Hybrid vehicles have become a hot topic in the automobile industry within the last few years. They are well-known as being a great “green” option as opposed to traditional vehicles, but also well-known for their expensive price tag.
Hybrid technology utilizes both electricity and gas to power the car. They are an in-between model until researchers develop a vehicle that runs completely independent of fuel. Take a look at the pros and cons below, and decide for yourself if it is a good fit for your family and lifestyle.
Advantages to hybrid cars
• Use less gas – The engines of hybrid cars are technologically advanced for maximizing fuel use. One of the ways they do this is shutting off when idle, so they both save gas and are silent when stopped. Hybrids are also made of lighter materials and in streamlined designs that further conserve fuel. A hybrid car can give you up to 60 miles per gallon.
• Lower toxic emissions – Because they burn less gas, hybrids minimize harmful emissions in the air. This includes carbon dioxide, which is considered a primary component in global warming.
• Regenerative brakes – Whenever a vehicle brakes, energy is released. Hybrid vehicles harness the electricity that is discharged when braking and use it to charge the batteries inside the car. Similarly, the motor is able to charge the battery while at the same time getting energy from it.
• Larger models available – Many think of hybrids as being smaller in size, such as the Honda Prius. But today, there are SUV models like the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, which accommodate drivers that have families or need more cargo space.
• Tax credit – This is a pro and a con. For some time, the United States government issued a federal tax credit of up to $3,400 for hybrid vehicle owners. This was to provide incentive for purchasing the new technology. Unfortunately, the tax credits were ended for any hybrids purchased after December 31, 2010.
Disadvantages to hybrid cars
• Price – The number one disadvantage of owning a hybrid is its high cost. You can plan on spending anywhere between $27,000 and $64,000 for a new hybrid, though there are many used hybrids also available that are not as expensive. The argument is that in the long run, drivers make up the difference in the amount they save on gas. To determine this, calculate how much you typically spend on gas and leverage it with the price of your current car. Then, calculate how much you would spend on gas getting 45-60 miles per gallon and leverage it with the price of a hybrid you would be interested in.
• Possibly limited materials – Some indicate there could possibly be a shortage of material that is necessary for creating hybrid vehicles. The element, called Dysprosium, is located in China, and is used to produce the electric motors. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it is the single most critical element for emerging clean energy technologies. Since the Chinese have exclusive access to Dysprosium, and the amount is limited, there is serious research being done to locate another component that could be supplemented.
• Safety concerns – There is some anxiety regarding a hybrid’s ability to withstand a serious accident. These concerns stem from the lightweight materials used in making the cars, as well as the high amount of voltage held in their battery packs. Most hybrids received a “Good” safety rating for frontal and side impact tests, but concerns exist nonetheless. Naturally, cars manufacturing hybrid vehicles are working to improve technology to make them as safe as possible.
• Tax credit – The fact that hybrid cars are no longer eligible for tax credit can be discouraging, especially since that is a common advantage in many Americans’ minds when it comes to hybrids. Legislators have moved the credits to more advanced technology – plug-in hybrids and electric cars. For this type of vehicle, there are local and national credits that far exceed the amount offered for previous models.
Many argue the inevitability of hybrids becoming the norm eventually. The advantages of owning a hybrid do make them an attractive option, but with the technology continuing to advance, most Americans will probably hold off until they are less expensive.