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Another Stab At Sorting Hybrid Hype From Reality 633

Posted by timothy
from the where-the-pedal-meets-the-brass-tacks dept.
Attila Dimedici writes "Eric Peters makes the case that hybrids have been over-hyped. His argument is that in order to sell people on hybrid cars, automakers have emphasized the energy efficiency of hybrids in ideal conditions and failed to tell people that in most ordinary driving conditions they will not come close to meeting the numbers given. He refers to a recent case where an individual has chosen to forego membership in a class action law suit and has instead chosen to go to small claims court. He suggests that there is a significant chance that she will win there and that this will open up all of the manufacturers of hybrid vehicles to similar lawsuits. The article was on a rather partisan website, so I am curious what factors he has chosen to overemphasize to make his case. (Or what factors he has chosen to ignore to the same end.) I know that Slashdot has a large contingent of hybrid and EV supporters who are well educated on the subject (as well as a large contingent of those who are not so well educated)."
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Another Stab At Sorting Hybrid Hype From Reality

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  • First Anecdote! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:36PM (#38622664)

    My wife and I both have hybrid cars (a prius and an insight) and we both consistently get mileage in the mid 40s.

    • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moryath (553296) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:54PM (#38622856)

      The big part is that a lot of the "savings" on a Hybrid assume you are driving it like a Hybrid should be.

      Rather like all cars. They advertise a certain fuel efficiency, driven properly. Most people gun the accelerator off every stop, try to do 80 in a 55 zone down the freeway, and do other things that reduce their fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, you get people who do things like this [hypermiling.com] that can squeeze a lot more than the "normal" fuel efficiency out of even a standard vehicle.

      The biggest thing with Hybrids is that they are designed to invert the normal efficiency ideas. Usually, you get a lot more efficiency driving a steady rate on the freeway. It's one reason they list dual "city/highway" mileage targets on the sales brochures. With a hybrid, that's not the case, because a lot of the efficiency gains have to do with recapturing energy from stop-and-start driving.

      From TFS: "His argument is that in order to sell people on hybrid cars, automakers have emphasized the energy efficiency of hybrids in ideal conditions and failed to tell people that in most ordinary driving conditions they will not come close to meeting the numbers given."

      We could easily rewrite as follows:
      "His argument is that in order to sell people on compact cars, automakers have emphasized the energy efficiency of compacts in ideal conditions and failed to tell people that in most ordinary driving conditions they will not come close to meeting the numbers given."

      TL:DR version: if you drive a Hybrid like a fucking sports car, you'll get sports car fuel efficiency. If you drive a Hybrid long distances on the highway, guess what, you'll get the raw gas mileage of the gas engine only minus whatever it's wasting on air conditioning and electrical generation.

      • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:5, Informative)

        by DJRumpy (1345787) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:20PM (#38623092)

        I disagree. Although the younger crowd might stomp on the gas at every light, the adult crowd tends to outgrow such things. I have two hybrids and one common gasoline engine and the hybrids normally average the expected gas mileage that was on the sticker. No idea where TFA gets the idea that the claims are vaporware when my household seems to have no problem attaining such figures. I live in a large metroplex so the bulk of my driving is city driving which also happens to be the ideal condition for a hybrid.

        Perhaps the author didn't understand the environments where hybrids shine and the difference between that and simple highway driving?

        Such efforts would do better to require that the EPA redefine the monroney sticker/MPG standards to be a bit more realistic. If the auto manufacturer's comply with the requirements for the posted ratings, I don't think this will go anywhere. They recently revamped them to better reflect the (then) today's driver. I want to say it was about 10 years ago, prior to the influx of hybrid and electric vehicles. Sounds like it's time for another review.

        • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Surt (22457) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:28PM (#38623154) Homepage Journal

          I think there's a tendency to stomp on the gas for anyone whose time value exceeds their gas cost. I can cut an average of over 5 minutes per day off my commute by stomping the gas. Call that 2 hours per month. Does it cost me an extra $240 / month in gas an maintenance? No.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            ...I can cut an average of over 5 minutes per day off my commute by stomping the gas...

            Wow...just, wow.

