Is a hybrid car the right fit?
December 20, 2015 5:07 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is thinking of buying a hybrid car with regenerative braking. Will this be the right fit for her and her commute?

As with so many other shoppers and people on Ask, she's trying to make the decision between the Toyota Prius and Honda Fit (manual transmission). She would prefer to go with the hybrid option, but she's unsure if it's going to be worth it.

Her daily commute is almost exactly one mile one way, with four or five guaranteed stop signs / stop lights along the way. As you can imagine she rarely hits a top speed of 35 MPH. With this short a commute and so few stops, will the regenerative braking even begin to charge the battery on the Prius? Or will she be using gasoline most of the time?

For comparison, she has a 2000 Honda Civic (manual transmission) purchased brand new that still has fewer than 100,000 miles on it. This means she's doing about half the miles/year of the average American driver.

Bonus question: she's accustomed to all the pep and zip of the old Civic, and drives it to its full potential. Will the Prius disappoint in that category? I'm assuming so, since the 0-60 on the Civic is somewhere around 8.3 seconds and I'm seeing around 10.7 for the Prius - but I know that's not the whole story. Neither she nor I have ever driven a vehicle with a continuously variable transmission so we're not sure what to expect on the test drive.
posted by komara to Travel & Transportation (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Is she 100% set on using a car for this? One mile is not really a "car" sort of journey; there are better (powered, even) vehicles for that.
posted by dmd at 5:13 PM on December 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


There were some issues with previous models, but I think the LEAF would be perfect for her commute if she can charge up somewhere near work in an emergency. Or the Ford Fusion.

Otherwise, I would drive a manual over a Prius. I like driving manual transmission, tho, so YMMV. I'm in a similar boat to your GF, and I haven't made a choice. Curious how this thread will develop. Test driving really helps.
posted by jbenben at 5:17 PM on December 20, 2015


Maybe a Plug-In Prius? That sort of speed and distance you should be able to do purely electrically.

It's also worth considering an electric scooter or something if the one-mile commute is the primary use, but a lot of that sort of thing depends on how presentable you need to be at work and what your at-work facilities are like.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:22 PM on December 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Please assume for the sake of the question that a car is a requirement. This is not a request for submission of alternative transportation ideas.

Also, plug-in vehicles are not a possibility.
posted by komara at 5:28 PM on December 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Her commute is basically a red herring - with it being as short as it is, it will only account for about 500 miles a year, only a small fraction of her overall usage. She should focus on her non-commute driving in deciding on the best car for her needs.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:37 PM on December 20, 2015 [37 favorites]


It's unfortunate that plugin hybrids aren't a solution, since this is exactly the driving they are meant for, the commute would be 100% electric, but you'd still have a gas engine for longer range driving (my friend loves his Volt).

Also at 100k miles over 15 years, that 555 miles a month give or take. As it was pointed out, 2 miles a day, 20 business days a month, means that there's only 40 miles worth of the commute vs 515 of "other" driving.

As for hybrid drive-ability: it's definitely not going to be a car for someone who wants a peppy / zippy driving experience, I mean its got some nice low end power from the battery, but if you're trying to clock in at how fast you get to 60, it may be a disappointment (and that driving style would eliminate some of the benefits of paying the premium for the hybrid).

Something like a Volt really fits that use case you'd lay out: daily commute is short, so it would be purely electric (and designed to run in that mode). It has plenty of range and performance for those 515 miles/month that aren't part of the commute. One option is to see if its possible to charge at work during the day instead of at home.

Otherwise, I'd look at a decent mid range Civic, Camry, or Corolla, you'd still look at a 30mpg or so, without the $3k for a battery pack you'd not really use (camry vs camry hybrid, for example). My father did the same comparison a while back - was barely driving his hybrid camry enough to have a noticeable fuel savings vs the premium for the hybrid system, so when back to a standard one.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:50 PM on December 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Does her area have weather extremes? That can be extra hard on hybrids.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:51 PM on December 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: I feel I should've specified that her short commute distance has only been relevant for the last two or three years. Previous to that she had a longer commute, which accounted for the miles per year I stated above. However, at this point, it would be safe to say the five days of the week the only driving she does is the one mile commute.
posted by komara at 5:56 PM on December 20, 2015


If the Civic is still going strong, I'd stick with it.

