Like Charles Darwin–or the myriad automotive nameplates at the beginning of the 20th century–cars are at a dramatic “survival of the fittest” moment. For hybrids, electric vehicles, hydrogen, natural gas, and other forms of fuel-efficient propulsion, some factors will weed out the weak ones: a long range, easy refueling, and most importantly—cost. If consumers want more fuel efficiency, they also want to see the money they sink into a fuel-efficient car come back to them: in four years, or less.
If someone buys a Nissan Leaf electric car, for example, he can expect to recoup the investment paid for the car within seven years, according to some sources. A Chevrolet Volt could take anywhere from 5 to 27 years: the latter cited by the New York Times, the former from GM, citing Kiplinger. (Don’t say journalism is dead yet.) For the hybrid editions of regular cars, consumers can expect to get back the difference they paid in an average of 8.5 years. Outliers like the Ford Fiesta SFE, which barely costs more and barely returns better mileage than its regular-engined Fiesta, and the aforementioned Volt—both expect 26.8 years to break even. Without these, the average drops to 6.2 years. Kiplinger’s Green Car Calculator is a convenient determinant of hybrid vs. gasoline price differences, but it also factors in the price of gasoline in your area as well as how many miles you drive per year—important factors that can skew how soon you get your money back.
Ford’s vice president of powertrain engineering Joe Bakaj, cited these three factors as key to the survival of a fuel-efficient car in today’s cutthroat marketplace. Bakaj cited Ford’s Ecoboost engines, which sell for $800 to $1,200 more than comparable, less-efficient engines, as examples of volume success. In Ford’s case, it helps that Ecoboost is generating a minor investment rather than its hybrids and electric cars, which pay off more for image and initial price but take longer to break even.
Ford is banking on this strategy for its future powertrains. It acknowledges that the C-MAX Energi Hybrid won’t recoup its initial cost of $29,995 (after incentives)—but that’s ok, says Bakaj, because it’s not spending much to build it in the first place. Its hybrid versions will be built on the same assembly line as regular vehicles, to keep costs down. And it’s good to have a realist in the automotive business.
Source: Automotive News