Three years ago, I knew nothing about hybrid vehicles. Then in 2004, when gas prices went over $2 a gallon for the first time ever, I started hearing about the Toyota Prius (the same year it won several “”Car of the Year”” awards), the Honda Civic Hybrid, and the Honda Insight. Since my interest had always been with suv’s, it wasn’t until I laid eyes on the 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid that hybrids really got my attention. That was in late 2004.
Fast-forward three years and I’m now devoting several hours a week to learning all about hybrid suv’s. This is a very exciting time for anyone interested in owning a hybrid, as we’ve rapidly moved from only a few hybrid options to a future where we’ll likely have more than 100 hybrids to choose from. Several auto manufacturers have recently announced that they soon will offer hybrid versions of most or all their new models, including Toyota, GM, Volkswagen, and Chrysler.
While hybrid cars, trucks, and SUV’s are currently all the rage, most people still don’t know much about hybrids. In an effort to dispel some of the common myths and to shed some light on these “”green machines””, we’ve created a list of the 10 things you may not know about hybrids.
1. Hybrid vehicles are powered by a gas engine, in combination with an electric motor – not simply one or the other. For a great demonstration of how these systems work together, see this article on HowStuffWorks.com.
2. Hybrids don’t need to be plugged in. So called “”plug-in”” vehicles are coming, but current hybrids recharge their batteries while they are slowing down and during braking.
3. Hybrids don’t skimp on power. The 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV and it’s non-hybrid counterpart both sport a 270 hp engine. (Need more power? The Lexus LS 600h packs 438 hp, and goes from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds.)
4. Hybrids aren’t overly expensive. There are several makes and models of hybrid cars and suv’s priced between $20,000 – $25,000, including the Prius, Civic, Escape, Altima, Vue, and Aura. Many of these vehicles also come with federal and state tax credits. Factor in fuel economy, resale values, and lower maintenance costs – and hybrids are quite affordable.
5. Hybrid batteries last for many years. In fact, most manufacturers warranty their hybrid vehicle’s batteries for 80,000 to 100,000 miles. (Under California regulations, battery warranty extends to 10 years or 150,000 miles.)
6. Not all hybrids are created equal. While the hybrid Prius gets around 50 mpg, the Saturn Vue Green Line averages about 30 mpg. The soon to be released hybrid versions of the 2008 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon are expected to come in at 23 mpg (albeit 25% better than gas versions of these full-sized suv’s, which just might save their future).
7. Hybrid vehicles are reliable. Because hybrids are relatively new and often misunderstood, many people assume they are untested and unreliable. In fact, the hybrid Honda Civic was recently ranked most reliable by Consumer Reports. See Soultek.com). In addition, the Highlander hybrid, Accord Hybrid, and Prius ranked at or near the top in their respective categories for reliability. In fact, Toyota’s Prius hybrid was the most satisfying vehicle for the third year, with 92 percent of owners saying they would buy or lease one again. In last years survey, 95 percent of owners said they would buy or lease a Prius again. Read more here.
8. Hybrids are not going away any time soon. In 2005, over 200,000 hybrids were sold. Last year that number was closer to 250,000. While there are currently only 13 hybrid cars, trucks and suvs on the market…most experts agree that there will be closer to 50 available by 2010.
9. Hybrids are environmentally friendly vehicles. Sounds like a no-brainer, but lots of people believe it’s a myth that hybrids are better for the environment, and some even argue that they are worse than gas or diesel powered vehicles. Fact is, many hybrids on the road today are capable of producing 50%-90% fewer harmful emissions than non-hybrids.
10. Hybrids can be luxurious. The first hybrid I saw on a dealer lot was the Honda Insight. While futuristic, it was anything but luxurious. That was only a few years ago. I recently researched the new 2008 Lexus RX 400h SUV and in my opinion, it is the epitome of a luxury hybrid, a luxury suv, and a luxury vehicle.
10.5. The idea for his article came from a story I ran across on Esquire.com yesterday. Connie Britton’s “”Ten Things You Don’t Know About Women”” included the fact that women think hybrid cars are sexy (followed by a note that walking six blocks to avoid paying a valet is not sexy). So…get a hybrid and pay the valet, gentlemen.