Death of the Hybrid Vehicle: GM and Volkswagen Say Goodbye

-edited

GM and Volkswagen pulled the plug on hybrid cars. Ford and Toyota didn't.

Only 3% of sales are hybrids. Why bother?

With that hard to fault logic, GM and Volkswagen Pull the Plug on Hybrid Vehicles.

“If I had a dollar more to invest, would I spend it on a hybrid? Or would I spend it on the answer that we all know is going to happen, and get there faster and better than anybody else?” GM President Mark Reuss said in an interview.

GM’s view contrasts with other auto-making giants, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. which are working on full electrics but also expanding their U.S. hybrid offerings. The differing strategies show a division within the auto industry over what is the best path to full electrification, as manufacturers pivot from their more than century-old reliance on gas-powered vehicles.

Last week, Continental AG, one of the world’s biggest car-parts makers, said it would cut investment in conventional engine parts because of a faster-than-expected fall in demand—yet another sign the industry is accelerating the shift to electric vehicles.

Hybrids, which were popularized by Toyota’s Prius last decade as a social statement, accounted for about 3% of U.S. sales in 2018, according to research firm LMC Automotive.

Aggressively Chasing the 3% "Social Statement" Crowd

David Filipe, Ford’s head of powertrain engineering. “We’re going to be aggressively chasing this space of hybrids.”

How can aggressively chasing 3% of the market make any sense?

Hybrids never made any sense to begin with.

They appealed to yuppies who wanted to make it appear they were doing something for the environment without really doing a damn thing.

Car Engine Technology

Electric vehicles account for only 1% of the market,even less than hybrids, but eventually the market will be electric.

Our strong preference is to go all-in where the market is heading, as opposed to hybrids as a way to hedge our bets,” said Scott Keogh, VW’s U.S. chief.

In contrast, Bob Carter, Toyota’s sales chief for North America, said that with U.S. electric-vehicle sales expected to lag behind Europe and China, the company needs a nearer-term remedy. “That’s why we feel so confident in hybrids,” Mr. Carter said.

Confident of the need to compete for 3%?! For the near term? Why bother?

Three Electric Issues

  • Technology: Batteries technology needs more miles per charge and that will happen.
  • Cost: The battery cost needs to come down and it will.
  • Convenience: There need to be more charging stations and that will happen too.

A hybrid system can add roughly $2,000 to a vehicle’s cost, while a fully electric version costs an additional $6,000 to $10,000, said Alan Baum, an independent Detroit-area auto analyst.

The Big Bet

Toyota and Ford bet on Hybrids. GM and Volkswagen bet on Electric.

Ford should let Toyota have the whole market.

Once price, performance, convenience are good enough, mass adoption of electric will take off.

Time Frame?

I don't know, but I am sure it will happen.

Meanwhile, judging from 3% market penetration, the hybrid hedge offers too little improvement at too great a cost to bother with. That consumer choice seems rational to me.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (64)
No. 1-38
Gulliverfoyle
Gulliverfoyle

energy density

no matter what you do a golf cart cant compete with petrol/diesel

as you must carry the oxidizer with you

and are people gonna wait 30 min to charge? what are they gonna do just sit there?

sorry not buying it

the ICE is here to stay

as scotty would say

"Ya cannae change the laws of physics"

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett

Not anytime soon.

The oncoming recession will put the kibosh capex spending ... majorly. Collapse in oil won't help matters.

Oh, and that goes for autonomous vehicles, too.

BigGroundhog
BigGroundhog

I drive an electric car. It is much nicer than any gas car I've ever driven. Instant torque at any speed, fixed gear. Regen braking is similar (and better) than engine braking in a manual (which is the main reason I always preferred manuals). 250 mile range is good enough for me, I drive about 40 miles a day and generally my road trips are no longer than about 80 miles. I charge at work where the electricity is a notch cheaper than home. My fuel cost is 0.03 cents per mile or so. No oil changes, barely any scheduled maintenance (check battery, fill coolant, rotate tires).

davebarnes
davebarnes

ICE vehicles (except for some rare special cases) will be gone by 2050. Many families use one of their cars strictly for commuting <40 miles/day. Easily replaced by an EV.

