Friday, May 19, 2006


(Rest In a Place of Augmented Torment and Prolonged Misery)

Honey? We need to talk.

I've... met someone. I know, I know. I told you so many times that I'd always love you, but, well, things change. Lately you've had so many problems, and I guess it just wore me down. I felt maybe we had turned a corner after working through our crisis of a couple weeks ago, and then last week's hiccup, but now with your latest problem* it just seems too much. Too much! I'm convinced now that there is no bottom to your demands, that you'll never be happy, that you can't be relied upon. And that just doesn't work for me. I need to be able to count on you.

And then, at just my weakest moment, I met... her. She was so young and vibrant and modern and, well, just plain sexy. Her demands were so modest, her charms so irresistible.

And what a body! Don't cry, honey. I'm sure you'll find somebody new when you get out of the hospital. But I'm just not ready to surrender my youth entirely to your bourbon-and-lobster crowd. I'm still alive and kickin' and I intend to spend these days with someone with more energy and vitality. Someone more Civic-minded!

Farewell, O gatekeeper of frat house regurgitation euphemisms.

*I drove home from Kentucky on Sunday and, while trolling the Buick lot the next day to look at their new Lucerne CXL (which, with delicious foreshadowing, is airline-speak for cancel) I suddenly didn't have reverse. No reverse gear. I went straight to a transmission shop, who informed me that a $2,000 rebuild was required. I in turn ran promptly to the arms of the local Honda dealer.


Joshua said...

The new styling of the civics certainly is nice.

I hope you didn't fall for the hybrid (I almost did). It, as it turns out, is a crock o poo.

Still, if you got this one, in white, that's one sexy car.

wunelle said...

No, I think the hybrid is, sales-wise, an exercise in green psychology, more than a viable economic decision (though I appreciate that technology is moving quickly forward by way of these exercises).

As for the color, mine is "Atomic Blue Metallic." The white is just how I found the best pictures online. Maybe this one, of the correct color, will show up:

Anonymous said...


VERY excellent choice! I heard you're rich: why not buy me one, too?

I don't think there's anything wrong with the Civic Hybrid. With tax credits for the first 60,000 Civics sold in the U.S., the price is nearly the same as an EX, and the technology is something that gets a geek like me hot and bothered.

But, you make me want to rush right out and buy an EX NOW!

Alex Random

wunelle said...

I can't really volunteer for another payment. However, I know where you can get a really cheap Riviera...

Esbee said...

My favorite car ever was a Honda Civic. Red, though, with four doors. I miss it.

Joshua said...

the problem is they don't get the reported MPG in the hybrid, and the in-city MPG is horrid (like less than 20mpg, actually) because the stop and go on that little tiny engine is too much to handle.

I fyou do mostly highway, perhaps it would even out, but most people do more city driving than they realize, so it sort of defeats the purpose.

Anonymous said...

Joshua, I'm not sure where you're getting your information, but I've done a lot of research on hybrids. You are correct for the most part that ON AVERAGE they don't get their EPA numbers, but it is incorrect to say that their in-city mileage is bad. This is where they shine, actually. Regenerative braking, and EMA (Electric Motor Assist) all contribute to quite high city mileage numbers. Also, mileage depends greatly on the driver. I bet I could coax higher than EPA numbers from any car using certain driving techniques.

But don't take my word for the mileage numbers. Here are some real-world averages:

Alex Random

Esbee said...

Oh, wunelle, I may buy my Yaris next week! (If I can just find a dealer with one in stock for a test drive.)

wunelle said...

You must post about it! I'm unfamiliar with the Yaris; my dealer did not have any in stock. But I'm partial to any Toyota product and will be rooting for you!

Random & Joshua--I agree that Joshua's figures seem way low compared to what I remember reading. But I don't remember the specifics (I'll check your link, tho, and / or I also think that it masks the real cost / benefit of hybrid technologies when it takes a tax credit (though I support the initiative) to make them as viable as a regular, comparatively-simple, Civic.

For my part, it's hard to argue with 37 mpg on the very first tank! Amazing.

Jeffy said...

Congratulations! Sounds like a great little car. As much as you need to depend on a car I think it will be awfully nice for you to have something that should be supremely reliable like this. Did you get the Coupe as shown in the photos?

