Most people have specific reasons for owning a hybrid vehicle. Whether it is to follow a trend, go green, or find some relief at the gas pump, hybrid owners enjoy a multitude of benefits once they get through the initial investment. The cost of a hybrid vehicle today is much more competitively priced with regular vehicles. While they may be a little more, the prices have certainly come down over the past few years. With this being said, the cost of the vehicle itself is justified by most hybrid owners. There have also been others automotive manufacturers following in the footsteps of the Toyota Prius, adding choice to the hybrid vehicle market. Most manufacturers have at least one model available in a hybrid and the technology has come a long way. Consumer Reports state, however, that the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid still account for over 50% of hybrid vehicle sold in this country. Some of the higher end luxury manufacturers have introduced hybrid models which are still high in price but come with advanced technology and unique features.
Financial savings is one of the most popular reasons a driver purchases a hybrid vehicle. Because they are so much more fuel efficient, with some getting up to 50mpg in fuel economy, annual fuel costs add up to hundreds of dollars in savings. Over a few years, this can make back money from the initial investment that could have been slightly more money than regular vehicles of the same model or family. When gas prices spiked dramatically several years ago, even more savings were seen at the gas pump and many hybrid owners were thrilled that their investment had paid off sooner than planned. Hybrid owners can also save money on car insurance. A lot of insurance companies offer instant discounts and lowered premiums simply for owning a hybrid vehicle. Some of these insurance companies have added hybrid vehicle divisions to work specifically with owners who drive green.
The “Go Green” trend made hybrid vehicles popular as well and many people wanted a hybrid vehicle because it was exciting to be a part of such a movement as well as to support the environment. The number of hybrid vehicles available has seen the greatest rise in the last couple years due to the increase in popularity and demand. One of the unique reasons that hybrids are better for the environment than regular cars is actually because a hybrid car with two energy sources is actually better for the environment than traditional cars with only one source – gasoline. Hybrid vehicles are also better for the environment because they let out fewer emissions. When gas is burned to produce energy for vehicles, carbon monoxide is created and in turn released into the environment (and the air we breathe). With hybrid cars, though, much less of this dangerous carbon monoxide is released into the atmosphere, therefore reducing emissions and air pollution supporting the go green trend.
A hybrid vehicle works with two sources of energy. Hybrid electric vehicles combine both traditional gasoline engines and electric motors. They are called hybrids because they use both a small internal combustion engineand an electric motor to obtain maximum performance with minimum emissions as mentioned above. They can also give you better fuel economy, increased power, or even additional power to run tools or electric devices from. Some of the advanced technologies that hybrids now come with include regenerative braking, electric motor drive assistance, and automatic start or shutoff. With regenerative braking, the electric motor applies the resistance to the drivetrain system which then causes the wheels to slow. In contrast, the energy from the wheels turn the motor and converts energy which would normally be wasted during braking or coasting. The energy is converted into electricity which is then stored in the battery until it is needed by the electric motor. Some vehicles are called “parallel hybrids.” They use both the electric motor and the ICE for propulsion. They can run at the same time or one can be used as the primary source of power. The other source of power can kick in when extra is needed, for example when accelerating, driving up steep hills, or when passing other vehicles. The word parallel comes from the fact that they can run simultaneously.
