By on August 12, 2012

The Nikkei [sub] detected a brand-new trend: Cars with an internal combustion engine. In Japan, 20 percent of new cars sold are hybrids. Elsewhere, especially in China and Europe, hybrid cars have a bit of a hard time. “Although being environmentally friendly is important, saving money is tops,” an unnamed Nissan exec told the Tokyo wire, and added that consumers in these markets look more closely at how much they can save on fuel costs in relation to vehicle prices. Now this trend is reaching Japan.

Volkswagen has always been a hybrid skeptic and instead did bet on making engines smaller. “Sales of Volkswagen vehicles reached 33,414 units in the January-July period, leaping 22% on the year,” in Japan, the Nikkei notes. (Closed market propagandists take note: If you give the Japanese what they want, that allegedly closed market suddenly opens…)

Nissan will sell a new Note subcompact next month that “is equipped with an engine that has been slimmed from 1.5 liters to 1.2 liters. A supercharger keeps output the same as the current model,” The Nikkei writes. That car gets 25.2km per liter, says The Nikkei, “almost on par with Honda’s Fit hybrid, but is some 150,000 yen cheaper.” That’s nearly $2,000, and you can buy a lot of gas with the savings.

If The Nikkei is right with spotting this trend, then there might be hope for Mazda and its Skyactiv technology.

Even in the U.S. the trend veers back to the lowly ICE. In its July 2012 market round-up, Hybridcars says:

“The take rate for hybrids of 2.7 to 2.8 percent has been consistent the last three months and below the 3.4 percent achieved in March and April when fuel prices were higher.”

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69 Comments on “The Internal Combustion Engine Strikes Back...”


  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    I’m sorta glad that automakers and consumers alike are realizing that ol’ dino juice still has its merits, instead of just falling for the hybrid hype, but I still hope people care enough about hybrids to keep the research and development of hybrid cars going. Right now it’s probably the best shot we have towards a more fuel efficient future in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Actually, mr_muttonchops, it may depend on what is meant by “future” and “long run”.

      From a total resources allocation point-of-view beyond gasoline, hybrids are costly, but CH4 (either CNG or LNG) may be overall the best approach for 10-30 years out. That uses ICE’s.

      After that, H2 may be the best shot at polution-free mobility 20-100 years out. That uses either ICE or fuel-cell electric. Beyond 100 years, who knows?

      It should be mentioned that the current trifold “Holy Grail” of advanced ICE’s is already in place with many engine manufacturers:
      1) Turbo (or super) charging;
      2) Direct Injection;
      3) Variable Valve technology.

      But there is still one little bombshell not yet commercialized: the variable compression engine**, for which Peugot has a patent. No takers yet, beyond the demo phase. This method promises greatly to increase the efficiency of an ICE, but, of course, with added mechanical complexity. (No surprise there.)

      ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_compression_ratio

      —————-

      ** This is NOT the variable displacement engine that has already been used with only minor success…

      —————-

      • 0 avatar
        Charliej

        LNG is usually propane, which is C3H8, a totally different animal from methane, CH4. CH4 must be kept in high pressure tanks. C3H8 can be compressed to a liquid that can be kept in low pressure tanks. Which is the safest depends on the circumstances. Propane is heavier than air and will pool in low places. In most areas it is illegal to store propane indoors. Methane is lighter than air and will dissipate in open areas. Propane has more energy per unit than methane. Conversely, propane emits more carbon dioxide when burned.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Charliej..

        LNG is predominantly methane, CH4. Please see link below:
        ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquefied_natural_gas, and statement therein – -
        “Liquefied natural gas or LNG is natural gas (predominantly methane, CH4) that has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport.”

        However, your comment about using propane as a motor fuel is a good, as it is already the third most popular vehicle fuel available. It transports well, liquifies easily, and has a higher BTU value per lb. than CH4. It also demands less ICE modification to burn successfully.

        But propane currently is a “by-product” fuel that can’t increase or decease in supply easily to meet changes in demand:
        “The supply of propane cannot easily be adjusted to meet increased demand, because of the by-product nature of propane production.” Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propane. Hence, it may not be as suitable to scale-up for large-scale passenger traffic.

        Propane is almost always a mixture of other by-product gases, like butane (C4H10) and propene (C3H6), and is harder to obtain in pure form.

        Propane provides about 3 times the CO2 production of methane (CH4) per lb. If some low-energy way can be found inexpensively to synthesize C3H8, then it might be a nice stop-gap solution on the way to widespread vehicular CH4 use, …. on the way to widespread ultimate H2 use.

        ———-

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Well, the key fact here is that propane is a by product of refining crude oil. Methane (LNG) comes straight out of the ground in pretty much usable form and is what’s been discovered in abundant supply in the U.S. using hydraulic fracturing drilling.

        So, the tremendous increase in supply is of methane (LNG/CNG) not propane.

        Propane is not particularly cheap, its price varying with the price of crude oil.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    A little bit of common sense is finally setting in, where people see that the MPG savings won’t ever catch up with the price premium in some of these cars. Not true in all cases, but still…

    • 0 avatar
      Toucan

      Two easiest, most significant while being most comparable picks (assumption: lifetime miles driven – 250k):

      Camry LE vs Camry hybrid
      ((250 000 / 28) * 3,5) – ((250 000 / 41) * 3,5) = 9 908,53659 USD saved. Price diff: 3k.

      Lexus RX350 vs RX450h
      ((250 000 / 21) * 3,5) – ((250 000 / 30) * 3,5) = 12 500 USD saved. Price diff: 6k.

      The larger share of miles driven the larger the share of the win.

      This is assuming gas price will be constant. It won’t. Real service life win will be easy 9k USD for Camry and 10-12k USD for the Lexus SUV due to raising gas prices and residuals of high efficiency vehicles.

      Obviously, a typical average buyer of “lower cognitive capacity” will start his “math” trying to figure out “whether it’s gonna pay back in these 3 years”, completely ignoring the simple fact that more efficient and expensive car will sell used for significantly more than a standard ICE equivalent.

