Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger car brands for Fiat Chrysler, poses with the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 11 January 2016. Auto manufacturers from around the globe come to show off their latest models and concepts. EPA/TANNEN MAURY

Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger car brands for Fiat Chrysler, poses with the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 11 January 2016. Auto manufacturers from around the globe come to show off their latest models and concepts. EPA/TANNEN MAURY

Are hybrids worth the cost?

Hybrids — which have both an electric motor and a gasoline engine — cost $1,200 to $15,000 more than conventional vehicles

Hybrid cars are taking up a growing share of new auto purchases as options increase and prices come down. But to figure out if a hybrid makes financial sense, consumers need to do some math.

Hybrids — vehicles with both an electric motor and a gasoline engine — cost anywhere from $1,200 to $15,000 more than their internal combustion cousins.

For example, the price difference between the hybrid and the regular 2019 Toyota Rav4 sport utility vehicle is about $1,400. But the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV starts at about $44,000, while the gas-powered version starts at $30,000.

“The number of compromises that you have to make can be very significant. And yet you pay more,” said Dennis DesRosiers, an industry analyst and president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

He cited everything from a bigger price tag to smaller trunk space.

Virtually every major update to a given gas-powered model produces an engine with 20 to 40 per cent more fuel economy, he said.

“The new Ford F-Series pickup truck was 35 per cent more fuel-efficient than the old one, so that’s more cash in your wallet.”

Hybrids also often have higher insurance premiums because they’re worth more than the gas-only versions.

The price of gas is a major factor. If you live in Vancouver, savings with a hybrid may be greater due to an average price of $1.35 per litre, according to GasBuddy.com. Gas costs an average of $1.13 in Ontario and $1.19 in Quebec.

Other key variables include location and driving habits. Hybrids generally save the most money for city drivers, where commuting distances tend to be shorter and stop-and-go traffic would suck up more gas.

ALSO READ: No crude, but still rude: BC Hydro survey reveals conflict at electric vehicle charging stations

British Columbia and Quebec also offer rebates on plug-in hybrids, making the green option more appealing.

Hybrids come in two basic types: Self-charging “mild” hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs). The self-charging variety draws on an electric motor for some acceleration and recovers energy while braking. Big-battery PHEVs run for 30 to 60 kilometres on electricity and recharge at an electrical outlet.

Matthew Klippenstein, an engineer who assists Electric Mobility Canada with its market analysis, said the longer you own your vehicle, the more you’ll drive and the more you’ll save.

That’s especially true, he said, for thirsty pickup trucks like the Ford F-150, on track to be Canada’s top-selling vehicle this year and, starting in 2020, one of the roughly 40 models that come in electric form.

“Yes, the plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles do cost more, but typically what the automakers have done is stagger their pricing, so that the high-end, all-gasoline version will be not too much less than the entry-level electric version,” Klippenstein said.

“Almost no one really buys the bare-bones combustion version. And realizing that there’s a higher price point, automakers tend to stuff in more features for hybrids.”

One way to calculate if a hybrid will save money is to divide the purchase price by the estimated difference in annual fuel cost. The final figure is the number of years needed to recoup the higher up-front cost.

The formula includes the kilometres per year, proportion of city driving, gas price and cost of electricity. For example, the Rav4 hybrid SUV could take less than four years to make up its extra cost in gas savings, assuming the buyer drives about 20,000 kilometres per year, with slightly more city driving than highway in Ontario.

To compare vehicles, drivers can head online to Natural Resouces Canada’s fuel consumption ratings search tool.

Consumers may also want to consider benefits outside of price.

A lower carbon footprint, whether your residence has a garage to plug in a PHEV, and access to HOV lanes and priority parking for zero-emissions vehicles might all be considerations.

“If you’re in a two-car family, then … I’d suggest that the main commuting vehicle could become an electric vehicle … because you’re likely not going to use it more than 100 kilometres on a day,” Klippenstein said.

Plus, he said, electric vehicles are a better ride.

“They’re quieter, they’re much torque-ier, they’re a lot more fun, basically.”

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Lake Cowichan branch of the Royal Bank of Canada is closing. (Google)
Lake Cowichan’s RBC branch will close in November

RBC says banking needs will still be met

Robert Stutzman, right, and Ajay Oppelaar are the owners of the new Aloha Bowls and Kahuna Burger on Kenneth Street. The men are preparing the eateries’ patio for when they open for business. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Business notes: 2 Hawaiian-themed eateries opening in Duncan

What’s going on in the Cowichan Valley business community

The Cowichan Valley Arts Council is offering courses in drawing May through August 2021. (Submitted)
A&E column: Art is everywhere in the Cowichan Valley

What’s going in the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

The CVRD introduces new app to contact residents during emergencies, a tool that chairman Aaron Stone says will improve communications. (File photo)
CVRD launches new app to spread information during emergencies

Cowichan Alert is a free app that can be downloaded onto smartphones, computers

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read