The whole hybrid business poses quite a quandry. Even with gas prices up in the $3 range and with the amount of driving that you do, I doubt that you'd save enough on fuel to pay for the extra cost, even with the tax rebate. If you drive 20,000 miles a year and continue to get 37 mpg you'd only spend $1600 a year on gas at $3/gal. If the hybrid really gets the 51 mpg listed in the specs it would burn $1200 worth of gas in the same period. If you are saving $400 a year you'd have to drive it several years to save an amount equal to the premium you pay for the hybrid (have you ever driven a car for that many years?). On top of that, I think it is pretty unknown what the long-term maintenance costs are going to be on these hybrid systems. The batteries are one big concern. And worst of all, you'd have to get the sedan rather than that cute Coupe!

I am a bit baffled by the EPA numbers for the Honda hybrid. My understanding is that the hybrid shines most in low speed, stop and go driving around town. With most hybrids it is common to get much better mileage in town than on the highway. Yet somehow Honda reports that the Civic hybrid gets 51 mpg on the highway and only 49 mpg in town. What is the deal with that? Even for in-town driving, though, the hybrids don't make economic sense. The only way to justify them is in terms of pure altruistic conservation (which I do appreciate). I look forward to the technology becoming more inexpensive and more widely used.

wunelle said...

I agree with your economic assessment: I'd never pay for the hybrid option through the gas saved (and yes, I got the coupe, which is unavailable as a hybrid).

I think Honda's lower numbers reflect its "softer" hybrid status. It is unable to run on battery power alone, and the electric motor just basically assists the gas engine. But I guess it's fast.

As for the batteries, I read somewhere that Toyota's original (that is, previous generation) Prius has been on the road now in Japan for 8 years (6 years here) and they've had no battery problems at all. They have to wear out at some point, but it sounds like it won't be a big deal. Once again, Toyota seems to do the thing right.

With a whopping 650 miles on my Civic now, it drives like an absolute dream--far above its $19G!

Joshua said...

Random: I got those figures from an actual civic hybrid owner (who is also a math teacher, before you ask about shaky math). They did not come from a site that promotes green cars.

Jeffy: I guess I never ran the numbers, but that whole argument makes sense. I don't think I know anyone who has owned a car more than about 6 years, and the savings don't show that early. There is another way of looking at it: Day to day out of pocket, or even month to month.

Here: about 34 dollars per month saving (based on above averages) over the non-hybrid civic.

Average car payment for civic at 20k (6.77 interest/5 years/5k down) 295
Average car payment for hybrid civic at 453

Hybrid saves 34/mo. in gas, but costs 148/mo. more in payments. (-114/mo.)

So you just have to ask if "saving the environment" (a little bit) is worth 114 a month for you.

I will say though, the battery thing is a non-issue, at least with the civic: they have a lifetime exchange policy. So as long as Honda remains a company (which it seems they should) that should not be a concern.

As a "by the way" did anyone see South Park's episode about hybrids? Good stuff.

Anyway, sweet ride Bil.

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest issue for me is that everyone who wants to criticize/justify the purchase of a hybrid automobile wants to distill it down to pure cost-benefit analysis. The fact that hybrids are touted as merely high-mileage vehicles is at the heart of my complaint. Adding to this problem, in my eyes, is that anyone can easily make a direct correlation between cost per gallon of gasoline, miles driven per year, and increased cost of the vehicle due to the hybrid system. Solving for the resulting equation over time, and the casual shopper can easily reject the purchase of a hybrid. There are other benefits to driving a hybrid, which I will address later.

Of course, on purely a cost basis there are things that can make the price of the car more acceptable than the mileage numbers suggest: (From

“1. The generator takes on multiple tasks: recapturing energy when coasting or braking to recharge the batteries.

2. The doing away of a regular starter due to the generator doing this task also. One less component to replace and also never accidentally grinding the flywheel again.

3. The brake life being improved dramatically due to the generator handling 80 percent of the braking.

4. Minimal chance of having warped rotors due to less heat due to the generator doing the majority of the braking.

5. Brake fluid life increases also due to the minimal contamination of fluid due to minimal heat build up in the fluid.

6. The steering being of electric assist instead of the normal hydraulic type has many benefits. The electric assist has minimal kick back when driving over rough or uneven roads, giving a less tiring driving experience instead of constantly dealing with the tugging on the wheel. Also the benefit of no service required plus no belt required.

7. The air conditioning on the 2004 Prius and newer model is electric driven instead of the traditional pulley driven off the gas motor. The benefit is that you are not running the gas motor in order to have the ac on. Also one less belt to deal with.

8. Having less if no valve adjustments in the life of the car due to it not having the motor constantly running like that in a normal car. At 300,000 kms (180,000 miles] the 2004 Prius taxi still does not require a valve adjustment.