      The real reason why hybrids don’t sell is simple: average IQ is 100 which isn’t much. And half of the buyers is less than that. This is insufficient to detect fine “10k USD signals”. In Europe, where gas is so much more expensive, the “signal” is much stronger. Result? Local hybrid equivalents, diesels, do as near as makes no difference 100% of midsize/large cars/SUV sales.

      • 0 avatar
        drivelikejehu

        Math/finance fail. The purchase savings are immediate while the gas savings happen over a long period of time, and thus have to be discounted to present value. Next time you insult the intelligence of millions of people, you may not want to make such an egregious error.

        The exact results depend on the growth rate in gasoline prices and selected discount rate. But for anyone interested in a quick and dirty method, enter this into Excel:

        =((Projected Yearly Mileage/Hybrid MPG) – (Projected Yearly Mileage/ICE MPG)) X (Current Gas Price X (Gas Price Growth Rate)^(N-1))

        Where ‘N’ is the year of ownership. This can be copied for however many years you plan to own the car, and the mileage can vary by year as well. Then:

        =NPV(Selected discount rate, selected cells)

        All the data could be entered, or only for a certain number of years to compare the savings, or lack thereof. For instance, the hybrid RX would have negative returns at 8 years and 160,000 miles, using typical assumptions.

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        Could you redo those calculations with 5% interest cost of money and 20 years time? I don’t drive all that far because I use an even better time and money saver: living close to work. Will it be as much fun to drive as a regular car with stick shift transmission, low weight, and grippy tires?

      • 0 avatar
        redrum

        That’s also assuming maintenance and repair costs are the same over the life of the vehicle. I think a hybrid owner is more likely to get their vehicle serviced at a dealership (whether they really need to or not), which is definitely going to up the ownership cost over getting it serviced at independent shops. There’s also questions about how durable the hybrid components will be and how expensive they are to fix, especially when viewed over such a long time frame.

        But this whole argument is rather moot. How many people even keep their cars to 250k miles? It would take the average driver around 20 years to reach that. It’s certainly a very small percentage. Keeping your car that long alone is a huge money saver; any gas savings would be gravy. A car that old that’s still running will typically have changed hands several times in its life, so you also need to account for residual value. Battery replacement and other specialist-only repairs will always be a dark cloud over a hybrid that’s out of warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        Toucan

        > drivelikejehu

        > Math/finance fail. The purchase savings are immediate while the
        > gas savings happen over a long period of time, and thus have to
        > be discounted to present value. Next time you insult the
        > intelligence of millions of people, you may not want to make
        > such an egregious error.

        Understanding of discount rate fail. Go ahead, apply it, waste your time. You will have to inflation-adjust the cash flows generated by a more efficient vehicle only to discout it afterwards to exactly what I posted.

        SunnyvaleCA:

        > Could you redo those calculations with 5% interest cost of
        > money and 20 years time?

        It will bring you 1k USD less at current gas prices (so much less in practice) while burning more fuel all trough these years so that there will be less left for your children.

        > I don’t drive all that far because I use an even better time
        > and money saver: living close to work.

        Congratulations, me either.

        > Will it be as much fun to drive as a regular car with stick
        > shift transmission, low weight, and grippy tires?

        With cars getting number, more isolating, quieter, lower revving, more overwhelming and correcting/adjusting drivers’ inputs, fun does not seem to be the part of equation anyway.

        redrum

        > That’s also assuming maintenance and repair costs [...]
        > There’s also questions about how durable the hybrid components
        > will be [...]

        Prius is the (one of the) most reliable car(s) on the market. A typical hybrid is a simpler car overall, with its engine less complex, transmission simplified, eternal traction motors and less wear on the brakes. Batteries are oversized for the lifetime.

        In the meantime, ICEs get turbocharged, direct injected, downsized thus more strained mechanically and thermally and coupled to trannies with more and more ratios.

        > But this whole argument is rather moot. How many people even
        > keep their cars to 250k miles? It would take the average
        > driver around 20 years to reach that. It’s certainly a very
        > small percentage.

        The reason to calculate it like this was to avoid unnecessary details of no value, like how much more you get when reselling the hybrid over a standard car.

        No one will keep it that long, that’s why I noted that the longer you do, the more of this net win you have. But the net win is always there.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @drivelikejehu: Try asking the average person what their personal discount rate is, and see how far your argument goes.

        Your equation suggests that you are calculating the discount rate based on projected gas prices over the life of the vehicle. But that’s a highly volatile commodity (in all senses), and I haven’t seen anyone make dependable predictions just yet.

        So, failing that, you can fall back on your personal discount rate and, despite having some education in financial math, I have no idea what mine is. I do value being isolated from the swings in the gasoline market, though, which has been one of the big benefits of Prius ownership.

        So, while the NPV is a valid perspective, very few people do the calculation when they buy a car. MBAs, financiers, and accountants are a small portion of the population who are far better educated than the average person.

      • 0 avatar
        drivelikejehu

        “Understanding of discount rate fail. Go ahead, apply it, waste your time. You will have to inflation-adjust the cash flows generated by a more efficient vehicle only to discount it afterwards to exactly what I posted.”

        Um, no. Inflation is implicit in the discount rate, which of course is equal to (risk-free rate) + (market premium). The risk-free rate is based on US T-bills, which price-adjust to near-term inflation expectations.

        Your “method” of ignoring the time value of money overstates savings dramatically- roughly double.
        ____

        Luke- I agree with you on pretty much all points; the idea of the exercise would be to roughly test certain assumptions. There clearly is no way to derive precise answers given the fact so much of it is guesswork or even arbitrary.

      • 0 avatar
        Toucan

        > Your “method” of ignoring the time value of money overstates
        > savings dramatically- roughly double.

        Let’s repeat it once again: hybrids do pay for themselves over service life. Massively.

        Already at current gas prices they generate, over service life, much more percent of the value V of the new standard car that how much percent of this value V the premium for the hybrid is. Seeing any currency symbols in this inequality? No? That’s because it is inflation-independent, no money over time analysis applies here.

        Hybrid payback (already with a net gain) over lifetime is why they are here and everyone is making more and more of them. Missing payback over lifetime is why thermoelectic generators in the exhaust are not here yet.

