March 15, 2012

Gasoline Vs Electric Hybrid Vs Hydrogen

By Charles Moffat - March 2012.

CARS - I witnessed an interesting argument recently on Facebook which saw gasoline cars pitted against electric hybrid cars and hydrogen cars.

What was interesting was two things:

#1. How entrenched people were with their beliefs regarding choice of fuel and fuel economy. Everyone assumed they knew more than others.

#2. How ignorant many of the people were about the actual numbers.

One of the few people who actually knew what they were talking about came up with the following comparisons:

(Gasoline) 2012 Honda Civic XL which gets 40 mpg.

(Hybrid Electric) 2012 Toyota Prius Hybrid which gets 50 mpg.

(Hydrogen) 2012 Honda FCX Clarity gets 60 miles per kg of hydrogen.

Now these 3 cars are all roughly the same size and quality.

However we should note that the price of gasoline vs hydrogen is different.

In the USA right now the average price of gasoline is hovering around $3.80 per gallon. The price varies from state to state and from gas station to gas station, but that is roughly how much you can expect to pay.

The cost of hydrogen meanwhile is pegged at $4.999 per KG in California (one of the few states that currently has hydrogen filling stations).

So now we have to do some fancy math to see which is best...

2012 Honda Civic XL is $15,805 USD, and will cost you approx. $9.50 USD to drive 100 miles.

2012 Toyota Prius Hybrid is $33,000 USD, and will cost you $7.60 USD to drive 100 miles. (The Hybrid will keep its value longer however and you will get a better resale price.)

Buying a 2012 Honda FCX Clarity currently in the USA is currently impossible. They're only available for a 3 year lease (at $600 per month or $21,600 for 3 years). However I did some research and found an United Arab Emirates website which was selling the 2012 Honda FCX Clarity for 97,000 AED (roughly $27,000 USD)... which means it was probably stolen and shipped overseas.

The fuel economy for a 2012 Honda FCX Clarity is $8.32 USD to drive 100 miles.

"Aha!" we both say!

Fuel economy wise hydrogen is currently better than gasoline cars, but not better than a hybrid car. Currently. What happens if gasoline prices go up to $5 per gallon?

Honda Civic XL = $12.50 per 100 miles.
Toyota Prius Hybrid = $10.00 per 100 miles.
Honda FCX Clarity = $8.32 per 100 miles.

Mind you the cost of gasoline probably won't reach $5 per gallon until 2020. But the good news is that Honda and several other major car manufacturers are planning to release mass market hydrogen fuel cell cars by 2015, which means that will give them a few years to bring the manufacturing prices down.

To reach $5 per gallon we would have to see oil prices rise to approx. $165 USD per barrel. This is assuming the current ratio of oil prices to gas prices stays stable, the ratio has been getting worse in recent years as gas companies are price gouging in an effort to get higher profits.

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