Going Hybrid – Lower Pollution and Less Fuel Stops
Open any automotive publication or read any auto industry news and the one underlying theme seems to be either fuel cell vehicles or hybrid vehicles. Right now, gas electric hybrids rule, due to their wide availability and user-friendliness. Why hybrid, you ask? Currently, this is the only cost-efficient technology that works by taking into account practicality, cost and buyer acceptance, if you want your ride to reduce its carbon footprint!
Here’s a little insight into hybrid vehicles: either one or two types of power plants are used to power the vehicle, hence the term hybrid. Currently for sale in our marketplace are gas electric hybrids. These primarily use a gasoline engine that provides power to move the vehicle, and also doubles as a generator to power an electric motor, or to charge up the high-voltage batteries. The efficiency part that contributes to lowering tailpipe emissions and gasoline reduction is the ability of the hybrid vehicle to run solely on electric power at times, and also have the gas engine shut off when the vehicle is stopped. By having the assistance of an electric motor, the gasoline engine can be of a smaller size and still allow the hybrid vehicle to have acceleration performance, either matching or exceeding its gasoline counterpart. Fuel consumption also varies, depending on warm and cold temperatures. This is because the gas engine is designed to run longer in the cold to maintain heat. This significantly cuts down on the dreaded cold-start emissions.
With the ever-increasing price of a barrel of sweet crude, gas guzzling SUVs are also beginning to spawn hybrid versions. First to market was the Ford Escape hybrid, followed shortly by the Lexus 400h and Toyota Highlander. The list now also includes hybrid versions of the Chevy Tahoe, Cadillac Escalade, Dodge Durango, and many more. Hybrid SUVs are gaining popularity with families, as more enter the marketplace. Even high-performance brands like Porsche have announced a Cayenne gas electric hybrid.
In the near future, gasoline hybrids will be competing with diesel electric hybrids. Going diesel is not quite so simple, as diesel engines cost more, weigh more and face stringent tailpipe emission standards. They do provide ample low-end power, which the electric motor already does. A more practical application would be on heavy duty pick-up trucks, where the towing performance increases and fuel savings may offset the increased vehicle cost. Another area to take into account is saving money. When you purchase an eligible fuel-efficient car, you will receive a rebate from $1,000 to $2,000 from the federal government. But unfortunately, the ecoAuto program will expire by the end of 2008.
First to the Canadian marketplace in 1998, was the funky two-seater Honda Insight hybrid. The tiny space age Honda was limited in its appeal, due to being a two-seater and initially equipped with a manual transmission. Its hybrid power plant had an electric motor that assisted the gas engine, but could not solely run on electric power. The Honda Insight did pave the way for the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic hybrid, and a host of other models from various manufacturers.
In 2007, close to 10 thousand gas electric hybrid vehicles were sold in Canada. The sales leader in hybrid vehicles remain Toyota, with its Camry hybrid and Prius leading the charge. Toyota currently has the most variety of hybrid vehicles in its lineup, which also includes models by Lexus. Toyota and Lexus have been at the forefront in hybrid technology, but until very recently, its technological lead has reduced, with up-and-comers such as General Motors and Honda. Other makers are not far behind, either.
Hybrids have a stigma of being low-powered and slow to accelerate, but that was put to rest when Lexus launched the RX400h SUV, delivering V8-like acceleration with V6-like fuel economy. Gas electric hybrids such as the GS400h lean more towards high performance and speed, offer sizzling acceleration with 0-100 km/h sprints in the six-second range! Another interesting note: Al Gore’s son, Al Gore III, was arrested on drug charges by the California highway patrol, when he was caught clocked at 100 miles an hour in his Prius! The fact that a Prius was clocked at that speed made headline news!
If you’re only looking to save at the gas pump, it’ll be a while before the cost difference of going hybrid pans out – unless you’re an extreme high-miler like a taxi cab. But if doing your part to reduce tailpipe emissions and using less fossil fuel, then a wide choice of hybrid vehicles await you!
Average fuel consumption — Hybrid vs. Non-Hybrid
Toyota Prius Hybrid: 4.0/4.2 (71/67mpg)
Honda Civic: 8.2/5.7 (34/50 mpg)
Honda Civic Hybrid: 4.7/4.3 (60/66 mpg)
Toyota Camry: 9.5/6.2 (30/46 mpg)
Toyota Camry Hybrid: 5.7/5.7 (50/50 mpg)
Nissan Altima: 8.9/6.3 (32/45 mpg)
Nissan Altima Hybrid: 5.6/5.9 (50/48 mpg)
Chevy Malibu: 9.6/6.5 (29/43 mpg)
Chevy Malibu Hybrid: 8.5/6.2 (33/46 mpg)
Chevy Tahoe: 14.7/9.8 (19/29 mpg)
Chevy Tahoe Hybrid: 9.8/9.2 (29/31 mpg)
Toyota Highlander: 12.3/8.8 (23/32 mpg)
Toyota Highlander Hybrid: 7.4/8.0 (38/35 mpg)
Ford Escape: 10.3/7.7 (27/37 mpg)
Ford Escape Hybrid: 5.7/6.7 (50/42 mpg)