As concerns about global warming increase, hybrid vehicles, which run on a combination of gasoline power and electricity, have become more prevalent and more popular. While they have definite advantages when it comes to fuel economy and pollution, hybrids do have a few drawbacks to consider, including cost, speed and safety.
Better Fuel Economy
According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), hybrid vehicles can drive 40 to 70 miles on one gallon of gasoline, which helps drivers save tons of money on fuel. Conventional cars usually get anywhere from 12 to 35 miles per gallon. Most hybrids cost significantly more upfront, but savings at the fuel pump help offset the increased cost over the life of the car.
In general, hybrid cars emit lower levels of greenhouse gases than conventional cars, according to the DOE, because the electric motor offsets how much the internal combustion engine is used. While operating in electric-only mode, hybrids produce no emissions at all. Since greenhouse gases pollute the environment and lead to global warming, hybrids are much better for the planet than conventional cars.
Other Economical Benefits
Until the end of 2010, hybrid buyers might be eligible for a tax credit of up to $3,000, depending on which manufacturer they purchase from. But, according to Tara Baukus Mello from auto site Edmunds.com, several states offer tax deductions and incentives, as well as allowing hybrids to drive in the carpool lane or discounts on parking. Some insurance companies also offer discounts for hybrid owners.
Repairs and Maintenance
When it comes to repairs and maintenance, hybrids seem to outdo conventional vehicles in some instances. Baukus Mello reports that hybrid-specific vehicle components have been shown to have a longer lifespan in testing than conventional ones, leading to fewer repairs over the life of the car. Most hybrids don’t require any additional maintenance, and their regenerative braking systems and reduced heat make brake pads last much longer.
Driving a Hybrid
In most instances, driving a hybrid is no different than driving a conventional car, except when it comes to quick acceleration. Studies by Lester Lave from Carnegie Mellon University and Heather Maclean from Toronto University found that the Toyota Prius, a popular hybrid model, accelerated from 0 to 60 miles per hour more than 2 seconds slower than a conventional Toyota Corolla, which can be a problem for freeway drivers.
The relative silence of hybrids seems like a benefit, but, according to a story from National Public Radio, it can prove hazardous for pedestrians, especially visually impaired ones, who rely on sound to cross streets safely. Most hybrid vehicles are virtually silent when traveling less than 25 miles per hour, so pedestrians aren’t likely to hear them coming.