Hybrids Make Little Sense for Highway Drivers, Study Shows


  • 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Picture

    2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Picture

    A new study found that driving patterns are the key in determining whether a hybrid vehicle makes sense for you. | June 18, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Hybrid vehicles cost more without much benefit to the environment if you do the bulk of your driving on the highway, according to a new study.
  • But for drivers who spend a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic, a hybrid "could lower lifetime costs by 20 percent and cut greenhouse gas emissions in half," said the study by Carnegie Mellon University.
  • The study also found that aggressive driving can cut vehicle range by 40 percent or more for electric vehicles.

PITTSBURGH — Hybrid vehicles cost more without much benefit to the environment if you do the bulk of your driving on the highway, a new study shows.

But for drivers who spend a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic, a hybrid "could lower lifetime costs by 20 percent and cut greenhouse gas emissions in half," said the study by Carnegie Mellon University.

The study also found that aggressive driving can cut vehicle range by 40 percent or more for electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf. Researchers called that a "notable risk for pure electric vehicles, which already have limited range and take a long time to recharge."

"But with hybrid electric vehicles, which run on gasoline, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that use electricity for short trips and switch to gasoline for longer trips, there's no added risk of being stranded," said Jeremy Michalek, a Carnegie Mellon professor who headed the study.

The study, which analyzed the potential cost and greenhouse gas savings of hybrid and electric vehicles under different driving conditions, was funded by the National Science Foundation, Ford and Toyota. The list of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles used for the test includes the 2013 Chevrolet Volt, 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid and 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid.

Edmunds says: Before you buy, consider how you drive. That's the bottom line of this study.

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