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To Hybrid or Not To Hybrid

Hybrid cars have become a visible option in the automobile industry.  With elevating gas prices and concerns about toxins being emitted into the environment, hybrids, at least in some circles, are a sought-after commodity.  But what makes them so different?  Essentially, the force that runs them.

Hybrids utilize two power sources: a combustion engine (thus the need for gas) and an electric motor.  The electric portion (battery) is charged by wheel movement (so there is no need to plug-in an outlet).   Interestingly, other transportation types also incorporate hybrid technology: e.g., locomotives, diesel-electric buses, submarines.  Essentially any vehicle that is propelled by more than one source is a hybrid.

So why do individuals buy hybrids?  For some, environment factors are the reason; hybrids emit fewer greenhouse gases {toxins} to trap heat in the atmosphere.    For others, gas mileage is the driving force.  Hybrids could get 10 miles more per gallon than their non-hybrid counterparts.  For example, the Toyota Camry non-hybrid gets 22 city/33 highway; the Toyota Camry Hybrid, 33 city/34 highway.  (To further optimize gas mileage, drivers might wish to keep within the speed limit, allow the car to warm in the colder weather, choose lower octane gas, and consistently check tire pressure).

Hybrids definitely have their strengths.  Still, there are also some less-positive features.  For one thing, the purchase price is typically more expensive.  The MSRP on a 2010 Camry LE is $21,900: the Camry Hybrid, $26,150.  Also, hybrids are newer to the market, so their long-term track record is not as certain.

So which companies make hybrids?  Well, many are pursuing this technology.  Some current choices are Toyota, Honda, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Mercury, and Lexus.

An additional perk?  Some cars, such as the Nissan Altima Hybrid (it’s only sold in eight states, but Massachusetts is one of them) come with a government tax credit; the Altima credit is $2,350.  Certain hybrid manufacturers have already exhausted the allotted number of vehicles allowed under this plan; the program phases out after 60,000 cars have been sold.  For example, there is no longer a government tax credit on the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Hybrids are not for everyone.  However, they are a great option for people seeking cleaner emissions and improved gas mileage.  And who knows, maybe one day most drivers will own a hybrid?