Got Your Eye On A Hybrid Vehicle? Consider The Cost and Benefits Before You Buy
If you believe the news reports, hybrid cars are all but dead. Even Tesla, the auto maker which planned to make a big splash in the auto market with its high tech hybrid models has recently admitted that it expects lower revenues and is trying to raise more capital to move forward. The good news is that someone besides the U.S. Government is still interested in these buying these vehicles. With at least forty to fifty new hybrid models expected to roll out from various auto makers over the next five to ten years, the true test of their auto market viability will be their ability to improve and adapt.
The problem that most start up auto makers who are trying to develop and market hybrid or even all electric cars have is that there is no customer loyalty base, track record or promise of future parts availability if the company fails to consider or draw upon. Maybe that is why Toyota has had substantial success marketing their Prius hybrid models with over 120,000 units sold during 2011 and better hybrid sales figures expected for this year. Although those are not sales in the millions, any number over one hundred thousand cannot be ignored in this economy and easily points to the kind of interest among car buyers that can explode anytime in the near future.
The key to choosing a good hybrid right now is the consideration of cost and reliability. Those are issues which all the major car companies are struggling with and trying to overcome. Most hybrids are currently over-priced because they are not yet ready to be manufactured on a scale which would allow auto makers to reduce manufacturing costs and still show a profit. Even with gas prices peaking in many areas, the sticker shock that potential customers experience when they see what a decent hybrid costs often turns them back to a traditional gas or diesel powered vehicle. If you purchase any one of the current crop of popular hybrid vehicles, going green can mean that your cash is leaving your pocket faster than the gas saving features of your hybrid can replace it. In most cases it would take from six to eight years for a hybrid owner to see any gas saving benefits which would actually reach their pocketbooks or wallets as real cash.
The real problem with most alternative fuel vehicles is that no one can predict the future. With an older power grid that is already having trouble keeping North America properly powered and government regulations stopping most power companies from generating cheap electricity, people wonder whether all electric cars make any fiscal sense in the long run? Hybrids offer a better option by allowing smaller gas, diesel or natural gas powered engines generate the electricity needed to operate their vehicle. That makes them a potentially good investment, but only when the sticker prices allow the owner to choose green and save some green at the same time.
I believe that true hybrids which are not cost prohibitive and still offer all the bells and whistles of traditional gas or diesel powered vehicles are still years away. I think their future will depend on two things: The ability of auto makers to develop smaller, lighter and more efficient batteries and provide consumers with a truly flexible fuel engine that can produce the electricity. If people can purchase a vehicle with a power plant which allows them to fuel it with gas, diesel, natural gas or other alternative fuels, that would be a huge selling point. Imagine being able to fuel your hybrid with the least expensive fuel on any particular day or even go all electric if power was cheap? That would offer consumers true value because they would be able to make good economic choices regardless of the cost of gas, diesel, natural gas or even electricity.
Right now hybrids are really just an experiment and work in progress. They are an answer for people who ask themselves how they can create the least environmental impact or carbon footprint and can afford the luxury of that choice. If auto makers can deliver alternative fuel vehicles to market at a price which allows customers to simply choose between traditional fueled vehicles and hybrids based solely on preference without losing any of the features they love in any car or truck, they will secure the future of hybrids, change the way people make auto purchases, make a profit and help save the environment all at the same time.