Conventional wisdom is that hybrid vehicles reduce our dependence on foreign oil and emit fewer environment hurting CO2 emissions. When comparing a hybrid to a conventional gasoline-powered model on a mile-by-mile basis, there's some logic to this argument provided the pricing disparity between the two models isn't too broad. However, a new study by Quality Planning shows that hybrid owners drive much more than non-hybrid owners, potentially negating the benefits of the added battery pack and electric motor.
Quality Planning studied nearly 360,000 vehicles throughout 2007 and 2008 to analyze driving habits, and some of the study's findings are pretty surprising. According to the survey, hybrid and non-hybrid drivers have statistically similar commutes, but hybrid owners drive their vehicles 25% more (2,000 miles) in non-commuting scenarios.
Dr. Raj Bhat, president of Quality Planning, thinks part of the reason for these findings has something to do with the fact that high mileage drivers are typically more interested in hybrids than infrequent drivers.
"What we don't know is whether owning a hybrid vehicle encourages people to drive more miles each day or take more pleasure trips. High-mileage drivers appear to be attracted to these vehicles, so insurers should take steps to verify the intended use of hybrids and validate actual miles driven wherever possible."
The study also shows that hybrid owners are significantly more likely to receive traffic tickets. According to the survey, Toyota Prius owners received .38 tickets per 100,000 miles driven, versus a non-hybrid average of .23 tickets per 100,000 miles. That's a 65% differential. One possible explanation for the ticket disparity has to do with where hybrid owners live. Quality Planning found that hybrid owners are more likely to live in an urban setting, where tickets are more frequently issued.
If you really want a hybrid and you don't want to hear any more bad news, you should stop reading. QP also found that repair costs are significantly higher for hybrid owners. The Ford Escape Hybrid, for example, costs 31% more to repair than the gasoline-only model, while repairing the Toyota Highlander Hybrid will reportedly add 45% more cost. A recent report by IntelliChoice that found that, in the long-term, hybrids and diesels are actually cheaper than gasoline-only vehicles.
The text below illustrates how much on a per dollar basis hybrid repair costs for collision and comprehensive coverage versus one dollar for a non-hybrid. The disparity is shrinking every year, but according to QP, hybrids still cost more to fix. Hit the jump to view the Quality Planning press release.