Hybrid or electric - A new comparison

Switch on the TV, listen to the radio or check-up products online. Over time you will notice the widespread use of one word in particular. That word is “compare” and it can be used or misused to persuade you, as a customer, to part with your cash for any given product or service. This week we take an independent look at the comparison between hybrid and electric vehicles. Focusing on cost, environmental impact and the major drawbacks of both we hope to understand more on what many would consider an apples and oranges comparison.

Cost

Here we need to exercise caution. While a comparison can be done easily if we're comparing diesel with petrol, the same cannot be said for electric and hybrid. It’s beyond question that electric cars are cheaper to run as the electricity is less expensive. However it’s difficult to compare the two side by side. The main reason for the difficulty is that there are few, if any, cars produced offering a choice of hybrid or electric. With this in mind we decided to display the two most notable figures surrounding 2 of the most popular of both types. Upfront cost and litres, or litre equivalent in the electric car case, should give us something to consider.

Vehicle type Hybrid Hybrid Electric Electric
Model and make Toyota Prius Honda Insight Mitsubishi iMiev Nissan Leaf
Initial cost $33,990 $30,465 $49,000 $51,500
Litres per 100km (or equivalent) 3.9 4.4 2.1 2.4

Environment

On CO2 levels the Honda insight comes in at 96 g/km and the Toyota Prius comes in as low as 89 g/km. Comparing this with the electric cars poses a serious challenge as CO2 emissions are entirely dependent on the type of fuel which was burned or used to create the electricity. Coal and other fossil fuels can create upwards of 180g/kWh and it can take north of 14 kilowatt hours to power an electric car for 100km. This confusion, coupled with the expected scaling back of specific coal types under the carbon tax, makes predicting nationwide CO2 levels for electric cars speculative at the moment.

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Final thoughts

It’s fair to say that the electric cars are largely version 1.0 models and they still have considerable difficulties to overcome. Charging time and usage limits are still scaring away sizable sections of the car market. By comparison, hybrids are appealing to the masses more than ever before as they don’t demand any change in user behaviour.

Hybrids have served their time in the “quirky” section of people’s minds and car manufacturers are increasingly adding hybrid capabilities to budget vehicles along with luxury vehicles. In this sense electric cars still have a long way to go. With the introduction of the Holden Volt in "late 2012" the field will see a new mixture of fuel types as the Volt will be recharge and petrol ready. What's not in doubt is that these new and varying blends of fuel source will continue into the future.

What do you think of these two alternatives?

Do you think there is a bright future for the electric car?

Please comment below.

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