My minivan is on its last legs. What I wouldn’t give to be able to buy a new or used hybrid. The thought of reducing my gas costs and my carbon footprint is a win/win if I’ve ever seen one.
“Hybrid”—a pretty trendy term—is much like “organic” and “natural.” But what does it really mean? Generally speaking, any vehicle that combines two or more sources of power to provide propulsion power is a hybrid. The two sources of power being leveraged by most hybrid cars on the market now are gas and electricity. The gasoline engine in a hybrid can be much smaller than the one in a conventional car, made of smaller parts, reducing the number of cylinders needing powering and operating the engine closer to its maximum load. The smaller engine uses less gas, with extra power being provided from the electric motor and battery. This is the key to its efficiency.
Related: Driver’s Ed on Hybrid Cars
A number of automakers are naming new models “hybrid” but the actual increased fuel economy of these vehicles is only around 1 to 2 miles per gallon. In other words, they’re getting big money exploiting the term “hybrid”, without providing the very tangible benefits of the real McCoy, which dramatically reduces the environmental (and pocketbook) toll by increasing the fuel economy of your car by 40-70 percent. While a small increase in fuel economy is an improvement, it is not the brand new world offered by vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape Hybrid.
Related: What Your Car Says About You
If you’re unlike me and have plenty of cash to buy an authentic hybrid, I’m envious but happy for you and the planet. Before making your purchase, really get informed. Learn more about purchasing hybrids by checking out comparison charts and inputting your needs and driving habits at hybridcenter.org. My results showed that over five years, I would save $9,849 at the gas pump.
If you are like me and aren’t in the hybrid buying market yet, follow these tips from The Green Parent by Jenn Savedge (Kedzie Press LLC, 2008) to green your ride.
Next: 8 tips to green your ride