9. The injectors may never need to be cleaned. The 2004 Prius has had its injectors checked every 100,000 kms (60,000 miles), yet at 300,000 kms there is just a slight deposit on the injectors. “

One really ought to check out his site. This gentleman is a taxi driver who has driven his automobile 200,000 miles! Also from his site:

“For almost five years, I have operated three Toyota Priuses as a Yellow Cab--with no failures. The first Prius, a 2001 model, was put on the road Nov. 1, 2000, and acquired 332,000 kms [approx. 200,000 miles] in 25 months. The components that did wear out were not hybrid related components.”

And, Joshua, are you suggesting that the numbers listed on the Greenhybrid web-site are NOT by actual hybrid car owners? I think you’ve probably heard the saying that 100,000 anecdotes aren’t worth one scientific study, but then what is your one anecdote worth?

What I wanted to get back to is the fact that I have yet to see someone do a cost benefit analysis of an automobile’s horsepower. Where is the cost/horsepower analysis of a Corvette versus a Ford Focus? It just isn’t done, is it? Why? Because people buy Corvettes based on performance, status, eye-appeal etc. A Ford Focus is just not in the same league. Equivalently, a Toyota Corolla is not in the same league as a Prius Hybrid when you factor in all the reasons for purchasing one (in my eyes), not just mileage. Every car magazine that discusses hybrids gets back to simple equations like Joshua presented and ignores other mitigating factors for purchasing a hybrid.

And I really take exception to Joshua’s statements like: “I hope you didn't fall for the hybrid (I almost did). It, as it turns out, is a crock o poo.” and “They did not come from a site that promotes green cars.”

I would like to know why it is a “crock of poo” as you so eloquently put it. That’s quite a way to sum up what must be many years and tens of thousands of man-hours of engineering. And the site that supposedly “promotes green cars” is actually, contrary to your statement, a green car site. I think you will notice the difference.

What are the reasons I would purchase a hybrid? (In no particular order):

• 1. Status. I would love to drive down the highway in my hybrid knowing that I am driving “green.” It would give me great pleasure passing all the SUVs knowing that I am getting great mileage in comparison.
• 2. Protects the environment. There is more to driving a car than mileage. There is also how much pollution the car produces. From the Web-site, the Civic EX produced 5.5 tons of greenhouse gases per year, compared to the Civic hybrid which produced only 3.7 tons per year. That’s a reduction of 33%! Comparatively, the Prius is 3.4 tons. Also from the government Web site:

“The Air Pollution Score reflects pollutants that cause health problems and smog. The score is from 0 to 10, where 10 is best.”

The EX gets a score of 6, the Civic Hybrid 9, and the Prius an 8. For comparison, a Chevrolet Corvette eight cylinder puts out 9.3 tons of greenhouse gases and gets an Air Pollution Score of 3. Not very good! I certainly want to do all I can to not contribute to global warming!
• 3. Decreases our dependence on foreign oil.
• 4. Conserves finite resources.
• 5. Petroleum imports cost us over $3 billion a week—that’s money that could be used to fuel our own economy. (Also from the gov. Web site).
• 6. And since I’m a “Tech-Nerd” kind of a guy, I can’t help but love the wonderful technology in a hybrid.

Not to say it is an easy decision to purchase a hybrid over Bil’s wonderful EX coupe! Given all the benefits of a hybrid, in my opinion, it would still be a difficult decision for me to make!

Alex Random

wunelle said...

Random--all good points, and I agree that many are points that guys like me are not considering when I do a cost analysis. And it DOES have a pull of environmental-friendliness that appeals to me.

I guess for me the added complication of the hybrid system (even without the added cost) fascinates me, but lowers the ownership appeal slightly for me over a simply robust and efficient straightforward drivetrain. But again, I love the forward march of ALL automotive technology by way of this hybrid work, and we'll all have a piece of this stuff in our cars eventually.

And not to be contentious, but I have to agree that if Joshua's acquaintance is getting 20 mpg with his Civic hybrid he needs to take it to the shop; something is seriously wrong with that number (even if one DOESN'T want to spend the money on any hybrid). My non-hybrid car is rated at 30 in the city, so a non-functioning hybrid shouldn't do much worse than that--in my uneducated guess.

Joshua said...

I love you, Alex.

Give us a hug.

Anonymous said...

Ditto, Joshua

Here you go!


Alex Random

Dzesika said...

Ooh! I like!

The European cars, or at least the ones that normal civilians like me can buy? They all look like pimped-out jelly beans.

I miss my Mercury Cougar.