Hybrid vs. Electric Vehicles – How do the Costs Compare?

hybrid vehicle

Today, nearly every auto manufacturer offers some version of a hybrid vehicle that combines an electric engine with a traditional gasoline-powered engine. There’s little question that the future of the automobile industry includes some measure of electrification. But pricing is one of the bigger questions floating around on that topic.

Hybrid vehicles allow consumers to use much less gasoline than standard combustion (gasoline-powered) engines and emit a lesser amount of CO2 into the environment, while still relying on the combustion of fossil fuels for their motivation.*

Although the options for greener cars have increased over the years – providing not only standard economy cars, but larger SUVs as well – carting around two powertrains (no matter how well integrated they are) will never be the most efficient solution. While these vehicles have lower emissions and require less frequent trips to the gas station, they still have maintenance and gasoline costs. Although you won’t spend as much as the average person, you will still be paying something.

The demand for hybrids has brought the average cost for each vehicle down, which allows more individuals the opportunity to purchase one and essentially save money in the long run due to reduced trips to the pump. Hybrid vehicles typically run in the $30,000-$45,000 range, depending on the make and model you desire.

Some pundits believe that the hybrid vehicle is just a stepping-stone toward an electric car that doesn’t depend on combustion. That being said, electric vehicles are not really a futuristic concept. Some of the first automobile prototypes only used electricity to run their engines. The only problem was that they didn’t run very fast, nor did they run for very long without a need for recharging. That’s why the traditional engine using petroleum replaced all electronic forms of transportation.

With the rising cost of fuel and the depletion of natural fossil fuels, this concept has been revisited frequently in the last decade.  Unfortunately, manufacturers have found that to produce anything that would be remotely suitable for transit, would cost the consumer a small fortune once completed and ready for market. When the first marketable electric car hit the market, it was priced at nearly $110,000. The upside to paying this kind of cash is that there wouldn’t be any fuel costs at all for the life of the vehicle.

Today, there are more reasonable fully-electric vehicles on the market – like the Nissan LEAF. Starting from $21,300 after federal tax savings, this baby gets 129 city and 102 hwy MPGe**  It is completely gasoline and oil free and will travel, based on conditions, up to 100 miles before recharging!

Another moderately-priced offering is the Model S from Tesla Motor Company at just under $50,000. It is a sleek, quiet vehicle that never needs refueling and will travel up to 300 miles without having to recharge, which really only takes 45 minutes total to complete. The Tesla model S is the first in its kind to be an electric car and go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds, as well as being able to hold up to seven passengers.

Both the hybrid and the electric car are economical forms of transportation once the initial cost has been paid for, but when electric cars like the LEAF and the Tesla become the norm, the cost benefits will be unchallenged.

*A supplementary electrical system takes some of the energy that would be wasted or otherwise lost under braking, stores it in a battery, and then uses it to help power the vehicle at some later point.

**Based on EPA formula of 33.7 kW/hour equal to one gallon of gasoline energy, EPA rated the LEAF equivalent to 129 MPG measured as gasoline fuel efficiency in city driving, and 102 MPG in highway driving. Actual mileage may vary with driving conditions – use for comparison only.

image courtesy of Auto Kiosk Groen Mobiel

A Chat with a Nissan LEAF Owner – Chris Sasiela

Nissan Leaf

Last week, we posted an interview with Dave, an owner of the 100% Electric Nissan LEAF, and got some insight into what it’s like to own this vehicle. Again, we were recently fortunate enough to be able to talk to another LEAF owner about her experience from a different perspective on the same set of questions.

Chris is a 45-year-old woman from Laurel, Maryland, who has had an interest in green technologies for some time and she recently took the time to tell us all about her experience.

Tischer Nissan (TN): What are the main reasons you decided to buy a Nissan LEAF?

Chris: I wanted to be gas free. I absolutely LOVE the fact that I have no idea how much a gallon of gas costs [laughs].

TN: How long have you owned your Nissan LEAF?

Chris: I purchased my LEAF back in November of 2011. I’ve noticed a huge savings annually with driving the electric car, and the cost to charge it at home was only $10 for the first 8 months!

TN: Were you interested in environmental issues, energy efficiency, and other green living initiatives before buying the LEAF?

Chris:  Yes. I’ve been interested in energy-efficient and green living for a while now. I think that all nations should be moving toward more environmentally-friendly ways to manage their energy needs and support developing technologies that work toward that end.

TN: Have you had to make any behavioral changes to your driving habits, commute, or travel routine as a result of owning your LEAF?

Chris: Yes. The fact that I now have to keep mileage and charge level in the back of my mind before I plan a trip took some getting used to. Although I’ve never had the battery die on me, I have gotten the “out of charge” warning a few times. Thankfully, I was close to home to recharge! Also, one the cool things about the LEAF that I didn’t know before buying mine was that it could take a charge from a normal household electric outlet. It takes a little longer to charge that way, but you don’t have to have any special equipment installed to own one!

TN: Does owning a LEAF lock you into a set of choices regarding where you live, work, shop, travel, etc.?

Chris: Yes. The range limitation is a real thing and does affect my choices about when and where I will engage in activities. Also, one thing that is a challenge for me is having other people drive the car (such as a valet). People tend freak out and don’t know how to turn it off or on. So oftentimes, they just leave it on.

TN: How many miles do you put on your LEAF in an average week? Are those miles consumed mostly by a commute or several small trips around town?

Chris: It varies depending on the week, but I’m putting about 850 miles a month on the car. Most of that is commuting, but also some errands on the way to and from work, as I tend to bundle my errands into my commute.  I did this before owning my LEAF, too.

TN: Do you, or does someone in your household have a second conventionally- powered vehicle?

Chris: Yes, my partner does have a gas-powered vehicle that we drive when we need to go a longer distance. As I said before, the miles-per-charge is definitely something we have to keep in mind in planning any kind of long driving duration.

TN: In the future, would you consider buying another electric/hybrid vehicle?

Chris: Yes, definitely! I look forward to more infrastructure development on the East Coast like Tesla has done along the West Coast. This has been my only real disappointment with the LEAF thus far – most grocery stores and shopping malls have not yet installed charging stations, and when a valet does leave the vehicle running, it puts a serious damper on traveling.

TN: Have you had any issues with your LEAF as far as normal operation and maintenance are concerned? If so, please explain.

Chris: No, not really. There is supposed to be a tire pressure assist mechanism where the car beeps at you when the pressure is correct and I have tried several times to figure this out – it has never worked for me. Also, I get the Nissan LEAF owner’s newsletter and in there it was reported that the battery on the LEAF was dying much faster than expected. Because of this, Nissan is offering a replacement battery for owners who battery dies within a certain mileage limit. This is really quite nice of Nissan!

TN: What would you say to other people contemplating buying a Nissan LEAF or other electric/hybrid vehicle?

Chris: I would just tell them to keep in mind that you may need another car in your family for longer trips, and be prepared to be approached by random strangers asking about your spiffy car, and trust no valets – they have no idea how to turn an all-electric car on or off!

TN: Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with your Nissan LEAF with our readers, Chris.

So, there you have it – the Nissan LEAF is making energy efficient, green lifestyles affordable for everyone. If you’re interested in test driving the 100% Electric Nissan LEAF, be sure to click the link below to schedule a test, and be sure to let us know what your thoughts/opinions on the LEAF are in the comments below. We always appreciate your feedback!

*image courtesy of The Digitel Myrtle Beach on Flickr.com