Top 5 Reasons to Drive a Hybrid

Can you drive and still be green? Yessirree Bob!

drive a hybrid

Nowadays, when people hear the term “hybrid vehicle,” what often comes to mind is a relatively recent invention: an eco-friendly vehicle that runs on both gasoline and electricity. But hybrids, or hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs), have actually been around much longer. The locomotives that pull trains are diesel-electric hybrids, for instance, and many cities — like San Francisco and Seattle — already utilize diesel-electric bus fleets. Even submarines run on either a nuclear-electric or diesel-electric power combo.

In fact, any vehicle that uses 2 or more sources of power is considered a hybrid. But since Esurance doesn’t insure submarines, trains, or buses (currently), and I drive a Prius, I’m going to focus on the top 5 reasons to drive a hybrid car.

1. Save money (and time) at the pump

Even though the average price of a gallon of gas is predicted to drop slightly in 2013 (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration), I wouldn’t buy that Hummer just yet. Hybrids are still your best bet for fuel efficiency.

According to fueleconomy.gov, the Toyota Prius (ahem) tops the list, getting almost 50 mpg. Others, like the Honda Civic, Mercury Milan, and Ford Fusion hybrids (which make up our entire claims fleet), still get over 40 mpg — meaning a hybrid driver can save hundreds of dollars a year in gas costs.

And since hybrids can run between 401 and 627 miles between fill-ups, (with the Prius getting 537 miles), you’ll be able to cut your visits to the pump too, which will save you time as well as money (though you can still make those trips to the mini-mart to satisfy your Snickers cravings).

2. Better for the environment

In addition to getting better mileage than most standard cars, hybrids emit lower levels of greenhouse gases and other foul pollutants into the atmosphere. Hybrid vehicles can reduce air emissions of smog-forming pollutants by up to 90 percent and cut carbon dioxide emissions in half. The EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) rate the Toyota Prius (double ahem) as among the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States based on smog-forming emissions.

Or is that smug-forming emissions?

3. Efficient for both town and country driving

The earlier hybrids were known for performing better in stop-and-start city traffic than on long hauls. This was because the electric motor generated more electricity each time the brake pedal was hit, which could then be used to accelerate quickly or drive at lower speeds without using any of the gas. Now, thanks to more efficient batteries, the electric motors can go faster and farther. The difference between short and long runs is minimal: in a Prius, you can expect to get around 50 mpg cruising down the highway or tootling about town.

4. Lower depreciation rates

Unless fossil fuels miraculously become plentiful, cheap, and clean burning, hybrid cars are not going anywhere. They are, and will continue to be, in high demand and thus will hold their value, which makes buying a hybrid a good investment. While it’s true that some hybrid parts cost more than those for regular cars, they also have longer warranties. Most car companies offer 8-year warranties on the hybrid system and battery, with 3-year warranties protecting the rest of the car. So it’s not unheard of for a hybrid car to run like new when it has 250,000 miles on it. And the best part: hybrid cars don’t require any more maintenance than gas-only cars.

5. The “BOO!” factor

If driving my Prius is my number-one pastime, my second-favorite is gliding up alongside friends in parking lots and scaring the bejeezus out of them. At very low speeds, when the electric motor is running without the gas, these cars double as (silent) pranksters.

But, my friends will be happy to learn that this party trick is on its way out. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), new federal rules will soon require hybrid and electric carmakers to install fake noisemaking devices. The agency believes that adding a noisemaker to mimic a regular car engine will alert unsuspecting pedestrians to the car’s presence, thus saving approximately 35 lives and preventing 2,800 injuries per year.

Whether you’re a fan or not, hybrids are here to stay. They make sense financially as well as environmentally and can even compete with many of their gas-only counterparts performance-wise. However, the price of a gallon of gas is probably the biggest reason they’ll only continue to gain in popularity and market share. Hybrid sales increased from 2.1 percent to 3 percent between 2011 and 2012. In addition, CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations dictate that automakers must maintain a minimum mileage of 27.5 mpg across their product lines. This means that including a hybrid or 2 in their line allows them to develop larger, faster engines for their other models, thus ensuring hybrids a place in the lineup.

Tell us what you think. Are hybrids the next big thing or simply all hype? Start the debate by commenting below.

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2 Responses to “Top 5 Reasons to Drive a Hybrid”

  1. Jason
    January 31, 2013 #

    While I believe fuel effecient vehicles is the wave of the future (and present), I disagree with the push for hybrid-electric vehicles for the reasons stated below:

    Long term ownership:
    Save money at the pump now, however, how about when the battery packs require replacement? The battery pack is located under the rear seat of the Toyota Prius and retails for $3000-5000 for replacement. A quick google search brought up $4500 All the money you just saved now when into maintenance.

    Fuel effeciency:
    Only if you drive the car correctly will you see better then average. If driven like a normal car with a slight lead foot, you will yield below 20mpg due to constant operation of the gas motor. In addition.. need to stay cool? run the A/C (not econ mode) and the gasoline motor will stay on to operate the A/C compressor.

    Better for the environment:
    In theory, yes. However, once the batteries have lived their life and require replacement… its a different story. The batteries must be discarded and allocated to special containers as they break down twice as fast as normal batteries. This creates environmental concerns as the number of hybrids on the road increases.

    I believe clean diesel technology is the way to go as an alternative to hybrids. They have a bad rep, as when people hear "diesel", they think of dirty, greasy, stinky and noisy. Maybe back in 1975… but not anymore. Take the Volkswagen Jetta TDI (Turbo Direct Injection) diesel car. Bulletproof engine, good for at least 500,000 miles before requiring a rebuild. Less maintenance, since it runs on compression… there is less wiring and no spark plugs and coils to change. In addition to being quiet, it looks like any other car on the road. They get 50+ mpg. And the best part…you can convert these cars to run on used vegetable oil, which costs nothing at all.

  2. Lauren
    February 6, 2013 #

    My Prius is actually my dream car :) It suits my competitive nature perfectly and keeps me constantly aware of my consumption and speed. The folks that dog on this car should take a spin in one ! I very earnestly analyze each trip when i fill up to think how I can tweak more miles out of the next tank. I'm proud of this car. Along with a great safety rating and smooth ride, I really can't say enough.

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