I have owned a hybrid car since 2004. I will be getting my second one here in a few weeks. For a while I have been hearing several arguements about hybrids and whether they are “worth it” or not. While most people associate hybrid owners with tree-hugging, bleeding heart, left-wing, movie star eccentrics, I don’t consider myself any of those things I and I feel compelled to put a “normal guy” face to hybrid owners and the reasons why a person owns such a car.
At the time I bought my first one, I based the decision on the fact that I was driving about 80 miles round-trip to work each day as well as the skyrocketing price of gas at the time. I had two friends who also had hybrids, so they came with high recommendations. The other thing was that I needed a more reliable car and I was sick of fixing my old car. All that added up to a 2004 Civic Hybrid, which was the more aesthetically pleasing of the three main hybrids at the time (Insight and Prius included).
Now I do consider myself a person who is socially responsible as well as a person who is interested in new technology, particulary technology that helps solve problems. Back in school, I recall some of my limited study of climates and how certain human activity affects change on this planet. That led me to understand that our planet is a volatile, always-changing system and we humans are just part of that system. If you take the true meaning of the word “system,” you understand that to mean that whenever something happens at one end of the system, it can have a direct effect on many other parts of the system. Some call it a chain reaction.
Not that I am any big Al Gore fan or anything, but apparently he will be giving a more detailed explanation about this topic in a documentary that is supposed to be very insightful and worth seeing, regardless of your education or feelings on Mr. Gore. Essentially, I have read two big reviews of this film — one by a liberal and one by a staunch conservative (self proclaimed Gore-hater, no less), and both said the EXACT same thing about the film. They both agreed that it was powerful and a must see for the same reasons. Now if people that diametrically opposed in the political arena can come together over – of all things – a documentarty by Al Gore, then either hell is about to freeze over, or, well, the planet is about to collapse in some way.
My point is, I am not one who gets too wrapped up in political hot button issues. They, like boy bands and 8-minute abs, are fads and I tend to shy away from fads. They are too cliche and since I have a rather John Smith kind of name, I have had to spend a lifetime fighting fads as much as possible to maintain my uniqueness. Or something like that.
So my owning a hybrid is not about me jumping on any bandwagon, but rather applying some bit of common sense to a problem. I personally feel that as long as I have to drive every day, it is best to do it in a ULEV (that’s Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle for all you Hummer drivers) or better vehicle.
There is a big arguement about how hybrids are significantly higher in price than the same non-hybrid version (particularly Civics) and that you would have to drive the car for 25 years figuring $3/gallon of gas or some crazy crap in order to justify the added cost. Financially speaking, they say, the added cost isn’t worth what you will save in gas over the life of the car. In fact, my car broker guy tried to woo me into another car with that arguement. I basically told him that arguement was horse shit, but allowed him to continue as my car guy because he does get me good deals and I don’t have to play games and waste time at dealerships.
The fact is, it isn’t all about the gas savings thing. Yes, my hybrid has saved me a lot of pain at the pump, particularly since I only have to fill the thing up once a month (and I drive it pretty much 7 days a week). The thing is that car payments (to me) are like cable or phone bills. As long as you want the service, you are going to pay for it. I don’t mind a car payment. I have come to understand that it is not worth owning a car for more than a few years anymore because as soon as you pay a car loan off, you have to start replacing big and expensive parts (tires, transmissions, brakes, clutches, CV joints, catalytic converters, alternators, etc – all things I have done, BTW).
Cars lose value and they wear out. They have too many parts to replace, and eventually, they will all need to be replaced. I no longer have the time to spend fixing my cars like I used to (and I used to like to do it, too). These days, I just want something I can count on, and when the tires start to wear down a bit, it’s time to trade her up for the new model.
In other words, it won’t take me 20-some years to recover that extra cost I had for the hybrid model. That math isn’t necessarily realistic. The fact is, you pay a car payment (let’s say $350 per month) and you have to pay to put gas in that car (for me, about $30 – $38 per month with the price of gas where it is recently). At some point, I am trading that car in for a brand new one and my monthly payments are always going to be in the same ballpark (given I stick with the same general car). So the way I look at it, I pay the monthly fee for my car and the monthly fee for my gas. I won’t ever own another car outright again.
