The Art of Hybrid Car Maintenance

Had to take a cab. I try not to take them in Chicago since they charge $1.50 just to sit in the cab for the fuel surcharge. Sometimes you learn some interesting stuff from cabbies. They tend to know a bit about cars. In Chicago, they tried to sell the cab fleets those wonderful London cabs. But, the city of Chicago stopped it with an ordinance. The cab couldn’t have a manual lift, it had to have an electronic one. It added $10,000 to the cost of the vehicle.  Secretly, I just think the alderman were in cahoots with Government General Motors ($GM).

The London cabs were diesel cabs. Diesel is a better engine for a fleet, and easier on the environment since it gets a lot better gas mileage, 21 mpg with diesel in the city.  Plus with the availability of clean diesel fuel, and bluetec engines, pollution is no longer a concern.

Some of the cab companies looked at hybrids. But they found the cost of the hybrid was so expensive, it made better sense to buy a gas burning car and pay higher gas prices. They figure that they can keep a car 4-5 years. They also found the maintenance costs on hybrids were very expensive. No private mechanics were working on hybrids, so they were stuck going to a very expensive dealer.   It’s not just a simple brake job or air conditioning job with a hybrid.  It’s very technical, and the average mechanic shop can’t afford all the equipment to take care of them adequately.

Interesting strategically that Toyota is pushing hybrids. They are making more on the sale of the car, and get a captive group for maintenance. Smart strategy.  The hybrid of choice for cabbies is the  Ford Escape. ($F)

The cabbie also said the learning curve on driving a hybrid is high. The cab companies in Chicago only allow one driver to drive each hybrid. No car sharing. They found if they rotate drivers, the maintenance skyrocketed out of control. They also found that if you run out of juice for some reason, it’s game over. No jumping a hybrid. You have to get it towed to the dealer.  This increases the fixed costs of the cab company, but to the home user you should expect a learning curve on driving.

The more I learn about all these things, the more I become convinced that the way forward is clean diesel ($CL_F), and converting big fleets to natural gas.

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