Hybrid Cars

Parent Q&A

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  • Electrician for hybrid car plug-in

    (2 replies)

    Recently moved to Berkeley and have a 5 week old who strongly prefers sleeping in the car seat. Seems it’s high time we get an outlet rigged up to the driveway so we can finally charge our hybrid plug-in car everyday for these nap trips.

    Does anyone have an electrician they can refer us to? Would be a pretty small job - i.e. just need to add a normal 120v outlet for Level 1 charging. We haven’t been able to find someone who’s available for this locally yet. Recs welcome!

    Thanks! Cessi and Jae

    Guerreros electric is honest and reliable. If you buy all the parts they will just charge for labor.

    Hi there,

    I just added a 120v to our garage in Berkeley for my Nissan leaf. It definitely makes life so much easier to charge at home.

    I design ADU's and the electrician that does all electrical work on our ADUs  also does small electrical jobs on weekends.  He's wonderful and very responsible.

    His name is Jorge and his cell is (510) 982-5007‬.  Should be a one day job. Welcome to Berkeley and best of luck w/ car riding baby.

  • We just bought a plug in hybrid Minivan. We'd like to use it in Electric mode as much as we can because of the environmental benefits, and while I know there are public charging stations none are close by or are practical for frequent charging.

    We live in North Oakland and don't have a driveway. We do have a curb cut, and the city has said we can post No parking there and use it ourselves. I knew one couple who lived in more residential area and would simply run an extension cord out to their Volt, and then eventually put in a conduit for the cord. We live where there is a reasonable amount of foot traffic, and don't want to cause a problem for passing pedestrians and strollers etc. So I'm trying to figure out if we could do something like that. 

    Has anyone else dealt with this? Any ideas?

    we have friends who do it like that and have a few door mats on the sidewalk to cover up the extension cord that goes out to the curb.  thats it!

    Maybe you can install some kind of box in the parking strip and run a cord under the sidewalk to the box. 

    While I can't answer your specific question about charging at home, I bet you can find charging stations near your errands or other places you go on a regular basis (park, school, work). The super speedy kind IS super speedy, so you could get a full charge in 30 minutes. If you just charge up as much as you can wherever you go, you can probably keep it charged without worrying about doing it at home.

    I have an app on my phone to find charging stations which works great (sorry the specific app I have came with my Nissan Leaf but you'll be able to find one!). 

    Hi, there. I bought a plug-in hybrid last month, and I'm writing to share a couple of important points about this: 1. When I bought the car, I didn't have an outlet for it yet. My owner's manual told me not to use an extension cord, ever, and to install a dedicated circuit for the plug. I had few options the first few days, so I used an extension cord to a circuit which wasn't in heavy use. But I could tell right away that this was a bad idea! The plug was immediately hot to the touch, making me very nervous about overloading the wiring. I installed a heavy-duty, dedicated, exterior outlet on its own circuit in our driveway within a few days. 2. Security: I saw a post on NextDoor about someone's charger getting stolen. The dealer told me that my charger would cost $1000 to replace, and I was very concerned. The modern plug-ins typically have a lock-on feature on the car, but it's not intended for security - it's intended to keep bad-behaving folks at public chargers from unplugging you and poaching the spot. Less than a month in, with the car parked in my driveway, I came out to find someone had tried to steal the charger during the night. The lock-on feature had kept them from poaching it, but I think it wouldn't be too hard to do damage in the process of stealing the charger; I added a padlock to the outlet cover. 3. In Berkeley, the city allows folks to install dedicated chargers at the curb if they lack a driveway. (You keep it locked, and for your own use, but someone might park in your spot.) I imagine it's super pricey, but it would be good to know if that's an option.  Best of luck!

    We don't have a driveway either, but we do have a garage. Worth cleaning it out so you can fit the car in and charge safely and securely! 

  • Do you have a Chevy Volt?

    (5 replies)

    We leased a brand new Chevy Volt early this month.  After nine days the LCD computer screen failed.  I'm  wondering if getting the Volt was a big mistake and if something on the car is always going to be breaking.