Carlos_
Carlos_

Electrics will replace (outside the US) most ICE by 2030 or sooner. EU and China are going in that direction. Eventually they will put so punitive taxes on gasoline that electrics (or public transportation will prevail). For those who doubt here is this: "he technology Tesla acquires from Maxwell calls for a binding agent and a conductive agent to take the place of the solvent. And it’s this process that promises to get batteries to 300-watt-hours-per-kilogram of density. The same thousand-pound battery unit that delivers, say, 250 miles of driving pleasure could now go 375 miles, or you could stick with 250 miles and the battery weight could be reduced to around 600 pounds."

By 2021-2022 there will be electrics with a 375 miles reach (and that is the low end). The technology has the potential to increase density by more than 2.4x the initial rating .

RonJ
RonJ

"They appealed to yuppies who wanted to make it appear they were doing something for the environment without really doing a damn thing."

What is the carbon footprint of an electric car? What is the environmental damage produced by an electric car?

What does lithium mining look like?

We had this whole big recycling thing going on, but the trick of it was that recyclables were going to China for them to dispose of. Now they are saying no thanks and it is creating problems back in the U.S. as a result. Some is going to landfills and some community's are burning plastic recyclables, which is polluting the atmosphere.

Six000mileyear
Six000mileyear

The availability of charging stations will be limited by the power grid capacity to deliver energy. Electric car owners will need to be assessed a "power grid upgrade" fee, and it will be substantial.

Yancey_Ward
Yancey_Ward

I will just lay the marker down right now- in 2040, ICE cars will be still be the majority of cars sold. The same will be true in 2060 after I am dead.

thimk
thimk

@Gulliverfoyle - interesting diversional fun thought - Star Trek's engines were powered by
"DI-LITHIUM CRYSTALS".

Computer_Expert
Computer_Expert

My 2¢? First, I am not an enviro-weenie. All things considered, I'd rather have a Lincoln Navigator, with a diesel engine, with all the bells and whistles. My requirements are plenty of room, comfort, a killer sound system and climate control for the environment and seats. Four wheel drive or all wheel drive, is also a requirement.

Ford Motor Company has been jerking their customer base, since 2011, by promising a release of the hybrid Navigator. Hell, I'd take an Expedition or Explorer. No dice. I got stuck with the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. It was a decent car, but I needed more. Did my research and actually find a Hybrid, which I love, the Toyota Highlander. V-6 engine, AWD, great environmental system and a smooth ride. Frankly, Lexus screwed-up by not making a model, with similar capabilities.

The one thing I hate about hybrids, is the lack of headroom, getting into the vehicle. At least the Highlander has plenty of space, for a man if my height.

Now, I am far from being part of the 3%, but I do like the pick-up, interior room and the gas mileage, that comes with a hybrid.

What I can't stand is these pussy Prius drivers, who do 35 mph, in the HOV lane, when the speed limit is 65 mph and there is a mile and a half of space, between there car and the one in front of them!!!

2banana
2banana

Amazing.

No politicians picking winners and loser and using billions in taxpayer dollars.

No massive energy credits to distort the market.

Let companies roll out new products and let consumers decide what they want.

Better products, more affordable and no loss of billions in taxpayer dollars.

Now - maybe to try with mortgages, higher education and health care.

ggmeade
ggmeade

I loved my new ’68 ‘Cuda Formula ‘S’ 383 automatic fastback. Mid 15’s ¼ mi. (showroom stock & street tires), A practical, quick, fun car – but only 8 (or less) mpg. My Volt fastback is faster in the qtr. mi.; has more overall interior space including headroom and legroom (front and rear) and I average overall 200+ mpg! What’s not to like about a hybrid. The torque & power in my Hybrid Yukon Denali is also amazing when you floor it and the dual electric motors kick in – especially comforting when passing on a 2 lane highway towing my boat. The hybrid Denali saves me 7-8 mpg over my previous Denalis. Denali & Volt - lotsa torque & fun to drive. What’s not to like? Oh yeah and a middle finger salute to OPEC and big oil. GM, you quit to soon!

Sechel
Sechel

I never quite understood the hybrid myself. The extra cost never seemed to make sense compared to the gasoline engine and always seemed like a half step. It's clear electric is where we are headed the only question is timing. Where I differ is that since electric vehicles are inherently different and simpler than gasoline powered vehicles I suspect that new firms will come in and that the old firms like GM and Ford probably won't survive the transition much like horse carriage companies never became successful automobile manufacturers.

caradoc-again
caradoc-again

Dirty generation = dirty electric vehicle.

