Canadian Manufacturing

Are hybrids worth it?

Analysis finds hybrids offer fewer savings than regular gas vehicles

BURNABY, B.C.―Driving a hybrid vehicle can reduce your carbon footprint, but not without also lightening your wallet, according to a new study by the British Columbia Canadian Automobile Association.

It found that despite record-high gas prices, just four of the 23 hybrids on the market offer cost savings.

BCAA analyzed the vehicles against their closest conventional counterparts based on financing and fuel cost over a five-year period.

The Lexus CT200h, Mercedes S400, Lincoln MKZ and Infinity M35h were the only purchases that wound up being cheaper in the long run.

“Even when we doubled the distance driven, just 13 of the models became less expensive,” says Trace Acres, BCAA director of public affairs.

Applying a hypothetical provincial sales tax discount still only made 10 of the 23 cheaper.

Acres says drivers considering buying a hybrid should do their research beforehand.
He says in some cases, such as for fleets covering long or frequent trips, it makes sense.

“The more you drive, the more cost-effective it becomes,” Acres says.

There’s another incentive for commercial drivers, with some hybrid models such as the Lincoln MKZ, emitting up to 48 per cent fewer GHGs.

“Companies these days may want to look at hybrids not so much to save money but to make a statement about corporate social responsibility,” Acres says.

That was one of the incentives for UPS, which has been testing and researching hybrid technologies since 1998.

Since then, the global courier company has deployed at least 250 hybrid vehicles throughout its fleet.

Cristina Falcone, marketing manager at UPS Canada, says the vehicles have a 35 per cent improvement in fuel economy over their replacements.

The vehicles are also expected to reduce 2,243 metric tonnes of CO2 annually.

While Falcone acknowledges the environmental benefits of switching over to hybrids, she says UPS has been concentrating more in Canada on other alternative fuel technologies, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and propane-powered vehicles.

“LNG makes sense for trucks traveling long distances,” she says, adding the maintenance cost for propane vehicles is nearly 30 per cent less than diesel.

The findings are in line with a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada that says hybrid cost premiums exceed any savings gained from fuel efficiency.

“Widespread adoption [of hybrids] will happen only when an improved vehicle with superior environmental performance is available at a comparable cost and minimal additional inconvenience,” said Len Coad, director of energy, environment and technology policy with the board.

The report, which analyzed several alternative fuel technologies, found internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have the lowest abatement costs, followed by next-generation renewable fuels, hybrids, plug-ins and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Policy makers should consider infrastructure requirements, environmental impacts, and the relative cost of alternative fuel vehicles as they design rebates, subsidies, or other incentives, the report recommends.

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