When looking at any invention, method plan, or anything for that matter—it’s imperative to weigh the pros and the cons. When it comes to hybrid cars, it is of course no different. If you ask the companies who manufacture these products, they certainly emphasize the pros, making their product seem like a divine invention you cannot be without. In this article I will separate fact from fiction, benefit from drawback—and show you the whole scale picture of what it means to own a hybrid.
For starters, what exactly is a hybrid car?
Essentially, it is nothing but a fuel efficient automobile with dual motors, an electric motor and a gasoline powered alternative. It also sports a specially engineered system that captures brake energy and transfers it towards the battery to keep it charged at all times.
So why go hybrid?
It’s a combination of two vehicular concepts, so why not go to one of the two? Why not drive a purely gasoline or electric powered car? If you think about it through principle, having two motors makes your system more vulnerable to a breakdown. The same concept exists in any other sort of transportation vehicle—the more motors or engines, the less reliable they can collectively be.
In reality, having two motors presents both pros and cons. For one, electric motors don’t take up any energy when they idle; in fact they simply turn off and therefore use less gas when the speed is low. Gas motors are more effective at high speeds and therefore deliver a more powerful drive—but during stop and go or low speed travel, the electric motor will suffice without costing you money and the environment smog. When you reach higher speeds, usually past 40 mpg, the gas motor will begin to kick in and allow car owners to travel quickly on the freeway.
Additionally, when using the gas motor, your electric motor will have time to charge. One problem with strictly electric power is that many owners find themselves stranded with a dead battery and no outlet. With a hybrid, the dual motors allow this problem to be virtually nonexistent. The gas motor will automatically kick in whenever the battery gets low and charge the battery simultaneously. This means a hybrid never needs to be plugged into a restrictive outlet, but be aware—just because you can’t run out of electric power doesn’t mean you can’t run out of gas. Keep on top of your gas meter just as you would any other vehicle, but if you do get stuck—it’s a lot easier to haul a gas can over than to get your electric car back to your outlet, so the hybrid does offer that distinct advantage over a straight electric solution.
But all this cutting edge and newly innovated technology can be quite expensive to the consumer. It has two motors and the necessary battery is rather hefty and complex, as is the convenient but pricey regeneration system that charges the battery during bra ke periods.
Seeing as all these systems must coexist in a rather complicated technical homeostasis, they are controlled by rather intricate computers. These computers are remarkably dependable, but like any other computer, it does suffer from a few fallbacks. This means to own a hybrid, you will have to spend quite a bit of time in the shop, and quite a lot of money paying for repairs.
Compared to any other practical everyday car type, hybrids are indisputably the most gasoline efficient. On average, the can reach an alleged 48 to 60 miles per gallon, which is around 20%-35% better than some gasoline powered cars. This means that there are vehicles, like the Honda Civic, that are gasoline powered by get 36 mpg. The strange this is that these gasoline efficient standards cost from $14-$17 thousand where hybrids can set you back up to $25,000. With this in play, buying a hybrid becomes less of a “necessity” or even ideal to many people.
The difference is considered to be in fuel costs, where your standard gasoline powered car will cause quite heavy annual bills. But after a decade with a hybrid, it is predicted that only $2,300 will really be saved in the long run—this number is smaller than the price difference between hybrids and fuel-efficient gasoline powered vehicles.
The fuel efficiency is often attributed to improved aero dynamics such as weigh reduction and smaller gas powered engines. By principle, any vehicle would improve mileage greatly just by sporting a smaller sized engine. This is not done with most consumer cars due to the widespread desire for power and speed in most of today’s vehicles.
Most drivers find these mileage claims are actually a tad skewed—sometimes up to 10%. If you take a look at the manufacturer’s miles per gallon claims, they are measured under specifications that would yield similar results from any type of car, with slow speeds and no quick stops.
A Lean, Green Driving Machine
On the other hand, it’s not just fuel economy that hybrids promote; their ecological benefits are also considerably encouraging. Despite the marginal nature of the fuel economy improvements, the smaller number of emissions is undeniable. For instance, big cities with high traffic jams and plenty of low speed travel would benefit greatly from a widespread application of hybrid devices that cut down on pollution and emissions when a vehicle travels under 40 mph.
Globally, the United States is not ahead of the hybrid game, but instead the Japanese seem to be setting the standard. Honda and Toyota have already taken the market by storm with the Insight and Prius. It is easy to see that US automakers like Ford have fallen behind, having to license over 20 different technologies from the Japanese just to throw together the Mercury Mariner. In the United States, SUVs and trucks are still commonplace, and Ford has tried to make the best of both worlds with a hybrid version of the Escape.
Many analysts claim that these GM hybrids are nothing but weak efforts and not serious attempts to join the hybrid market. They are often tied in with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations, showing that American hybrids are nothing but corporate devices. Because regulations demand automakers possess a fleet with an average of 27.5 mpg, automakers are using hybrids as a way of offsetting their minimally efficient SUV’s and trucks, many of which only get up to 20 miles per gallon.
So at the end of the day, the decision is up to you. Maybe you find hybrid vehicles to cost prohibitive, or maybe the new, innovative, and ecologically friendly technology strikes a chord with you. Either way, personal preference is still in play. The technology is not yet developed to the point where prices can compete with gasoline powered models, but it is undeniably fuel efficient and emission reducing. The concept is fascinating, but right now there is an inherent price gap between gasoline and hybrid powered vehicles. So you know the pros and cons make your decision wisely!