Hybrids and Long Cummutes

Well, I think my question is rather simple (but the answer might not be):

Is there any advantage in buying a hybrid (say a Prius) if you’re facing a long highway commute?

My commute is 144 miles per day, four times a week, seven months a year.

I read that hybrids “promise” 45 mpg on highways…but is that true even if the commute is very very long (battery charge goes down to nothing and you’re left with the engine).

I would really like to hear the opinion of some knowledgeable people.

Thanks a bunch


There are regular gasoline-powered cars that will meet or exceed the highway fuel economy of the Prius and cost less to purchase. Current hybrids only make economic sense for those who drive a lot of miles per year in stop-and-go traffic.

…cummutes… Can’t you get a ticket for that???

The big advantage for the hybrid is city driving. Yes they do get slightly better gas mileage then a comparable car…the now it gets very difficult to justify the cost of buying the hybrid. It’ll probably take 10+ years to make of the difference in cost. The Honda Civic gets about 40mpg highway and costs a lot less then the Prius.

Get a VW TDI . . . I’ve heard that they get over 55 mpg highway. Rocketman

If your commute is mostly highway driving, a hybrid is not for you. Check out any of the gasoline compacts, or even the VW diesel. The hybrid advantage is for the city travelers.

but is that true even if the commute is very very long (battery charge goes down to nothing and you’re left with the engine).

Let me correct this misconception. The battery charge would not go down to nothing on the highway. Yes, you would be using the gasoline engine more, or maybe even all the time, on the highway, but it would also be keeping the batteries charged up.

“Get a VW TDI . . . I’ve heard that they get over 55 mpg highway. RRocket man”

I average about 60 with mine, but then I drive like a little old lady and I have gotten above the rated mileage on every car I have owned.

Dear NYBo,
Apart for making economic sense (I completely understand that if you only account for your own costs and not the environmental costs…but that’s another story) I can’t find gasoline-powered cars that are more efficient than the Prius. I’m looking at the following website: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bestworst.shtml and I don’t see a car that is more efficient than the Prius.

Do you have any tips?


Yes, any time you take your foot off the gas, the car’s momemtum will start charging the battery. In addition, the battery will be gradually charged up as you drive. One of the main advantages of a hybrid is that you cruise in a high gear, and to pass quickly, the battery kicks in and you get a big boost. On a high end hybrid, the electric motor is called a “green supercharger”.

From a purely economic point of view, a Yaris or Honda Fit will cost less per mile to operate. Where I live Prius cars are bought by people who are making an environmental statement (my dentist, for instance), and who don’t really need one for economic reasons. Our family doctor has a Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

I’m really really sorry for the typo in the title. I know it makes this post sound like it belongs to a porn site. It was a true typo…I apologize.


I’m not sure if this is still true with the new EPA ratings, but the old EPA test course consisted of driving that the Prius excelled at-- for example the highway test only went up to about 60mph and included fairly frequent stops-- so the difference between the rated MPG’s and typical real world results were larger than they usually are for a car with a conventional drivetrain. Under the new ratings, a conventional car is much more likely to exceed it’s rating on the highway than is a hybrid.

However, you are right that there aren’t many high MPG cars on the market at the moment. A big reason for that is that for small fuel-efficient cars, diesel is so much better. Diesel dominates the world small-car market and most of the car makers haven’t developed much in the way of smaller gasoline cars, especially in anticipation of the roll-out of new clean diesels in the US market, which is coming in the next couple of years. A small diesel will be a much better commuter car, so you might want to wait until small diesels return to the market.

It’s alright. At least nobody thought of spelling public transportation wrong. I like the VW suggestion. If it gets even close to that kind of gas mileage it could be better than the hybrids, but I don’t believe they make them anymore. Somebody asked if the Yaris was a hybrid. I told them no, it’s just ugly.

I believe the VW diesels are supposed to come back in 2009. Therefore, the used ones are in demand.

I feel this is not true. The Prius is a MID SIZE car that’ll get an honest 45+mpg on the highway.
It seats five and has over 14 cubic feet of cargo space in a very usable hatchback area.
How in the world could this not be considered for a commute car??


I get the same question about our company Scion xB-- people seem to associate ugly with hybrid.

There is more to a Prius than hybrid technology. My understanding is that it uses very late intake valve closing to allow a very high compression ratio (expansion ratio) without needing super high octane fuel. The compression doesn’t start until the intake valve closes but the entire downstroke of the piston is used to expand the hot air in the cylinder. Doing this also lowers manifold vacuum for low pumping losses at part throttle. Using only part of the stroke for the compression means the engine doesn’t make as much horsepower as the non hybrid versions of the same engine but that’s what the electric motor is for.
This optimized for cruising efficiency engine design along with a low coefficient of drag helps to give the car excellent highway gas mileage even though the hybrid part never come into play.

The EPA has caught a lot of grief over their fuel economy ratings, especially for hybrids in the highway cycle. As a result, fuel economy figures have been reduced. Real-world highway economy for cars like the Honda Fit will generally match the Prius.

If fuel usage is the same, the overall environmental impact of the Prius will be higher because of the battery pack (both manufacturing and disposal).

Yes, and the Prius also runs on 87 octane fuel which is currently .80 cents a gallon cheaper than diesel fuel.
It’s now common to see diesel at over $4.00 per gallon out here. I would think the .80 per gallon would quickly negate any advantage.
And I’ve got a couple of diesel Benz’s sitting in the driveway right now…


Good point there benzman . . . I can’t believe the price of diesel . . . I pity the independent truckers. As I was re-reading the posts, I thought of the differential in fuel prices, and also . . . if you’re charging the batteries as you commute, won’t you be doing the parking, starting, little “get to the highway” type driving “for free”? (driving on electric, that is). Only thing that bothers me about a hybrid is the eventual battery replacement cost and the “funky” technology . . . having a vehicle with a strange engine/tranny set-up. Believe me, the last few months with my rotary mazda have been less than fun for me. Rocketman