Hybrid Cars in 2008 ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Hybrid Cars in 2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hybrid Cars in 2008

Happy New Year 2008As 2007 has come to a close, I was looking back at my predictions for hybrid cars in 2007 and it looks like I was right about some things and wrong about others. Gas prices did not stabilize, but Honda did break through the 60,000 mark, making next year an interesting one for Honda. How will they handle the loss in federal tax credits? Will they, like Toyota before them, start offering their own rebates to offset the change?

Honda Hybrid Cars in 2008
First, to Honda. Honda is slowly (oh so slowly!) phasing out the Honda Accord Hybrid, just as they did the Insight. But 2008 should show a nice increase in Honda Hybrid sales, especially if they manage to release their 'global hybrid' to market sometime this year. Honda hopes to sell hybrids in record numbers in the next few years, expecting 10% of their sales to come from hybrid models. But the only way they can do so is by getting more models on the road, first.

In the meantime, don't expect a lot of changes for Honda.

Ford and Nissan Hybrid Cars in 2008Logos from Toyota Nissan GM Honda and Ford
Basically, we should expect more of the same from Ford and Nissan. Between the two companies, they will only be releasing one more hybrid, and that a derivative of what Ford already has (the Mazda Tribute Hybrid is cousin to the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrid).

Nissan has been highly cautious and blatantly unenthusiastic about the hybrid marketplace. The only hybrid Nissan has so far is the Altima hybrid, and that was built using Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive. Which is too bad, given the rave reviews most people give the Altima Hybrid. But since it's been limited to just eight states in sales, the numbers aren't going to increase dramatically in 2008.

Toyota Hybrid Cars in 2008
Toyota will continue to dominate the hybrid car marketplace. The Prius has become firmly entrenched as the number one hybrid in 2007. 50% of all hybrid car sales come from the Prius. The Prius is in the top 10 list for all cars sold in the US.

Although you may see some design changes in the hybrids from Toyota, along with a whole new line of 'Prius' models (up to three different models coming under the heading of Prius) in the future, for 2008, there shouldn't be many changes to what Toyota has to offer. Which is just fine with Toyota.

Toyota buyers are completely out of luck when it comes to the federal tax credit on hybrid cars in 2008. It has been compeletely phased out in 2007 and despite some pushing by Toyota to extend them, there's been no indication they will be. So expect Toyota to continue to offer rebates on the Prius et. al. to make up the difference in the minds of buyers. Despite the loss in credits, Toyota hybrid sales have increased markedly from 2006.

Toyota will remain the target of environmental groups in the US. Because they can deliver the most fuel efficient car, and because they are poised to become (if they have not already done so) the number one car maker, everyone who wants to make their point will be pointing at Toyota and Lexus for any and all car makers faults.

GM Hybrid Cars in 2008
Which leaves GM (of the major automakers). I expect to continue to hear big splashes from and about GM in 2008. Between the Chevy Volt, Malibu, Saturn Vue, Tahoe, Yukon, Escalade etc... GM has plenty of upcoming hybrid models. Although I'm not sold on how big an impact any of these models will make except for the Volt, but that won't be until 2010 at best.

The Chevy Malibu Hybrid is the latest hybrid from GM, but like the others from GM up to this point, the 'hybrid' value is very little. With a 2 mpg gain over it's gas only counterpart, it's a wonder that anyone will go for the hybrid option.

The Saturn Vue Hybrid will continue to be GM's testbed for hybrid engines. First outfitted with a mild hybrid engine, the Vue will get a dual-mode hybrid engine soon. After that, GM has promised it will also become a plug-in, but that's not for a few years.

2008 may be become the year of the big SUV hybrids, or it may be known as the year of the big sinking of hybrid SUVs. I'm unsure about how big a seller these oversized hybrids will be. So far, hybrid car buyers are older with more money to spend, but have also tended to emphasize the greenness of their vehicle. It's possible that the soon to be owners of the bigger SUVs are really feeling guilty about their purchases and will pay the extra to alleviate their guilt to maximize their fuel economy while still getting to drive 'what they want/need.' I don't see it, but the Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Highlander Hybrid sales have not been shabby. They've never taken off like the Prius has, but they have been a significant part of each models sales numbers.

