Fun with math
KOAA/Channels 5&30's Katie Moore had a story today on whether hybrid cars are cost-efficient. Pretty popular discussion these days, as you might imagine. The gist of her story was that it would take hella long time for a hybrid to earn back its additional cost through fuel savings. Umm, not so fast there...
I didn't jot down the exact numbers the report used, but I think she was comparing a regular Honda Civic against the hybrid version -- the most direct head to head comparison you can make. Moore said the regular Civic cost about $20,000 and the hybrid about $23,000 and the regular Civic got 30 mpg in the city and the hybrid 49.
None of those are real world numbers, but you gotta start somewhere. (Few thoughts: A regular Civic gets about 38 mpg highway, while the hybrid claims 51 mpg, and MSRP for the Civic ranges from $15,110 up to $21,110, compared to $22,400 for the hybrid, according to Motorweek).
Curiously, from the numbers Moore divined that a potential hybrid owner would need to drive 180,000 miles to pay back the difference, not including sizeable tax rebates the government gives hybrid car buyers. Her bottom line was that buying a hybrid car doesn't make financial sense.
Well, there are a bunch of issues with hybrid cars that haven't been fully resolved (replacing batteries being a popular one, real world mpg numbers being another), but those numbers ain't adding up. At the current price of $2.79 a gallon, I get about 85,000 miles to make up the $3,000 difference.
Given that the federal government gives you about a $2,100 tax credit for buying that hybrid (according to Gazette fine arts writer/hybrid car aficionado Mark Arnest), plus $2,300 from the state (spread out over up to five years as a state tax credit), and NOT buying a hybrid is what doesn't make sense. Assuming you're in the market for a pretty expensive subcompact, naturally.
Anyway, I'm sure there was a calculator error somewhere over at KOAA, but if the whole story is built around a straightforward math problem, you'd think you might want to check the figures once or twice. After all, if you compare the hybrid with the very cheapest Civic, you end up with an unappetizing 235,000 miles to make up the difference.
If I missed something in the report (or in my questionable math skills), let me know.