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Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Should I Buy a Hybrid Car?

Hybrid cars, also called hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) blend the best of the conventional car with the best of electric cars for a winning combination. Uniting the cleaner energy of the electric motor with the long-range power of the gasoline engine yields a hybrid automobile with lower toxic emissions and better fuel economy—sometimes up to 30 miles per gallon or more than conventional cars. And the good news is these HEVs perform as well if not better than non-hybrids and are as safe, reliable and comfortable as any traditional car.


In the past all-electric cars were being tested as the car of the future, but were deemed impractical because of limited range, long recharge times and exorbitant costs associated with continual powering of the battery that runs the electric motor. Solar-powered electric cars, which are equipped with batteries charged by the sun, have longer ranges than some of the other electric cars but are still dependent on batteries, which have size and weight limitations.


Electric cars, however, are 100% emission-free, having no polluting byproducts, therefore they are cleaner than hybrid automobiles. They secure their power from batteries, the sun or hydrogen fuel cells. Battery-powered electric cars, besides being cleaner, are more fuel-efficient, get better mileage and have less moving parts to wear out. Cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells are emission-free, lightweight, compact, three times as efficient as gas engines, have excellent ranges, easy refueling and are totally safe. However, the cost of setting up hydrogen re-fueling stations would be costly.


The hybrid-electric car has come to the forefront by meeting public acceptance. It has the ability to drive a minimum of 300 miles (482 km) between re-fueling, to fill-up promptly and easily and to drive fast enough to match traffic. So far all-electric cars cannot go more than 100 miles (161 km) between re-charging, they are difficult to re-charge in some instances and don’t drive beyond 60 mpg as yet.


Yet HEVs are here now and are selling better and better as more manufacturers release new models. Hybrid car owners may not receive a return on their investment as quickly as hoped, though. The average additional price for a hybrid vehicle over a non-hybrid vehicle in 2004 was $3,000. Based on current average gas prices, it could take between three and 10 years to recover the extra money paid for a hybrid. How much you actually save by purchasing a hybrid car instead of a non-hybrid depends on several factors including how much you drive, where you drive (city or highway), the cost of gas and how long you plan to keep your car. Each of the hybrids costs savings can be calculated at the Website of the manufacturer.


If you compare the Honda Civic Hybrid to the Civic non-hybrid, for example, at $2/gallon you’d save $100/year for every 10,000 miles. This is based on a difference of 10 mpg between the two cars. If your new hybrid got 20 mpg over your conventional car, all other factors remaining the same, you’d save $250/year. Whether or not you will save as much on fuel costs as the additional cost of a hybrid automobile will be based on the previous factors mentioned as well as which car you buy. In addition, until 2006, hybrid car purchasers will receive tax benefits from federal and sometimes local governments.


When deciding whether or not a hybrid car will be your next car, do your research first, test drive some of the cars and talk to other hybrid car owners. Saving monthly on gas and keeping the environment cleaner are the two primary reasons people are buying hybrid cars today.


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