Switching to 2 miles a day on unicorn farts as the fuel source wouldn't make a noticeable footprint difference, the heavy lifting in this department was done by living so close to work.

This commute would be perfect for a LEAF, yes. With its ~100 mile range when driving under 40mph you'd have to charge it once a month I guess.

(I got one in October and generally charge at the two new chargers in my city, one at the Whole Foods and another a the main mall, so even if plug-in doesn't work at home or work, you could perhaps viably charge while parked somewhere. I have a daily 25 mile commute so combine this charging with shopping or eating dinner, with the high-power DC charging I get about 50 miles of range added in the 30 minute charge session, which is paid by Nissan for the first 2 years and after that will cost me $3 + $15/mo apparently)
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:08 PM on December 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


If she drives so few miles, the fuel economy is basically irrelevant. There is really no reason to get a hybrid. unless that is what she wants.
posted by H21 at 6:12 PM on December 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'd keep the Civic for now. For the future, early test drives show the fourth generation Prius (2016+) are zippier.
posted by tilde at 6:37 PM on December 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


As you can imagine she rarely hits a top speed of 35 MPH. With this short a commute and so few stops, will the regenerative braking even begin to charge the battery on the Prius? Or will she be using gasoline most of the time?

I don't think this is a concern, and I'll take a step back and explain the concept behind how a hybrid works to allay your fears.

There's two concepts driving the development of hybrids: the main one being that they want to recapture the energy lost to braking. A car at cruising speed loses (external) energy mainly to wind resistance / tyre resistance which isn't that large. The main killer of fuel economy is stopping at traffic lights: you're accelerating nearly 2 tonnes of mass up to speed and then when you brake you're wasting all that energy by turning it into heat. This is the ideal use case for a hybrid - frequent traffic lights and slow speeds. Every time you stop, the car recaptures that stopping energy and then uses it immediately on the electric motor when you start off again to regain your speed.

A long highway cruise is the worst use case for a hybrid. The car will be running 100% on gasoline, and worse you're carting around a 100kg load of batteries and electric motors which is doing nothing for you.

(the other concept for hybrids is that they can get away with a slightly smaller petrol engine that is more efficient at cruise because for the acceleration phase they have the electric motor assist)
posted by xdvesper at 6:39 PM on December 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


The Fit is probably the better value for her use. With the few miles she drives, the extra $8K to $10K for the Prius will never pay itself back.

If you want good mileage, get the Fit with the Continuously Variable Transmission. You will get 33 to 40 miles per gallon, which is 10% to 15% better than the manual transmission Fit.
posted by JackFlash at 6:43 PM on December 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


The question should be Prius vs. Fit, rather than hybrid or not. There are a really wide variety of hybrid electric cars around these days, from the Prius to the Porsche 918. In general there will be more important considerations. As someone who has driven both, assuming the newer Fit is as good as my old one, there's really no contest; Honda makes the better car for my purposes (i.e. driving).

On the other hand if fuel economy is important to your car-buying girlfriend for strong emotional, altruistic, or otherwise non-financial reasons, the Prius is going to do a whole lot better in low-speed driving with so many stops. That is precisely the circumstance in which it being a hybrid actually does make a difference. The battery will be recharged not exclusively by regenerative braking; if it's low, the engine will run a bit harder to charge it when accelerating. The gasoline engine should then stop completely when it's not needed. This is quite a bit more efficient. Bear in mind that in a non-plugin hybrid, all of the energy comes from gasoline, always. It's not as if regen braking is getting any energy for free, unless it's downhill both ways. In stop-and-go type scenarios the hybrid is much more efficient no matter how short the trip.

So if the hybrid bit is important, the question necessarily depends on how much one cares about being fuel-efficient for its own sake or for the benefit of city air quality or whatever. So it's essentially unanswerable. If as some might assume it's more about the money, the Fit is always going to be a better deal if prices I see on the net are any indication, and if the car really does get driven only a few thousand miles a year, and if crude oil doesn't cost $200/bbl two years from now. Unless of course you find some kind of fantastically good price for a second-hand Prius.