            I take my dog for a walk on the beach, everyday, for an hour. If I walk faster, I can be home 5 minutes earlier.

            • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Surt (22457) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @02:05PM (#38623626) Homepage Journal

              If I'm home 5 minutes earlier, I can walk my dog for an hour and five minutes. Or play with my kid 5 minutes longer. My commute is not anywhere near my top 10 list of things to enjoy.

            • by Chrisq (894406)

              ...I can cut an average of over 5 minutes per day off my commute by stomping the gas...

              Wow...just, wow.

              I take my dog for a walk on the beach, everyday, for an hour. If I walk faster, I can be home 5 minutes earlier.

              I wank my self off for ten minutes each day. If I do it faster I could come five minutes earlier

          • by Greyfox (87712)
            Getting T-Boned once in your lifetime by some jackass trying to push the light or who just wasn't paying attention will completely offset any savings realized by the practice.
          • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Spoke (6112) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @03:41AM (#38627852)

            Just how long is your commute and poorly timed are your traffic lights that you can cut 5 min/day from your commute by stomping the gas?

            Unless on the freeway, I find that the majority of the time I catch up to the guy "stomping the gas" at the next light because he's had to stomp the brakes at the next red light.

            And are you really finding that 5 minutes noticable?

            Personally, I find that many people turn into arrogant, self-serving, aggressive douche-bags when behind the wheel of a 2-ton automobile. And they'll use any excuse to blame that behavior on something else when driving aggressively is clearly linked to increased accident risk. (and yes, scientific studies back this up)

        • Weather effects (Score:4, Interesting)

          by klubar (591384) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @04:22PM (#38624854) Homepage

          Temperature has a huge effect on my 2005 Prius mileage. Below about 40 (F), the engine runs longer to warm up the catalytic converter--and even more if you want heat. Below about 20, the mileage gets worse--perhaps because I really want heat and leave the engine running while I clear the windshield.

          Above 50F, I consistently exceed the rated mileage -- and even during the summer with the AC I get 48+ mpg.

          There is certainly an effect of the big mileage meter on improving your driving habits.

      • by pnewhook (788591)

        Sort of agree. If I baby my Escape Hybrid SUV, I get real world average (highway/city/country) of between 36 to 40mpg. If I drive like I always did, I get 32 to 35mpg. However this is about twice what I was getting in the non hybrid v6 I was driving before that with no change in perceived power or acceleration. So yes the mpg is overstated but so is the gas version. regardless the hybrid gets far better mileage in my experience and I'd get another without hesitation.

      • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:5, Informative)

        by sribe (304414) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @02:52PM (#38624098)

        The big part is that a lot of the "savings" on a Hybrid assume you are driving it like a Hybrid should be.

        Bullshit. The problem is that the manufacturers have no say whatsoever in how those mileage ratings are derived. The tests are very precisely specified by the EPA, and the manufacturers are not allowed to deviate in any way, nor publish any mileage information other than the figures from those tests.

        The manufacturers have actually been quite open that the current tests, designed long before hybrids existed, tend to overstate the mileage for hybrids even more than they overstate mileage for regular cars. However, the EPA has not revised the tests, and the manufacturers are stuck with the mileage ratings from the government-specified tests.

        And this of course pretty much dooms these lawsuits...

      • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:4, Informative)

        by michelcolman (1208008) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @02:55PM (#38624132)
        The strange thing with hybrids, though, is that if I drive my wife's Prius in city traffic (not too congested so you can actually drive), with my totally different driving style (much more agressive), I still get the same mid-40s average as she does. The energy recuperation, and the use of the electric motor for accellerations, really seems to be extremely efficient. That all goes out the window on the (European) highway though: at 100 mph, my Mercedes diesel is actually more economical. But below 70, the Prius beats mine without any effort. In the city, my car's in the low thirties (which apparently is still pretty good compared to American cars)
    • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hedwards (940851) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:17PM (#38623066)

      Which if you think about it is pretty pathetic. Diesel cars have been able to get that for years. There are definitely places like Minnesota where diesel is a lot less realistic, but hybrids aren't going to make much sense there either as batteries don't like the cold any more than diesel does.

      • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fred911 (83970) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:47PM (#38623388)

        Mid 40's is nothing new. Honda CRX's were doing it in the 80's. In the mid 70's the Mercedes 300d's were getting upper 30's with ac on, on the highway. In the mid to late 80's their SD's were doing the same with a lot more power. Many, many of those cars are still in service to this day with 100's of thousands of miles experience. Many even running bio.

        • by reboot246 (623534)
          Years ago I owned a 1978 Ford Fiesta that consistently got 35 - 40 mpg on the highway. It seems we haven't advanced much since then.
      • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @02:02PM (#38623588) Journal

        Which if you think about it is pretty pathetic. Diesel cars have been able to get that for years. There are definitely places like Minnesota where diesel is a lot less realistic, but hybrids aren't going to make much sense there either as batteries don't like the cold any more than diesel does.

        Agreed, mid-40s in miles per US gallon is pathetic indeed. I drive a diesel Mercedes C stationwagon (similar in size to the Prius V), and average at least 55mpg (US gallons) in our usual mix of driving, which encompasses comparable distances of highway, rural dirt road, suburban, and urban driving. In summer it usually gets better than 60mpg, mostly because the road conditions are less likely to be nasty. The car is almost 9 years old, and has about 320000km on the clock.

        Incidentally, I live in central Finland, which has winters not dissimilar to those of Minnesota (been there, in summer and winter and in the transitions between them). Relatively modern diesel cars are quite OK in such climates; the filling stations change the diesel mix for winter to account for the cold.

        • Re:First Anecdote! (Score:4, Informative)

          by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:28AM (#38627302)

          the filling stations change the diesel mix for winter to account for the cold.

          This actually goes on everywhere in the world, not just places with a cold winter. A 10degree shift in temperature is enough to allow a change in blends of diesel and gasoline which allow crude oils to be processed in more efficient ways.

          Even in places really hot like northern Australia during the summer where it's 45degC and in winter when it's 25degC the standards allow oil companies to change the Residual Vapour Pressure and do things like put more butane (cheap and difficult to sell product) into the petrol. In the summer this would cause high pressure in petrol tanks and the butane either needs to be sold or processed into something else.

    • I have had a Prius for a number of year now. I get mileage of between 45-48 mpg and have used it extensively not only for local travel, but medium and long distance (cross the US travel). The trick is to learn how and when to accelerate so that you can maximize the thrust produced by the electric motor. I've heard of experienced drivers getting up to 80 mpg, but I think that requires special tires.

      The best part on a long trip is pulling up to a gas station and rarely having to pay more than $20 to get

  • Not only hybrids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmesg0 (1342071) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:37PM (#38622674)
    For all kinds of cars the energy efficiency is measured in ideal conditions and quite often is very far from what you get in real life.
    • by pavon (30274) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:10PM (#38622994)

      The EPA defines how energy efficiency numbers are calculated, and those numbers have to be displayed on the car. The car companies could advertise a lower number, but there is no simple one number that tells the whole story, and you can't give a full technical report in a 30 ad. By all using the same system to determine the fuel efficiency at least the numbers are relatively meaningful even if the absolute value isn't directly true for all circumstances.

      Finally, good luck suing a company for false advertising when the numbers they are using are determined by government testing, not by the company.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:30PM (#38623172)

      I have a 2004 Prius with almost 200,000 miles on it. I have a 70 mile per day commute, 60 freeway/10 city, in Southern California. I drive at normal freeway speeds (for California), and had the carpool sticker which was discontinued last July. In the carpool lane, I was able to average between 75 and 80MPH during my commute, which has a few hills, but nothing major (I-405 South from 55 to San Juan Capistrano and back).

      I have been averaging about 48MPG on this commute since the day that I got the car.

      I am by no means a hypermiler, but when my wife drives the car, she is lucky to get 40MPG in the city, since she has more of a lead foot than I do. On a long freeway trip at 80MPH, she can get about 45MPG. I can get a higher mileage if I drive slower (65MPH or below). In that case it goes above 50MPG. If I get caught in traffic on the freeway, the mileage improves (during stop and go traffic).

