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Pimp My Ride

We've covered the topic of hybrid vehicles a couple times here at Wizbang, but this week I'm making the leap and buying a hybrid.


It's not environmentalism or a burning desire for better fuel mileage that informs my decision, though those are nice side benefits. The real reason is that use of HOV lanes. Northern Virgina does not have a lot of them, but it seems like most of them are on my path to the office. Worst of all is that Interstate 66 is HOV only in at rush hour inside the Capital Beltway.

The interesting factoid about hybrids use of the HOV lanes (which may expire in July 2006) is Virginia may depress the market for these vehicles by removing their HOV exemption, all in the interest of keeping carpoolers happy. At this point VDOT hasn't committed to renewing the allowance for hybrids in HOV lanes when it expires in 2006. They're worried that HOV lanes would be overcrowded by the vehicles.

Aside from the fact that the overcrowding is still a myth, the better question is by what right the carpoolers claim exclusive province of the HOV lanes? The reason behind the lanes creation are clear - reducing emissions. There's no mandate to make commuting easier for groups of 2 or 3, the only mandate is that the big cities reduce pollution levels. The commuting convenience is a nice byproduct.

In that light 3 single passenger hybrid zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) are preferable to one three passenger vehicle producing more emissions than the three hybrids combined. Of course this will produce howls of outrage among carpoolers who have grown accustom to using the less traveled HOV lanes. The thing is I have no sympathy for their position - HOV was designed to keep emission producing cars of the road by hanging a nice carrot in front of drivers. With the advent of low or zero emission vehicles that reward structure needs to be re-evaluated by transportation policy makers. I haven't checked by I'd suspect that major metro areas are still under orders from the EPA to reduce emissions and hybrids and HOV's are both paths toward that goal. Preferring one over the other seems counter productive.

As to their concerns of carpoolers about crowded HOV lanes I say, "welcome to the commuting world the rest of us live in"

Update: I forgot to mention another net positive of buying a hybrid, a federal tax credit of (I think) $2,000, which at the top tax rates is a little over $600 net. Even that does not trump the "time is money" factor of 1 1/2 years (at a minimum) of reduced drive time.

I'll do the math for you. Assume I save 30 minutes a day in total commute time, and that there are 375 commuting days until July 2006. If you assign $50 an hour for that time (YMMV, but I'm using DC prices here) the total value of the time savings in $9,375 over that year and a half, or a little over $6,000 a year.

With the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Honda Accord Hybrid priced competitively with similar non-hybrid models I'd have to be nuts to pass up over $10,000 in savings over the next 1 1/2 years, not to mention the reduction in grey hairs and stress. If they extend the exemption my saving just continues on...


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Comments (29)

According to the article po... (Below threshold)

According to the article posted here about pollutants from fossil fuels helping to stave off global warming there's also the possibility of turning France into a desert, it's a winner any way you look at it! If there ever was incentive for me to park the Suburban and ride a bike this is it. I can almost hear Chirac sizzling already.

I've probably posted on it.... (Below threshold)

I've probably posted on it.. and obviously you are not doing it for mileage but you do know mileage is not what they claim huh?

But other than that, cool- keep us posted.


Kev -- If you're g... (Below threshold)

Kev --

If you're going up 395, you can always grab a couple slugs for the HOV lanes.


It is posts like this that ... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

It is posts like this that make me glad I do not live in a large metropolitan area where HOV lanes are a neccessity. Hampton Roads was about as close as I got, and I don't want to go there again.

However, I don't see any reason to remove hybrids from the HOV lanes either, although you have to wonder how much air pollution you are saving, because something is getting burned to create the power they run on.

The Prius is a 'SULEV', a S... (Below threshold)

The Prius is a 'SULEV', a Super-Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle. (I kid you not.) To be a ZEV (Zero emission vehicle) you can't release carbon dioxide, _and_ the process to make the fuel has to be a ZEV process also.

Or you can pull out half of the hybrid engine (the half that runs off gas) leaving you with a car whose max speed is 15 mph and range is somewhere around 20 miles. (Guessing on the range)

Washington State is considering converting our HOV lanes to allow SULEVS also.

There is some pending feder... (Below threshold)
Master of None:

There is some pending federal legislation (SAFETEA) that will require states to monitor the congestion in the HOV lanes to insure their effectiveness. Overly congested HOV lanes will effect emissions even if every car in them is a hybrid, because it will remove the original incentive to carpool. I don't think you can seperate the congestion issue from the emissions issue.

Also there is a concern that the Feds will require Virginia to end its exemption of hybrids even if new legislation isn't passed.

