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From The New York Times:


Payoff for Efficient Cars Takes Years


DETROIT — Ed Moran’s new Toyota Prius was programmed by the dealer to make him feel good about his gas savings. A dashboard display compares the fuel consumption of the Prius and his 2001 Ford pickup truck.

“Every time I go to the store it will tell me how much money I saved,” said Mr. Moran, a horticulturist in Ames, Iowa.

Like more and more Americans, Mr. Moran is looking to a fuel-efficient car to help soften the financial blow of ever higher gas prices.

Shoppers have more options than ever to fight back, including hybrids, plug-ins, electric vehicles and “eco” or “super fuel economy” packages.

But opting for models that promise better mileage through new technologies does not necessarily save money, according to data compiled for The New York Times by TrueCar.com, an automotive research Web site.

More at the link. But, unsurprisingly, the additional cost of the technology to cut gasoline consumption outweighs the amount that one will save on gasoline. Save for just a few vehicles — the Prius and Lincoln MKZ, and the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI — the additional costs are so high that it takes so long to break even that the average driver will have traded in his vehicle before he reaches the break even point. In some cases, the break even point is over a decade after purchase, compared to similar models equipped with just an internal combustion engine. The article continues to note that this is true whether gasoline is $4.00 a gallon (close to the current average) or even $5.00 a gallon; the break even point doesn’t get to be reasonable until gasoline costs are figured at $8.00 a gallon.

The Prius C and the Lincoln all do well, achieving break-even at around two years, but many others are several years into the future. And, humorously enough, the Chevy Volt could take up to 27 years to reach break-even. The Dolt Volt becomes competitive when gasoline gets to $12.50 a gallon, while the all-electric Nissan Leaf makes sense when gasoline reaches $8.53 per gallon.1

The Chevrolet Volt is an absolutely great car . . . for your neighbor to buy. For yourself, not so much.
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  1. The Volt has a small gasoline engine to recharge the batteries when they are getting low on charge; the Leaf is completely electric.

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