Hybrids: Hype or Hope?

 

We have all heard about the new hybrid cars that have been coming out in recent months, but what are they really? Do they really live up to their media hype, or do they fall short of the mark set for them? As with most things in today's world, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There are a few things that a smart consumer should be aware of when they are looking at buying a hybrid instead of a regular vehicle.

  1. A hybrid vehicle is just like any other car that gets good mileage except in one regard, these vehicles have, in effect, two motors as opposed to the single one that most cars and trucks have. In the typical hybrid, the electric motor is what is used when traveling at forty miles per hour or less. When the vehicle reaches speeds of over forty (such as when getting onto a freeway) the regular gas engine kicks in to provide the extra speed and power needed for travel. In addition, when the gas engine is running the car is charging the batteries used by the electric motor. Another way that the batteries are recharged is through the normal process of stopping the vehicle through normal stop and go traffic. This allows for less gasoline consumption around town, as well as reduction in noise and carbon emitting pollutions. While there are some differences between models of vehicles, this is a fairly accurate description of most hybrid cars.
  2. A hybrid vehicle, as with any new technology, is an extremely complex and expensive piece of equipment. Since these are such a new form of technology, you can expect to actually have to get most repair work done at the dealership as opposed to going to your local mechanic. This means that in the event that there is a problem with the motor(s), it is significantly more expensive to fix, as opposed to more traditional cars and trucks. There are two engines that will need maintenance or repair, not to mention the support systems for each.
  3. According to most drivers, the actual average mileage achieved by hybrids is actually about ten percent less than what is claimed by the stickers. This should not be a surprise, though, since this is roughly the same difference experienced by traditional vehicles as well.
  4. These new vehicles are actually more expensive to purchase than a regular car or truck. This is only to be expected because of the relative newness and fashionable status of the new green technology. As with any new technology, prices will eventually go down once the market is more saturated, or another new technology comes along to replace this one.

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