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Fewer hybrids show cost savings over gas cars

Study conducted by Vincentric auto data and knowledge provider

Published: September 26, 2016, 9:30 PM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:50 PM

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid - The powertrain software toggles imperceptibly between electric and gasoline propulsion, working through a standard continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission. The Fusion’s regenerative braking recovers up to 94% of braking energy, one benefit of which is that brake pads may last up to three times longer, owners noted. Consumers are finally getting the message that hybrid cars can be remarkably reliable. Fusion nitpicks amount to weak air conditioner performance, squeaky brakes, a “surging” transmission, and the occasional fussy Sync communications interface.

According to a recent survey from automotive data and knowledge provider Vincentric, 17% of hybrid vehicles have lower costs associated with ownership than their gasoline-only counterparts, and although that’s a pretty good chunk of the market, it is none the less a reduction from 2015 figures.

According to Vincentric’s Canadian Hybrid Analysis, seven of the 41 hybrid vehicles evaluated showed lower costs of ownership in relation to the closest comparable all-gasoline-powered models. The 17% number represents a decrease from the 24% of hybrids in the 2015 study that returned better cost effectiveness over gasoline-only models.

And by deduction, that means that 34 hybrid models (or 83%) actually show no cost savings over comparable gasoline-only equivalents. And, in fact, none of those were even close, costing their owners thousands of dollars more than would a non-hybrid model. Of those, several luxury models cost their owners the equivalent of sub-compact or even compact car purchases — the Acura RLX Hybrid’s cost of ownership, for example, was evaluated as high as $25,087 more than a comparable luxury sedan.

2016 Ford Fusion

The seven models that proved better than their rivals were the Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium, Hyundai Sonata (2 trims — Limited and Ultimate), Lexus CT 200h, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and Toyota Prius V and Rav4 Hybrid Limited. The company attributes the cost effectiveness to the cross-Canada decline in gasoline prices.

 “Buyers should analyze individual models and series, as well as their own driving patterns, to decide whether a hybrid or its gas counterpart is the best choice to save money in the long run,” said Vincentric President, David Wurster. “There can still be times when a hybrid’s cost of ownership savings justify the hybrid price premium. However, hybrids may be losing their competitive edge due to the decrease in fuel prices and improved fuel economy of all-gasoline-powered vehicles.”

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The results showed that six hybrid models returned fuel savings greater than the price premium for the hybrid model, nine hybrids depreciated at a lower rate than the comparable gasoline models, and Sonata Hybrid Limited offered the greatest cost savings (at $3,188) over its Sonata Limited gasoline-only sibling. Although the Lexus CT 200h returned cost savings of $6,379, it doesn't really have a comparable rival. At the other end of the list, the Rav4 Hybrid Limited represented the least savings (just $87) over its counterpart.

The detailed Vincentric analysis is meant to provide both consumers and manufacturers with insight into the cost of owning and operating a hybrid vehicle in Canada. The company measured eight cost factors — depreciation (for which Vincentric assumed ownership over five years with usage of 15,000 km per year), fees and taxes, costs of financing, insurance, maintenance costs, cost of repairs, opportunity costs (the cost of potential gain if an alternative is chosen) and fuel prices, for which the study a weighted average over the five months prior to the study.

In terms of fuel economy alone (which is perhaps the biggest factor when considering an electrified vehicle), you can’t really lose with a hybrid, the top five economical models all showed significant savings (over or just under $3,000), with the Lexus ES 300h owner Best, spending $4,251 less than would the owner of an equivalent non-electrified ES.

A very big deal - The Toyota Prius has become a significant automobile on the global scene. More than 3.5 million have been sold globally since it was introduced in 1997, making it the best-selling hybrid by far. The arrival of a brand-new version, therefore, is a very big deal.

The Toyota Prius hybrid (regardless of trim level) represents the lowest fuel usage of any hybrid per year, at an average of just over $711 (assuming the km travelled fall in line with the averages used above).

More information, including a chart detailing every vehicle analyzed, is available at vincentric.com.