Personally I can't stand CVTs, but then I don't do much low-speed city driving. I find them even more annoying than conventional automatics. They may or may not be more fuel efficient on average, but they are not anywhere near as much more as EPA numbers would suggest, unless you drive the manual like a maniacal robot. Their tests are not fair to manual transmissions if you drive as if you care at least a tiny bit about being fuel-efficient. Some people actually like the CVT though, even after the first hour or two when the novelty has worn off, or so I've heard. Worth trying it for yourself.
posted by sfenders at 7:08 PM on December 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have a similar commute and did the math. A hybrid won't pay for its overhead with that little driving and is actually an environmental negative because of the damage that creating the batteries does, only to have them just mostly sit in my driveway.
posted by Candleman at 7:15 PM on December 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


I drive a 2006 Prius, and have worked from home for the past 2 years so I rarely go farther than the grocery store, and my unscientific guess is that she'd get nice but not great mileage. I usually manage to hit the highway (the not-terribly-busy highway) once per tank (so...once a month?) and get about 43mpg over the course of the tank.

The one upside is that Priuses resale value is awesomely high, and by putting "granny miles" on it the resale value should remain spectacular, where a Fit is going to depreciate significantly more the moment it leaves the lot. This might also be a great argument for buying a used Prius.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:16 PM on December 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Switching to 2 miles a day on unicorn farts as the fuel source wouldn't make a noticeable footprint difference, the heavy lifting in this department was done by living so close to work.

Particularly if one factors in the environmental cost of building a new car, versus the environmental cost of continuing to drive the old one. The old Civic would have to burn a lot of gas to make up for the cost of sourcing the plastics, metals, and rare-earth minerals in a new hybrid car. In fact, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the environmentally responsible choice is to drive the Civic into the ground.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 7:20 PM on December 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


If she is interested in a hybrid for environmental benefits, the right choice is keeping the old car, since so much environmental impact comes from manufacturing.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:33 PM on December 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


Should have read everyone's comments...what davidpriest.ca said.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:34 PM on December 20, 2015


Best answer: My daily commute is 2.5 miles with 5 traffic signals and 25/35/45MPH speed limits. I've been driving a Prius for the last two years. Particularly during the cold months of the year, this does not allow the Prius enough time to warm up; until it warms up, it will not operate in EV mode and so fuel consumption is a lot higher. I will see fuel efficiencies under 25MPG on these winter commutes. In the summer it's more like 35. However, these commutes (including drives to lunch of a similar typical length) are only about 1/4 of the annual mileage. This year, the car's annual fuel economy looks to be 44MPG on around 7000 miles.

Before I owned the Prius, I owned an automatic fit sport for about 5 years. I didn't track the fuel economy as closely, and certainly didn't get to see see drive-by-drive fuel economy, just calculations from fill to fill. I want to say that I got fuel economy in the high 20s in town and 30s on the highway, but it's been too long to recall. But from a monetary standpoint, I don't think that given my annual mileage, the purchase price difference, and the fuel economy difference, that it was an economically advantageous decision to get the Prius instead of a new Fit. But it is more fuel efficient overall while being a bigger and more comfortable car than the fit, and that is worth something as well.

Putting numbers on it, if I drove 8000 miles a year in the Fit at 30MPG, I had to buy about 100 gallons more fuel than if I drove the same 8000 miles in the Prius at 50MPG (267 vs 160). That is $200-$400 a year, but the difference in car price was $8000 or so (don't forget sales taxes and interest paid on loans if you are making your own calculations). Given that I won't own the car for 20 years, it is not a shrewd money move to buy the Prius just for the fuel savings at 8000 miles a year. However, Lyn makes a good point about resale value which is also hard to predict but can make a big difference in the total cost of owning a car.

One other thing that comes to mind is, the oil changes for the Prius at the Toyota dealer are a lot steeper than for the Fit at the Honda dealer. But I haven't shopped around yet (the first 2 years of periodic maintenance are included under "toyota care" but I still see the $8x.xx total price on the invoice they give me) so I don't know if this is more about the dealership or about the work that needs to be done.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 7:39 PM on December 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Best answer:
Her daily commute is almost exactly one mile one way, with four or five guaranteed stop signs / stop lights along the way. As you can imagine she rarely hits a top speed of 35 MPH.
This is the ideal use case for hybrids. The efficiency of accelerating by using an electric motor is far better than by using an ICE by a factor of something like 50%. That's the first benefit of a hybrid.
With this short a commute and so few stops, will the regenerative braking even begin to charge the battery on the Prius? Or will she be using gasoline most of the time?
Regenerative braking doesn't charge a battery, ever. It does, however, reclaim energy that's normally wasted as heat (as xdvesper said above). Not all of it, mind, but some. The net result is that you accelerate more efficiently, and reclaim some of that kinetic energy when slowing down, which raises the total efficiency of the accelerate+decelerate cycle a bit more. It'll never be 100%, but it gets surprisingly high. That's the other benefit to a hybrid.