        > There clearly is no way to derive precise answers given the
        > fact so much of it is guesswork or even arbitrary.

        Assuming a worst case and completely unrealistic scenario (constant fuel prices) and still resulting in net gain leaves no place for any gueswork.

      • 0 avatar
        drivelikejehu

        Time value of money analysis always applies to future cash flows. The gas savings all happen in the future (the initial expense of course is the starting point and thus not discounted). And how can you talk about realistic assumptions when you assume 250,000 miles! What percentage of drivers currently operate a car with that kind of mileage?

        Note also that the quick equation I put together does account for increased gas prices. Here is an application, with the 2012 Fusion Hybrid v. the FWD SEL (comparable equipment levels):

        Ownership- 10 years, 150,000 miles (still optimistic)
        Discount rate- 5%
        Gas price- 5% increase, compounded annually
        Sticker- Hybrid: $28,775, SEL: $23,423
        Efficiency- Hybrid: 41/36 (38.5 avg), SEL: 23/33 (28 avg)

        Results:
        Price Difference- $5,352
        Fuel Savings- $4,870

        If you choose different numbers, obviously the results can change. Also it depends what kind of driving the owner will do. But it is just completely false to say hybrids are always the best deal. For most owners, that just is not the case. For some, it is.

      • 0 avatar
        mic

        Here’s what everyone is missing. You are keeping the equations simplified with apples to apples (albeit different apples) comparisons. In the real world it isn’t quite so easy. Why should I buy a Toyota Prius when I can buy a Hyundai Accent or a Ford Fiesta. Now we’re talking $10k or so. Crunch that!

      • 0 avatar
        redrum

        So on one hand, to support your thesis you make the assumption that “[hybrids] will sell used for significantly more than a standard ICE equivalent” yet in your reply state that resale value is “of no value” to your calculation.

        Then you say “Prius is the (one of the) most reliable car(s) on the market.” Yes, that is true. How you get from that to generalizing that ALL hybrids are MORE reliable than their non-hybrid counterparts is simply not supported by any evidence. The most reliable car of 2011 as judged by Consumer Reports was the Scion XD. What does that mean about non-hybrid reliability overall? Absolutely nothing.

        “A typical hybrid is a simpler car overall…engine less complex, transmission simplified” Um, you realize virtually every hybrid is using a pre-existing ICE? And this is the first time I’ve ever heard someone say a CVT is more reliable than a standard automatic. What are you basing this on?

        “In the meantime, ICEs get turbocharged, direct injected, downsized thus more strained mechanically and thermally and coupled to trannies with more and more ratios.” — This is an utterly irrelevant strawman argument. The engine is among the most reliable component of any car. The repairs that kill you are labor intensive, specialized work…exactly like the kind of repair required by a hybrid.

        Your post reminds me of people who said investing in real estate was a “no brainer” during the housing bubble. It’s easy to convince yourself of anything when you cherry pick the facts.

      • 0 avatar
        Toucan

        drivelikejehu

        > Here is an application, with the 2012 Fusion Hybrid v. the FWD
        > SEL (comparable equipment levels):

        > Ownership- 10 years, 150,000 miles (still optimistic)
        > Discount rate- 5%
        > Gas price- 5% increase, compounded annually
        > Sticker- Hybrid: $28,775, SEL: $23,423
        > Efficiency- Hybrid: 41/36 (38.5 avg), SEL: 23/33 (28 avg)

        > Results:
        > Price Difference- $5,352
        > Fuel Savings- $4,870

        This is an excellent news, thank you for supporting my point! Half the way down to the junkyard, with gas prices technically constant (5% is just inflation) and the hybrid already did pay off (taking better residual into account), even according to economy textbooks. It can only get better in reality and with a hybrid having less price premium!

        mic
        > In the real world it isn’t quite so easy. Why should I buy a
        > Toyota Prius when I can buy a Hyundai Accent or a Ford Fiesta.

        Prius vs Fiesta? Near midsize vs city car? No kidding. What next are you going to compare a hybrid to? Walking?

        redrum

        > So on one hand, to support your thesis you make the assumption
        > that “[hybrids] will sell used for significantly more than a
        > standard ICE equivalent” yet in your reply state that resale
        > value is “of no value” to your calculation.

        I just wanted to simplify the reasoning without loosing validity. So I assumed resale value = 0 (junkyard). If it works for this point in time, it will work for any other time point where the MSRP > car value > 0 thanks to hugher residuals.

        > Then you say “Prius is the (one of the) most reliable car(s)
        > on the market.” Yes, that is true. How you get from that to
        > generalizing that ALL hybrids are MORE reliable than their
        > non-hybrid counterparts is simply not supported by any
        > evidence.

        Don’t be picky. We’re talking about hybrids that matter – the ones from Toyota and Ford. Any of which is build according to principles yielding a very high probability of better reliability (simpler engine and transmission).

        > Um, you realize virtually every hybrid is using a pre-existing
        > ICE?

        Yes, but “the hybrids that matter” use a simplified one. Atkinson cycle, no turbo, no DI, in past not even VVTI.

        > And this is the first time I’ve ever heard someone say a CVT
        > is more reliable than a standard automatic. What are you
        > basing this on?

        Hybrids from Toyota and Ford use a CVT, but it is not a belt/chain driven one. These are “power split devices”, basically a revered differential with two power inputs (engine and motor) and one output. And, like a differential gear, it will work forever and then some more.

        > This is an utterly irrelevant strawman argument. The engine is
        > among the most reliable component of any car.

        True. As long as you’re talking about primitive engines from the 80ties used in 90% cars sold stateside so far.

        But everything has changed. Now you have a turbo, high precision injectors, high pressure fuel pump, double mass fly wheels, variable valve timings on both sides, EGR, much higher mechanical and thermal loads and, additionally in diesels, particulate filters, NOx traps or AdBlue injectors.

        Yes, all these components are very reliable. For the first 100k miles.

        > Your post reminds me of people who said investing in real
        > estate was a “no brainer” during the housing bubble. It’s easy
        > to convince yourself of anything when you cherry pick the
        > facts.