      My previous car was a Plymouth Neon that got 24MPG, so my MPG has been doubled for the last ~200K miles. According to my rough calculations, at that mileage, I purchased about 4166 gallons of gasoline since February of 2004. If you figure an average price of $3 per gallon (which is really not that far off for Southern California since 2004), that is $12,500. If I was able to keep my old car (which was going to require extensive/expensive repairs in order to continue operation), I would have paid $12,500 more for gasoline over that same time period. So therefore, I have saved $12,500 so far. The premium that I paid for the Hybrid system was less than that, so it has more than paid for itself. I ordered a Prius with none of the extra options except the side-curtain airbags which are now standard, so I paid quite a bit less than the fully loaded Priuses that they were selling at the time.

      Hopefully my next car can be a pure electric, if I can make my Prius last that long. Maybe a plug-in Prius or Chevy Volt would be a reasonable alternative. That carpool sticker saved me thousands of hours of time as well (over the years). I really miss it!

      • by NuShrike (561140) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @02:24PM (#38623838)

        People conveniently forget the air-quality benefits of hybrids. There's a huge lifetime difference that can be quantified in health improvement (healthcare cost reductions), lifestyle improvement, etc.

        It's not all about the MPG.

        • by Lord_Jeremy (1612839) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @02:47PM (#38624034)
          Uh, one would think that if a hybrid vehicle's gas mileage is roughly the same as a conventional vehicle, they both produce the same emissions from burning the same amount of fuel...
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Tablizer (95088)

            In theory, because hybrids use a gas engine that runs at a constant speed, it's more efficient and pollutes less.

          • While emissions and amount of fuel burned are correlated, they're not fixed ratios. For example, if not all the fuel is burned, there will be less CO2 and more hydrocarbons in the emissions. And if it uses a lean mixture to make sure that all the fuel gets burned, that increases the NOx emissions. Running in the engine's most efficient band makes it run hotter, also increasing NOx - but exhaust gas recirculation is used on many engines to dilute the fuel/air mixture with something that doesn't burn, cooling

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:41PM (#38622714)

    Hybrids are probably overhyped, but I thought most educated consumers these days realized that they got the biggest efficiency gains in two types of driving: 1) lower-speed, stop-and-go city traffic, where they can mainly use the electric drivetrain, and sometimes turn off the engine entirely for brief periods; and 2) constant-speed highway travel, where they mainly use the gas engine, but one that can be made smaller due to being able to rely on the electric assist when needed. Yes, if you frequently accelerate at higher speeds, you'll use both the electric and gas engines and not save much. Do people not know this?

  • by ElBeano (570883) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:43PM (#38622726)
    Hybrids have been out for a long time. It appears to me that they are increasing in popularity in spite of the naysayers. Every single person that I know who has a hybrid (maybe a dozen) is pretty happy with the fuel economy. None have complained about having to fork over money for a new battery system yet. One could argue concerning the high manufacturing cost, but I think that that has come down enough relative to selling price to achieve parity with non-hybrid vehicles. The technology continues to evolve and any battery breakthroughs will make them even more attractive.
    • by Skewray (896393) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:48PM (#38622786) Homepage
      "None have complained about having to fork over money for a new battery system yet." Just forked over $3K for a new battery pack on a 2002 Prius. Expect no more than 10 years. The wave of battery failures is just starting.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dannyastro (790359)
        I have 107,000 miles on my 2004 Prius and the battery is fine. If it needs a new one after 10 years, well that's great longevity! Prius is one of the most reliable cars according to Consumers Report (and my experience too), so needing to pay $3K after 10 years for the battery is not so bad from an overall cost of operation POV. And since many people don't keep their cars more than 10 years, they won't face the battery issue at all (assuming they bought their car new!).
    • I love our Prius, but the savings on fuel probably won't pay for the added cost of the hybrid powertrain within the car's lifetime.

      A plug-in hybrid charged at non-peak rates or on-site solar could be a different story.