Total C02 over life, and environmental damage, can be large whereas oil is a sunk cost.

Now concerns over child labour for cobalt etc.

Local grid can become unbalanced.

I hope VW get a kicking.

bradw2k
bradw2k

Just rode in a Lyft, a brand new Hyundai hybrid. Asked him why he didn't get a full electric. His answer: as soon as the juice runs out he'd have to stop working to take a charge. No such downtime in a hybrid.

Hybrids still make sense today in many contexts (well, to the extent that gas is relatively expensive -- which it isn't). And 3% of a huge market is a lot of dough. Not so straightforward to walk away from it.

Liberaldisdain
Liberaldisdain

Time Frame?

I don't know, but I am sure it will happen.

Sound advice.......

DCPinOR
DCPinOR

Yes, hybrids are a bit of a mashup, since they have both an ICE and an electric motor or two, but they are a good bridge to the "pure" EV future In the medium term, until the issues with longish electric vehicle charging times and weak infrastructure are improved, hybrids and plug-in hybrids actually make a lot of sense. They provide much better fuel economy than conventional ICEs, and are fun to drive, with many of the features of EVs (good acceleration, relatively quiet, etc). They are particularly attractive to apartment and city dwellers who do not have ready access to a charging outlet where they park their car. I've driven hybrid and PHEV vehicles for the last 5 years and I have really loved them. I'm not willing to get an EV yet because I only need a single vehicle and I do take long road trips several times each year. Even if I were to get a Tesla, their network doesn't cover where I want to go. Once that situation changes, then I will likely consider an EV, but I think that will take several more years, especially for non-Tesla EVs.

mwr
mwr

Hybrids never made any sense to begin with. They appealed to yuppies who wanted to make it appear they were doing something for the environment without really doing a damn thing.<

I couldn't disagree more. My 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid is a great mid-size sedan and always gets mpg in the 40s. The Prius is smaller with mpg in the 50s. That makes great sense to me.

FelixMish
FelixMish

In the same way that hybrids make sense, might it make sense to use fixed-location, ICE generators instead of carting a generator around with the car? A car-carried generator will never be inherently cheaper than a fixed-location generator.

Anyway, as others have noted, the cost of an ICE must include the "middle-east" cost. Not that batteries won't have a middle-east cost, but their costs of that sort are out of sight, out of mind. For the moment.

Roanman
Roanman

Hybrid and total electric are far from mutually exclusive paths. When cars are all electric, Toyota will have a superior electric vehicle just as certainly as their gas powered vehicles kick Cadillac ass.

Having owned a bunch of cars from both companies you I can tell you without a doubt that Toyota builds vastly superior products, There is no reason to think GM is gonna get this right.

Betting on Toyota and against GM has been good business for ... every bit of 40 years now. GM is as badly run now as it was pre bankruptcy. I'll be buying a Lexus ES 300h next, and I'm the furthest thing from a yuppie.

JJKthree
JJKthree

I, waiting for the revival of the steam engine

Aaaal
Aaaal

I will ALWAYS bet against GM's incompetence & mismanagement. Phucktards should pay taxpayers back for their bailout with interest. You too, FCA & asshole banks!

jivefive99
jivefive99

Two things .. 1) I know for a time you believed in peak oil --- so if oil is finite and there is no vehicle available that runs on electricity, what do we drive then? Yes, the oil isnt becoming as scarce as fast as we thought it would (conventional oil production did peak and plateau in 2005) , but its gonna happen and 2) your two hybrid diagrams above are incorrect in that the Chevy Volt runs on electricity 100% of the time, either provided by battery or electricity generated by the engine. The engine at no time directly pushes the Volt forward. The diagrams dont reflect that.

RogerBoston
RogerBoston

With electric price over 22¢/kwh, I won't buy an EV. I believe GM will go bankrupt without hybrid. Don't bail it out again.

