Last week, I wrote a column in which I asserted – with a straight face – that hybrid cars are better than diesels. Naturally, this touched off a firestorm of angry responses, ranging from mild criticism ("DeMuro, you are the worst person alive") to slight hostility ("DeMuro, I'm going to boil your skull in a steaming vat of diesel fuel"). I read each and every comment, just like I always do, and then afterwards I turned on my home alarm system.
But as I looked through the comments, I discovered something even more jarring than all the anger: I found ignorance. Yes, that's right: I'm talking about pure, unadulterated ignorance; the kind you might get from a columnist who insults an entire US state without taking into account things like its breathtaking beauty, its excellent natural resources, its high number of registered gun owners, etc.
This ignorance, I am ashamed to say, was about hybrid cars. You see, it seems that us Jalops are not especially knowledgeable when it comes to these vehicles. And by "not especially knowledgeable," what I mean, more precisely, is that we know literally nothing. Asking one of us about hybrid cars has roughly the same effect as asking a camel about DVD players: you won't learn anything useful, and you might get spit on.
This was proven early on in the comments, when it was asserted – by more than one reader – that the batteries in hybrid cars must be replaced "every 3 to 5 years" at a cost of "around $10,000." As a former owner of the hybrid car shown above, I can assure you that this sort of misinformation is simply not true. So I've decided to create a little Hybrid Car Q&A, where I take all of today's most common hybrid-related questions and answer them in a factual, truthful manner with absolutely no lies or trickery. That way, we can all learn something. Here goes:
Q: What is a hybrid?
A: A hybrid is any car, truck, or SUV that is a combination of two things. For example: when you take a pickup truck and turn it into a homecoming parade float, then it becomes a hybrid, because it is both a) a pickup truck, and b) transportation for drunken fraternity brothers. In this same way, the Toyota Prius is a hybrid, because it is both a) ugly, and b) slow.
Q: So is the Honda CR-V a hybrid?
A: No, because it is only one thing: dull.
Q: Are all hybrids slow?
A: Absolutely not! There are many fast hybrids, including the Ferrari LaFerrari, the Porsche LaPorsche, and that McLaren that looks like all the other McLarens, but costs way more. But you don't need to spend an arm and a leg to get a fast hybrid. In fact, you don't even need to spend a spleen and a butt cheek. All you need to do is take a Honda Insight and send it into orbit using a very large catapult.
Q: Do you have to be stupid to buy a hybrid?
Absolutely not! According to one of my favorite websites, CelebrityCarsBlog.com, many of our favorite Hollywood celebrities drive hybrids, and we know these people aren't stupid because they often take on highly technical, difficult roles. For example: Ryan Philippe drives a Highlander Hybrid, despite being very convincingly murdered in that movie where Jennifer Love Hewitt runs around showing off her breasts and screaming.
But forget about Hollywood. I'm certain you don't have to be stupid to buy a hybrid because I personally owned a hybrid for a short period of time last year. It's the one in the picture you see above. What happened was, a friend of mine was moving to Manhattan, so he needed to get rid of his car. And I agreed to buy it, even though it had been slightly dented in what I can only assume was a low-speed, innocuous, very minor, almost inconsequential fender bender, presumably with a train.
Anyway: I really enjoyed my hybrid, especially the part where I sold it to some college kid in Kentucky and made $500. So the answer is you don't have to be stupid to buy a hybrid, especially if you're taking advantage of a desperate friend who needs to sell one right away.
Q: So how often DO the batteries die?
A: Hybrid car batteries can last between 10 and 15 years, depending on whether I believe the person I'm arguing with will actually research the facts. But here's the good news: once they go out, all you have to do is just get the car on a lift, pop out the old battery, and stick in a few Energizer Double As. This will last you for another 10 years.
Q: Is that true?
Q: Are you still thinking about Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts?
Q: How much does a battery replacement cost?
A: I like you, so I'm going to level with you: it isn't cheap. You can buy a remanufactured battery for like $1,500, but then the problem is that you have to find someone who will put it in for you. How does that work? I have no idea. Maybe it's like your television remote control, where you just slide off a little plastic cover and put the positive side on the positive terminal and the negative side on one of those little springs.
Now, if you go to the dealer, it's going to be a little more expensive. The battery in my Prius failed before I got it, at around ten years and 120,000 miles, and my friend spent about $3,000 at a Toyota dealer to replace it. But this doesn't strike me as that much money, largely because he was also considering a Subaru. Had he gone through with that plan, he would've been on his 19th head gasket at the same mileage.
Q: Seriously, what the hell happened to that Prius in the photo?
A: I don't know. What I do know is that each time it rained, water would collect in the trunk. I didn't disclose this fact to the person who bought it, though I ran the Carfax months later and it turns out that he totaled it less than two weeks after he drove it home. So I don't think he ever found out.
Q: Maybe he drowned in the rain water.
A: That isn't a question.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.