Hybrid vehicles started off as small things with very little room and very few choices. Now the hybrid choices have broadened to include larger vehicles, performance vehicles, and working vehicles. The environmental friendliness and added fuel efficiency that was once enjoyed by few, is now enjoyed by many. If you are in the market to become one of those many, there are a few things you may want to consider when choosing a hybrid.
Hybrid vehicles now range in size from compact cars to full-size, nine-passenger SUVs. Most are still the regular-sized midsize sedans and compact cars, but there are a few larger vehicles out there now which are utilizing the hybrid technology. The smallest number of hybrid vehicles is currently minivans and pickup trucks; so if you’re in the market for either of these, you may want to wait awhile until the selection increases.
There are three types of hybrid vehicle available and they all operate differently while still utilizing the same type of technology. There is the “Full” or “Parallel” hybrid system, which can operate solely powered by the electric motor, the gasoline combustion engine, or a combination of both. This system is common in most Toyotas and Fords. Then there is the “Mild” hybrid system. This is what most people will get if they buy a Honda hybrid. It uses its electric motor to help the gas engine, but cannot use it to solely power the vehicle. Finally, the latest type of hybrid is the “Plug-in” style, which runs strictly off the electric motor, and uses the gasoline engine only to power the electric motor once the batteries have been depleted. This is the type of system you’ll see in the Chevy Volt.
The type of fuel economy you’re going to receive from your hybrid is directly related to two things; the vehicle size and the type of hybrid system it uses. There are hybrids which are going to be truly fuel efficient, then there are those which will simply be better on gas than their regular-fuel counterparts. Typically, smaller vehicles which utilize the Full hybrid system will be the ones receiving gas mileage in the range of 40 to 50 mpg. Larger SUVs and crossovers will see numbers closer to 20 to 25 mpg. They basically take the strength of a V8 engine and give it the fuel economy of a V6. A very small plug-in style hybrid is going to get the best mileage, but it remains to be seen how far one can travel before needing an actual plug-in recharge on the batteries.
Generally, hybrids are no more dangerous than a regular gasoline vehicle. Concerns have been raised about the batteries being exposed in an accident, but there have been no incidents of electric shock or any higher amount of risk than any other vehicle. The one true safety hazard from a hybrid vehicle goes to the so-called “backyard” mechanics. Due to the high amount of electricity produced by a hybrid, it is extremely dangerous for anybody who is not certified to be working on one.
Hybrid vehicles will seat just as many people as their gasoline brethren, and just as comfortably. The one place you will see a sacrifice in space is in the trunk. This is where the hybrid batteries are stored, and they are very large. You’ll typically lose between three and five cubic feet of space. In the SUV models, this space is sacrificed in the under-floor storage. Aside from that, hybrids have the same features and amenities you’d expect to find in any other type of vehicle.
Ah, the category you’ve all been waiting for…will the added cost of my hybrid end up paying for itself at the gas pump? Yes and no. Once again, this is one of those situations where it depends on the type and size hybrid you buy. It also depends on how long you hold on to the vehicle. Truthfully, even the most fuel-efficient hybrids will take several years to make up the difference in cost at the gas pump. Yes, they’ll save you a few bucks here and there, but the real savings comes in the form of environmental friendliness and conserving our natural resources.
Hybrid vehicles cost roughly twenty percent more than their gasoline counterparts. The cheapest of the line start off around $20K and range all the way up past $100K for the top-of-the-line luxury models. The big question is warranties. Most manufacturers warranty the hybrid system for a period of eight years. The cost of replacement hybrid batteries varies from vehicle to vehicle, and can be rather outrageous on some, but manufacturers say that they expect the batteries to last for the life of the vehicles.