Should I Buy a Hybrid or an Electric Vehicle? (Part I)

My wife and I share one car.

This fact puts us in the minority among American households. According to a Pew Research study cited by Newsweek in 2008, 70% of American households own two or more cars.

We have avoided purchasing a second car because I am the only family member who commutes to work.

However, I am about to start a new position on Friday, which will require me to work market hours. For me, that will mean driving to BART and catching a train into the city at 4:40 am, to be at my desk before the stock market opens at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time.

Since the thought of piling the entire family into the car by 4:20 a.m. seems somewhat impractical, my wife and I are considering purchasing a second car.

I want to do my part for the environment, and it would also feel good to stick one to the Saudis. As such, I am considering purchasing a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) like a Prius, an electric vehicle (EV) such as a Nissan Leaf, or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) like a Chevy Volt.

However, I am also a capitalist.

I plan to purchase one of these three vehicles if, and only if, it will save me money over a ten-year life cycle versus an automobile with a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE).

Tomorrow and for the rest of this week, I will run the numbers for various scenarios that take into account various tax incentives, fuel prices, potential carbon taxes, and the like, to determine which technology is the most cost efficient given my personal circumstances.

Before doing so, I thought it might be fun to leverage the wisdom of crowds, and set up a poll asking my readers to vote on which car they think I should buy.

The following poll will be open for 24 hours, after which I will publish the initial results of my analysis.

Click here for the next installment of this series.

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Business, California, Clean Energy, Clean Tech, Climate Change, Energy Security, Finance and Economics, Investing, Predictions, Taxes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Should I Buy a Hybrid or an Electric Vehicle? (Part I)

  1. Farah says:

    What about a TDI diesel? The TDI Jetta won green car of the year in 2009 and you get like 50 mi. to the gallon. I doubt it gets cold enough in SF for the gas to gel, and I think they still qualify for government rebates.

  2. V. R. Kaine says:


    I would vote “None of the Above” and say go with a Ford Escape or Ford Fusion Hybrid. At this time, this is not necessarily based upon the quality of the vehicle (as I haven’t investigated that) but rather the following:
    1) Reasonably environmentally-friendly (batteries are debatable, but whatevs)
    2) It’s gas mileage – to “stick it to the Saudi’s!”
    3) It’s American – to appeal to the Patriot in you, and
    4) Ford didn’t take the bailout package, to appeal to the capitalist in you.

    • Vern,

      I don’t buy American cars from the big three, as they make inferior products and subsidize union malfeasance.

      I might consider a Tesla, but that is a new company, whose product has not been diluted union labor demands.

      The only reason I included the Chevy Volt is it is one of the only PHEVs on the market.

  3. V. R. Kaine says:

    I look forward to the “surprise” conclusions from the poll and your research. 😉

  4. Farah says:

    To the 4 points above you could make all the same arguments for the LEAF, except it beats the Escape on the mileage and environmental friendliness. They’re manufactured in Tennessee and employing Americans. Partnering with a U.S. charger integrator/manufacturer. And they def. didn’t take bailouts (b/c their HQ isn’t here), just nice tax cuts from the state of TN 🙂 Just sayin’…

    • Farah,

      All great points. However, both Ford and Nissan indirectly received bailots via the Federal Advanced Vehicle Program. Ford did, in particular, garnering over 70% of the funds and “saving” over 85% of the jobs saved or created from the program. Nissan took over 17% of the dollars.

      What is odd to me is that neither company has really innovated over the past 30 years (Ford much less than Nissan), while companies like Tesla, which are innovative upstarts received far fewer government funds (though the program did create more Tesla than Nissan jobs).

  5. A. G. Rennie says:

    I think you should buy a two-year old Prius with only a few miles on it. It will be cheaper, and they are reliable cars, so it shouldn’t have problems.

  6. nickgb says:

    Congrats on the new gig are in order, I assume?

    As for the cars, the Prius gets my vote as I’ve always loved them, but the Roadster? It’s like putting chocolate cake out with the fruit plate and saying “Which of these would go best with your diet?” Man, I don’t care, I want the chocolate. Mmmmmm, chocolate tesla roadster….

  7. pino says:

    if, and only if, it will save me money over a ten-year life cycle versus an automobile with a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE).

    If you are concerned about the environment, I think it’s important to put a dollar value on that priority.

    For example, I am not climate alarmist but I do recognize that my home does emit emissions that are, to some degree, harmful to Mother Earth. I would be willing to pay “some” amount of money to be able to have those emissions removed.

    I had this very conversation with a liberal friend of mine the other day as it pertained to his home, HVAC and solar. I mentioned that I felt he needed to include what he would be willing to pay out of his pocket to reduce his own emissions. He refused. For him to instal one of these systems it had to be “revenue neutral”. I found that incredibly ironic. He is completely okay with and an advocate of higher taxes to subsidize solar panels for himself, but he will not shell out his own money for those same panels until it make dollar sense for him.


  8. V. R. Kaine says:

    Beck’s “Blaze” has a good article on the math on solar panels in NJ.

  9. Pingback: Should I Buy a Hybrid or an Electric Vehicle? (Part II): Marginal Price of Electricity | Reflections of a Rational Republican

  10. Scott Erb says:

    As someone about to cough up $30,000 to go geothermal in heating, I appreciate the dilemma. I’m motivated primarily by economic considerations (heating a home in Maine is a necessity — and I don’t want to rely on the price of oil!), but the environmental concerns are also relevant, as is the price of electricity. My hunch would be the Prius makes sense now. Electric cars will get better. Back in 1975 a friend of mine showed me this awesome gadget his father had bought for $1300. It was called a “betamax” and *gasp* it could record from TV the way a tape recorder could record your voice! I vowed to someday be rich enough to afford one of those! Of course, by 1995 they were dirt cheap. Electric cars are going decrease in cost and increase in performance dramatically in the next ten years. So I’d wait to go full electric, and stick with the hybrid.

  11. Pingback: Generate Unique and Interesting Content: Ten Lessons From Four Months of Blogging (Part X) | Reflections of a Rational Republican

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