I wouldn't count on driving your hybrid solo in the HOV lanes for much longer.

The supposed myth of the HO... (Below threshold)

The supposed myth of the HOV lanes is that they provide any benefit whatsoever!!!!!

I have more experience with the I-95 but know them all well and I don't know of any studies that claim HOV lanes lower auto emissions, ease traffic congession, or are anything more than a waste of taxpayer dollars. Hey, by the way did anyone vote to provide HOV lanes or is this just some unfunded federeal mandate (read bribe) to local offical to provide some feel good measure to the country to make us think we are doing something about pollution and conservation but are actually overburdening us with more regulation that requires idiot solutions like HOV which means we have to give tickets to "offenders" and make special entrances and exits( read more $$$).
OK I'm starting to rant.

Look, if you look at the I-95 and the HOV lanes outside the beltway this is what you have 3 lanes northbound, 3 lanes southbound, 2 bi-directional HOV lanes, and 4 lanes reserved for pulling over plus space for 2 lanes of concrete seperators and the outside pullover areas.

The bottom line is that instead of HOV we could have 3 more northbound lanes and 3 more southbound lanes. Alot less money spent on special construction for entrance and exits and enforcement.

If you want to decrease emmisions from car emmisions, provide incentives to businesses to use home based remote offices where possible. Give auto companies more incentives to produce alternate forms of transportation and fuels.

I don't think that a massive social engineering/construction nightmare forced upon the masses is what is needed.

Later I will tell you how I really feel, but for now this will do.

Thank You Wizbang for allowing me to express my feelings on this subject after so many year just ranting about how much I loath HOV lanes to my friends and family I can rant to complete strangers in the comfort of my home drinking coffee and in my pj's at 2:21 in the afternoon.

Heh, As a DC commuter- I ca... (Below threshold)

Heh, As a DC commuter- I can tell you that many times the HOV lanes are slower than the regular lanes. Not all the time, mind you.

Personally- I think they should have used the time and money they spent on the HOV lanes to improve/ widen/ whatever the primary roads. Maybe we wouldn't have a so much a problem and then a *need* for the HOV's in the first place. Not that I'm against rewarding carpoolers- if you can pull it off then fabulous. It's just not convenient for me, though.

The interesting factoid ... (Below threshold)
Christopher Rake:

The interesting factoid about hybrids use of the HOV lanes (which may expire in July 2006) is Virginia may depress the market for these vehicles by removing their HOV exemption, all in the interest of keeping carpoolers happy

Or to put it another way, Virginia may remove the artificial market stimulation it created by adopting solo HOV privileges.

Dude, I sympathize with your commuting problem as a fellow-veteran of 66. But I hope you're not planning to commute solo after 2006. That exemption absolutely is not going to be renewed.

I can't vouch for what's going on inside the beltway, but outside, there's no question that the HOV lane is getting busier and sometimes slower, given what I've observed over the past year. Whether that's the result of more low-emission solo drivers or an increase in HOV scofflaws I can't say. But I'd be surprised if the former wasn't a big part of it.

As someone who works irregular hours I can rail against HOV with the best of them--my schedule has been all over the place and there ain't a carpool alive that could accomodate me. But one thing I've seen little comment on is the use of HOV by commuter bus lines. Clogging up HOV affects more than HOV'ers.

It just seems to me that us... (Below threshold)

It just seems to me that using those HOV lanes to relieve the traffic congestion might do more to reduce emissions more than they help. Emission strategies should be evaluated in terms of emission/mile travelled. Stop an go traffic produces quite a bit of emissions/mile travelled.

Anyway, it seems like a strategy to make the public suffer because the environmentalists said so.

My mother just purchased he... (Below threshold)
Drew - Dallas, TX:

My mother just purchased her 2nd Prius. After driving it, is much less the go-cart that her 2002 model was. This one is a stout vehicle comparatively. Her 2005 model is getting somewhere in the neighborhood of ~52 MPG - city.

As a Prius owner driving so... (Below threshold)

As a Prius owner driving solo in the HOV lanes... BWAHAHAHAAAA!!!! Fe4r M3 N MY HYBRID SKILZ!!!

Just kidding.

Perhaps I am misremembering, but weren't the HOV lanes built to ease congestion, not emissions? The HOV exception was an incentive to invest in new technologies, not reduce emissions.

Anyhow, if you want to check out my Prius, drop me a line and we'll go for lunch or something. During the warmer months, I usually get around 52 MPG.

