This item appeared in last week’s Granite Geek newsletter. You can subscribe to the free publication by clicking here and filling out a mildly-but-not-too-annoying form:

Our family’s 2003 Honda Civic hybrid recently passed the 230,000-mile mark – an indication that we drive too much, alas – so I thought I’d do a little back-of-envelope calculation about how much fuel it has saved compared to a non-hybrid version of the same car.

I assume it has averaged 47 mpg (we get 45 mpg in winter and 50 mpg in summer) and that a non-hybrid Civic over the same period would average 35 mph (on the high side, but this is just guesswork). So being a hybrid means it has burned 1,600 fewer gallons of fuel than the non-hybrid.

At an average of $2.50 a gallon that’s a savings of $4,000.  But we replaced the hybrid battery a couple years ago, at a cost of $2,500. So being a hybrid has saved $1,500, plus or minus.

That’s $1 in fuel saved for every 153 miles it has driven, or a savings of six-tenths of a cent per mile.

Whoa – that’s pretty minimal. Hybrid scoffers, have at it.

Mind you, if my little hybrid is compared to 20 mpg SUV, the savings would be about 7 cents a mile, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Further, money isn’t the whole story. Higher mileage means I have to stop at gas stations less often, and I hate having to factor in gas-pump time when making a trip. Making fewer gas stops is a real benefit, even if it it doesn’t show up in dollars and cents.

And there’s a psychological component to not wasting fuel. I enjoy the feeling of getting high mileage, just as some people enjoy the feeling of driving a sports car or driving a pickup. Nobody asks for the monetary return on a sports car.

In short, I’m glad I drive a hybrid, but I can’t fool myself that I’m lining my pockets in the process.


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