Hybrid Cars

So, there are some new hybrid vehicles moving into the suburbs, finally!  But if we’re trying to save money on fuel, or we’re trying to make a difference to climatic changes is this our only option?

With vehicles like the popular Toyota Prius and the new Honda Civic Hybrid getting results like 4.4 and 5.2 litres/100kms respectively, it’s a tempting argument for change when our most popular family car, the Holden Commodore uses more than twice this figure.  But there are several issues that prevent most of us.

Ego:  The undying affection for the large car.

A masculine trait, I know – but very real nevertheless.  For ever men have associated their success or strength with having a ‘Big Six’ or ‘Eight’.  It’s not the exclusive dominion of men, although we are the predominant offenders.  Luckily it’s not a genetic disposition.  For generations we have been pummeled by advertising companies engaged by the manufacturers to embed this attachment.  Large cars are designed for and marketed directly to males, while smaller and more efficient vehicles have predominantly been marketed to women as the ‘second car’ or ‘shopping trolley’.

The men – are finally getting over it.
The manufacturers – are realising that efficiency is necessary, and are starting to designing small cars that both men and women will admire and aspire to own.
The marketing companies – see green as the new black!  It’s a new market trend.  Efficient vehicles are being bought by enlightened men and women all over the world.

Price:  When is the technology going to be in the People’s Car

Honda released the first mass produced hybrid powered vehicle in Australia in 2001.  While being the peak of hybrid technology then (that incidentally remains at the peak to this day), and having something like 300 patents of new technology, this didn’t arrive to our shores cheap.  At $53,000 on-road it was not something the masses were going to leap at.

Toyota followed soon after with their first generation Toyota Prius.  Priced in the early to high $40,000s, again it was a big ask to get the traditional market to see value in technology when you can buy a lot of domestically built car for that sort cash.

The current model Prius remains in the $40s, and remains the domain of the more affluent private citizens and corporations and organisations looking for a greener image.

The first Civic Hybrid and it’s most recent replacement in the new 2006 Civic represent the most affordable hybrid technologies on the market.  While returning similar figures to the Prius, the Civic is $31,990 (plus on roads).
But is this as affordable as it gets?  If we want to be fuel efficient is this what we have to spend?

The short answer, no.

This fuel sipping engine that makes the Civic Hybrid so good has actually been available in another car for the past 3 years (albeit without the Integrated Motor Assist technologies).  Some of the people who own the base model Honda Jazz (1.3 only) may not realise the pedigree of their car, but it has the same preeminent efficiency technologies of the Civic Hybrid under its snub nose.  What they definitely do know, is that it is possible to get around town for under 5 litres/100kms and comfortably cruise along the highway at 110kms/hour.

And the cost?  $15,990, plus on road costs.

Central Locking:     yep
Power Steering:      yep
2 Airbags:               yep
Electric Windows:   yep
Remotes:                yep
ABS Brakes:          yep
EBD:                      yep
CD Player:             yep

And of course the simple message is just buy a smaller engined car.  It will be cheap to run and you’re helping the environment at the same time.  I think the Jazz is great because of this particular model with this specific engine technology (called I-DSi – which stands for Intelligent Direct Sequential Injection), and excellent build quality and flexibility that belies its exterior dimensions.