There are tax benefits and other financial benefits enjoyed by hybrid owners as well. Some buyers of hybrid vehicle may automatically qualify for income tax credits, depending on their state. When doing your taxes, it is always a good idea to discuss this with your accountant or tax professional to see if you quality for a tax break due to purchasing a hybrid vehicle that previous tax year. In some states, this hybrid tax credit is quite substantial. In Arizona, there are multiple tax credits and incentives for owning a hybrid. For example, a tax credit up to $75 is available to individuals for the installation of a PEV charging outlet in a house unit that they have built. To qualify for this tax credit, the outlet must meet certain codes and standards. To receive this, it is not even necessary to own a hybrid. Also in Arizona is the parking incentive for alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). This states that drivers of AFVs may park without penalty in parking areas that are designated for carpool operators provided the vehicle is using alternative fuel. So what qualifies as alternative fuel? According to the United States Department of Energy, alternative fuels include natural gas, propane, hydrogen, electricity, or a blend of hydrogen with propane or natural gas. Likewise, there is a reduced alternative fuel vehicle license tax which states that the initial tax on an AFV is lower than the initial license tax on a regular vehicle. Many states have also begun to introduce programs for hybrid owners where they can get free HOV passes and special parking passes as mentioned above. The free HOV passes can save small amounts of money but are still something to be enjoyed by hybrid owners and reduces the worry of driving in an HOV lane without getting pulled over. There are several other notifications, exemptions, and minimum requirements that hybrid drivers should be aware of to save money in regards to tax credits or incentives.
Many people believe that the maintenance of a hybrid vehicle is much more expensive and frequent than a conventional vehicle. This is not necessarily true according to many hybrid mechanics. More important than anything is to have trained mechanics do the work. There is not more work for a hybrid vehicle but is certainly is crucial that you hire someone who understands the complex and complicated systems of a hybrid. Maintenance of hybrid and plug-in vehicles are very similar to regular vehicle maintenance. Manufacturers can provide recommendations and suggestions for service interval schedules in your manual. Because hybrid electric vehicles have small internal combustion engines, maintenance is required to ensure performance and safety. The electrical system (including the battery) may be the only system which requires different service. Because of regenerative braking, those brakes actually tend to last longer than conventional vehicles meaning they won’t need quite as much attention either.
Hybrid batteries are the center of the biggest debate on the function and value of hybrid vehicles. Today, hybrid batteries are designed to last between 100,000 and 150,000 miles, typically the lifetime of the vehicle or at least for the length of time most drivers will have the same vehicle. However, the advanced batteries in hybrids have a limited number of charging cycles and can decrease in performance, power, or charge over time. Some drivers also see a decrease in fuel economy when their battery suffers. If the battery needs to be replaced outside of the warranty package, the cost could be significant – several thousands of dollars. This is what the debate centers around – are replacement batteries eco-friendly? What happens to the old battery? How much energy does it take to produce extra hybrid batteries? Although battery prices are expected to decline over the next several years thanks to advanced technology and production volume increases, battery replacement may not always be the best choice in hybrids.
Battery conditioning is another service unique to hybrid vehicles. Some repair shops also charge thousands of dollars, but there are some repair shops (one in Arizona) that will give the same results for a savings of up to 70%. This service of conditioning the battery pack used to mean battery pack testing without any replacement of parts. There is no hardware or battery module components replaced in battery conditioning. It typically regenerates the battery back to between 95%-98% life and many environmentalists support this because it doesn’t require additional battery packs or old battery packs harming the environment. Once the battery pack has been removed from the vehicle, specialized equipment is connected and testing begins for both power capability and the battery modules. Data is collected for analysis and diagnostics. About 8 out of 10 batteries could actually benefit from battery pack conditioning rather than battery replacement, something dealerships do not tell owners.
Making the decision to own a hybrid usually leads to many benefits that you can begin enjoying from the time you drive away from the dealership. Maximum power and performance, eco-friendly features, fewer emissions, and financial savings from tax incentives and fuel economy advantages make driving a hybrid a great choice. Gas prices are still high these days and commuting to and from work can get expensive. The average commute for the 128.3 million American commuters is estimated to be around a half an hour each way. Your commute may not seem quite so bad when you can reach up to 50 mpg in fuel economy. Finding the right auto repair shop to experts to maintain and repair your hybrid vehicle is an essential part of owning one, optimizing performance, power, and lifetime. Now seems to be the time to buy a hybrid because of lower sticker prices, more choices, improved technology and durability, and all of the other benefits discussed above.