Gas or electric? Nowadays, you aren’t forced to choose between the two technologies.
“Hybrid” vehicles—those capable of running on gasoline and electricity—have caught the attention of green-minded and gas-price-beleaguered consumers alike. These split-personality autos certainly have many transfixed with their promise of previously impossible miles-per-gallon capabilities.
But just how fantastic is this new breed of vehicle? Experts temper their enthusiasm with certain realities that make hybrids less-than-perfect alternatives to their gas-guzzling rivals. The judging criteria fall mainly within two categories: ecology and finances.
No contest with hybrids when it comes to eco-friendliness, right? Well, maybe. Unfortunately, it’s not a clear-cut matter. Hybrids certainly boast greater fuel-efficiency and, in that regard, are friendlier to the environment and your wallet.
In addition, emissions typically are 25 percent to 30 percent lower than conventional gas-powered automobiles. However, driving habits are crucial in achieving a decreased carbon footprint. Drivers who rev the instant a traffic light turns green or regularly exceed speed limits aren’t going to experience the fantastic mpg rating the hybrid experience promises. Instead, they’ll waste lots of gasoline, mucking up the environment.
While hybrid vehicles typically see a significant increase in fuel economy vs. a gasoline-only vehicle, some experts say that stated mpg ratings are inaccurate and, in real-life circumstances, are 10 percent less than what many manufacturers are claiming.
Still, when a hybrid is running solely on electricity, it is emitting zero toxins into the environment, which appeals to many drivers, as does the prospect of decreasing dependence on oil—foreign and domestic.
On the other hand, there’s a significant environmental impact to manufacturing a new car and adding an old car to the junk yard. And according to About.com, manufacturing hybrids actually have a larger environmental impact compared to non-hybrids. Hybrid batteries are not a friend to Mother Nature, and building cars with two engines under the hood increases the manufacturing emissions.
Hybrids are touted to save their owners compared to gas-only vehicles in terms of fuel costs. But—pardon the pun—start-up costs might make that a negligible amount. That’s because the ticket price of hybrids ranges from $19,000 to $25,000 compared to a comparable gas-only vehicle, which costs between $14,000 and $17,000. To obtain the closest possible comparison, link to Hybrid Compare, a government website that pairs hybrid vehicles with their same-manufacturer gas-consuming counterparts and compares vehicle prices and projected mpg to yield weekly, monthly and annual fuel-consumption savings.
Speaking of dollars, consider repairs and maintenance. It’s true that hybrids share lots of parts with their conventional cousins, but they also contain lots of stuff particular to their electric/gasoline-combination technology. For instance, they use two motors, a heavy battery, a generator, plus computers to manage it all so it works in sync. Experts say the hybrid’s newness and complexity will generate more costly maintenance and repairs.
A particular point of focus is the cost vs. longevity of hybrid batteries. Speculation continues over just how long these batteries will last with projected replacement costs hovering at the several-thousand-dollar mark.
However, some automakers have anticipated consumer concern on this issue. Hyundai announced in January that it is providing consumers with a lifetime warranty for the lithium-polymer battery pack in the 2012 Sonata Hybrid. Toyota provides a warranty for its Prius that covers “hybrid-related components” for 8 years/100,000 miles.
Drivers need to weigh their eco-concerns with their econo-concerns to find what works best for them.
- Take a quiz to see whether a hybrid is right for you
- Buy a new car or keep the old: Which is better for the environment?
- What you should know before buying a hybrid
- Is Keeping your Old Car Better than a Hybrid?
- Hybrid sedans still take six years to pay off
- Is your mpg on target ?
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