Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Your Prius Won't Save You

I never understood the idea of paying a lot of extra money up front just to save a little money on gas over a long term.  When I ran the numbers it was cheaper to buy a non-hybrid Camry than it was to buy a hybrid car.  It's the same with solar; I use so little (compared to others), and my electricity cost is moderate enough, that after 20 years I'd just about break even with a solar system.  Essentially, if I were to buy one I'd just be pre-paying for my electricity--and that's after getting government subsidies!

That was one introduction to this story, here's another.   Back when I was a sophomore in college I took a philosophy class which we cadets nicknamed "drugs".  In that class I learned about Kant's Moral Imperative:  what would be the result if everyone took the action you were considering taking?  If you wanted to lie, for example, what would the result if everyone were lying?  Obviously not good, don't do it.

Those two lead-ins bring me to this story.  What would happen if everyone drove a hybrid, or at least if they got good mileage and didn't use as much gas?  Why, gas tax revenue would decline!  Yet (in theory) we want all the things from government that that revenue pays for, so what to do?
Oregon is moving ahead with a controversial plan to tax motorists based on the number of miles they drive as opposed to the amount of fuel they consume, raising myriad concerns about cost and privacy.  The program, springing out of a recently signed bill, is expected to launch in 2015 on a volunteer basis.

But it’s charting relatively new territory, and other states aching for additional tax revenue are sure to be watching closely to see whether to imitate the model.


PeggyU said...

That's the thing that always gets me when people start talking "green" energy. What if everyone used wind power or solar? Wouldn't there be the need to manufacture more turbines and solar panels? Doesn't that manufacturing also have an environmental impact? What affect would many extra windmills have on wildlife? What about the additional noise? What happens to broken or defunct equipment? How is it disposed of, and does it present any problems? What about maintenance and replacement costs?

If any good/service/commodity is used by enough people,unanticipated consequences will surface.

Mike Thiac said...


Call this from the files of Even paranoids have enemies. I have seen a lot of "news" recently on the dangers of E-Cigarettes and they are not regulated as tobacco. The FDA is working on regulations on this so it will be handled like a tobacco product and presumedly taxed as such. Right now eCigs are only taxed as a commercial product.

I know of two people who have used eCigs to quit smoking and they both says it's a great alternative. The major difference is you don't have the tar and other crap in it like cigarette tobacco, therefore a lot less risk to you as a user.

Now we have been told since the late 50s we need to stop smoking, etc. Now this is something that does wean people off the highly addictive cigarette smoking habit. But for some reason this is now a problem. It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact it's has been, is, and will always be about the money. Because government, at all levels, wants that income. Like they really want us to cut back our driving or gas consumption, but they want the gas tax money.

Naaa, couldn't be that!

I'm going to out smoke a Romeo y Juliet...have a great night!

Ellen K said...

This is something I've been trying to convey to people. We DID have solar cells about 15 years ago. We were only able to make them cost effective because my husband worked for the distributor, got them at cost and installed them himself. I did supply hot water all the time, which was nice, but for the average family unless they have an all electrice home, the lifespan of the cells won't make the investment efficient. The same can be said of the Prius-which actually has more of an environmental impact when you consider the manufacturing of the battery cells and the transport of key equipment around the world. My sister in law isn't bragging about her Prius anymore since she got the $5000 bill to replace the battery. Everything has its trade offs.

neko said...

"It's the same with solar; I use so little (compared to others), and my electricity cost is moderate enough, that after 20 years I'd just about break even with a solar system."

Yeah, but 20 years ago our solar system had nine planets -- now it only has eight! Did you take that into account? That is gonna throw off all of all your figures.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Darren, all lefty tropes have at their center the assertion of superiority. Got a Prius? You're demonstrating your moral superiority via your great concern for the environment.

That demonstration of moral superiority's very important to lefties since they see themselves as inherently superior to those they should properly rule and be ruled by.

Moral superiority justifies circumscribing others freedoms in the name of the cause du jour and that same moral superiority renders lefties immune to persuasion or argument. Hey, they're just better then you are so it really doesn't matter what the facts of the situation are or what your preferences might be. As your superior lefties should dictate to you on every aspect of your life that attracts their attention.

Elaine said...

Forget moral superiority and the environment. I drive 45 miles a day (approx total). I average 53 mpg in my Prius. This car easily saves me over $100 a month on gas, not to mention the time waiting in line at the local gas station.