  • Hype in Advertising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:44PM (#38622738) Journal

    in order to sell people on [x], [advertisers] have emphasized the [benefits] of [x] in ideal conditions and failed to tell people that in most ordinary [usage] they will not come close to meeting the [benefits advertised].

    Sounds like advertising industry best practices to me.

    We bought a Prius six years ago so my wife could use the carpool lanes for an hour-long commute through Los Angeles. We didn't get the EPA's mileage, but it's still double the mileage of our other car.

  • EPA? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:48PM (#38622790)

    Since the EPA does the testing and approves the mileage figures, doesn't this shield the manufacturers from liability for inflated numbers? The EPA sets the testing criteria. I know that I never hit the estimated city mileage for my conventional car and never expected to, so I only use the published gas mileage numbers to see relative mileage between cars. I never thought I'd hit that number exactly.

    That said, the Prius owners I know are quite happy with their 40mpg+ mileage and are close or even over the published mileage. Granted, it takes a difference in driving style to hit that number (for example, by maximizing regenerative braking), but most people that buy a Prius are willing to help it maximize their mileage.

    • I think the point is that Honda reprogrammed the energy management system to save the batteries at the cost of fuel economy; the reconfigured Hondas are fundamentally different from what they were when the fuel economy estimates were made.

  • by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:51PM (#38622826) Homepage

    I bought a 2011 Prius IV, and it works exactly as advertised. I drive about 15 minutes each way to work, about half highway and half road, and I get about 49 MPG, which is exactly what was advertised. The idea that you have to stay below 50MPH and never accelerate or go up hills is just silly (I live in Cincinnati, OH, which is fairly hilly as well). I have learned to not slam on the gas when I am taking off, but that is because it shows you your efficiency real time, so it's easy to see what you are doing to your mileage when you take of like a race car. Generally, I drive it like any other car, although the information it gives me allows me to drive a little better than I did in the past.

    And I'm sorry, but no car will get the advertised gas mileage if you are going up mountains. This has nothing to do with hybrids and everything to do with that fact they don't take into account extreme driving conditions when they calculate mileage. This is actually the first car I have ever owned that gave me the gas mileage it advertised.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      "I have learned to not slam on the gas when I am taking off"

      Let me ask you a question. Do you find sometimes yourself in the situation in traffic, where there are cars behind you and no cars in front of you, or the distance between you and the car in front of you ten times more than the distance between your car and the car behind you

  • by Ichoran (106539) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:54PM (#38622868)

    The article author claims, "To get a steady 40 MPG (let alone 50 MPG) out of any hybrid -- and I have driven all of them, extensively -- you must keep your speed under 50 MPH and treat the accelerator as if it were a Fabergé egg."

    I happen to own a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid, and the _very first time_ I drove it on the freeway at moderately consistent speeds at 60-65 MPH, I got over 40 mpg. I still do that routinely.

    So, either he's lying that he has "driven all of them, extensively", or he's lying about what you need to do to get that mpg rating. Probably the former--it's easy to drive a few in a not-very-MPG-friendly way, get disgusted, and then overgeneralize. Easy, but not terribly forgivable for a journalist.

  • by onyxruby (118189) <.onyxruby. .at. .comcast.net.> on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:02PM (#38622944)

    This is a good case for not mixing science and politics. There are certainly cases where hybrids function better (inner city, garbage trucks, buses etc). These work well because the type of driving for these scenarios is ideal for regenerative braking. This makes for a best case scenario for allowing the hybrid to recover energy and work at it's peak. These cases justify the environmental price of the hybrid because the environmental costs is offset by their use.

    When you consider the environmental cost that a hybrid requires (the Prius is well documented on the Internet for what is required for it's battery packs) if your not using a hybrid in the right conditions you are arguably harming the environment. This is because you are exacting an environmental cost that is not repaid through your usage scenario.

    My point is most consumers are better off getting a high efficiency gas or diesel engine car (Cruze, Jetta etc). Most consumers do not have a driving scenario that is ideal for a hybrid car. It has been decades since most people lived in core cities instead of suburbs or the country. The bottom line is that different technology is better suited for different drivers. One is not fundamentally better than the other in all cases.