Webej
Webej

Outside the USA the economics are different. We are paying around $7.20/gallon. For most car users, more than 80% of their trips are <36 miles. This means they can get most of that mileage at less than half of the cost of gasoline from their plug-in hybrid. For longer trips they switch to gasoline. Hybrids also gain efficiency by using the converting braking energy back into charging, which in city driving can be more than a marginal gain.

Government here wants to support the hybrid as an interim solution. The problem with tax rebates on hybrids has been that too many people (especially with leasing and business car constructions) bought the car for the rebates with no intention of plugging them in, reason why the rebates were eliminated.

It's not just about CO². Oil is an import, whereas electricity is increasingly renewable but also a lot of gas (not imported). Many cities have problems with exceeding legal particulate concentrations, necessitating extra speed limits on ring roads and highways, and hybrids can help with the pollution problems.

Sechel
Sechel

Those hybrids are usually large vehicles. A cheaper solution would be for the average driver to simply downsize to a smaller vehicle

Sechel
Sechel

it took about 23 years to transition from horse drawn carriages to automobiles. at first there were no gas stations. we will all drive electric cars and it will not take as long as the nay sayers say. a lot of money and talent is going into this. we already have the tesla which people like. future efforts can only be more successful

Ken obd2
Ken obd2

Lesson , 14.7:1 ratio oxygen molecules to petrol molecule. Every one molecule of fuel needs about 15 molecules of O2 to burn perfectly. Not atmosphere, oxygen,which only makes up a small percentage of our atmosphere (which is mostly nitrogen ,plastic molecules , * air pollution and water vapor and than some O2). So a 5.0L engine burns 5liters of atmosphere thousands of times a minute. Engine size isn't just about how big pistons or how many or how large the cylinders are... It all comes down to thousands of gallons of air times millions of cars trucks boats planes all pumping in our air and pumping out pollution. So yes 3% each year is saving us way more gallons/litres of O2 than fuel . So every time the hybrid electric motors assist the "ICE" , everyone benefits, not just the yuppie who is saving money not buying fuel , Evey hybrid owner is a benefit to me and you , even if it's 2 litres at a time . Just so we are clear it's not really a gas pedal anymore it's a large valve that flows the very air we breath into and out if the ICE. EXCEPT OF COURSE ITS NO LONGER BREATHABLE OXYGEN. Four cycles for an engine to spin , it's only the third cycle when fuel gets squirting, and that's only for a few milliseconds each third cycle . So think as the gas pedal as a GIANT air valve the more you push the more air for the ICE means less air for us. Think about it

Telenochek82
Telenochek82

Toyota Prius with 50MPG offers one of the lowest total ownership costs over a 5-10 year period, especially if you purchase the lowest trim (e.g. Prius One). It's a winner.

Stuki
Stuki

Hey. Dumb, dumber and their bailed out uncle being unable to profitably build hybrids must surely mean they make no sense..........

Never mind Toyota begging to differ.......

Back in the real world, the reason the second tier outfits don’t build hybrids, nor increasingly ICEs, is not that they can more profitably build BEVs. Instead, they can’t build those profitably either. In fact, they are increasingly unable to build anything profitably across a full business cycle.

So, being too incompetent to do the difficult work of profitably building anything of any level of complexity, they instead focus on what they can do: Build mindless, childish hype that they can sell to equally incompetent idiots on Fed welfare, in the form of simple paper that any three year old could replicate without much effort.

If you can’t sell anything useful, all you’re stuck peddling is empty promises of all the great stuff you’re going to do some other day, in the future... Just give me the money now!!!!... and I promise to make, like, Hope and Change, like, Great Again!!!!

LastNexus
LastNexus

Unless you drive an electric and have experience the panic when you don't have enough charge to make it home and all the available charging stations are occupied, you won't understand why a plug-in hybrid makes sense. Long driving vacations are something we do, but we take the hybrid, not the electric.

El Capitano
El Capitano

I own a hybrid. I didn't do it to be green. I did it because the price on used Chevy volts was so damned low that it made no sense not to get one given that the 35+ mile battery range was a useful feature for my lifestyle. The volt is appointed like any other small car, Chevy Cruz for example. So its a small car but not a punishment car by any means. And it doesn't look nerdy like the Prius. Liberals who bought these Volts back in 2013 gladly paid $42k because they had to have all the bells and whistles too, so leather seats are not hard to find in the bargain bin. I never found a liberal who wouldn't overpay in order to get a subsidy. Something for nothing is the liberal mantra even if they are getting screwed in the deal.

