Honda Hybrids

By Fred Lee on 22 May 2008 19 comments
Photo: diego medrano

For those of you who have toyed with the idea of buying a hybrid but were discouraged by the price, you are not alone. In fact, despite the growing concern for the environment, not to mention the skyrocketing price of gas, hybrid cars still only represent a small percentage of global car sales, and a major reason for this is the cost.

Hybrids are considered the wave of the future because they not only reduce emissions, addressing the issue of climate change, but they get great gas mileage, an important consideration with the current price of oil. It should be noted that hybrids can also improve the power of the engine, which compromises any advantages in fuel efficiency and emissions. Whatever the application, however, the technology makes the cars more expensive.

Because of this, they are the vehicle of choice for only a small niche of people who can afford them, and they currently enjoy a special status amongst the image conscious celebrity-set. For most average consumers, however, they are not an option.

That may soon change.

Honda Motor Corporation, one of the largest car manufacturers in the world and a leader in fuel efficient technology, has unveiled it’s plan to introduce a low-cost hybrid by 2009. If they can pull it off, they hope to make the hybrid a more mainstream car that will be more appealing to the general public, with the ultimate goal of achieving greater sales and broader appeal than their current incarnation.

This, of course, is making Detroit nervous, and may signal a need for American car makers to start making greener and more fuel efficient vehicles, something they could afford to ignore in the past because hybrid cars weren’t worth their attention (due to such a small market share) while gas-guzzling SUVs have such high profit margins.

Honda, meanwhile, has had to confront a growing need to compete with Toyota, which has not only grown to be the world’s largest automaker, but makes the car that has become synonymous with the hybrid movement, the Prius. Honda is therefore faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of challenging Toyota’s dominance in the market.

Concurrently, Toyota is racing to lower production costs on the Prius, as well, which would hopefully result in a lower cost to the consumer. All eyes are on a potentially favorable car buyers market in 2009.

In the meantime, with even adamant global warming naysayers warming up (no pun intended) to the possibilities of an ecological disaster on the horizon, maybe it’s time that we got over our need to drive huge SUVs and start moderating our fuel consumption.

Then again, as gas prices hovering around $4.00 and with no ceiling in sight, we may have little choice in the matter.

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Guest's picture

This is great. Good for Honda. We need cars that help the enviornment. And if Detroit is smart, it'll really make a commitment to a "greener" world.

Come on, we know that our dependence on oil is killing us.

By the way, great graphic of those 2 yellow cars. I bet they're happy.

I dig your site. Keep posting.

Guest's picture

I think this is great! Competition is good for the consumer, and provides incentives for corporations to adapt to the changing society. I think people are finally starting to come around and realize that our dependence on Big Oil is bad for our wallets and bad for our environment. If Honda can pull this off, I would definitely be an interested buyer!

Linsey Knerl's picture

You make me smile...

Thanks so much for this post.  (And the graphic.) 

Guest's picture

Honda is awesome. I hope they get it done.

Fred Lee's picture

If I made you smile, then I feel I've done a good days work. And Bill, those cars are most definitely happy. Thanks guys, and have a nice day.

Guest's picture

one amazing thing I read was that Building A Prius Outdoes Hummers in Environmental Damage

So if you're looking for a hybrid that just saves on gas, fine, but if you're also looking to feel good about what you're doing for the environment, definitely don't go with Toyota. For this reason I do hope that Honda gains some market share!

Guest's picture

My last car was a Honda Hybrid and it turned out to be an expensive car to maintain. My experience may have been different than others because I do so much mountain driving. The hybrid battery wore out too quickly and costs a fortune to replace.

My new car is a Smart. It gets 41 MPG, its much cheaper than a hybrid, and the maintenance costs should be minimal.

The only downside is that I get tired of answering questions every time someone sees me getting out of the car.

Guest's picture

Enjoyed the post, but it's "its."

Fred Lee's picture
Fred Lee

I'm not trying to argue, but don't you use an apostrophe for a contraction? So "it is" become "it's."