    People are letting politics try to dictate science, when science should always be free of politics and allowed to stand on it's own merits.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:09PM (#38622984)

    The problem is all people are asking is, "is it a hybrid?" The question they should be asking is, "How hybrid is it?"

    Honda Civic Hybrid '06
    Gas engine: 85 hp
    Electric motor: 13 hp

    Saturn Vue Hybrid '07
    Gas engine: 170 hp
    Electric motor: 15 hp

    Toyota Prius '07
    Gas engine: 76 hp
    Electric motor: 67 hp

    There are plenty of cars that were technically hybrids, but when I bought a hybrid in 2009, the Prius was the *only* one which got a significant amount of power from its electric system. The rest were basically just gasoline engines with a little toy electric motor duct taped to them. The '09 Civic Hybrid I tested was particularly bad: larger gas engine than a Prius, 1/4 as much electric power, so it gets worse mileage, and with so little horsepower you feel like you're putting your life on the line every time you take an on-ramp.

    Look beyond the hybrid label, and check out the size of the electric power system. It matters.

    • by Slugster (635830)
      Hybrids are pushed now because there is government money to push them--because while they use somewhat lower fuel, they cost a lot more money over the long run. This was the technical truth 100 years ago, and it was the reason that hybrid cars were unheard of all that time since,,,,, until now.

      It's about fiat currency, its about the need to drive the economy, the constant need to push ever-greater amounts of money into circulation to offset the spiraling inflation caused. The need to make everything more
  • I smell bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

    by KagakuNinja (236659) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:09PM (#38622990)

    We own a 8 year old Prius, we get slightly over 40 MPG, something the author claims is difficult. When the car was newer, we got over 42 MPG.

    To get a steady 40 MPG (let alone 50 MPG) out of any hybrid -- and I have driven all of them, extensively -- you must keep your speed under 50 MPH and treat the accelerator as if it were a Fabergé egg.

    We drive on freeways like everyone else, routinely driving 70-80 MPH. I'm not a lead-foot accelerator, but I drive like most people. I don't practice any exotic hyper-miling techniques.

    There are also hills. Hybrids work best on a perfectly horizontal plane.

    We also happen to live at the top of a large, steep hill (Berkeley Hills), which we go up and down every day. And yet we still get 40+ MPG, unpossible! The hybrid engine is great for recapturing some of the potential energy that would otherwise be lost.

    • by cvtan (752695)
      In Rochester, NY our 2007 Prius gets 45mpg in the summer and 35mpg in the winter. On long trips, it gets over 50. No other car that size can do that (diesel VW may be an exception) In Hawaii, my wife's 2012 Prius is getting 50mpg. 99.9+mpg makai and 25mpg mauka. (Good time to refresh your Hawaiian.)

      If other hybrids can't do this, then they are just fake hybrids that have just enough electrical hardware to get the label, but not enough to do anything useful. Or, they have 300-400hp and are not design

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      The Prius is probably the only Hybrid where the reality of what a Hybrid MIGHT be meets the pavement. It's got engines that are roughly equal in capability, horsepower-wise, and similar thinking about it. The only negatives for the Prius is that the batteries are a problem that offsets IT'S gains on being "green". Most of the other Hybrids are as the author claims things right at the moment. And a wall-plug model of the Prius is actually MORE polluting than the gasoline only model- you cause more pollut

    • Okay, I just got a major WTF. I wanted to know how my car compares to all those super-eco-friendly hybrids you people are talking about, and entered into Google "45 miles per gallon in liters per 100 km".

      So, you see, my 2007 VW Touran http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touran [wikipedia.org], being arguably bigger and more comfortable than a Prius, does a constant 39 MPG with its 1.9 TDI engine when I don't care about mileage. When I make longer trips or try to save some fuel (because it's much more expensive over here in German

  • Objectivity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by br00tus (528477) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:19PM (#38623080)

    The Slashdot community is for the most part logically and scientifically oriented. We believe in the scientific method, and an understanding of the universe built on an accumulation of experiments built on logical and testable explanations for empirical data, observable phenomena and so forth. And in many fields of endeavor, there can be general agreement about things. For example, it's accepted almost by consensus that the nearest know star is the Sun, and that the next nearest known stars are the three in the Alpha Centauri system. Aside from a handful of cranks like Gene "Time Cube" Ray, virtually everyone accepts this. If somehow we found a star nearer than the Centauri ones, which was too faint to notice before, or right next to a much brighter star and unnoticed or whatnot, if the measurements were good and clear enough, I'm sure soon again everyone would be in agreement that this new star was the next closest one to the earth. It is far away, affects little here, and there's no reason for people to argue over it.