Freeway driving is the worst possible use case for hybrids. The electric motor cannot generate enough power to overcome wind resistance, so the ICE runs. While it's running, it's charging the batteries, which means you gain nearly nothing when you stop (because the batteries are already charged). Thankfully, that doesn't sound like your gf's use case.

Bonus answer: People buy horsepower, but drive torque. Hybrids have lots of torque, relative to their horsepower. Horsepower is what gets you to 60. Torque is what makes a car feel "peppy" from a stop. She may indeed enjoy the way an electric motor delivers power. I know I do, and I'm a petrol junkie.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:40 PM on December 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think it makes sense for your girlfriend to buy a new car right now, especially not a new hybrid. My husband drove a Prius in varying conditions over the past 4 years and he did not get very impressive gas mileage in trips that were shorter than 5 miles or so (ie, my commute to work). Every car is less fuel efficient with a cold engine, even a Prius, and the Prius is not extremely fuel efficient at low speeds, either (peak efficiency for my husband was around 50mph).

If she only drives 10 miles a week, an older, higher-mileage car of any kind is the most environmentally and economically friendly option. Since she's already driving an older, higher-mileage car, it seems to me like she's already set.
posted by muddgirl at 7:49 PM on December 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Unless she actually can't keep the Civic for some reason, I'd recommend sticking with that. She may well find that the fuel economy of the Civic parallels or isn't far below the actual gas mileage of a hybrid, even a Prius. Priuses are better at stop-and-go traffic over short distances than my '05 Honda Civic Hybrid, which was made for touring rather than city driving, but still, she'd probably do better to keep the Civic until it dies outright, and in the meantime save up to buy a Tesla. That's my plan for my HCH.
posted by limeonaire at 7:55 PM on December 20, 2015


Regenerative braking doesn't charge a battery, ever. It does, however, reclaim energy that's normally wasted as heat.

Charging the battery is exactly how re-generative braking reclaims energy-- by generating electricity and pumping it into the battery for storage. For a Prius, this might be a maximum of around 50 amps charging the battery when when brakes are applied.
posted by JackFlash at 8:05 PM on December 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: "I'm not sure why you'd rule out a Leaf just because you plug it in."

I would rule it out because we live in New Orleans and have street parking, and the idea that somehow she could drape a power cable across the sidewalk every night over the life of the car without something being vandalized or stolen is laughable.
posted by komara at 8:44 PM on December 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is there a reason a Smart car wouldn't work?
posted by schroedinger at 8:52 PM on December 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mod note: Folks, at this point, the OP's pretty clear they're not looking for alternative suggestions, just for a comparison between the two cars mentioned for the friend's purposes, so let's stick to just that? Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:09 PM on December 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Your girlfriend is really in a situation which many people would envy - her commute is so short, and the amount of miles she drives overall so tiny, that she can drive a less 'sensible' but more fun vehicle without causing significant strain either on pocketbook or planet. Consider used sports cars, convertibles, or perhaps 4x4s?

Of the two initial options in your question - the Fit is by far the better choice for her. She won't come even close to recouping the extra financial cost or initial environmental impact of the Prius while using it so little, and in circumstances so ill-suited to that car getting its maximum efficiency.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:09 PM on December 20, 2015


With a commute like that, I've got some general car advice: This commute isn't great for any gasoline cars, because all cars running on gas are going to accumulate problems if they never really run while warmed up. This sounds like a one-song trip, i.e. the same song playing on the car stereo at the start of the journey will still be playing at the end.

I think Hybrid is good for this because at least it won't be running on a cold gas engine most of the time, and such engines in hybrids are built, as much as possible, to tolerate not running during all of a trip, and short run-times.