    Anyone else have Volt?  Is it breaking all of the time?  Seems like a nice car and maybe this was a defective product.  But then I remember just how horrible GM cars were in the past.  They were made so poorly something was always breaking on it.

    Anyone else having problems with their Volt?   Hope it wasn't a mistake getting it.

    We have had our 2016 Volt for about a year and a half and LOVE it. In general, we've found it a very reliable car. The only significant issue we've had is with the quality of the original tires; my husband got two flats in 10 days last summer, at which point we opted to just replace all tires. Google suggests that this is not an uncommon problem (and a little more complicated w/any electric car due to the lack of a spare & need for a flatbed tow). I'd call your dealer; we were having a problem when we bought our car w/a leaky windshield wiper fluid receptacle and they replaced it free of charge. 

    We have bought a Volt in September.  The screen did fail once, on the weekend.  We were going to take it in, but it had fixed itself by Monday morning.  So yes, the screen did fail once, but then fixed itself.  (We had one other minor problem, which was fixed under the warranty.)

    In general, we like the car and haven't had any other problems in seven months.  I love not going to the gas station, and I find the car very comfortable.  

    We bought a Volt in September 2016.  We did have the screen fail once, on a weekend, but after driving it several times, it had fixed itself by Sunday evening, so we didn't end up taking the car in.  We did have one problem, which was fixed under the warranty.  In general, we like the car.  Just a perspective from seven months in.

    I got a 2017 Volt over Labor Day, and so far no problems at all. I love it. Sorry you are having issues.

    We leased a Volt for three years, just returned it last year.  It was a great car.  Really.  FWIW:  We replaced it with a Spark EV and the screen died on it recently.  FIxed on warranty and we are good to go.   There may be a glitch in the new screen/audio system in the new electric cars.  But I wouldn't let it send you into a panic about the car generally.  

  • Want to lease a Chevrolet EV Spark

    (1 reply)


    I want to lease a Chevrolet EV Spark and I am searching for a good dealer in the Bay. Any recommendations?

    We just bought a Volt from the Novato Chevy dealership - we shopped around and they were able to offer the best price by a significant amount. Signing the paperwork and picking up the car was also pretty painless - pleasant people, no real attempts to upsell, and we were in and out quickly. So, I don't have any experience leasing from them, but I would assume some of the positive aspects of buying would translate!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Are hybrids economical?

Feb 2005

I'm fairly convinced that if you need a smallish, not fancy 4- door these days, the hybrids are the way to go, but my skeptical husband is opposed because he says they are significantly more costly, even over the long run, than a basic Honda Civic. He hasn't done the research, though, and I'm not sure I have time to before his current car breaks down for good... Has anyone out there done the math to see whether a Prius or HOnda hybrid is ''worth it'' economically, given that gas is surely going to be well over $2 a gallon going forward (or know of a website that answers this question)? (Of course, I think the hybrids are worth it environmentally, but that's not going to convince him...) Are there tax advantages or state rebates or anything like that to offset the higher cost of the car up front? Thanks for any guidance that might convince a skeptic to go green (or greener)! raissa

Currently, the IRS offers tax incentives for hybrids. According to hybridcars.com: If you buy a hybrid vehicle in 2004 or 2005, you can claim a $2,000 one-time deduction on your 2004 or 2005 tax returns. The deduction will drop to $500 in 2006.

Because the tax break is a deduction, its value varies, depending on your tax bracket. If you're in the 33% tax bracket, a $2,000 deduction will reduce your tax bill by as much as $600. If you're in the 15% tax bracket, it could be worth $300.

* You don't have to itemize. Instead, you should claim it as an adjustment to your income. Record the deduction at the bottom of your Form 1040, and write \x93clean fuel\x94 on the dotted line.

* The deduction is limited to vehicles that have been certified by the IRS. So far, the IRS has certified the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight, and Honda Civic Hybrid. R.K.

My husband and I bought a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid in November 2003, and we have been very pleased with it. However, I don't think there are financial or environmental advantages.