As an aside: On I-66, I find that the lane usually doesn't go much faster than the regular lanes. Not due to congestion, but there is invariably a 5000 lbs landscaping truck piled high with wheelbarrows and towing a trailer full of professional grade lawnmowers in the left lane, doing just barely faster than the other lanes. But hey, those are just my observations.

Perhaps I am misremember... (Below threshold)
Christopher Rake:

Perhaps I am misremembering, but weren't the HOV lanes built to ease congestion, not emissions? The HOV exception was an incentive to invest in new technologies, not reduce emissions.

I may be misremembering, but--the HOV lanes were indeed originally adopted to ease congestion. As I recall, the HOV-low-emission exemption was adopted to reduce emissions by encouraging investment in new technologies. I believe the DC region is under some EPA edict that says we're exceeding a federal standard for air pollution, and collectively we are at risk of losing all kinds of federal highway funding if we don't get it under control. Increasing the number of low-emissions vehicles was seen as one part of the solution.

How about a motorcycle? Unb... (Below threshold)

How about a motorcycle? Unbelievable power-to-weight, decent gas mileage, and HOV...

Darkmage has it 1/2 right; ... (Below threshold)

Darkmage has it 1/2 right; the other half of the problems with the HOV on I66 is that the HOV lanes are on the left, with all the on/off ramps on the right.

You have your HOVers getting onto 66 and trying to get into the HOV lane ASAP while the HOVers getting off of 66 are leaving the HOV lane at the last possible second.

Oh yes... Hilarity ensues.

It's been a couple of years... (Below threshold)
John S.:

It's been a couple of years since I've done the DC commute thing but I seem to remember the HOV lanes had about 10% utilization. They were the main cause of congestion because they basically wasted 33% of the travel lanes. As for motorcycles, mine worked well. 65 mpg and speeds of 95 to 120 in those empty HOV lanes. (Ah, those were the days.)

Berlins at 2:26Rant?... (Below threshold)

Berlins at 2:26
Rant? RANT? My dear fellow, you sound refreshingly lucid! Would that others would rant as much.

I vote for hybrids in the HOV lanes. If we are to have them (hybrids or HOV’s) then someone may as well use them.

Make sure you make your pur... (Below threshold)

Make sure you make your purchase on Inauguration Day. You know, the day the moonbats are calling "Not One Damn Dime Day," because they're going to forgo even their Mocha Frappuccinos and avoid spending even one dime. Through some process unknown to science, this will "send a message" to the Bush administration.

I therefore propose that "Not One Damn Dime Day" is the best possible day to buy a car. Or a yacht, if possible.

I'm pretty sure the tax ded... (Below threshold)

I'm pretty sure the tax deduction drops to $1600 in 2005 from $2000 last year and will drop another $400 a year until it's gone - I took the $2K on my Prius last year and it was icing on a really neat cake!

the dolts here in MN haven't figured out the HOV thing - we just started congestion pricing those lanes so that single drivers can use the lanes for amounts that vary by congestion level - so it's not about pollution reduction at all - it's about traffic relief which was never the intention of HOV lanes - the rich guys will pay the price to get to and from work faster - welcome to the home of failed social experiments!!

If you live in a cold clima... (Below threshold)

If you live in a cold climate or drive mostly highway miles, you might be better off buying some other non-hybrid tiny 4-cylinder of some kind. Hybrids shine in stop & go traffic during moderate weather.

I remembered it the same wa... (Below threshold)

I remembered it the same way Darkmage and Christopher remembered it.

As a matter of fact according to Dr. Katherine F. Turnbull, Associate Director, Texas Transportation Institute - " HOV facilities come in all shapes and sizes, and no "one size fits all." Many of the early HOV lanes developed in response to specific issues and opportunities in congested freeway corridors. The opening of the bus-only lane on Shirley Highway (I-395) in Northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C., in 1969 and the contraflow bus lane on the approach to New York - New Jersey's Lincoln Tunnel in 1970 represent the first freeway HOV applications in the country. Both of these projects still serve significant volumes of commuters."

Her history of HOV's here - http://www.hovworld.com/history.html - doesn't mention emissions once but stresses that, " Most HOV projects are intended to improve the people-moving capacity rather than the vehicle-moving capacity of congested freeway corridors."

The emissions issue was an afterthought and the hybrids reduces the people-moving abiltity of the freeway.

Wizbang,I used to ... (Below threshold)


I used to love commuting on the HOV lanes on I395; now, they're pretty much as slow as the regular lanes.

If the goal is truly to reduce emissions, WMATA needs to reduce its rail fares during nonrush-hour and it's bus fares overall. If public transportation here were cheaper, more people would use it rather than drive.

However, what I want is faster HOV lanes, which probably means going back to the HOV-4. But I want the hybrids full of passengers as well (g).