The other big reason I drive the hybrid is that if I HAVE to drive every day, I want to contribute as little pollution as I can to this already polluted city. I truly despise people who litter (even if they are related to me) because I believe it is careless, lazy, and disrespectful to trash your surroundings — we all have to live here — and I think we should quadruple the fine for doing it, particulary on roads and highways. I look at the hybrid versus other cars in a similar way, and that alone is worth the extra few grand you have to pay for one. I might not be able to change the world by myself, but I can sure as hell try not to ruin it faster by being careless.
Now just for the record, I don’t think hybrid cars are really the answer we need. Sure, if everyone drove them, the world would be better off, but the reality is that people will never give up the big trucks and roomy livingroom-on-wheels to haul kids and groceries around. They shouldn’t have to. What should happen is that our dying excuse for an automobile industry should stop worrying about bringing back Camaros and Chargers to compete with Mustangs and focus on finding alternative-fuel-driven machines that can deliver the performance of those cars and do it without gas. If Detroit is going to lead the auto industry ever again, they need to lead and stop copying Toyota and Honda just because people perceive the foreign brands as better or more reliable.
For those of you who have known me more than 10 years, you probably choked when you read that. Yes, I bought a Honda (something I said I would never do), and yes, I ripped on Detroit (something I do regularly since I moved away from that area), and no, I am not a GM-only guy anymore. The only GM car I would consider buying is my lifelong dream car the Corvette. But when I do buy the Vette, I will still have a hybrid (or hopefully more advanced alternative fuel car by that point) to cover my everyday driving.
As much as I love to drive and as much as I love to drive fast cars, I now understand and believe that I love the planet and the thought of it being here for more than 100 years past my time. I would never deny myself the Corvette, but that car would be more of a weekend car for me. Every day I hear people tell me they wish they could spend what I spend on gas, and I always say, “Then why don’t you do it?”. The usual bit is that they “have” to have their huge SUV or whatever because they have kids or they think they haul stuff enought to necessitate the added fuel costs. Clearly they don’t have the greater good as their driving interest, but it is America and that’s OK. Even though most of those people only have their kids in the car with them 5% of their driving time during any given week (they are mostly alone and driving 30 or more miles to work each day), the fact is, they think the need that kind of space. I argue that if they have two cars, why not make one a big family machine and the other the more economical car. Leave the person who actually drives the kids around with the big kid car and give the lone commuter the effecient car. But who am I to run a family, right?
When saving a dying planet becomes “all the rage,” three things will happen:
First, everyone will fly out and buy anything with “hybrid” or “alternative fuel” on it. GM and Chrysler already know this, and that is why they are making a few “hybrid” models over the next few years. Unfortunately from what I’ve read, the two companies are sharing the same technology which isn’t really even hybrid technology in the sense that they don’t have any gas/electric technology or anything better than that. They are actually not even hybrids, but they will say that and people will buy them.
Second, people will drive MORE because they think they are saving the world because their car gets a few more MPG. We will have a slight dip in our “addiction to oil” and then it will increase again. As they say, no single raindrop will claim responsibility for the flood.
Third, you’ll hear me say, “I told you”.
So what do we do here? Well, in the short term, drive less if you can. Consider a hybrid if you are about to get a new car, and learn to turn the lights off at your house when they are not absolutely necessary (another of my political hot buttons!). If we keep pushing for better technology, it will come. Demand is what drives the market, so if the people want huge Ford Expeditions, then that’s what they will get. If the people want 8-minute abs, then that is what they will get. If the people want to spend $5 or more per gallon of gas, then that’s what they will get.
But if the people want to drive huge cars that run on Coors Light, dirty diapers, hydrogen, or fuel cells, then that’s what will happen. If we can put a man on the moon over 40 years ago just because we wanted to, then we can sure as heck figure out how to use the same technology that got the 12 moonwalkers to their destinations to help us get from our homes to our jobs. It’s called innovation and as Americans, we should be the ones doing it. If we don’t, the Russians might try to beat us to it, and we’d be damned if we’d let that happen, right?
And as long as I’m in the neighborhood of the highly debated man on the moon thing (did it happen or did they film it and trick everyone?!?)…There is a HUGE number of people who actually think that “god” wrote the bible (and there are many of them who think god “originally” wrote the bible in King James’ English no less). . . that being the case, why then is it so hard to believe that the phenomenon that has been labeled “global warming” actually exists?
“Breathe. Breath in the air. Don’t be afraid to care.”
(BTW: If you don’t know who sings that lyric and you work for me, you’re fired).