Thursday, September 11, 2008

Honda announces new hybrid

My wife and I have been on the lookout for a more fuel efficient small car. A few months ago I changed to a new job where taking the bus is no longer practical. I am currently driving a 1999 Isuzu Rodeo to work. We originally got it as a family car. My wife now has a mini-van of her own, and with gas prices rising, commuting in an SUV no longer makes sense if it ever did.

I have thought about getting a hybrid for a long time. I like the old Prius, but the newer Prius seems larger than I need and something about the look has never appealed to us.

A friend at work told me about the newly announced 2010 Honda Insight Hybrid which will be available in the U.S. starting April 2009. The original two-passenger Insight was discontinued in 2006.

The new Insight is a four-door sedan that promises 60 mpg for under $20,000. A comparison to the Prius and other small cars can be found here. We both like the styling.

I put together a spreadsheet comparing the new Insight to other small cars such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Chevy Aveo based on my actual driving patterns. I haven't heard yet if there will be a tax incentive for buyers of this hybrid but I would assume so. But even without an incentive, the new Insight would save so much more on fuel costs, it pay for itself faster than a conventional small car.

The other option I considered was the electric-gas Chevy Volt, whose production look was leaked earlier this week. The Volt will not be out before 2011 and will cost upwards of $35,000. That puts it beyond what I am willing to pay in this economy.

Honda's president said in 2007 that plug-in hybrids are unnecessary and do no better than regular hybrids to reduce carbon emissions. I'll leave that technical argument for those with more time on their hands. But it seems unlikely that Honda will, in the near term at least, be making a plug-in version of the Insight.

I'm good with that. In ten years from now, when I am ready to trade in my new Insight, plug-in hybrids and electrics will have worked out more of the details and we will know if such vehicles are practical and make sense. Such as, if you don't have a garage, how do you charge up your car? Do you have to run an electrical cord out in the open at night to recharge your vehicle? How do you prevent someone from stealing your juice at two in the morning? Just a thought.

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