Hybrid Vehicles - What to Know

by : Matthew Hick

Environmentalists love them. Consumers want them, and manufacturers are rushing to get more of them into showrooms. Hybrids are hot and getting hotter.

Wild fluctuations in gas prices have been a boom for hybrid car manufacturers. Hoping to lower gas bills, consumers are rushing to see if the new hybrids are worth the extra sticker price. It is estimated that by 2015, more than five million hybrid cars will be on the road throughout the globe, compared to less than one million just last year. Still, hybrid cars aren't for everyone. So, what should consumers look for in a hybrid? First, you need to understand what they're all about.

What Is A Hybrid?
A hybrid is a cross between a traditional gas powered engine and an electric one. Hybrids contain both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor with a battery backup. Traditional hybrids share both the gas and electric energy, thus making them more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. There is one thing to consider, however, when purchasing a hybrid. With two main types available (a full hybrid and a mild hybrid), consumers must decide how important the energy savings are before choosing one over the other.

Mild Hybrid: The mild hybrid vehicle uses mostly gas consumption, with the electric motor only assisting the traditional engine during higher speeds when more power is needed. Therefore, the mild hybrid relies more on gas consumption than its full-hybrid counterpart, and only offers a minimal reduction in the amount of harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere. Still, compared to traditional vehicles, benefits to the wallet and environment are seen.

Full Hybrid: The full hybrid is more in line with what consumers think of when considering a hybrid vehicle. Allowing the electric motor to work independently of the traditional engine, the full hybrid can actually run on electricity alone, saving gas and eliminating the release of many harmful emissions. During an idle stop, the full hybrid will actually shut itself off, returning power to the electric motor. Great for town driving, the full hybrid allows the electric motor to do most of the work when traveling at slower speeds. And, despite what many consumers think, neither hybrid must be "plugged in". The car recharges itself through the internal battery pack while driving.

Why Buy A Hybrid?
Despite recent reports that warned consumers that today's hybrids weren't getting the gas mileage touted by manufacturers, most advocates agree that many can use as much as half the fuel as a traditional gas-guzzler. Even with newer models being manufactured bigger and heavier (thus, using more gas to run), hybrids remain economical and eco-friendly alternatives for today's driving consumer.

They are more efficient, environmentally sound, and according to manufacturers, will soon be available in more styles for consumers to choose from. In 2007 several SUV and truck varieties have already been unveiled.

Their popularity is undeniable. Manufacturing for the hybrid has tripled in the last four years in the United States alone, with production expected to double again this year.