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The Moment of Truth - A Crossroad for Hybrid Vehicles

Updated on December 2, 2018
jackclee lm profile image

Before retiring, Jack worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 120,000 views.


Just a few short years ago in 2011, the Chev. Volt was touted as the car of the future. It won awards for innovation and best car of the year...The hybrid technology has matured and it is economical and cost effective. The combined global sales was 134,500 units as of 2016. Yet, in 2018, it was announced by GM that they are terminating the production of this vehicle. What happened?

- Nov. 2018


It comes down to government regulations. Believe it or not, the survival of the hybrid was doomed due to its own success. When these vehicles were first to the scene, the incentive was it is good for the environment, reduce CO2 emmissions, and you get a tax credit from our government. The economics of owning a hybrid was sweetened by this tax rebate which amounted up to $7500. It was the good intention of our government to help a fledging industry and at the same time fight climate change. It is a win win scenario.

One small factor of this arrangement is that the tax credit would go away when the manufacture reaches a production level of 200,000 units. Once the tax incentive is reduced or goes away, the demand for these vehicles plumeted.

Other factors also are at play which was not anticipated by our government experts.

First, the advances made on all electric vehicles mainly battery technology has improved both in performance and lower cost.

Second, the fossil fuel industry has renewed supply and the cost of gasoline has remained stubbornly low by all estimates. This is due to fracking technology which allowed the oil drillers to reach new deposits of fossil fuel.

Third, the effects of climate change was exaggerated and over sold. In the past decade, we have seen a failure of dire predictions made back in 1990s. As it turned out, the experts were wrong about the devestating effect of climate change and the time frame. Miami did not fall into the sea as predicted by Al Gore in his award winning documentary.

What To Do Now?

Another little know fact about hybrid technology Is that it is under utilized. Several stories has surfaced that are disturbing to say the least. One police department in California has a fleet of electric vehicles sitting in the parking lot unused and collecting dust. It was a pilot program that allowed these cars to be donated to the department and as it turned out, they were incompatible with the daily usage of the officers. No one wanted to drive it.

Another story is about how some hybrid owners never bothered to charge the cars at night. They just drive it as a regular gas car, defeating the whole purpose.

In engineering, there is always trade offs. When you design a hybrid car, you are combining two different power sources, a gas engine and an electic motor. Anyway you divide this up, it means you will get the compromise of both technologies. It will also cost more to manufacture than either a gas car or an all electric car.

The success of the Tesla Model 3 was the last draw. It is the first mass produced all electric car that competes both in price and performance and driving range with the hybrids.

With the sunseting of the tax credits, no wonder GM decided to end this model 9 short years after its introduction.

Summary and Lessons Learned

This has happened before. We have gone down this path before with electic light bulbs. Our government has a poor record of choosing winners and losers. The hybrid vehicle is just another one. When will they learn? We cannot anticipate the future. These government incentives are just wrinkles in time. They distort the free enterprise system. A better technology will win out due to its own merit, and not because of these tax incentives or government mandates and regulations.

Come to think of it, the same logic against hybrid vehicles apply to all electric vehicles. Are we going to face another crossroad down the line? With EV?

© 2018 Jack Lee


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