Additionally, Chevy learned from the mistakes that Nissan made regarding battery management, especially battery cooling (Tesla does cooling very well too). Nissan's battery longevity problems are well known to the EV crowd. As a result of proper lithium battery cooling and overall management, my 2013 Volt still puts out the rated 10.5 kWh per charge that it did new (the 14kWh rating listed on the sticker did not tell buyers that only 10.5kWh were usable, the remainder is kept unused in order to help the battery life).

The value prop for my 2013 volt was massive. I paid $13500 for it with 29k miles on it and all the optional equipment. There's not a ding on it and only very miner scratching in some places. The leather looks perfect and it has pretty good power. And half my commute each day is done on battery so I am getting 2x the mpg vs gas only. But I have no range limit on gas, and some of my Tesla-toting friends have found themselves screwed before because of not keeping close enough tabs on the battery.

But none of this tells the full tale for hybrid and in fact I did not understand this until I owned a hybrid because for some reason few even mention it, but one of the big values of hybrid is how smooth the power is. The electric motors are always driving the wheels and the motor is, for most intents and purposes, just an onboard generator.

You put it in sport mode and stomp the accelerator and the electric motor puts out instant torque. If running at highway speed and you want to pass, you stomp the accelerator and instead of the rough down shift and engine rapping out to 5k RPM, you just get a very nice smooth pull out of the propulsion system. Modern cars try to make up for that experience with 5,6 7 and yes even 8 speed trannies, but at what ultimate price to reliability? I drove the chevy malibu and impala and their engines sound like a tin can full of rocks. I don't see them lasting 200k miles like my old 5.3 easily did (and past) in my silverado truck.

msurkan
msurkan

I love the used Nissan Leaf I bought used for $10,000 four years ago. It does great on my 15 mile daily commute (30 miles round trip), and is fully charged on the 110V trickle charge overnight. I only rarely have used my wife’s combustion engine car for longer trips. I have only used a third party charging station twice in the four years I’ve had the car.

My wife is now planning on selling her combustion engine compact car and getting a used Chevy Bolt. She only drives more than 100 miles in a day a few times a month and the 110V trickle charge at home will work just fine for that. It’s fine if the car isn’t completely charged to full capacity in a single night. She can wait for several days to reach a full charge capacity.

We will just rent a combustion engine vehicle for the one or two road trips we take each year.

TCW
TCW

I believe to make electric more practical, the battery size should be standardized between all makes so to facilitate a quick swap. Pull into a charging station and your battery is replaced with one with a full charge in a minutes time.

HEV
HEV

I disagree with your article. Lets look at some facts using a 2019 Camry as an example:

  1. A standard ICE engine averages 34-mpg, while a hybrid averages 52-mpg.
  2. AAA research says that average miles driven per year is 13,476
  3. Polk dats says drivers keep a vehicle an average of 11.4 years.
  4. On average, a driver will keep a vehicle 153,626 miles
  5. AAA says the current national average for gas in the US is $2.591 per gallon. Over the course of the miles above, and ICE engine will use $11,706 vs the hybrid at $7,654...a $4,053 difference.
  6. You said hybrids cost an average $2,000 more...so buy buying the hybrid you will save $2,053 over the course of owning the vehicle.

Now, on electrics you state they cost about $6,000 to $10,000 more...so lets spilt the difference at $8,000 premium...you will still save over $3,000 in ownership. If the cost of charging is factored in, the margin is less but still worthwhile and preserves the environment.

I do agree EV's have a way to go to bring the battery cost down and extend the range, but clearly are a better investment for around the town driving.

But, hybrids are the logical step to take for Toyota and Ford...and GM will once again be left in the dust by taking a hard stand towards change.

davefromdenver
davefromdenver

Am I hearing people say: Buy Tesla.... And yes it will happen, but then the Dow will also hit 100,000. Just not soon enough to make a bet on it.

Barnaby33
Barnaby33

Interesting how full electric BEV's with petrol powered range extenders never get much attention. Imagine if you could have a suitcase sized rotary engine that could burn whatever fuel was cheapest when you couldn't plugin, but got the simplicity and reliability and torque of an electric too!