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

School District 20 is advising the public there has been a positive case of COVID-19 at the Trail high school. Photo: Trail Times
COVID exposures at three West Kootenay schools

Three West Kootenay schools have students in isolation

Dr. Katherine Oldfield is a naturopathic physician, mother, and active member of the Nelson-West Kootenay chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Photo: Submitted
COLUMN: Restore our Earth, restore our health

Katherine Oldfield marks Earth Day by writing about the priorities we need to have

Air Canada will not be resuming flight to Castlegar anytime soon. Photo: Betsy Kline
Service to West Kootenay Regional Airport not included in Air Canada deal announcement

Air Canada will not be resuming flights to Castlegar at this time

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Very scary’: B.C. travel rules too vague, shouldn’t involve police, civil liberties group says

BCCLA said that speaking with communities could have avoided top-down approach

Balsamroot, pictured here, can be found on Sunflower Hill in the Kimberley Nature Park, Eager Hill, Wycliffe Buttes, and many other areas across the Rocky Mountain Trench. (Paul Rodgers file)
Spring’s yearly spectacle of balsamroot

Ever year in May, balsamroot emerges for a brief showy period

Ocean Legacy Foundation members conduct a shoreline pollution cleanup in Vancouver. (OLP)
It’s time to end ‘suffocating’ plastic pollution along B.C. shorelines, advocates urge

This Earth Day, Ocean Legacy Foundation is launching a free educational platform to educate the public about plastic pollution

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
B.C. teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. university rowing coach ‘deeply sorry’ after complaints

Barney Williams says he’s been committed to ensuring no other member of the roster had a similar experience

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. girl’s wish granted as her cat came back, two years later

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Most Read