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    Clean Car Calculator

    I ran across UCSB's Clean Car Calculator in a comment, and while it seems fairly slick, it could be better: grew out of a homework assignment for Energy and Resource Productivity, a graduate course at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management taught by Professor Sangwon Suh. Initially, the assignment asked students to compare two vehicles—one conventional gas engine and one high-efficiency—in terms of their total lifetime costs. This net present value (NPV) calculation unearthed surprising results. Most of the students had anticipated that purchasing a high-efficiency vehicle, such as a Toyota Prius or Chevrolet Volt, would cost more over the lifetime of the vehicle (i.e. that savings from the higher fuel efficiency would not be enough to offset the higher upfront cost of the vehicle). Instead, we were surprised to not only find that established hybrids paid themselves back in fuel savings, but that newly released vehicles, such as the Volt and Leaf, were also extremely affordable.

    I decided to test the extremely affordable claim.

    I compared a Hyundai Elantra to a Toyota Prius, and the Total Ownership Cost (TOC) for five years was $15,127 to $18,740, while the greenhouse gases emitted were 14,595 kg CO2e to 10,945 kg CO2e. In short the Elantra was cheaper (for the first twenty years) and the Prius was greener, which is exactly what I would have suspected. According to the CCC, the Prius only becomes more affordable (for the first five years) if fuel costs rise to over $12.15 per gallon.

    I also compared a Honda Civic Automatic and Civic Hybrid, with much the same results. Recalling Verified Atheist's experience, I do notice that the UCSB team uses an average 15% depreciation rate for all cars, even though some hybrids keep their value very well.

    Under the CCC formula, the Nissan Leaf does seem to merit the extremely affordable label. In affordability, the Leaf does very well against the Elantra, yielding a break-even fuel cost of only $4.90 per gallon—not too far from what I'm paying now. In emissions, the Leaf crushes the Elantra. Even at current fuel prices, the Leaf edges out its ICE cousin Versa in affordability and crushes it in emissions. So if you can do without a long range vehicle, the Leaf does look affordable.



    Your study neglects to take into account the costs of maintenance over the lifetime of the car.

    The Hyundai Elantra costs MORE to maintain than either the Prius or the electric cars.

    Elantra needs brake jobs every 20,000 miles, transmission fluid changes every 30,000 miles, and timing belt, alternator and starter motor replacement as those things wear out.

    Prius and electric cars use regenerative braking 90% of the time, which means their disc brakes and pads last well past 150,000 miles.  They don't have complicated multispeed gear-shifting transmissions either.  Nor do they have starter motors, alternators or timing belts to wear out.

    You CANNOT calculate total cost of ownership on fuel costs alone.  Maintenance costs is a huge part of that.

    The Prius will break even against an Elantra after just 2-3 years of ownership due to the lower fuel costs AND lower maintenance costs.

    This study does seem to gloss over maintenance as well as depreciation, but looking at Edmunds five year TCO for Maintenance and Repair costs for the Elantra and Prius, the difference isn't at all huge:

    Elantra Sedan $4,374 + $646 = $5,020

    Prius Hatchback $3,490 + $744 = $4,234

    A $786 difference doesn't change the payback curve all that much.

    Electric car revolution faces increasing headwinds

    Scott Kluth has a love-hate relationship with his new Fisker Karma luxury electric sedan.

    The 34-year-old car lover bought the plug-in hybrid electric Karma in December for $107,850, but five days later the car's battery died as he was driving in downtown Chicago. While the car he affectionately calls a "head turner" was fixed in a recall, Kluth remains uncertain how much he will drive it.

    "I just want a car that works," Kluth said. "It's a fun car to drive. It's just that I've lost confidence in it." ...

    ... even with rising gasoline prices -- topping $4 a gallon in parts of the country -- EVs are just not competitive, according to the Lundberg Survey. Gasoline prices would have to rise to $8.53 a gallon to make the Leaf competitive and hit $12.50 for a Volt to be worth it, based on the cost of gasoline versus electricity, fuel efficiency and depreciation, the survey said.

    A123 Replacing Batteries That Led to Fisker Karma Shutdown

    A123 Systems Inc. (AONE) said it’s replacing defective battery packs and modules it supplies to customers, including Fisker Automotive Inc., and that the flaw caused a Fisker Karma to shut down in a Consumer Reports test.  ...

    The cause of the defects described today was faulty calibration of one of four welding machines in the Michigan plant that caused misalignment of a component in some cells, Vieau said today. The flaw could cause an electrical short, which could result in premature failure of the battery or decrease performance and reduce battery life, he said.

    Funny. I set the calculator to 40 miles driven per day.... 50% of them on the highway.... used Michigan fuel prices... and then just opened up the 
    length of vehicle ownership" variable... and voila! The Prius ties the Elantra. And the cost difference in any one year of ownership is never more than $2000 or so. Whereas the Nissan Leaf was >$5000 cheaper (and cheaper by year 9, in fact.) 

    Which would seem to tell me that their model does not deal well with the variables you entered as your own personal driving habits. Might want to check the total miles driven, average on highway, number of miles between charges.... and then open the length of the ownership period at least up to the likely lifetime of the car. If you set any of the greener cars at 5 years ownership, and they have a higher up-front capital cost, unsurprisingly they'll cost more.

    Shorter: You seem to have a set of personal driving variables which work almost perfectly against a green car.

    I think that the irony of the situation is that the people with the greenest habits (e.g., less than 5 miles driven per day) are the ones least likely to see a ROI (financially, at least) for using a green car.

    That's about right. I input 75% highway in Maryland because I mostly drive weekends on the highway, 180 miles each way. My wife takes shorter trips to doctor's offices and the markets, but not much. If there was a reasonable train schedule from here to there I wouldn't even bring a car to Baltimore.

    I set the ownership years to 10 and the Elantra cost $24,530 while the Prius was $28,555.

    This olde Anglo poesy came to mind after reading your comment and the Reuters article that Donal posted upthread:

    If wishes were horses
    Beggars would ride:
    If turnips were watches
    I would wear one by my side.
    And if if's and an's were pots and pans,
    The tinker would never work!

    One thing that bothered me the first time I heard that expression was the bit about "an". First, I had heard it as "and", and secondly, I was unaware of this archaic meaning of the word.


    The smaller Prius C, ... could also help hybrid sales go through the roof. At around $19,000 it is Toyota's most affordable hybrid, and with a fuel economy rating of 53 MPG city/46 MPG highway/50 MPG combined, it will be attractive to many commuters (though I would recommend they take transit or bike to work for even more savings and health benefits!).
    Remember, the base Prius C starts at just $18,950, and the Two normally starts at $19,900. With the options that dealer Al Hendrickson has added to the car, it should cost $20,839, but then someone at the dealer added a "Market Value Adjustment," which comes in at an astonishing $6,995. Total cost for the "cheap" Prius at this particular dealer? $27,834. We agree with what you just thought: that's completely absurd.

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