I think they are. A new Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid will cost you between $22,000 and $28,000, which is fairly comparable to the cost of a mid-level new conventional car. But when you calculate the savings from fuel efficiency you see the real value. The average rate of electricity in the US is 9 cents per kWh. At that rate, you can drive 30 miles in a plug-in hybrid for about 81 cents. This is the equivalent of paying 75 cents a gallon for gasoline that would get you the same distance–a price point we haven’t seen for gas in over 20 years. Also, plug-in hybrids are typically meant to be charged at night. Power companies often charge less for power in off-peak times such as the middle of the night, so you might be able to charge up your car for as low as 3 cents per kWh, which is the equivalent of paying 25 cents for a gallon of gas. With these numbers you can easily see how having a plug-in hybrid will save you money over the long term.
To add ot the calculations included in the statement above, keep in mind there are tax credits available from the federal government for various cars. These tax credits are only applicable for the first X number of vehicles sold (depends on the brand). Generally Honda and Toyota hybrids have exceeded the number of vehicles sold for the tax credit, but other brands are still available.
From my experience, they are definitely worth it. I own a 2008 Toyota Prius and love it just as much as the day I bought it. No car has surpassed it yet in fuel efficiency, and even with gas prices rising, I normally only spend about $25 at the pump. The Prius also has much more room than you would expect for a hybrid, with a hatch back that can fit large luggage and a set of golf clubs. After driving it for three years now with virtually no problems, I don’t see myself going back to the typical gas guzzler.
Since “hybrid” is not a uniform classification and means different things in different vehicle categories, the best answer I can provide to this question is by comparing the hybrid vehicle with the highest “hybrid value” (see citation #1), the Toyota Prius to its closest non-hybrid model, the Toyota Corolla.
The short answer is: it depends on how much you expect to drive the vehicle and how much you expect to pay for fuel over the life cycle of the vehicle. For a new 2011 model year vehicle, the most basic Prius costs around a $6000 premium over the most basic Corolla model, based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (actual prices are set by individual auto dealerships). The Corolla gets 28 mpg city/35 mpg highyway, for a combined rating of 31 mpg, compared to the 50 combined mpg for the Prius (see citation #2).
At a gasoline price of $3 per gallon (lower than the current price in most markets), a quick calculation (19 miles per gallon difference * $6000 up-front cost premium / $3/gallon price) reveals that you would need to drive your Prius a total of just 38,000 miles to make up the upfront cost difference! That is also not accounting for the time cost of money and a few other factors, but it also does not account to the environmental and other externalities charged to the public at large for extra gasoline usage, and it reveals that, while not every hybrid may be worth it, it is very possible in a world of high and rising fuel prices to make a hybrid that is cost-effective!
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