April 24th, 2006


Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Are hybrids less energy-efficient than SUVs? So says this press release from CRW Marketing research, which as the name suggests is an automobile marketing research company. That doesn't necessarily mean they're bogus, but a back-of-the-envelope calculation with the figures they give for the Honda Accord boggles the mind.

CRW says the Energy Cost Per Mile for the non-hybrid Honda Accord is $2.18 per mile, and that of the hybrid Accord is $3.29, so that over a 10-year, 150,000-mile lifetime, the non-hybrid Accord consumes $327,000.00 in energy, and the hybrid $493,500. In other words, if a median-income U.S. household bought a hybrid Accord, and spent their entire (pre-tax!) income on its energy costs, after 10 years they'd be about $50,000 in debt (as well as on the run from the IRS).

As another sanity check, the number CRW gives for the Honda Accord is approximately five times the total cost per mile that Edmonds.com's Total Cost of Ownership calculator gives. For the non-hybrid Accord, CRW gives $2.18 as the energy cost per mile, while Edmonds gives $0.42 as the total cost for the first five years of a new 2006 Accord (at 15,000 miles per year), and $0.37 per mile for five years of a used 2002 Accord, again at 15,000 miles per year. (2002 is as far back as Edmonds will go for this car at least.)

CRW claims the lifetime energy cost of a hybrid Accord is $3.29 per mile, while Edmonds gives a total cost of $0.56 per mile (for the first five years).

Now Edmonds doesn't include the cost of junking the car, which CRW presumably does, and I believe the Edmonds folks are bankrolled by car dealers and thus have some incentive to lowball their estimates. But they do give a breakdown of the estimates into depreciation, financing, gas, repairs, taxes, and so forth, so if they were totally out of touch with reality it would be noticeable.

CRW doesn't include such a breakdown in this press release, but this site has a little more information which (as Dara Parsavand notes in comments there) makes it even more noticeable how out of touch with reality CRW is. CRW says that the energy cost for a (non-hybrid) Honda Civic is $2.25 per mile, and that 30% of the Civic's energy cost is gas. So the cost of gas for the Civic is 67.5 cents per mile. Parasvand gives the Civic's combined city/highway mileage as 35 miles per gallon, which means that CRW has been buying gas at $23.62 per gallon.