When we bought it, a Hybrid was about $10K more expensive than a regular Civic, and that's a big difference to make up just through gas money (especially because I suspect service will be more expensive throughout the life of the car). As far as environmental impact, yes, I have gotten an average of 45 mpg, but you'll find you get stellar gas mileage and responsible levels of emissions with *any* small Honda. (My husband's '94 Honda Civic hatchback still gets about 40 mpg.)

As a driver, I find the car very comfortable and well-equipped (although perhaps I think this because I never before had a car with automatic windows or climate control). The back seat is not painful, although certainly not generous in size, and thanks to the electric battery, the trunk is *very* small. It doesn't have the acceleration at high speeds that a sportier car would, but it is still nimble and I don't feel unsafe. We chose a manual transmission, and it has that nice Honda pick-up in low gears. It's fun to drive.

There used to be a federal tax break for buying a clean-air vehicle, but guess which president eliminated it? We just slipped in under the wire by buying in 2003. There are no other governmental advantages that I know of (our governor hasn't yet passed the law that allows hybrids to always use the carpool lane).

So why *did* we buy a Hybrid? We bought with our hearts, and to send the world a message, and because it just seemed less boring than a regular Civic. If you just want to be environmentally responsible and save money, you can achieve that with an ordinary small sedan. On the other hand, I do still enjoy my choice as a symbolic vote for the environment.
Green Machine

On the economics of owning a hybrid, aside from the mileage: if you own a qualifying vehicle (like a Prius), you can go to the DMV and get a decal that will let you use the car pool lane no matter how many passengers you are carrying.

There is a tax credit of $2000 the year you buy the hybrid, I think it is on federal tax. anne

I've been driving my Honda hybrid since they first came out, three years ago. I love it! It's very comfortable, gets great mileage, and hasn't had any service needs other than routine tune-ups.

On long trips, it can get 50 mph. Around the city, I find that I get between 32 and 39 mph, depending on various factors.

I test drove the Prius, and for someone as short as I am (5'1''), it had some problems. Most notably, if I had the seat forward enough to drive comfortably, then the left side of the touch screen monitor in the dash was cut off from my view. I also found that too gimicky for my taste. The honda is exactly like your standard civic, except for the hybrid nature of the workings.

In short, I'm thrilled with the Honda and believe we've gotten excellent value for it -- both in gas costs and repairs.

Good luck in making your decision. Laurel

I bought a Civic hybrid in August and absolutely love it. I commute from El Cerrito to Mtn. View several times a week and during these commutes I routinely get 50+ mpg. When I mix city and commute driving I still get in the upper 40s (I have a manual transmission). The Civic is comfortable, quiet and has decent power, though it does require downshifting for fast accelleration. And to top it off, I got a $2000 tax deduction for buying it! You might want to also consider Honda's forthcoming Accord hybrid. Patrick

Buying a Honda Civic Hybrid

April 2004

If you have bought a 2003 or 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid, would you please tell me where you bought it and how much you paid? I'm almost sure we want to buy this car (with a manual transmission) but am intimidated by buying a new car from a dealer, and there aren't many used hybrids out there. I have tried to do research online (autobytel, edmunds, consumer reports, kelly blue book, and fighting chance) but am not having much success figuring out what a fair price would be. Thanks! Afraid to Haggle

We bought a Civic Hybrid m/t in 2003, and we absolutely love it. We went to Oakland Honda, got a quote from them online, and worked directly with their internet sales guy, a fellow name Jeffrey Berchenko. He was really nice, and it was a lot better than we had expected, but I think buying a car from a dealer always leaves you wanting to take a shower afterwards! Getting the quote online sped things up tremendously. I think we went to cars.com or edmunds.com or perhaps even directly to oakland honda (don't remember if they have a website). But get a quote before you go in. And then ask for $500 less than the quote. I don't remember the final numbers anymore, but that's what we ended up doing, and we told them that our friends bought the same car for the price we were asking (which was true) and they finally met us more than halfway. We didn't score a huge deal, but we didn't feel like we were fleeced either. We were done within 2 hours. Feel free to contact us if you want more info. BTW - it's a great car. We have a 7-month old, and it's worked just perfectly for us. It has a gas mileage meter which tends to be overly optimistic (47.3 mpg over 9000 miles), but actual gas mileage has been more like 44 mpg, which is still pretty darn good! Anand

We bought our 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid last summer from Honda of Oakland (and we love her). A manual transmission, such as you want, would probably cost less than our automatic. We paid $18,930.00 for the car itself (which included the transport fee that gets tacked on to new cars), $45.00 ''document preparation,'' $1565.00 tax, $168.00 license fees, and $5.00 California tire fee, for a grand total of $20713, which met our goal of getting out the door for less than $21k. We didn't buy extras, such as an alarm system or all the junk (e.g., upholstery treatment) they try to sell you at end.

