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  Hybrid: Overview  
 
     
 

When Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and Prince Charles are all rumored to drive them, you have probably heard some hype about the hybrid. Let's take a look at some of the facts.

THE TERM HYBRID:

A Hybrid is the term used to describe any vehicle that uses two or more power sources to propel the vehicle. This can be as simple as a human powering a bicycle that also has battery assist, or more complex, for example nuclear-electric powered submarines.

Today, the term is mostly commonly being used in conjunction with cars and these are generally known as Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES (HEVs):

Walk into the average motor dealership or count the hybrid vehicles on the road and you will find most hybrid's are hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs). These vehicles are cars powered by both gasoline and electricity. Just like an ordinary car they feature an internal combustion engine, but they also feature an electric motor usually powered by rechargeable electric batteries. This presents several benefits.

BENEFITS OF DRIVING A HYBRID VEHICLE

The top ten reasons to buy a HEV are as follows:

1. FUEL SAVINGS- The electric motor acts as a generator. When the vehicle is coasting down a hill or coming to a stop at traffic lights the energy from the car moving is turned back into electricity, which is stored in the batteries. This energy is then called upon in conjunction with gas, providing a better fuel economy. In addition to this some of the clever versions turn their engine off when the vehicle comes to a stop and automatically restart when the accelerator is pressed. Eliminating the fuel wasted whilst idling. These factors mean a hybrid vehicle like the Toyota Prius uses up to 50% less gas then a similar sized ordinary vehicle. This equates to more then 50 miles per gallon.

2. REDUCED POLLUTION- The more gas a car burns the more carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide is generated. Therefore the added bonus of HEVs using less gas is that they produce less tailpipe emissions. The Toyota Prius, for example produces up to 90% less emissions than similar ordinary sized vehicles. In addition to this some HEV manufacturers are also planting trees for every vehicle purchased.

3. NO RECHARGING REQUIRED-the combination of a gasoline and electric powered engine means unlike all-electric vehicles HEVs do not require an external source of energy. Whenever there is not enough electric power created from coasting the car simply uses the gasoline.

4. NO MORE SITTING IN A HOT CAR- Electric powered air-conditioning means you can run the air-conditioning without starting the gasoline motor.

5. QUIET TO START- HEVs are able to be started in electric vehicle (EV) mode. This means the vehicle starts without the gasoline motor and is virtually soundless in doing so. So if you are coming home late or leaving early you won't wake up the whole neighborhood.

6. A QUICKER TRIP TO WORK- Many states allow hybrid drivers to use HOV or commuter lanes.

7. INCREASED CONTROL OVER FUEL ECONOMY- not only do HEVs save fuel they give the driver much more control over this ability. The Toyota Prius for example allows you to monitor how much gas you are using and how much electricity you are generating. Every few minutes it provides you with updates on these variables. This allows the driver to modify their driving accordingly to save gas. For example maintaining a constant speed and avoiding abrupt stops helps the vehicle get better mileage. When you allow a HEV to come to a gradual stop this recovers more energy for the electric battery.

8. TAX INCENTIVES/REBATES- You may be eligible for a federal tax credit when buying a hybrid. Some state and local governments are also providing incentives to purchase one, so check with your local government. If you are looking for a large saving look at new model HEVs. Sometimes the highest rebates are available until a manufacturer has sold 60,000 vehicles.

9. VARIETY OF VEHICLES- Hybrids are increasing in popularity and there are now more options then ever available. Some of the current hybrids available for sale include mid sized vehicles like the Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry and the Honda Civic. If you require an SUV there is the Ford Escape and if you would like something a little more sophisticated try the Chevrolet Malibu. In 2008 there will be several new editions including a Lexus and a Mazda Tribute in both 2WD and 4WD options.

10. EASY TO DRIVE- Don't worry; you don't have to be a rocket scientist with the latest technological know how to drive a hybrid. They are virtually identical to any standard vehicle to drive. I recently hired a Toyota Prius whilst on vacation. The only difference I encountered was that I pushed a power button to start the vehicle rather then turning the key. The vehicle provided one of the smoothest rides I have encountered. This is because there are no gear changes due to continuously variable Transmission (CVT). After a couple of days of driving all over the place sightseeing I'd barley spent ten dollars on gas and the vehicle performed beautifully. I did not encounter any issues overtaking on the highway or climbing hills. The electric motor assists the engine when accelerating or hill climbing.