... Or the fact it still starts after leaving the lights on all day... Which I blame on being sleep deprived, due to two small children...

Darren said...

The money you save on gas--you paid up front for that already by buying a Prius. The fact that the taxpayers probably helped you with that via subsidies or tax breaks doesn't make it any less so; in fact, it *emphasizes* it!

PeggyU said...

How do repair/maintenance costs on a Prius stack up?

Anonymous said...

Or Oregon *could* just raise their gas tax rates. This even rewards (a) not using cars, and (b) cars which use less gasoline. Both of which I would expect would be an additional plus.

So why complicate things with a mileage?

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

Batteries need to be charged; hence using electricity. I've read some outraged comments from/about people living in apartments who are charged for charging their cars. Why should other tenants subsidize them? Or taxpayers? They also aren't functional for people who live in rural areas and/or need to drive long distances.

In addition to the other inefficiencies mentioned, the wind turbines are made in Europe. I currently live in an area with many windmills and was recently told that the sustained high winds here are outside of the design parameters for the turbines, which require more-frequent (expensive) repair and replacement than advertized. My source has a close friend who makes a very nice living repairing and replacing them.

Darren said...

PeggyU: They can't be any less than the repair and maintenance costs of my Camry!

allen (in Michigan) said...

Anon, if you want to really get an eye full about the shortcomings of wind turbines you should familiarize yourself with the phrase "capacity factor".

That's the difference between specified power output and actual power output.

For wind turbines it's typically in the 20% range which means that some other means of power has to be available for those all-too-common times when the wind dies down.

Denmark, which greenie-weenies love to point to as an exemplar of wind turbine goodness uses Swedish hydroelectric power production as a fill-in for those surprisingly common times when the wind drops too low. Without Swedish hydro-power reserve the Danes would have to have some other source of power, like coal or nuclear, to pick up the slack when wind power fails.

What's worse then the low capacity factor is the unpredictability of wind. You can never really know when the wind will drop and you also can't know how quickly it will drop. That sort of sudden variability is very hard on a power grid and on the people who depend on the grid.

Oh, and Elaine, I'm glad you're getting good gas mileage but as Darren's already pointed out you paid a pretty penny for that mileage and, in fact, you could have done considerably better then the Prius. Honda had a gas-only car when the Prius went on sale that was both cheaper and had better gas mileage.

The mileage of the Prius comes not from some magic of hybrid technology but most from the fact that it's a very small, very light car, very aerodynamic car. None of that has anything to do with the drive train which is not particularly well suited to service in an automobile.

Elaine said...

I bought my barely used prius for about the same price as an equally used Honda accord (gas). (At least, they had the same price tag on the lot.) No tax breaks or subsidies on my end. Can't speak for the dealer.

Repair and maintenance on this car is, so far, less than we paid for my husband's rav4.

My father-in-law still hasn't replaced the original battery in his prius, and it's well over 120k miles.

maxutils said...

This once again highlights the idiocy of taxing thing that are easily avoidable. Were we to tax ONLY income, we would not have this problem, and it would have the other positive effect of treating the poor more fairly, as the gas tax is very regressive, especially as the poor are less likely to be able to afford newer, high mileage cars. The mileage charge is doubly idiotic, because it removes one of the incentives for driving a high mileage car which seems a strange piece of legislation to come from a state in which you can't even pump your own gas for fear of environmental damage ...

allen (in Michigan) said...

Comparing a Prius to an Accord is comparing a compact car to a mid-sized car. That would mean you're still paying a premium for the hybrid drive train which evidence has shown is more dependent on the way you drive then of any magic inherent to the technology.

To Kant I'd say, shut up. Human nature dictates some will inevitably lie, risking punishment, to gain advantage but everyone won't. Variability in behavior's a function of variability of perception of both ourselves and of the world. Positing a scenario in which everyone does some particular thing, besides defecating and dying, is destructive since it obscures the realities of human nature.

In this case, it serves no purpose to point out to lefties how silly it is to force people to buy high mileage and then jack up taxes when the resulting high mileage cars reduce the tax take. Lefties are fixated on what they want and will refuse to see a connection to the inevitabilities that result. They're two, separate issues and any connection will be drawn by someone who's morally inferior since they propose to impede the solution to the first problem. Why should anyone care about the opinions of the morally inferior?

When the tax take falls below that required to fund everything lefties can dream up the obvious, inevitable, unarguable and morally sound solution is to increase taxes.