    On the other hand, ExxonMobil is the most profitable company in the country. It made $30 billion in profits last year, off of $354 billion in revenues. It is #2 on the Fortune 500 after Wal-Mart (which had more revenues, but about half the profits in 2011). Chevron and ConocoPhillips are #3 and #4 on the list.

    If hybrid cars were effective, that would dent the revenues of these three companies whose revenues were collectively three quarters of a trillion dollars. Does anyone think that this fact might possibly, conceivably hurt the objectivity of an article, released in a very partisan political magazine like the American Spectator?

    Honestly, it doesn't even warrant attention, other than debunking. These types of articles belong in actually objective magazines like Consumer Reports or something, which could tell you which hybrids were good or weren't. Just from anecdotal evidence, people I know with hybrids have been telling me they are spending less at the pump. Which is exactly what worries magazines like American Spectator, which work to protect monopoly capitalism over actual economic growth in capitalism. We see these forces at battle all the time - the RIAA and MPAA want to go from a world where friends lent records to one another to one where that is impossible. The oil companies want us stuck on oil reserves until they run out and junky old gas-burning cars - and this also hurts industry, which would be helped by cheaper energy. AT&T and Verizon are more concerned with preserving their monopolies than having a growing wired and wireless network. Karl Marx said capitalism starts out as a progressive force, economically and socially, but eventually tends to get more and more mucked up in defensively protecting trusts and monopoly instead of smashing shibboleths to allow growth and scientific advancement. I'd say there's plenty of evidence around nowadays that he was right about that.

  • Well duh. (Score:5, Informative)

    by arcsimm (1084173) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:28PM (#38623156)
    Anyone who's been paying attention should know by now that the vast majority of hybrids on the market are pure marketing/greenwashing hype. They got a big early boost from the first hybrids to market, the original Prius and Insight, but very little since has lived up to the promise of those first two. If you look closely at those two cars, you'll quickly realize why -- they were designed from the ground up for fuel efficiency, and their hybrid motors were only a part of that strategy. The original Insight, for example, has a body made entirely from aluminum, with a minimized frontal area and vanishingly low coefficient of drag. In spite of its heavy battery pack, the Insight managed to be lighter than any other US-market car at the time. Its engine was a purpose-built, low-displacement 3-cylinder engine made with as much aluminum, magnesium and plastic as the designers could get away with. The electric motor was integrated into the flywheel, minimizing the extra weight of the hybrid system by allowing it to perform two functions simultaneously. The hybrid system helps, but the vast majority of the first-gen Insight's fuel efficiency comes from these things. Tuners have pulled the whole drivetrain out and replaced it with a 200-horsepower Civic Si engine, and still managed almost 50 miles per gallon out of the chassis!

    From the above, it's pretty clear that hybrid drivetrains are just a piece of the fuel-efficiency puzzle -- yet ever since those first two cars hit the market, manufacturers have been tacking electric motors to otherwise ordinary cars and selling them to gullible consumers as the saviors of Earth. The electric motors are a little more efficient at low speeds, but everywhere else they're just additional dead weight that the gas engine has to drag around. Is it any surprise that these half-baked hybrids don't perform as advertised?
  • Well .. it depends. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by n5vb (587569) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:54PM (#38623482)

    There's certainly hype, possibly too much, but the devil is in the details here.

