We Know: 5 Important Facts About Hybrid Cars
1. Definitely a Pollution Solution
Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine with a battery-powered electric motor. They have been on the market in the US since 1999.
A hybrid engine gets significantly better gas mileage than a conventional gas engine. Hybrids consume less gas and produce less pollution per mile than conventional gasoline engines. The hybrid engine currently sold in the Honda Civic Hybrid gets 10 to 15 miles more per gallon than a regular gas engine in the same car. The hybrid engine of the Prius, made by Toyota, produces 90 percent fewer harmful emissions than a comparable gasoline engine. No doubt about it, these cars are good for the environment!
2. Expect a Higher Price Tag
The hybrid cars currently on the market cost from $3500 to $6000 more per car than comparable cars with conventional gas engines. This means that the amount of money you save, or don’t save, by buying a hybrid is very much dependent on gasoline prices. If gas is priced at $1.80 per gallon (we wish), it could take the average driver (15,000 miles per year) between 10 and 15 years to amortize the $3500 increase in the initial price. However, the higher gas prices go, the less time it takes to recoup the higher price tag.
3. Hybrids Come with Tax Breaks from Uncle Sam
The Federal government is offering tax breaks to buyers of hybrid cars through 2006. The amount of the tax break depends on the year you file and the tax bracket you’re in. Some states also offer tax breaks for hybrid buyers. This is certainly a case where being an environmentalist has its tax advantages.
4. A Growing Number of Makes and Models
Most hybrids are made from existing car models. For example, the Honda Civic is available as a hybrid, as is the Ford Escape. The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are both available as hybrids. GMC and Chevy currently make two hybrid models, both pickup trucks, the C15 Silverado and the C15 Sierra. Both the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry should also be available with a hybrid engine soon. Lexus, Saturn, Honda and Chevrolet are planning Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) with hybrid engines in the next two years. And, the Chevy Malibu will go hybrid in 2007.
5. No Ordinary Battery
Hybrid buyers may be saving on gas, but they are sporting a much more expensive battery. The cost of hybrid batteries ranges from $1,000 to $3,000, although we have gotten reports of some hybrid owners being quoted $4,800 to $8,000! This could be due to the current high demand for hybrid cars. And, although the hybrid battery may be covered under the car’s warranty, once the warranty expires, you could find yourself in for more of a ‘charge’ than you expected.
Remember, car magazines - like Motor Trend - and consumer magazines - like Consumer Reports - are great places to find about more about the environmental, mechanical and financial issues related to hybrid cars.