        Cheery picking? Really? I used two most popular and comparable hybrids and assumed worst case (and unrealistic) scenario for fuel misers: constant gas prices.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        So, let me guess, you’re not an old fart, probably still buy into the “peak oil” bullshit and assume that the price of oil is going nowhere but up.

        People like you were saying the same thing in the late 1970s.

        Now, go do your homework and examine the price of crude (in constant dollars), since, say, 1975.

        The problem with these simplistic projections is that, the farther out into the future they go, the less reliable they are, because the assumptions that support them have an increasing chance of being wrong.

        Actually, most people are smarter than you give them credit for. They assume that, beyond about 5 years out, the future is essentially unknowable.

        Only over-educated college kids believe in 10 and 20 year forecasts because they too young to remember how many of them turn out to be woefully wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Luke 42, “I have no idea what mine is. I do value being isolated from the swings in the gasoline market, though, which has been one of the big benefits of Prius ownership.”

        The benefit is only personal. No one is isolated from swings in the gasoline market. We live in a society that is primarily suburban with cities and towns having at most a three day supply of food et al. All additional fuel costs get passed on to the consumer from factory to shelf. You end up paying them regardless of POV.

        DC Bruce: “So, let me guess, you’re not an old fart, probably still buy into the “peak oil” bullshit and assume that the price of oil is going nowhere but up.

        People like you were saying the same thing in the late 1970s. The problem with these simplistic projections is that, the farther out into the future they go, the less reliable they are, because the assumptions that support them have an increasing chance of being wrong.”

        So how old of a fart does one need to be? Gasoline started being sold nationally for automobile use back in the 1910′s; should we go all the way back to then in keeping with your logic? It also completely ignores oil being a finite commodity subject to the whims and wills of a free market society as well the political and diplomatic world at large. The price of gasoline will continue to rise just on the demand strain of India and China with billions of consumers gaining more global resources and ability to compete with our shrinking middle class.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    The Prius/hybrid phenomenon was a fad, plain and simple.

    Hollywood celebrities along with the mainstream media got behind as some sort of trendy, chic vehicle that showed its owners were superheroes for willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

    Now hybrids are passé like any other fashion accessory, and consumers are actually doing the math to see if a $8k premium is worth spending in order to maybe save $10 a month in gas (hint: it’s not)

    • 0 avatar

      sorry but hybrids have been around for over a decade now so they can’t really be dismissed as a fad. it might be reasonable to say that their popularity has peaked but i doubt it. i think the plug in hybrid is a game changer especially for someone who lives in the suburbs and uses the hybrid as a secondary car for commuting or short trips. you don’t need a calculator to see the cost savings there.

    • 0 avatar
      lopro

      I’m not quite sure what chemically-altered reality you’re living in, but here on Earth Prius is the 3rd best selling vehicle in the world.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My wife has been driving the dependable and efficient Prius in my driveway for 8 years. That’s over a quarter of her lifetime, and the car isn’t showing any signs up being EOL’ed any time soon. Hardly a fad.

      Is the Prius the right car for everyone? Well, it’s a compact/midsized passenger car (depending whether your inside or outside) so, if you need a minivan or a pickup truck, or if you crave a sports car, then it’s not the right car for you. But as an AtoB transportation appliance, it is an *excellent* vehicle. It’s not the cheapest vehicle to buy, but it is very cheap to operate. We’ve owned ours long enough that we’ve passed even the most pessimistic payoff periods, and the car has every indication of continuing to save us money for the foreseeable future.

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      “…plain and simple”? Calling something a phenomenon is almost always subjective. “Plain and simple” usually rests on some data. Where are you getting the data?

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    I, for one, would like to see ALL types and methods of locomotion available in cars in the US. That way, we can each choose what we want to drive.

    I’ll never be a candidate for an EV, Hybrid, PEV or PHEV, but I think they should be available in America for those who want one.

    Personally, I’m a gasoline addict, the purer the gas the better, and proud of it. I’ve tried diesels and I have no use for them unless they are in 18-wheelers and HD pickup trucks of the 3/4-ton class and higher.

    And as far as the Plug-ins are concerned, the US power grid would melt if the trend ever caught on. It won’t, until we run out of oil. And that won’t be for a couple of hundred years yet.

    A few days ago we had a total power outage in my area, probably because it was 105-degrees here and everyone was running their air conditioners at full blast on high.

    When the power failed, both of my Ingersoll-Rand AC generators kicked in, like they were supposed to do. But within the hour, one of them had self-destructed due to old age, and had sent shrapnel flying through the side of the engine. Total loss! My loss. No one’s going to bail me out.

    I can only imagine what life as we know it on the power grid in America would be like if everyone wanted to drive Plug-ins.

    And that is what Japan is experiencing after the disasters, since it now only has about 60% (and growing) of its former power capacity available that has to be balanced and redistributed over the populated and industrial areas.

    EVs and Plug-ins were a novelty, a niche market aimed at enthusiasts, that never amounted to much. As such, it should be available to anyone who wants one as long as the makers can afford to lose money on them.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      There is no one “power grid” in the United States. It’s a patchwork with some weak spots, but there should be capacity to charge a large number of EVs off-peak in the middle of the night. Just charging a lower rate for off-peak electricity would help even out demand. I’d be more worried about more localized electrical infrastructure in old neighborhoods.

      Hybrids are relatively efficient in brutal stop-and-go traffic. I guess “Sucks less than riding the bus” wasn’t a great marketing slogan, but I’d rather drive a Prius than wait on public transit. However, I choose to live where traffic isn’t that bad and driving can be enjoyable.

      • 0 avatar
        MrGreenMan

        I am interested in this assertion that there is no “power grid”. This is the most interesting claim I’ve heard in a while; please explain.

