ChevyVoltI read an article on Hybrid cars the other day and it’s pretty clear to me that the manufacturers of those cars could have a heyday with their MPG ratings. Watch a few commercials and you’ll see claims for 50MPG or more. The new Chevy Volt is touting 230MPG.

First of all, how do you give an electric car a MPG rating at all? It doesn’t take any gallons, unless you count windshield wiper fluid.

And a Hybrid, a car that runs on batteries, but turns on a gasoline (or other fuel) engine to run a generator and recharge the batteries when needed, has a MPG value that is completely dependent on the drivers habits. Stick close to home and take it easy and you’ll never use your gas at all. Have a lead foot, or a longer commute, and you’ll dip into the gas reserves. The Volt bases it’s claim on using no gasoline on city trips under 40 miles.

And that begets the question, which is more costly to use – your electricity to recharge the batteries, or the price of a gallon of gas?

A driver of a Hybrid that drives mostly on electric can boast of tremendous MPG, yet when he gets his electric bill what will be the impact? The only fair way to compare is to figure out the cost of operating the vehicle and figuring out the Dollar Per Mile value. It might be a decimal – or cents per mile – or it could be calculated to Dollars Per Hundred Miles, but either way, it would give a better measure of how efficient these Hybrid vehicles are.

Who knows? We might find out that they are not such a great deal. Add in the cost of replacing a battery bank when it wears out, and I think a lot of people might jump off the Hybrid bandwagon.

Electricity might be cheaper right now, too, but what will happen if the majority of drivers switched to Hybrids and began charging them in their homes? Would we have a electricity shortage? Would electric rates climb? Undoubtably. Look at what happens already during high peak times when there are brownouts: power companies put extra generating stations online. What do they run? Diesel fuel. They make a lot of power for a short period of time, but they are among the most costly and highest polluting sources of electricity. That’s why they only use them as a last resort.

If it’s not economical for the power companies to use a petrochemical fuel to generate electricity, then how can it be economical for the consumer to use electricity to replace gasoline? Gasoline is among the highest concentrated energy sources we have and replacing the gas tank with a heavy battery bank has to be less efficient as well.

Time will tell how successful the Hybrid cars are, but it would be a lot more truthful to rate them and compare them with conventional autos by a DPM measurement.

We definitely need to reduce foreign oil dependency and find alternatives to gasoline powered vehicles, but the final solution wont be easy or simple. Those who think an Electric-Hybrid vehicle is the solution may not have their heads up their asses, but, like the South Park episode, are sniffing their own farts.