I bought a 2004 Honda Civic... (Below threshold)

I bought a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid in May 2004 - it's a great car and I've had nothing but a blast driving it.

I've averaged 42 mpg - and this is in stop and go Boston traffic.

You won't regret your choice.


Quoting your article:... (Below threshold)
Sabba Hillel:

Quoting your article:

Update: I forgot to mention another net positive of buying a hybrid, a federal tax credit of (I think) $2,000, which at the top tax rates is a little over $600 net. Even that does not trump the "time is money" factor of 1 1/2 years (at a minimum) of reduced drive time.

This is a mistake. A tax credit of $2000 means subtract $2000 from th final tax owed. A tax deduction subtracts the amount (in this case $2000) from the income being taxed. Thus a tax deduction of $2000 would be the equivalent of a $600 tax credit using the rate that you specified.

Kevin, I don't want to burs... (Below threshold)

Kevin, I don't want to burst any bubble you might have. But there is no physical way on the face of the earth to "pimp the ride" of a hybrid.

I hope you are married, cuz you aint picking up any hot chicks with that thing...;-)

The reason I'd buy a hybrid... (Below threshold)

The reason I'd buy a hybrid is for the fuel effenciency. I would relish in all the money I'd be saving at the pump. Think about it - something that gets 50 miles to the gallon would save me a heck of a lot of money.

In reality, if you compare ... (Below threshold)

In reality, if you compare the total energy consumed by a Toyota Prius, and an equivalently powered and sized conventional internal combustion car,
you will find that the conventional car comes out ahead in energy efficiency by a significant margin.
This is due to the extra energy expended producing the Lithium Ion batteries, electric motor, and propulsion of the extra weight of the added hybrid
parts of the car.

As an example,
The Prius gets approx. 55mpg.
A comparable compact car, like the Toyota Echo, gets approx. 35mpg.

So it would appear that the echo gets 20mpg less gas mileage.

Over the 150,000mile life of the car, the Echo will burn 150,000/35 = 4,300 gallons of gasoline.
Over the 150,000mile life of the car, the Prius will burn 150,000/55 = 2,700 gallons of gasoline.

The difference between the two is 4,300 - 2,700 = 1600 gallons of gasoline "Saved" by the Prius.

Now, the Lithium Ion batteries cost approx. $6000 from the Toyota.
For batteries like this, which are basically an electrochemical power plant, roughly 50% of the cost is the energy used to produce it.

So, the batteries took $3000 worth of energy to produce.
This energy comes in the form of electricity, predominantly, which was produced in Japan.
Japan produces over 80% of its electricity using petroleum hydrocarbons, like oil, natural gas, and coal.

At a wholesale electricity cost of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, $3000 buys you 33,000 kwH of electricity.
The extra electric motor costs a good deal of money, and consumes alot of power to produce, but the internal combustion engine in the Prius is
smaller than the one in the Echo, so I'll ignore this energy cost for this estimation.

That same $3000 buys you, at a wholesale gasoline price of $1.50 per gallon, 2000 gallons of gasoline

Since we are using current approximate wholesale energy prices here, the equivalence of $ for power is a close approximation of true energy cost.

So, we see that the energy used to produce the Prius, EXCEEDS the gasoline saved by 400 gallons.

(2000 gallons gasoline equivalent to make Lithium Ion batteries minus 1600 gallons "saved" by the Prius)

This is all pseudoenvironmentalism, and wastes energy to boot.

How about a motorcycle? ... (Below threshold)

How about a motorcycle? Unbelievable power-to-weight, decent gas mileage, and HOV...

I have one of those, too. When it's above 40 (and below 90!) and not going to rain, then I'm on two wheels. But it's hard to do errands on the way home from work...

As an example,The... (Below threshold)

As an example,
The Prius gets approx. 55mpg.
A comparable compact car, like the Toyota Echo, gets approx. 35mpg.

Perhaps for the previous generation of the Prius. The 2004/2005 model is more comparable to a Camry, really. It's much more roomy/practical than the econobox Echo.

As a Prius owner, I will tell you right now that if all you want to do is save money on gas, then there are better options. If all you want to do is save the environment, then there are better options. If all you want is a cool car with lots of gadgets (voice activated NAV system, bluetooth phone integration, traction control, etc.) then there are better options. If you want a comfortable sedan with decent pickup (not spectacular, by any means) then there are better options.

But if you want a combination of the above, then it's a strong contender. If you want all of the above, then it's hard to beat.

And if you want to drive by yourself in the HOV lanes, it's top of the list. :)






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