And Dwight, I agree that a good alternative to a hybrid is a compact, high mileage car. It's what they do in Europe, so there's less incentive to buy hybrids. 

Guest's picture

Yes, you use an apostrophe for a contraction. For a possessive, as in "...has unveiled its plan..." an apostrophe is incorrect.

Guest's picture

You miss the point. The market drives the move towards small and hybrid cars - not personal beliefs about the environment.

Granted, there are some on the fringe - a very small percentage of the buying public - that base their buying decisions on an effort at being 'Green'. Their numbers are so small that their actions have a negligible effect on the actual natural environment. The major effect of buying 'Green' is that it makes people feel good about themselves. Empowers them, some would say. For some, it give them a feeling of superiority to those who disagree with their world view.

You say, "adamant global warming naysayers". Well, we could turn that phrase into "adamant global warming doomsday alarmists" and that would nicely describe the other side. (Whoops, forgot, many don't believe there's two sides to the discussion!) Suffice to say, there are many scientists that argue global warming is a natural phenomena or is way overblown. (But, hey, let's not go there!) I am an agnostic on the subject of global warming by the way, but I do read the literature on both sides of the equation and try not to get caught up with the hysteria.

We are moving into smaller, more efficient cars because the market is dictating the move. Gas down the street from me is priced at 4.15 regular; 5.25 diesel and that has the man and woman on the street worried. (Alas, I live in San Diego County and we get raked over the coals.) We are entering a period past peak oil - more demand than supply. China imported 170 million barrels of oil 10 years ago. Today, that number is 1 billion barrels. But, oil is still the 'blood' of modern civilization.

For all those who argued that the government should dictate better mileage for vehicles you buy, watch and marvel how the market will do a much better job at it!

Go ahead and buy your hybrids - if you can afford to and it makes you feel better.

Guest's picture

Naw, that's not true re: "missing the point". In 1989 I had a subaru GL that got 40mpg on the freeway. That was an effect of govt regulation through the late 70's and early 80's. Once Reagan's deregulation was through, though, the auto industry zipped right back to 20mpg cars.

In any case, the hybrids still seem too expensive (just under $20K? All I need to do is find a very cheap car with pretty good gas mileage, like say Honda's Fit and I'm doing better $$ wise). In addition, with respect to the earlier poster's difficulty with hybrids in mountain areas, this is correct. The hybrids do not work well at higher altitudes. For that matter, they don't work so well when it's cold outside. So they're great in southern California, less so in Denver.

The Smart car sounds like an excellent alternative, although it would scare me to death to drive it on soCA's freeways...

Guest's picture

Guest - still missing.

Your low-mileage Subaru was born more out of market forces than governmental dictates. The 70's were a time of Carter and the birth of the oil cartel. And a big jump in oil and gas prices.

I'm just saying, if you measure governmental dictate vs market forces, I'll vote market forces every time.

For one, I don't care for others telling me what to do and what not to do. I care for a funny concept called Liberty.

Second, market forces are much more efficient and 'smart'. What? Are you going to let a bunch of boneheaded politicians and bureaucrats tell you what to do? This bunch is dumber than average. (Apologies to those here who happen to be either politicians or a bureacrat. I'm talking generally here.)

The other thing you bring up is the safety issue. I agree with you on that. I don't know if I'd like to be alongside an 18 wheeler on one of the California Freeways in one of those puny cars!

Guest's picture

It doesn't matter what you like or don't like. The notion that we are "free" of governmental interference is absolutely absurd. The only difference is exactly what is interfered with. One group is happy to have a certain set of interferences and labels that "freedom," another set prefers a different set of interferences and has yet other labels. But the hard cold facts are that modern society does not, would not, could not exist without extensive government interference. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having different preferences, but to claim one set is "no" interference whereas another set "is", is patently absurd.

But yea. Smart car. 18 wheel rig. Ack.

Fred Lee's picture
Fred Lee

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and keeping the discourse going. I owe you at least the courtesy of a response.

