Friday, February 15, 2013

Does the Prius Make Sense?

I saw a post that started like this one the CNN Money site. This was an article about their test drive of the Tesla S, using the Supercharger network on the East Coast:

“i bought a 1992 corolla with a manual transmission for 500$. i bought a used motor for another 100$ and a new clutch for 80$... it is creeping up on 300,000 miles and so far as yet to cost me more than a 100$/yr on any type of fluid. the engine install was not a partial rebuild. it was an entire install of new seals and components. i could repeat this process each year for the rest of my life and not accrue the amount of funds it takes to buy into this supposed 'future'. “

My response:

You don't really understand what you're talking about or make a good argument. Almost no one will buy as car for what you did. It can happen, but it doesn't make practical sense. Most people that buy a car for < $10k will be lucky to get 50k miles out of it without major maintenance. That's just the poor way most people take care of cars.
In terms of the Prius, plenty of them have had battery packs last well over 200k miles. I have over 120k on mine in 6 years with no issues. When I replace it at 200-250k miles, it will be $4-5k, but then I'll have more mileage on those batteries. The engine, not sure. It runs less than a regular engine, but I might end up with a $1k engine at that time too.
Is it worth it? For me, driving 20k miles a year, I save a lot on gas compared to many cars. Compared to a Jetta or Accord or Camry, all 4cyls, from my year (2007), I get 20-25mpg more than those. I didn't test those, but I've calculated and seen the Prius do over 50mpg most of the year in Denver. I'll get
53-54mpg in the warmer months, about 47mpg when it's cold. Across the 5 years and 120k miles, I have saved $7800 when gas is $3/gal. If it's $4 (and it was the first year I had it), I'd save $10400. That's more than paid for the battery, which cost me about $5k more than a similar sized car.

To be fair. the Prius doesn't have a great interior. It's OK, but it's not as nice as those other cars and its' slightly smaller. I have 3 kids, and it was fine when they were young. It doesn't do 5 adults as well as the others, though none of them are great.

The Prius isn't for everyone, but for a lot of situations, and if you drive more than 16k miles, it can make economic sense. Less driving than that, it's a loss ROI but you may or may not make up some of that in goodwill from driving a car that uses less gas. Not sure I care about that, but the $$ make sense for me.

The Tesla, it's a luxury. It's worth trying. Is it the answer? No idea. The superchargers are nice, but if there are lots of owners, there aren't enough chargers. At some point this might make sense for everyone, but not now. I do hope it grows, mostly so we can better evaluate if this technology makes sense, economically and environmentally.

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