    Gasoline-based internal combustion engines get a theoretical maximum 30% efficiency in converting the heat of burning the fuel into work. (This is the major reason why the conventional direct-drive internal-combustion engine configuration requires a radiator -- that lost 70% is being dumped out of the car as waste heat, minus the small fraction that's used to heat the interior of the car in the winter.) Non-hybrid configurations also have to size the engine for the maximum power output it's expected to have to handle -- usually accelerating to highway speeds -- and there are numerous compromises in the engine design that make it able to rapidly change power output across a wide range of power demands, all of which make it somewhat less efficient to operate in the more or less steady-state output it's called on to deliver for highway cruising.

    Generally, that engine sized for peak demand during highway acceleration and tuned to be able to go from idle to maximum power and then back down to cruising throttle power over very short time spans is going to be less than the theoretical 30% Otto-cycle efficiency most places in the power band. (And chances are it's tuned to deliver maximum efficiency under the parameters of the EPA mileage tests, which the manufacturers know as well as the EPA, so no, you'll never get those EPA numbers in actual day to day use.)

    The reason the hybrid concept has as much potential as it does is that electric motors have a far higher efficiency in terms of translating electrical power into torque, particularly with switching mode AC motor controllers and other high efficiency tricks, and typical battery technologies are around 70% efficient (measured as discharge/charge energy ratio), and having a battery allows the engine to be sized much smaller and in most cases run at steady-state power output while the battery handles the peak demand, so, for certain driving styles and trip profiles, the hybrid has a significant advantage. Hybrids require smaller engines because all the engine has to do is maintain charge on the battery at or below a certain break-even speed dictated mostly by drag coefficient. But how much of a differece hybrid vs conventional makes for any given driver or any given set of daily driving routes is going to depend on a fairly large number of variables, and this is true for both hybrid and conventional platforms.

    So it's more complicated than just "enough hype" vs "not enough"/"too much"..

  • cheap ass.

    Frankly, when I get 10 percent bigger wheels for it, I expect to hit near 50MPG on freeway. It's an old engine, throttle body delivery, with a simple mod or two to flatten out the timing advance system, allowing for more "sweet spot" time at cruise, with some small performance trade-off when driving at full driver demand.

    I've had this car for way too many years, and total cost is about .12 per mile, inclusive of everything I've ever spent on it.

    The ROI on Hybrids do not make sense at this time. Cool, if you want to early adopt and advance things, but not cool, if the goal was actually saving money on your driving.

    If I could get new gears created at a cost that makes sense, I would skip the wheels and mod the rear end to put the torque curve more toward economy, stretching the gears out to make 5th cruise only, easily getting 50 MPG.

    IMHO, hybrid cars suffer from complexity right now, and battery weight / performance metrics still are a bit too crappy to make any longer term sense. If we improve batteries, we can reduce complexity, significantly improving the hybrid value proposition. Still a ways off.

    Maybe if we improve batteries in general, we could go with all electrics for many use cases too. Either is ok, and I could use either, given the value is really there. Today it isn't.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @03:09PM (#38624246) Journal

    I looked into the technology when hybrids were first becoming popular. I was concerned that starting and stopping the gas engine would result in heavy losses. Turns out not to be true. The type of engine used is very efficient at a constant RPM (which is where much of the gain is made) and doesn't appear to have a lot of starting cost.

    The Prius arrangement (constant rpm engine charging batteries which provide variable speed and acceleration) works really efficiently in stop-and-go traffic. Where it falls down is constant high speeds over long periods of time. So for a commuter car in crosstown traffic, it excels. For a touring car, not so much. I think this might be the heart of many owners' complaints. Even with careful throttle usage, mileage drops like a dead bird on that 700 mile trip to grandma's

    To owners of regular gas cars, hybrids are counterintuitive. My truck gets 17 to 19 MPG in town [1], 25 or better on the freeway if I don't change speed a lot and there aren't too many hills. A hybrid will tend to get its best mileage in town and mediocre-to-bad mileage on long freeway trips. This isn't a defect, it's how the technology works. You have to use the right tool for the job, and if the job is to spend the great majority of your time at freeway speeds, you need to pick a technology that works well under those conditions.

    [1] The purpose of the truck is to haul large amounts of heavy or bulky stuff. My transportation of choice is motorcycle, which gets a little better gas mileage than a Prius. And is more fun. But won't carry four adults, unless they're really good at holding on.

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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