Hybrid Alternatives

This past weekend we stopped to fillup with standard octain at $2.19 per gallon. About 3 hours later we passed the same gas station and the price had gone up to $2.20. To make matters worse, the next morning on my way to work that same gas station had fuel at $2.21, so we are averaging about a penny a gallon every few hours.

A few days later, the average price of gas appears to be hovering at $2.29 per gallon, so while we are not really going up a penny every few hours there are definitely some ongoing price hikes.

All of this has prompted a discussion on trading one of our gas guzzlers for a fuel efficient hybrid. A hybrid automobile relies on energy stored in batteries for the primary source of power, and uses the gasoline engine to recharge these battery cells. A typical hybrid can get anywhere from 30 MPG to upwards of 60 MPG depending on the size and weight of the vehicle.

A hybrid really isn’t an environmental decision persay, this is something that could ultimately affect our disposal income in a big way. While sitting in traffic a few days ago, I noticed a Toyota Prius beside me. The driver had lound music blaring out the window, and before launching the vehicle at full tilt after a red light she proceeded to jettison her cigarrette out the window. Clearly, this was not an environmentalist.

Hybrids aren’t all about just saving money on fuel. They have the added expense of a large bank of batteries that must be properly maintained to achieve optimal gas mileage. A new set of batteries can cost $3000-$5000, and most batteries under regular use are good for only a few years. This means the full bank of batteries would likely need to be replaced every 3-5 years.

There are a lot of considerations here, but it seems clear that Americans needs to take these perennial gas shortages a little more seriously. It’s unacceptable to parade around town in an Escalade and burn 15 MPG, alternative technologies can easily double this mileage and this will have a dramatic affect on how long we can continue to rely on fossil fuels.