Whatever car you get, take it out driving, just driving, for 20-30 minutes on the weekend, at least twice a month. It'll exercise the gas engine, let it get hot and clean itself out from all the cold gunk doesn't get burned out during a 5 minutes commute.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:41 PM on December 20, 2015


Best answer: Neither my 2002 nor my 2007 Prius get out of "cold mode" in that much distance, so the engine will be running the entire time (heating up the coolant and the catalytic converter). The extra energy goes into the battery normally, but the battery will be constantly full so it'll end up just wasted. No way will it be more efficient than a regular car operating like that.

Even if it were, you'd never earn back the hybrid premium with that little aggregate distance. I'm pretty sure we didn't get it back on our 2007 and we drive it quite a bit more. At these gas prices you don't buy a hybrid to save money.
posted by doomsey at 9:48 PM on December 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


It won't be worth it financially. A Prius C is $3800 more than a Honda Fit, and at current gas prices, it would take decades to make up the difference.

It could easily be worth it in terms of car-as-a-social-status-indicator. Young, poorish, recent college grads buy Fits. Smart, rich, thrifty, eco-conscious people buy Priuses. If you're in a place where people are judging you by your car (which sadly applies to a lot of people), it may make sense to buy the Prius. People spend $3800 extra just to get a car with leather seats, and they don't try to justify it in any way, right?

Also the Prius C is slightly larger, slightly peppier, and has better option packages and colors available.
posted by miyabo at 9:57 PM on December 20, 2015


Charging the battery is exactly how re-generative braking reclaims energy-- by generating electricity and pumping it into the battery for storage. For a Prius, this might be a maximum of around 50 amps charging the battery when when brakes are applied.
It's a digression, but my point was that you cannot realize a net increase in battery charge by way of regenerative braking. The kinetic energy to reclaim must come from somewhere, so you will always end up slightly less charged than you started, in an otherwise closed system. As posed, I thought the question warranted some pedantic clarification. :)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:44 PM on December 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Another Prius owner here and I concur with what the antecedent of that pronoun and doomsay said. It takes 2 or 3 miles for the Prius to "warm up" and really begin to get that great gas mileage. A mile commute won't see any gas savings on a Prius. A fully electric car seems to be what your partner needs. Have you considered a Nissan Leaf?
posted by AGameOfMoans at 3:11 AM on December 21, 2015


Came here to make the cold mode comment. I would expect a prius to actually have some bizarre and relatively unusual failure only being driven this distance. The batteries will never get cycled, and the engine will be running basically the whole time to charge everything up. I'd expect to have the mechanic go "wow, this is a weird one actually" more than once.

Whatever car i bought for this would be basic and used. Like yea, a fit, or a yaris or versa or something.

This commute as primary driving would probably violate the break in guidelines for most cars, and is just really hard on a car in general since it never gets to warm up, or if it does it's shut down right after it barely hit temp.

I would rule it out because we live in New Orleans and have street parking, and the idea that somehow she could drape a power cable across the sidewalk every night over the life of the car without something being vandalized or stolen is laughable.

What's the situation like at work? I ask because a friend of mine has a similar issue, but charges his fiat 500e ONLY at the office. His commute is pretty short(like 8-10 miles or something) and this has never, ever been an issue.

He didn't even bother setting up a way to charge it at home. There's several ways and places to set it up at work, so he never bothered. I think the car even included some basic level home charger and it's in a box in his garage.

I've considered this as well from a different angle since the grocery store near my house has chargers. In that little driving, the thing would top off in way under an hour. Probably even under a half hour. Maybe even like 15 minutes.

I'm not going to try and sell you on this because you seem to not want it, but i just wanted to point out that you don't need to charge up at home nor do you need to leave it plugged in if you're not using it. The thing isn't going to like, leak charge overnight and die. I mean you'd get loss over the scale of not using it for a month or probably even more than that, but not even like a long weekend.

This is going to beat the shit out of any hybrid or ICE based car you drive. My old work bought an electric delivery van because trips like this just murder engine-based cars. It's not even about emissions or gas or whatever, it's about it putting an exaggerated amount of wear on the engine and to a lesser extent the drivetrain.
posted by emptythought at 4:34 AM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


The one upside is that Priuses resale value is awesomely high, and by putting "granny miles" on it the resale value should remain spectacular, where a Fit is going to depreciate significantly more the moment it leaves the lot. This might also be a great argument for buying a used Prius.

actually, it's a great argument for buying a used fit (because that's the one you save money on).