Either way, GM has continued to aggressively pursue all the avenues they have to build a better car. And with the CAFE standards being upped over the next decade, they'll probably be glad they did.

The Others Including Daimler, Chrysler, BMW, Porsche, etc.. Hybrid Cars in 2008
GM co-developed the dual mode hybrid system with Daimler-Chrysler and BMW, so they also have oversized hybrids in the works. Although BMW may not have their hybrid on the road next year, expect the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid and Dodge Durango Hybrid in 2008. At 6,000 lbs and 385 hp, it's just hard to imagine how attractive they will be (as with the Yukon and Tahoe from GM) to the hybrid car marketplace. Again, I could be wrong, but I'm not expecting the dual mode hybrid system, despite the impressive gains in fuel economy (25%) to make a big impact. Only time will tell.

Other car makers are working to get hybrids of their own on the road. Kia and Hyundai have leased hybrid cars to their home nations government in ever growing numbers. Mitsubishi is still developing plug-in hybrid concepts and has a diesel hybrid truck in Japan. Mahindra is looking to bring a hybrid SUV to the US. Subaru is working on its own hybrid, but who knows when it will get here. Audi is looking to get the Hybrid Q7 on sale in 2009. Porsche may have a Hybrid Cayenne and a Panamera, but maybe it will arrive in 2009. Peugeot may have a hybrid diesel, the 308, in 2009. Lotus unveiled the concept Hybrid Proton Gen 2, but only as a demonstration vehicle. They hope to integrate their technology into other cars.

But in the end, most of these cars are either coming in 2009 (maybe?) or not at all.

BatteryLithium-Ion Batteries in 2008
Despite the hoopla from the auto manufacturers on how they are waiting for lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries to come through, 2008 should be a banner year in car battery development. Li-Ion batteries are just about there. Although they won't be appearing in hybrid cars in large numbers (just concept and testing vehicles) in 2008, expect them by late 2009/2010. And once they are out there, plug-in hybrid cars won't be far behind.

Diesels and Bio-Fuels
Diesels and bio-fuel vehicles (and E85, for that matter) remain the biggest competition for hybrid cars. But none of the others have really hit their stride, yet. Despite E85 vehicles being sold in record numbers, the availability of E85 is still severely limited, making their impact less than they could be. Diesels and bio-fuels suffer from a bad reputation and a lot of confusion, respectively. They also suffer because there are no major models being sold in the US. Diesels, I believe, may be the biggest competitor to hybrids in the near future. They are, of course, very popular in Europe, and banning any other bad news reports, will soon be available in larger numbers here. It should be interesting to see how they fare.

Hybrid Car Sales in 2008
So I expect the hybrid car marketplace in 2008 to look a lot like it did in 2007, albeit with a big jump up from GM. Toyota will continue to dominate, while Honda languishes until 2009 or 2010 with their new models. Nissan and Ford will continue with their steady sales with what they have. GM is the only player to see major changes in the early part of the year.

But all the carmakers will continue to benefit from the clear and easily understood relationship between gas prices and hybrid car sales. As gas prices continue to rise, the economic basis for buying a hybrid model will continue to grow. And even though they were already wrong for saying it, people will stop saying you can't make your money back by buying a hybrid.

More celebrities will drive hybrids (GM SUV Hybrids, to be exact) just so they can have the 'green' factor. This will also help to push hybrid car sales.

Given these influences, and since the loss of the federal tax credit for Toyota did nothing to slow them down, I expect another huge gain in hybrid car sales. With more models and higher gas prices pushing the market, it's clear that hybrids have gone mainstream and will continue to gain overall market share.

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1 comment:

alohanema said...


I've found a lot of interesting information about hybrid car. I'll come back.


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