Cars Research Part 1

I hate cars. But we’re planning to get one. We want to:

how electric

I spent a lot of time thinking about this. It feels like the main question when you’re car-buying in 2022, especially after incidentally reading people like Tim Bray.

  1. Fully electric cars are cool, of course. But, range anxiety. Regular trips to see family would be difficult; notably my sister who lives in Charlotte 1 and sister-in-law in New York 2.
  2. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are the next best. (imagine a Prius, but you plug it in overnight, then your first 25 miles are all-electric.) But! They would make our city driving basically all electric, and have almost no impact on our road trip driving, so the overall amount of gas saved is small 3.
  3. Hybrids are fine, sure.
  4. Non-hybrids don’t make any sense; why would you get one of those?

side note: gpm, not mpg

Miles per gallon is nonlinear and therefore deceptive. If you drive 1000 miles, trading a 10mpg car for a 20mpg one will save you 50 gallons, but going from 40 to 50mpg will only save you 5 gallons. Plus, nobody says “I’m gonna buy 3 gallons and see how far I get”; we pick where we want to go and then buy enough gas for the trip. So, we should instead report gallons per 1000 miles. Europe does this! Argh.

size/shape

4-seater but not too big. Hatchback/wagon shape is nice: as long as you’re taking up a given footprint on the ground, might as well make the most of it. I want to park easily in cities. But, it has to fit a family of (ideally, eventually) 4 plus our stuff.

reliability

is so important, geez I don’t want to think about this damn hunk of metal any more than I have to

awd?

It’s not safer, it just helps you get up snowy hills. Tires are more important. AWD is not necessary on-road in the continental US. It costs you a few mpg. I don’t know; it’s nice out west if you go skiing. And I have been spinning out on a hill before in Pittsburgh. But I think the thing to do is just not drive (and/or have snow tires) when it’s snowy, anyway.

of course I made a spreadsheet

here it is

given all that

Why would I not just buy a Prius? They seem to have reliability down pat, they’re the same price as all the comparables (Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Niro, Honda Insight), they have more the nice hatchback amount of storage space, everyone likes them.

Or a Prius Prime. The main tradeoff seems to be plug-in electric mileage vs. 7 cubic feet of trunk space.4

Here’s the call for help: tell me if I’m wrong. And/or, tell me how do I go from here to having a car. I am not looking forward to dealing with car dealers.


  1. From Pittsburgh to Charlotte goes right over WV. It’s almost possible, sort of, but once you filter out the L1-2 stations (you need L3 for a lunch-break-charge), there’s a big gap over WV. And even if WV had some stations, and if we had a car with a 200-mi range, that’s 2 charging stops. (you can charge to about 80% in 1/2 hr; so 200 + 160 + 160 = the 450-mi trip.) ↩︎

  2. That’s maybe a one-charge trip; you can probably make it to Harrisburg, with a half dozen L3s. Then I assume we’d park in NJ somewhere (?) and take the train in to NY, which makes the trip ~360 mi. Stretching it, but feasible. ↩︎

  3. Ignoring road trip mileage (as it would be mostly not-electric anyway), we’re looking at 1000-2000 city miles per year. At that rate, assuming a Prius has gas mileage of 50 mi/gal when using gas, we’d save about 20-40 gal/yr of gas. That’s $100-200 (minus the cost of electricity) and the plug-ins cost ~$2000 more; we would probably not be driving enough for the PHEV to make economic sense. Does it make environmental sense? Man, I don’t know, how do you weigh a bigger battery vs. less gas? That sounds complicated. ↩︎

  4. for comparison, a regular sedan like a Camry has 15 cu.ft.; the Prius Prime has 19, the regular Prius a whopping 27 ↩︎


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