Regenerative braking doesn't charge a battery, ever. It does, however, reclaim energy that's normally wasted as heat (as xdvesper said above).

this makes no sense. physically, if you reclaim energy, it has to be stored somewhere. and that somewhere is the battery. so it absolutely does charge the battery. what it does not do, is magically create more energy, so averaged over the whole journey the battery charge still decreases.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:52 AM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let me be the second to say that a low use profile suggests a used car.

The problem with an all-electric car is that once-a-,year 100 mile drive. Especially the one that comes up so quickly that renting a car is a huge annoyance. However, the electric car would thrive on the diet of short, slow trips where a gas engine is barely going to get to operating temperature.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:04 AM on December 21, 2015


Well, if you're dealing with New Orleans street parking, seems like a daily concern would be parking. The best option is probably the shorter option that can take advantage of the tightest parking spots. Get the Fit.
posted by Pacrand at 8:06 AM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


We have a 2011 Prius and drive it in the coldest, most harsh weather in the U.S.. It's been a good commuter car for us, and we use it for all our running around that doesn't require a truck bed (although, just FYI, we've transported plenty of 8-foot 2x4's in the Prius with the back seat folded down).

There are two situations I wouldn't use the Prius for: 1) long-distance drives (like the 350-mile drive we often make) - it's just not comfortable enough for that long of a drive, and 2) a commute that has a lot of uphill driving since our Prius can be somewhat gutless on steep hills. However, it successfully makes it up our steep gravel driveway all year round, which requires 4-wheel-drive for a lot of folks.

And hey - I LOVE pulling in to fill up the gas tank. It barely sips! We're getting in the vicinity of 50 mpg with snow tires on - and even better in the summer. Overall, we're enthusiastic about our Prius.
posted by summerstorm at 8:42 AM on December 21, 2015


Forgot to say "good luck" finding a used Prius in our area - we weren't successful in finding one in six months, although you see them on the road here. Their owners seem to love and hang onto them! I read online recently that they are recommended as a car likely to last 250,000 miles (notwithstanding a battery replacement along the way).
posted by summerstorm at 8:46 AM on December 21, 2015


Buy the car for the most demanding use you have in mind rather than your commute. It's not the going-around town where my Prius feels valuable...it's the solid handling in up to 4 inches of snow in Oregon's mountain passes, comfort and efficiency on road trips, and its ability to actually move a lot of stuff (I used to use it for fieldwork on occasion at my old job, and packed a ton of gear in it).

As everybody else has said, the commute is such that it pretty much doesn't really matter what kind of car you have. What I will say is that the difference between my wife's Civic and my Prius for moving stuff is notable. The hatchback is super handy for putting long objects in it (Surfboards, skis, etc.) and camping trips and getting 45-50 mpg is nice when I moved across the country, or drive to say, Seattle, especially when I realize again that the traffic is inescapable because I-5 is the only major artery for my destination.

I assume she's happy with manual transmission because she's even considering the fit with manual transmission. Cars are increasingly moving to continuously variable transmission, which is essentially better than manual unless you're a performance racer. If she wants/likes manual, hybrids are virtually the opposite of that and have to be (due to the need to maintain efficiency through rapidly changing circumstances). So that's a pretty different driving experience.

Does she want manual control, a lot less space, somewhat less efficiency, or does she want fully-automatic shifting, a lot more space, more efficiency and a larger car? Seems like the distinction between the two is pretty clear to me; my Prius is actually substantially larger than my wife's Civic. Efficiency on a commute like this is irrelevant. What you're really weighing with this decision is, what is your most demanding use, and do you want a larger more automatic car or a smaller manual car? To me those are so different that it's surprising you haven't already decided.

But then, I never really learned how to drive stick.
posted by Strudel at 10:01 AM on December 21, 2015


Best answer: Not sure if anecdotes are of any use, but a good friend of mine had a Prius and drove it about that distance to work every day. The battery had to be replaced because it wasn't cycling through different charge states enough. I don't know what her annual mileage was but I would look into whether the current Prius batteries are designed to be used like that.
posted by barnone at 12:24 PM on December 21, 2015


Response by poster: I appreciate the input that all of you have given, especially those that directly addressed the ways in which a hybrid vehicle is absolutely not right for this kind of short commute. She's going to explore more traditional options.
posted by komara at 6:47 AM on December 22, 2015


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