efficient commuter systems and mass transit options?

    What will be the foot print left behind by these Hybrid car batteries later on down the road? What will happen when cheap markets mass produce unreliable batteries for these cars.

    Why so many questions? Well why the lack of so many answers?

  • Lot of a great questions Airik…. Anyone got any answers?…

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  • I really like how they are starting to make Hybrid cars that also look like sports cars… though they are really expensive.