        Now, I understand that pieces are separately owned, in a patchwork manner, but they are still connected and transmit across boundaries. I’ve had a large number of electrical engineers explain to me over time that there are three (East, West, Texas). I’ve had some of these same engineers pitch me such ideas as using an army of plug-in Volt or Prius vehicles to either arbitrage rates or to transport electricity when natural disasters cause damage to transmission lines and maroon areas from grid-wide activity. I’ve talked to people who have tried to sell block-level biodiesel-based generators, and when I suggested that they could be developed into self-sufficient networks isolated from the national power grid, they’ve always preferred the national grid because of the efficiency gained by smoothing out variable spikes over a large distance. I also lived through at least one cascading shut-down of electricity that spanned a few states and was blamed on tripping peak voltage faster than could be accommodated and causing various regional players to overreact to cut off the excess voltage before it spread. These all seem to be power grids to me, which would mean that even regional popularity and demands can have national scope — i.e., a 100% plug-in conversion of California may make life difficult for everybody west of the Mississippi.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @MrGreenMan:

        There are three power grids in the USA: East, West, and Texas. They’re not completely disconnected, though, since they’re hooked together with high voltage AC-DC-AC converters so that they can trade a limited amount of surplus/deficit power.

        They’re physically connected, but they’re probably out of phase. You’d have to turn off, say, the entire west coast for a few seconds to bring them in to phase to unify the grid (and there’s probably a lot of other major work that would required too). But we in the USA aren’t about to do something like that, just to build a better electrical grid.

        The whole smart-grid thing is about picking the low-hanging fruit in terms of electrical grid upgrades. There are some big upgrades we could do, but upgrading the automated controls on transmission lines and power plants is cheaper, easier, and much closer to being politically feasible.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        “There is no one “power grid” in the United States. It’s a patchwork with some weak spots, but there should be capacity to charge a large number of EVs off-peak in the middle of the night. Just charging a lower rate for off-peak electricity would help even out demand. I’d be more worried about more localized electrical infrastructure in old neighborhoods.”

        Valid point and something that power companies on the West Coast are already dealing with. MT had a good article on the growing network of DC Fast Charging stations on the West Coast

        “http://www.motortrend.com/features/consumer/1207_the_electric_vehicle_road_trip_test/

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Bingo, highdesertcat…

      +1 (I guess I don’t have to keep posting the “EV disaster characteristics” any more, unless some of the respondents here would like me to do so. (^_^))..

      —————–

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Well, no one is going to bail you out, but can I make a suggestion? Go Cummins/ONAN for your generator replacement. Kind of odd that you have two generators and transfer switches. I assume you have them separate as phasing the two of them together seems a bit like overkill for a residence. Keep your old generator as a backup for your backup.

      Regarding hybrids, I get 35 miles per gallon without any attempt at driving for mileage out of my Altima. Considering the 22K or so a year of mixed driving I do, it makes sense for me. Additionally, conserving resources has value to me, and I feel I am helping our country and environment. These “economic intangibles” carry significant weight for me. For those who only consider direct cost, well a hybrid may or may not make sense for them. So, I agree with you: choice is good. Buy what you like. For me, the gas saved will be used to run the Hemi that is being swapped into my old Fury. Which reminds me of the Charger poster I got at a car show. It pictured a new Charger and the tag line said: Introducing the new Hybrid Charger. Burns both gas and rubber. Awesome!!

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        golden2husky, “Kind of odd that you have two generators and transfer switches.”

        Not strange at all if you knew that I handbuilt my house over a 16-year period and have two separate electrical systems in the house, each side with a 200-amp box being fed through a single Itron 400-amp 240V digital watthour meter. Ground-line and Earth-ground are both common between the two at the same location, at the meter.

        Things were brought up to code as I expanded the house over the years, and the newer portion has its own box, generator and switch.

        I can run them independently, or simultaneously, and never have to interface or phase them, except at the meter, which is disconnected when a generator kicks in for that circuit.

        Right now I would have to run the older portion of the house on the Kubota from my RV, if the power fails again. It’s only a 120-amp (running) generator for an RV, so to get the Trane on that side of the house started may be a challenge if anything else is on at the same time.

        I’m running two 4800cuft (1hp/20amp ea) swamp coolers and two 8-ton Trane air conditioners (60amp ea), one at each end of the house.

        Until a few days ago I had three AC generators for emergencies, two were old trailer-mounted Ingersol-Rand construction-site units and one is a Kubota diesel, all of them bought used decades ago.

        Now I’m down to two, with the one that threw a rod a few days ago a real basket case. If you know what FUBAR means, it applies to this generator.

        Thanks for the advice on the Cummins/ONAN generators, they are good ones, I know, we used them in Viet Nam in the sixties, but I already ordered a Generac 5734 to replace the blown one. It’s only 15KW running, 22.5KW peak but it will do and for $2400, free shipping and no sales tax, it’s a bargain to me.

        And when it comes to cars and trucks, I’m really all about choice. Choice is good. The more the merrier. Let the consumer decide what sells and what dies. Well, unless of course …..

        George B, in MY area we have two feeds, one from El Paso, Texas, that’s the one I’m on, and there is another feed from the Palo Verde Nuclear plant in AZ.

        We have quite a few disruptions, sometimes brought on by rolling blackouts when demand exceeds line-carrying capacity, and sometimes by the load-balancing software of the local power company.

        So people having UPS units and whole-house backup AC generators is not uncommon in this area because the power is not all that reliable when the demand is high or mother nature acts up, summer or winter.

        The Kubota actually is part of my Southwind RV and only gets turned on when one of my main backups is down, or, as in this case, kaput. Today we have power, so all is well, for as long as it lasts.

  • avatar
    lopro

    EV and hybrid drive-trains offer a couple of major advantages over standard ICE layout:
    -power is delivered via electric motors – less moving parts = higher reliability and longevity.
    -these cars are equipped with regenerative brakes, which makes an EV/hybrid extremely efficient in stop-and-go traffic (let’s face it: congestion is only going to get worse, so that’s a very important feature).

    The only way to make ICE more efficient is to downsize, stick more turbos on it, and add direct injection. All of these measures negatively affect reliability and repair costs, mainly due to increased operating temperatures and higher compression ratios.

    BTW, VAG is trying to catch up to Toyota in hybrid game, but they’re clearly lacking the required tech and logistics. While Toyo began to offer hybrids in the low-cost segment of the market, VAG attempts to test out the waters with its “high-end” FWD A8 Hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “BTW, VAG is trying to catch up to Toyota in hybrid game, but they’re clearly lacking the required tech and logistics.”

