So you're thinking of buying a hybrid car to ride out the next gas price spike (and you know there will be one), but you're not sure you want to eat the $3K–$4K premium instead of buying a straight gasoline-powered Corolla or Civic.
But consider this added value in your calculus: folks are finding they can use their Prii as emergency back-up generators. From Harvard, Mass. (the town, not the university), where an ice storm knocked out power this month for days:
Around the corner at Madigan Lane, John Sweeney, a member of the town’s conservation-minded Heat Advisory Committee, took a characteristically green approach to powering his home during the storm. He reported his achievement in an e-mail, saying it was no big deal, but that his wife thought it an impressive tale worth sharing: Sweeney ran his refrigerator, freezer, TV, woodstove fan, and several lights through his Prius, for three days, on roughly five gallons of gas.
“When it looked like we were going to be without power for awhile, I dug out an inverter (which takes 12v DC and creates 120v AC from it) and wired it into our Prius…These inverters are available for about $100 many places online,” he wrote.
The device allowed the engine to run every half hour, automatically charging the car battery and indirectly supplying the required power [Valerie Hurley, "Ice Storm Tests Mettle of Harvard Residents," The Harvard Press, 2008.12.19].
A Prius, an inverter, and an extension cord, and you can ride out a lengthy power outage. Or you could just spend your Christmas gift cards on a regular emergency generator... at least the larger of which will run you about the same price as the premium on the Prius.
It's just a thought; your mileage may vary.