Since vague ideas about hybrids probably won’t be reason enough for you to consider picking up a shiny new Prius, it’s a good idea to learn more to see if those ideas hold water. Having more information will make it considerably easier to head over to the dealership to see about the hybrid that’s right for you. On the other hand, a little knowledge may serve to steer you away.
How a Hybrid Works
To get the best fuel efficiency, a hybrid vehicle relies on two different power sources, a battery-powered engine and a combustion one. The battery-powered engine handles low-speed acceleration and around-town driving conditions, and the internal combustion engine handles highway traveling. Together, these two engines perform much more efficiently, reducing fuel costs and emissions.
Different Hybrid Types
While the dual engine concept of the hybrid is straightforward, the execution of it is not. There are many variations based on the basic idea.
- Slight Hybrid – This type of hybrid vehicle relies on a tiny electric battery and engine to handle just minor start and stop driving. This boosts efficiency slightly while only minimally increasing the cost of the vehicle.
- Minor Hybrid – This hybrid vehicle uses the gasoline engine almost exclusively but will rely on the electric engine to boost acceleration and handle other minor tasks.
- Heavy Hybrid – Vehicles like the Prius rely heavily on hybrid technology. They are known as pure hybrids and use both the gas and electric systems interchangeably to make the vehicle as efficient as possible. Since the car’s battery-powered component is more utilized than in the slight or minor hybrid, it is more complex and expensive.
- Extreme Hybrid – These vehicles rely heavily on the battery-powered engine and can be driven without using the combustion engine at all. These predominately electric vehicles will come with a small gas tank and combustion engine for longer trips or if the battery charge runs out.
The Good, the Bad, and the…Wait, That’s Not Ugly at All
The Pros for Going Hybrid
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, along with multiple other greenhouse gases. A hybrid allows the choice of operating fully electric with the combustion engine as a reserve, reducing the carbon footprint. In fact, with some models offering 50+ miles per gallon, the environmental impact would still be less than a traditional combustion engine, even if a driver used gas mode full time.
Potential savings on regular maintenance
If a hybrid driver favors his electric motor over the combustion one, routine wear and tear are greatly reduced, as is the need for oil, coolant, and other fluids.
No “range anxiety”
One of the knocks against AEV’s (all-electric vehicles) is the idea of a battery getting low with no charging station in sight. With a combustion engine as backup, those worries are gone.
The Cons Against Going Hybrid
Higher upfront cost
The initial cost of a hybrid will likely be more than a comparably equipped vehicle with a combustion engine. These costs will likely be recouped through maintenance and fuel savings (as well as potential tax incentives), but be prepared to pay more to begin.
Maintenance potentially more expensive
While the everyday maintenance costs of a hybrid are typically lower than that of a traditional vehicle, it is generally more expensive when maintenance is required. This is partly due to the unique nature of the work. Some components of a hybrid require a technician with specialized training.
Maintenance costs become even more daunting if the batteries are involved. EV batteries are generally warranted for 10 years and are designed to last 150,000 miles. However, if you plan to keep the car beyond these limits, expect to spend $2000+ for a replacement battery.
Though greatly reduced, fossil fuel emissions remain
If your goal is to eliminate as much of your carbon footprint as possible, hybrids only provide a partial solution. If this is important to you, perhaps consider an AEV.
Since hybrids and AEVs are believed to be better for the environment than standard gas-powered vehicles, many states offer incentives to buyers willing to make the switch. Incentives provided by these states not only make buying hybrids and EVs more affordable, there are also some extended driving privileges exclusive to owners. Here are some examples of perks offered by some state, local, and federal programs.
Here are some ways that states are incentivizing hybrid and fully electric vehicles. The incentives make it more enjoyable to own these types of vehicles and more affordable.
- HOV lane access for faster transportation
- Exclusive parking spots in cities
- Discounts on auto insurance
- Money-back and other finance incentives
- Inspections and emission test exemptions
- Lower utility rates
Here are some examples of states that offer incentives and the types of incentives offered. The perks vary by state and are changed and modified regularly, so it’s important to keep current if you are considering changing to an EV or hybrid car.
- Rebate program – Offers up to $2,500 back for qualifying purchases.
- Insurance discount – Coverage cost reduced on eligible vehicles.
- HOV lanes – Special HOV lanes make traveling faster. Single drivers in hybrids can use carpooling lanes.
- Utility savings – Some California power companies extend discounts on home energy costs for hybrid and EV owners
- Special rebate – A state program, known as the CHEAPR rebate, offers eligible car buyers $3,000 toward the purchase price of an EV or hybrid.
- Lower registration – Registration fees are reduced for eligible vehicles.
- New Haven parking – In New Haven, there is free parking for all hybrid and fully electric vehicles.
- HOV lanes – Single riders can use carpool lanes, and special hybrid and EV lanes exist in some locations.
- Tax Credit – There is a tax credit up to $5,000 or 20% of the vehicle cost the year a zero-emission vehicle is purchased.
- Alternative Fuel tax credit – When using an alternative fuel vehicle there is an additional tax credit of up to $2,500 or 10% of the total car value.
- Lower utilities – Electric car owners are eligible for reduced energy costs charging at home.
- Vouchers – Credits of up to $3,500 to be used to purchase hybrid, natural gas, or electric vehicles.
- Rebates – A rebate of up to $2,500 is available for purchased or leased hybrid or electric vehicles.
The states listed above aren’t the only ones that offer locals incentives to rely on hybrid or electric vehicles. More than a dozen states offer similar programs to those who make the switch to hybrid or electric. If you are in the market for a new car, check the incentives where you live. It might make sense for you to make the switch, too.