Energy, Technology & Science, Travel

Three Months of Hybrid Experience

11.03.08 | Comment?

2005 Honda Civic Hybrid

When I purchased my Honda Hybrid back in July, gas prices in California were hovering right around $5/gallon. As I write this, they’re now a little over $3/gallon. What a change. And, don’t get used to it, they’ll be going back up as the era of cheap gas is long gone. As the economy recovers so too will the price of gas. But that’s a subject for another blog entry…

When I was making the decision to buy this car, I had visions of grandeur where I would buy a Prius, convert it to a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle, have access to the carpool lanes, and pay not very much for fuel while doing it. Fortunately, my pragmatic side kicked in and forced me to examine the realities of my situation: I have no time for projects. I needed access to the carpool lane, nothing more, nothing less. The price of fuel has almost zero bearing on my life, so why be obsessed with the gas mileage? Ultimately, I concluded that I needed car pool lane access stickers attached to the cheapest reasonably safe vehicle I could find and that all pointed toward the Honda Civic. (And, I do have to admit I still think the Prius is dorky looking. The Civic will win no design awards, but at least it just looks like a regular sedan.)

That pragmatism saved me about $15,000 of the overall acquisition/improvement price tag (difference in price between Honda and Toyota + PHEV conversion kit.) Now, having driven nearly 6,000 miles, I appreciate my pragmatic side all the more. By the numbers, here’s what this car has done for me:

  • Saved Time – As I whiz by the lanes of traffic looking like long conga lines at 60 mph, I have to admit, I do feel smug. Why? The average time savings per commute leg is 15 minutes during peak traffic. Seventy-five percent of my commuting falls into this area, chalk up twenty-two and one-half hours I wasn’t on the road being frustrated over the past 3 months. How do you put a price on that?
  • Reduced Fuel Consumption – Six thousand miles commuted at 47 mpg or 18 mpg, you choose? The difference in consumption is 128 gallons vs. 333 gallons. At an average price of $4 per gallon, that’s $820 in hard, cold cash in my pocket vs. my prior commute vehicle. That’s like getting paid $273 per month to drive my car.
  • Reduced Emissions – The EPA estimates that there is approximately 19.4 lbs of carbon dioxide emitted for each gallon of gasoline consumed. That means this car has eliminated nearly 4,000 lbs of carbon dioxide. The equivalent of planting nearly two acres of trees to offset the carbon emission from the prior commute vehicle.
  • Generally Improved My Quality of Life – Since I spend less frustrating time in the car, I spend less money, and I’m helping the environment serendipitously, I would label this car experiment a success.

Now, is it perfect? No. I don’t particularly like the fit and finish of the vehicle. It’s something like a heavy tin can in handling an feel. I don’t like the whine of the motor/generator. I don’t like it that in 95F weather that the car shuts off the ventilation system at stops (though it’s easy to work around.) I don’t like the creature comforts (or lack thereof.) The geometry of the car is bad, the dash is too far for things like mobile phones, the center console hardly exists, getting drinks in and out of the front cup holders is an invitation to change pants.

But, on the balance, I’m glad to have purchased the vehicle and hope to get many more years of service from it.

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