Wednesday, January 2, 2008

When is a hybrid not?

When it's a Chevy. Here are specifications for the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu and its main competition, the 2008 Toyota Camry, both vehicles available in conventional as well as hybrid versions:

Body Typesedansedansedansedan
Engine Size, l2.
Auto. Transmission4-speed4-speed5-speed5-speed
Weight, lb3,4363,5373,2853,637
Power, hp169164155147
Torque, ft-lb160159161192
MSR Price, US$$19,345$22,140$21,075$25,200
EPA Urban mpg22242133
EPA Highway mpg30323134
EPA Combined mpg25272534
Gasoline, US$/yr$1,800$1,667$1,800$1,324
Hybrid mpg Gain 8% 36%
Payback, years 21 9

The single-mode technology of the Malibu Hybrid provides just a marginal improvement in efficiency. At $3 per gallon for gasoline, driving 15,000 miles per year, payback of the cost difference over the conventional base model takes more than 20 years. Chevrolet is trying to compete with Toyota on car prices, offering inferior technology. The last twenty years of automotive history indicates that the strategy will fail. Toyota shows how to get almost a real 35 mpg vehicle, not by 2020 but this year, at a reasonable price and without giving up comfort and performance.