      They didn’t have the required tech logistics to make a regular ICE-powered Jetta run back when I owned one.

      I really want them to have turned this around, but I can’t find any evidence of it.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Hybrids have internal combustion engine too.

    • 0 avatar
      lopro

      ICE’s in hybrids are not tuned for max performance, they are geared towards higher efficiency. Hence, they’re running (if they are running that is) at lower temperatures and last much longer than your 1.2L quad-turbo.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        That is an interesting point. Do you have any links for that?

      • 0 avatar
        Bancho

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atkinson_cycle

        That article does an ok job of explaining it.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        A Prius does not have:
        1. belts
        2. alternator
        3. starter
        4. belt driven water pump
        5. direct fuel injection
        6. the transmission does not have bands or clutches
        7. belt driven AC compressor.. instead it uses a sealed electrical unit like your fridge.

        Leaving stuff off is how you get reliability, less stuff to break. Even the transmission has a fraction of the number of parts compared to conventional cars. Even the batteries are reliable because Toyota cycles them very gently. Unfortunately Honda Hybrids have not proven as reliable.

  • avatar
    chas404

    Hybrids don’t save money. You have to account for the loss of that extra investment or, worse, you have to finance and pay for that extra premium. For now, yes, the hybrids have a higher resale value but that can change (due to trendiness). Also if you run them beyond 100,000 miles or so I believe that people on the used market will in fact pay LESS for them due to the costs of maintenance etc vs a regular car.

    Hybrids don’t save the environment (yet they have that image). The energy cost to produce the batteries wipes out the future savings in fuel usage.

    I really dont understand the math of a small Prius that gets 50mpg when a small Honda etc gets 30mpg city and 40mpg highway. I don’t see it.

    Only thing I can see is that if you pay a premium for image (same as drivers of a Corvette or Hummer pay) and maybe performance (performance in the sense of “my car gets 50mpg” vs old school performance “my mustang goes to 60mph in 5 seconds”) then yes I can see why people pay the premium (for image).

    Personally I think they are a trend and will be gone. Same as personal luxury coupes. Same as body on frame SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      lopro

      Of course: hybrid vehicles is intermediate-term solution to curb gas consumption/reduce pollution. Hybrids will be replaced by EVs or FCVs.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        lopro,

        There is a whole bunch of things that may eventually replace hybrids, but EV’s certainly may not be among them, unless things change enormously. (Please see my comment posted 3:42PM on 10Aug12, in http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/states-to-carmakers-cng-cng-cng-cng/).

        And from the rate at which batteries (or accessories to them) in those two devices have been burning up lately, we’d have to be kind of crazy to put all our eggs in that basket!

        ref: http://jalopnik.com/5933859/exclusive-fisker-karma-hybrid-sets-itself-on-fire-and-burns-while-owner-gets-groceries?tag=fisker-karma
        ref: http://jalopnik.com/5915932/fisker-recalls-karma-over-fire+prone-hose-clamps-again?tag=fisker-karma
        ref: http://jalopnik.com/5908621/brand-new-fisker-karma-blamed-for-house-fire?tag=fisker-karma
        ref: http://www.torquenews.com/1075/lowered-demand-chevy-volt-due-price-not-fires-interest-nissan-leaf-stable?order=title&sort=asc
        ref: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-11/gm-volt-battery-fire-is-said-to-prompt-u-s-probe-into-electric-car-safety.html

        —————-

      • 0 avatar
        lopro

        Not a single incident you listed involves vehicles made by Toyonda. It’s pretty clear who’s leading the pack in Hybrid/EV/FCV tech. Actually, BMW already realized which way the wind is blowing and teamed with Toyota for that exact reason.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @chas404:

      Your comment attempts to contradict my experience with the Prius. But, the Prius saved us money from the get-go (because my wife was cross-shopping it with a Volvo, rather than an economy car). Also, the Prius has a very strong resale value, if you can find one at all. It’s also reliable and uses half of the gas of our Escape, so it’s our preferred road-trip car. People hang on to them for a long time — I guess once the Prius sets your expectations for efficiency any reliability, there really isn’t any vehicle that’s an upgrade from the one you already own. It’s a good car for long-term onwership, and that’s reflected in the used market.

      I’m thinking about picking up another Prius or two for family members, now that 7 year old Prii with only 100k miles on them have finally dropped to around $11k in the used market. There aren’t a lot of cars that hold their value this well. I urge you to search http://cars.com to see for yourself, if you don’t believe it. Maybe *you* wouldn’t pay as much for a used Prius, but there are lots of people who will.

      There are lots of reasons why a Prius might not be the right car for you. But it *is* an *excellent* car to own. To be honest, it’s a lot more fun to own it than it is to actually drive it. But, I’m a dad in my 30s who lives in a 1st-ring suburb of a small college town in flyover country and reliable/efficient/sensible little cars are just what my lifestyle requires[*] at this time.

      [*] I realize that I’ll need to swap a Prius for a minivan at some point, but I don’t have enough kids to require that just yet. But, if I were swap a 2004 Prius (worth about $10k) for a 2004 Sienna (worth around $9k), I’d walk away with at least $1k in my pocket — in addition to the money that I’d save on gas by driving the Prius as long as possible.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Luke, keep the faith brother. There’s getting to be far too many on here engaging in asshattery and trolling based on personal bias and single source internet data. You’ve crossed shopped, price compared, and test drove a vehicle? You have real-world evidence and anecdotes about a vehicle? Oh no,no, no the real world can’t be better than bias and Google.
        I am no way upset at you and what you post. Besides, I’m a fellow Escape owner.
        I just needed a place to vent. I stumbled across TTAC and liked the blogs about vehicles and kept reading. I’m finding TTAC is sliding into the cesspit of political debate and I’m used to the daily GM and union hate.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Where’s my Japanese diesel wagon? Toyota, Honda, and Subaru says ‘no.’ Nissan? Mazda? I can wait…

  • avatar
    Charliej

    What I am seeing on this discussion seems to be religious differences. On one side are the people that believe that anyone with a hybrid is an ecofreak poser. On the other, the people who think that the gas only crowd are neanderthals. There is room for all if you will only get over your religious differences.

