Understanding hybrids

For a few years there have been a lot of talks about hybrid cars. Many people switched their vehicles to such autos as Toyota Prius, Honda Civic and alike because they are fuel efficient.

The idea of hybrids’ fuel efficiency is easy to understand: the vehicle has two types of engines which work together supporting each other. Standard gasoline engine runs most of the time. Electric motor that is powered by rechargeable batteries (as a rule they are called nickel-metal hybrid or NiMH) turns on only when the most gas usage is expected: when the car is started and stopped frequently, for example, during street driving.

Since hybrids are best while driven at low speeds with stop-and-go at numerous traffic lights, many city drivers changed their SUV’s to small hybrids and started saving on gas. Since 2005 the sales on big vehicles which take less than 22 mpg dropped, while owners turned to gas-electric autos causing their great popularity and price raise. Due to high demand auto manufacturers increased hybrid production, but they are still not catching up completely and the customers have to be placed in a waiting list till their vehicle is assembled and delivered to a dealership.

If a person is getting a gas-electric vehicle with the goal to save some money, it is important to realize, there will be no savings in the auto price, but after years of driving a car with high gas-mileage the savings will show more and more. As for highway driving, many hybrids do not do any better than standard vehicles, but as it has been mentioned before, the real saving starts with city driving: some gas-electric autos have 15-70% of gas improvement comparing to standard cars.

Here are the top ten most fuel-efficient hybrids:

1. Toyota Prius (48mpg in a city and 45mpg on a highway)
2. Honda Civic Hybrid (40mpg / 45mpg)
3. Nissan Altima Hybrid (35mpg / 33mpg)
4. Ford Escape Hybrid (34mpg / 31mpg)
5. Mercury Mariner Hybrid (34mpg / 31mpg)
6. Mazda Tribute Hybrid (34mpg / 31mpg)
7. Toyota Camry Hybrid (33mpg / 34mpg)
8. Toyota Highlander Hybrid (27mpg / 25 mpg)
9. Chevy Malibu Hybrid (26mpg / 34mpg)
10. Saturn Aura Hybrid (26mpg / 34mpg)

There are several myths about hybrids which are not true, but people created and believe in them without any basis.

• Hybrids use over 70 mpg! Well, the list of the best hybrids shows that they do not even come close to 50 mpg, so some high numbers like 70 are too good to be true. Auto manufacturers work on fully electric cars which might easily go to the high numbers like these because they run on an electric battery pack most of the time unlike the hybrids which use gasoline powered engine.
• Hybrids have to be plugged in for a recharge. This is one more aspect frequently confused with fully electric vehicles. The batteries recharge by reclaiming the energy when the vehicle brakes.
• Hybrids can run on electric motor if they run out of gas. The gasoline engine is the major one in this type of vehicles and the battery pack of the electric one is not meant to run for a while on its own. In addition, electric motor needs gasoline for a constant recharge, but if it runs on its own, the battery might discharge and become useless and damaged.
• The rechargeable batteries in the hybrid work for two years only. Actually the manufacturers give up to 8-year warranties on their original NiMH batteries, so they are expected to last at least this long.

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