There was a time when I totally believed my next new car would be a hybrid. How could I see it any other way? A small fuel-efficient gasoline engine that synergistically charges a battery pack that powers the vehicle all engineered and tuned to maximize power while minimizing fuel consumption. What a neat, new technological wonder!
But then I started seeing the red flags.
These massive vehicle battery packs are a relatively new and unproven technology and application. They have not yet stood the test of time. Being someone who loves to buy a brand new car, and then drive it at least 200,000 miles, I became concerned when I learned about the battery pack lifespans. Having to replace a battery pack at less than a hundred thousand miles for several thousand dollars did not appeal to me.
Then you have to look at the supposed gas mileage advantage. When you were talking 40 to 50 miles per gallon for a hybrid, versus 20 to 25 for a conventional vehicle, perhaps you had an argument. The latest advances in internal combustion engines and overall automotive technology are improving conventional vehicle gas mileage easily into the 30s and more. Factor in the thousands of dollars premium on the hybrids sticker price compared to a conventional vehicle, and the financial incentives begin to evaporate faster than the gasoline you accidentally spilled on the pavement while filling your tank last week.
American consumers are increasingly waking up to these realities. In 2009, hybrids commanded a 2.8% market share. In 2010 that number fell to 2.4%, and last year it was 2.2%.
One of the things a person sometimes forgets, but always benefits from, is that technology tends to improve everything. These latest refined gasoline engines are definitely holding their own and continuously improving. The hybrid approach has a long way to go if it is to become an economically viable option for the average consumer. As for me, I think I will have to stick with a purebred for the time being.