    I currently own a gas powered vehicle. I own it because it is paid for and my daily driving adds up to less than five miles a day. Back when I was working, I owned a hybrid because I drove fifty thousand miles a year. I also owned a diesel truck for large pickups and deliveries.

    Drive what works for you, and don’t try to convert others to your vehicular religion.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Really? Is it really so simple?

      With family members, I own a Prius, an F-150, and an Escape. They’re all good cars. I’d like to own an EV or a plugin hybrid, and I’ve driven the Leaf and the Volt and really liked both of them.

      I work in IT, and I have an engineering mentality. For me, it comes down to fitness-for-purpose. If you’re using an F-150 when a Prius will do, you’re being wasting gasoline and money. If you’re using a Prius when you really need an F-150, then you’re wasting time and money. The F-150 and the Prius are both[*] really well extraordinarily well engineered vehicles with great reliability records. So, how do you pick between the two?

      Well, you start by planning your day, then you choose the right tool for the job. People get religious about this when they insist on using the wrong tool for the job.

      [*] I only own the Escape because it’s a cheap and maintainable kid-hauler, which was exactly what I needed when I bought it — it’s the family truckster that I didn’t want. But it sure is cheap and versatile.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    A Prius is brilliant if you have a long stop and go commute. Of course, if I had a long stop and go commute I would move. Life is far too short.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Hybrids are here to stay, pay little more and save a whole lot on gas makes sense. I think Toyota is competitive in the daily driver arena with the their hybrids; think Pius V 5 vs Ford Escape. For the Jedi HP calculator guys figuring total cost of ownership. Really? I buy something I’m going to enjoy for 5-6 years.

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      Yea. I kinda agree. The electric motor perfectly compliments an ICE. Hell, Porche (the guy) built a hybrid in the late 1800′s based on this philosophy.

      http://www.hybrid-vehicle.org/hybrid-vehicle-porsche.html

      Gas=no torque at 0 rpm while giving range. Electric=100% torque at 0 rpm having now range.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        MusicMachine..

        ICE engines don’t start up at “0 rpm”. They idle typically between 600 and 1000 rpm, averaging perhaps 700-750. At those speeds you are beginning to enter, or close to entering, the torque plateaus of many usually larger (V-8, V10, V12) engines anyway. What does lag with rpm more significantly in ICE’s is HP.

        What you are also not saying is that the “100% torque at 0 rpm” of an electric motor goes down dramatically from there with increasing rpm, just the opposite of an ICE, which retains its higher speed performance and more practical “drivability” for faster highways involving overtaking (passing). Please see reference, with torque curves for various winding and magnet types down toward the bottom: http://www.reliance.com/mtr/mtrthrmn.htm

        So, unless you are interested in minor amateur “stop-light-drag-races”, an ICE may not behave with the performance deficit you suggest. And there is a “jerkiness” problem with EV’s: saw a teenage gal on the cell phone in a Nissan Leaf the other day: stepped on it during her obviously animated conversation, and merrily plowed into the dump truck in front of her! Boy, was he surprised.

        ——–

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    Echoing the earlier poster, hybrids have an ICE, too. I guess the original phrasing should have been “cars that ONLY have an internal combustion engine.” Of course, if we want to get REALLY pedantic and obnoxious about all this (and who on the internet would EVER want to do that?) (how am I doing with this sarcasm thing?): isn’t any car that has an electric starter kind of a hybrid? I mean, the ICE can’t work on its own without the starter, which looks like an electric motor to me. And there is this here battery under the hood… (Man, am I gonna get hate mail for this one!)

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Actually, Glenn, instead of “hate mail’, you may get a chuckle instead. I thought that observation was hilarious.
      But seriously, the thing that makes a conventional lCE with starter motor not a hybrid, is that that little electric motor does not contribute directly to propulsion of the vehicle at any time during its “on” cycle. Unless, of course, you want to consider its turning on the ICE as a valid contribution to moving the vehicle eventually (^_^)….kind of a time-delayed hybrid in which the e-motor operates just once….

      ———

  • avatar
    Eric 0

    I’m pretty sure that people who claim to be “addicted to gasoline” or have no interest in an EV, have never driven an Electric Vehicle that was powered or wired correctly. (Without a computer nanny slowing and moderating your throttle inputs to maximize efficiency.) I rode a home built electric sport bike a few years ago, and the instant, direct, perfectly linear and utterly endless torque made the bike feel positively telepathic. I rode a Ducati 996 shortly after, which does 0-60 in 2.7 seconds. It felt…so…slow. The engine seemed to take forever to rev into it’s power band. What had felt like instantaneous terrifying limitless power before, now felt so disconnected from my hands and the throttle. I rode in a military Humvee that had been retofitted to inline hybride (like the Chevy Volt) though this was before the Volt was a twinkle in Maximum Bob’s eye. The experience was similar. So Fast. So Much Torque.

    I can’t wait for my electric future car. Once you all get a taste, you will never go back. Internal combustion will seem like a cruel century long hoax.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Hi Eric 0….

      I wish you all the best with your EV. May the car gods smile upon your adventures, especially those on a dark night in northern Minnesota in January at -20 deg F when you have to travel 100 miles and your wife and kids are depending on your good judgment.

      Meanwhile, I will fire up the old Dodge beast, listen happily to its gurgling V-8, turn on the heater and all the lights full blast, kiss my Significant Other, and drive safely to my destination 400 miles away.

      “Oh, honey, was that a Nissan Leaf we just passed, parked in the snowbank? Seems all dark.”
      “Yeah. Bloody shame.”

