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The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Weighing the Options Before Procuring Hybrids

March 2015, by Robert Hall

Photo via istock.com
Photo via istock.com

On paper, hybrid cars seem to make a lot of sense for today’s fleets. They use less fuel — a major expense for all fleets — and are popular with customers because they are eco-friendly. Yet, they represent a sizeable investment for fleets. Before you jump on the hybrid bandwagon, take some time to weigh the pros and cons and make the decision that is best for the company.

How Hybrids Benefit Fleets

According to www.Phys.org, hybrid vehicles are the most gasoline-efficient cars of those that use a traditional fuel. A typical hybrid has an EPA rating of between 48 and 60 mpg. Saving fuel is always a good idea, especially for fleets that spend thousands of dollars every month on it.

Yet, fuel efficiency is just one benefit. In low-speed, city driving situations, hybrids produce few if any, emissions. In average driving conditions, a hybrid will cut emissions by 25 to 35 percent.

Maintenance costs on many hybrid vehicles are also lower, because the engine’s components are not as stressed as in a traditional engine — so, while maintenance is more expensive per job, it is far less frequent.

Having a hybrid or two in the company’s fleet can improve its image to eco-conscious customers and the public at large. Customers who are committed to the environment will often support businesses that also show that commitment.

Drawbacks of Hybrid Vehicles

Before adding a hybrid to the company’s fleet, you must count the cost. Yes, hybrids have excellent fuel efficiency, but it may not be as good as you think. Compare a compact hybrid vehicle with a similar sized, similarly equipped gasoline-powered vehicle, and the fuel savings is only about 20 to 35 percent.

The good news is hybrid vehicle prices are dropping. In 2012, the cost for a hybrid car was not much higher than that for a similar gasoline-powered car. Also, the government is behind the idea of making the switch to hybrid vehicles, and tax incentives of up to $7,500 per vehicle are available to today’s fleets.

Finally, hybrids are best designed for small trips or city driving, when they rely more heavily on the battery than the gasoline motor. For fleets that regularly take long trips, a hybrid may not save much fuel, so it may not be a good fit. For those that drive around the city, it is a cost-effective, energy-efficient vehicle.

So, is a hybrid right for your company’s fleet? The answer depends on the company’s energy goals, the fleet’s drivers’ driving habits, and the fleet’s budget. For some fleets, hybrids are a cost-effective way to go green. Weigh the pros and cons, and then make the decision that best fits the fleet and the company’s needs.

Robert Hall is the president of Track Your Truck, a provider of vehicle tracking systems for small- to mid-sized business fleets. For more information, go to www.trackyourtruck.com.

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  1. 1. Ed Lovelace [ March 11, 2015 @ 11:18AM ]

    Several good points made in this article. It seems to be focussing mostly on Class 1 passenger vehicle hybrids that have the high mpgs quoted. I'll agree that when your baseline vehicle has a high mpg and your hybrid option has a 20-35% better mpg, that your dollars saved per miles is relatively small. Now on the other hand if you are talking about higher Class, lower mpg, trucks and vans the baseline mpgs and annual fuel costs are much higher. Now a 20% savings is much more relevant as long as the incremental cost is inline.

    I might also qualify "longer trips" a little more precisely and say that hybrids can be very good for high annual mileage fleets and in fact have better payback than being used on lower mileage fleets. The length of the trip is less relevant than the accel/decel profile of the trip. If it is all cruising on highway, then the hybrid fuel savings will be lower.

  2. 2. Seth Ashbridge [ March 11, 2015 @ 05:39PM ]

    Loved the article except for one thing. A gasoline motor does not exist. A gasoline powered internal ccombustion engine exists and so do electric motors. Series parallel hybrids have an I.C.E. (internal combustion engine) and two electric motors. It drives me nuts when someone calls an engine a motor.

 

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