You Got to Be Kidding Me!

A Plug-in Hybrid Use Case?

Posted in Economics, Four Wheels by Stacy McMahon on September 23, 2008

Credit where it’s due:

Senator Lamar Alexander has put his money where his energy policy mouth is and shelled out the $10,000 it costs to have a Prius converted by A123 Systems to a plug-in type hybrid. The senator says he gets 30 miles out of the lithium ion battery before the engine is called upon to do some work. Having only a 5 or 6 mile daily commute, Alexander has burned about half a tank a gas since sometime last July

So in some sense, this is a case where the plug-in part of a plug-in hybrid has value – as long as you don’t exceed your car’s battery range, you’re ‘burning’ only electricity at a fraction of the unit cost of gas. But by definition, that means you’re driving very few miles (for example, 10-12 a day) which is precisely the wrong regime for recouping the extra cost of the hybrid.

In Alexander’s case, he’s going to be making that 5-mile commute for many years to make up the $12,000+ difference between his plug-in Prius and an equivalent gas-only car. So it looks like even a plug-in hybrid makes sense, if it does, mostly as a hedge against future price spikes and/or oil shortages.


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