      ———–

      In the meantime, Eric O, here is a repeat post of “Required Reading Material for EV Ownership”, with the examine scheduled for 9:00 AM tomorrow morning. You may have missed it the first time:

      1) Heating occupants, seats, and windshields in Winter (implies large battery drain);
      2) Cooling occupants in Summer (implies VERY large battery drain);
      3) Huge battery-pack replacement cost after 8-10 years, limiting vehicle lifetime and forcing lease-acquistion instead of purchase;
      4) Large-scale recycling difficulties of battery returns/replacements;
      5) Dangerous, limited, and “strangle hold” foreign supply of rare-earth elements for batteries and motors;
      6) Limited range for travel, currently between 50-150 miles (“range anxiety”);
      7) Without gearing, large (unexpected and dangerous) torque delivery off-the-line at zero RPM (just great for teenage girls on cellphones!);
      8) The power grid is not designed to handle the load of large-scale electric transportation;
      9) Charging stations at destinations and households are about $2K each, and are not in place generally;
      10) “Refueling” times are 24 to 4 hours (depending on use of 110 volts, 220 volts, or 440 volts);
      11) Pollution problems are transferred to coal-fired power plants (comprising 75% of power-genertion in the US), worse CO2 polluters than clean diesel;
      12) Stray electric-current safety issues in accidents, impeding recovery of occupants by emergency personnel;
      13) Large added weight and poor weight distribution deter good vehicle driving performance, braking, and accident-avoidance.;
      14) Added electronic / mechanical complexity (e.g., hybridization, KERS*, etc) means poorer long-term reliability and endurance;
      15) Disproportionately high purchase prices and depreciation rates for the level of utility otherwise obtainable with ICE** vehicles;
      16) Prolonged grid power failure, such as happened in the NE USA in 2003 and India last week.

      ICE = “a cruel century-long hoax”? Actually, Eric 0, according Ed Lapham writing for “AutoNews”, it may well turn out to be a 2-century long “hoax” EVEN using just gasoline; and who knows how many centuries with other combustible fuels, such as polution-free H2. But then again, all the mobile “hoaxes” I have had have been a lot of fun: would not trade in my BMW Z4 for anything! Oh, wait, that’s wrong: I see a Lamborghini on the horizon…(^_^)..

      ———–

      • 0 avatar
        Georgewilliamherbert

        NGMOM:
        7) Without gearing, large (unexpected and dangerous) torque delivery off-the-line at zero RPM (just great for teenage girls on cellphones!);

        Feature.

        At least, if you tune motor torque to slightly less than wheelspin torque (mass market car) to slightly more (performance car).

        It’s an engineering trade with transmission shifting vs just gearing or direct drive, trading acelleration and top speed. Flat torque curves are great. If your teen wheelspins they need to learn not to flat the throttle at lights, or your vendor fucked up the design (more torque than the wheels can apply to the road is wasting tires and top speed…).

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    I own a 12 Camry LE Hybrid. It is rated at 43 City. In very heavy stop and go traffic, I can average 50 if I do not use the air conditioner and if I am very light on the accelerator. I had a regular gas Camry that was a few years old ( traded in ), and on the same route, that scored closer to the very low 20s.

    This means that the New York, LA, Chicago that spends substantial time in heavy traffic, you can save substantially more than one would expect.

    However, in average light city traffic, the savings are much less.

    And, in swiftly moving freeway traffic, the savings are small.

    Point is in cities typically clogged with traffic, substantial savings exist, and these cities are where most hybrids live.

    In lightly congested cities, the hybrid may not pencil out.

  • avatar
    joberg73

    In Europe Hyundai sells the C30 diesel that gets 62 mpg (converted to US gallons). Yet we Americans are in love with 40 MPG hybrids. Why?

    • 0 avatar
      danup

      I’m pretty sure the European cycle is more lenient than the US cycle, even after converting for US gallons.

      (For instance, the 1.2L Chevy Spark with the five-speed is rated at 46.1 US MPG combined on Chevy’s UK website, and 34 combined in the US.)

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Danup…

        Are you sure about the gallon conversion having been factored in?

        I ask because my impression was that the urban portion of EURO cycle was more demanding on mileage because it included more idling time. Was that wrong?

        Since 1 US gallon = 0.833 Imperial gallon, then….
        ….ignoring what they said about “US MPG”, and assuming they still used Imperial gallons: 46 x .833 = 38 mpg when using US gallons, which is much closer to 34 mpg on the EPA cycle.

        Perhaps the 4 mpg difference came from differences in other test conditions or the cars themselves?

        ———–

      • 0 avatar
        danup

        NMGOM,

        I made the conversion myself. The unconverted official numbers are 43 “urban” and 67 “extra-urban” for a combined mark of 55.

        To get right to the point, on Toyota’s UK website the vanilla Prius is advertised at 72 mpg combined with a standard automatic transmission.

        The i30 gets a very impressive 67 mpg combined, but only in manual guise—throw an automatic in, which you’d have to do to appeal to an American audience (sorry, I won’t drive a stick—can, but won’t) and somehow it drops all the way to 37/61 for a combined 50.4.

        Basically, we Americans aren’t in love with 40 UK MPG hybrids. We’re in love with 72 UK MPG hybrids.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        danup,

        OK. Got it. Thanks.

        ——–

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    This is by no means the definitive word on the subject, and to boot this is old data, but I have a chart from a consulting firm that took a USA-spec 2002 Ford Focus and ran it through the US, EU, and Japanese test cycles. It registered 31 mpg in the US cycle, 27 on the EU cycle, and 23 in the Japanese test. Interestingly, at that time the average mph of the USA test was 30 mph, the EU version 21 mph, and the Japanese one an unbelievable (to me at least!) 15 mph average speed. The Japanese test broke 45 mph only once!

    All the above makes no general point other than that “the test cycle is everything.” And of course the Spark data you provided completely contradicts the data I just typed in above. And of course the test car was optimized for the USA test and not the others (which makes a difference since we know that the rpm/ignition/fuel “map” the ECU uses will of course be different from region to region, even if the engine is mechanically identical.) Beats the crap outta me…

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    “Sales of Volkswagen vehicles reached 33,414 units in the January-July period, leaping 22% on the year,” in Japan, the Nikkei notes. (Closed market propagandists take note: If you give the Japanese what they want, that allegedly closed market suddenly opens…)

    Yeah, and the market was up 36%! The best selling import group skyrocketed to almost 1.5% of the market!It isn’t closed at all. Empirical evidence shows that ALL imports combined grab almost 6%!


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