First off, the term "adamant global warming naysayers" was meant to be objective and in no way condescending or pejorative. I merely wanted to point out that people who in the past were very skeptical about global warming, i.e., adamant global warming naysayers, have begun to agree that maybe this is an issue to consider. I sensed that you were offended by the defensive tone of your response when you responded with "adamant global warming doomsday alarmists," which did strike me as a little vindictive.

If I offended you, I apologize, but if you really break down the phrase, it shouldn't be that offensive. At least I don't think so.

You seem to take exception to any environmental considerations when buying a fuel efficient car, but my post wasn't soley about the environmental impact of hybrids. It clearly states that they save gas, and gas is getting more expensive. I am fully aware that this is the primary consideration, and hope that this came through in the article. Then again, I'm guessing it didn't.

You also mention that we shouldn't let a bunch of knucklehead politicians tell us what to do, but in reality, as much as it may bum us all out, that's exactly what happens. Politicians make the laws, and we have to follow them.

As far as emission standards and fuel economy, the government does a play a role. During the Carter administration the government did enforce fuel standards and the car manufacturers did comply. This was in response to higher fuel prices, but it wasn't soley because of market forces.

Those standards, which set a minimum fuel efficiency and saved us billions of gallons of oil, have since been pretty much eroded by the long arm of Detroit (not to mention several Republican administrations) who favors lower mpg standards (or none at all) so they can crank out gas guzzling SUVs.

So while it is true that demand is what dictates which cars will sell, the government can nonetheless impose requirements that would force car makers to offer cars that could be more responsible in terms of fuel consumption as well as emissions. They did this in the 70s. This would ultimately influence supply, and demand would have to adjust accordingly. In other words, you can only freely choose from what's available.

I would argue that this wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing given the current climate (no pun intended) of the economy.

Either way, thanks for your thoughts, everyone. It's like the abused child who looks for more. Even though it can be painful, it's still acknowledging my existence.

Fred Lee's picture
Fred Lee

I didn't mean to post this, but don't know how to delete it. Sorry.

Guest's picture


You are undoubtedly a smart person but a bit blind to your own bias & prejudice. You say what you wrote was "objective and in no way condescending or pejorative. I politely disagree.

Just to deconstruct the phrase: adamant global warming naysayers. 'Adamant' = impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, reason. Naysayers = someone with an aggressively negative attitude. Both definitions taken from I'd say that was on the pejorative side, wouldn't you?

You also say, "adamant global warming naysayers, have begun to agree that maybe this is an issue to consider". Rational, thinking individuals, and I consider myself one of those, consider both sides of the argument. There's much science and prominent scientists, who do not buy Gore's global warming theory.

The only problem I have with most global warming alarmists is that they've closed their minds.

You have way too much faith in authority, both governmental and quasi-scientific.

You state: "You also mention that we shouldn't let a bunch of knucklehead politicians tell us what to do, but in reality, as much as it may bum us all out, that's exactly what happens. Politicians make the laws, and we have to follow them."

That's dangerous thinking and something the founders of the U.S. would take issue with. Do you really think politicians are that smart? Smarter than the average guy on the street? I don't.

Carter by the way gave us the worse economy since the depression. He was plain awful and very few would disagree.

I apologize for going on -- I am an ardent conservationist. I read Rachel Carson, 'Silent Spring' when I was in 3rd grade more than 40 years ago. But, I still see the market being the major force... not centralized, command, and, yes, stupid government. The best government can do is get out of the innovators. They seldom do that.

Ford motor company announced last week enormous cuts in truck and SUV production. Small, compact cars account for more than 20% of all cars sold today. This is happening not because of government!

Guest's picture

Any intelligent person knows oil/gas prices will only go up so there's no excuse not to develop/market more hybrid vehicles. As with any supply/demand scenario, auto makers know that as long as they keep supplies of hybrids low, their profits remain large. Sorry to be so cynical but that's reality! I don't buy the argument that technology keeps hybrid car prices high. In fact, if we really wanted, we could develop a car a lot more efficient than even a hybrid but then the oil companies would find ways to stifle that either by buying and shelving the technology or lowering oil prices. It's all about profits and politics.