Many auto dealers are less than truthful about what an amazing deal they're ''giving'' you and most have their scenarios carefully worked out, so don't be afraid to stand up for yourself. You WILL get the car of your choice if you hang in there. Tell them what you're looking for and what you want to pay, and don't hesitate to walk out the door and back to your old car if you don't get it, even if you're being told that this is the last Honda Hybrid in Northern California or some other doubtful story. In fact, if you're buying the car with a spouse or partner or whomever, it's wise to work out your own scenario, such as a prearranged sign or glance that means, ''Let's leave right now.'' Salespeople can recognize a decisive consumer and they want their commission, so make them earn it. Melanie

Considering buying a hybrid

June 2004

I'm considering buying a hybrid car and am wondering if anyone has bought outside of CA in order to get it faster? Any idea how long the wait is here and whether there is any negotiating on price? Thanks all! jennifer

With all the talk about the trendy Toyota Prius, it seems no one remembers that Honda makes a hybrid car too. We bought a 2004 hybrid Honda Civic from Dublin Honda back in November 2003, and we only had to wait a few days. (And the wait was only because I wanted a dark grey one!) It gets 46 miles per gallon and is very comfortable. My only complaint is that the trunk is on the small size. There may be more of a wait to get one now, but I'm guessing it's got to be shorter than the wait for a Prius. Using Less Gas

Nov. 2003

After many years as a one-car family, we are now considering a second car. To minimize our resulting environmental impact, the hybrids sound like a good option. Those of you who have the Toyota Prius or the Hnda hybrid - tell me all about it! Is the gas mileage really as good as they say (we'd use it mostly for city driving)? Is it comfortable to drive? Reliable? Good with car-seats? What are the down-sides? Is maintenance expensive? How about insurance (relative to similar size conventional autos)? Any information on your experience would be valued. Thank you two-car family?

Recommendations received:

  • Toyota Prius (3)

    Honda vs. Toyota Hybrid?

    May 2003

    Everyone I've asked seems to really like the Prius. Does anyone out there have experience with the new 4-door Honda hybrid? Melanie

    I have talked to 2 people that have driven the Prius. Both are former Honda owners and one test drove the Prius while the other one bought the Prius. They both said the same thing about the Prius. They complained that it's boxy and doesn't handle as well as a Honda . Perhaps it would be a good idea to test drive the Honda hybrid sedan and the Toyota Prius. Also Honda does have a hybrid SUV and I actually saw one on Lakeshore being driven by a dealership I think. Too bad I can't remember the dealership name! At any rate the hybrid SUV looked like the Honda CRV. I hope this helps. Beth
    Nov 2003

    Our family has been Honda hybridized (2003 model) for the last three months, and we've grown very fond of our vehicle. The mileage is not as good as a Prius might get (we achieve about 38 mpg city--short trips; lots of stop-and-start--and 48 highway), but I think our Honda handles better than the Prius. It's a comfortable, quiet ride, with pretty nice audio, too.

    Both are good cars, though, and either one is worth buying. You're paying more than you would for a standard Toyota or Honda, but the mileage, of course, is better, and the emissions much lower. (And as far as I know, there are both federal and state tax credits for buying a hybrid, and this is the year to do so, as the credits will supposedly start decreasing in 2004.) If you can afford the extra bucks now, you're doing a good deed for the environment and a pleasant deed for yourself.

    By the way, there's a Honda hybrid owners' chat club on the Internet--and undoubtedly one for Prius drivers as well--full of advice and discussion from enraptured hybrid drivers: http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/civic_hybrid/ Melanie