Hybrid Cars - Environmentally Friendly Vehicles

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Hybrid cars are cars that use both an electrical source and an internal combustion engine to propel the vehicle. Hybrids are nothing new -- think of the Trojan warships with both sail and oarsmen, or the moped of yesteryear that utilized both pedal power and a small internal combustion engine to propel it. With today's concerns over greenhouse gases and the effects on the environment, hybrid vehicles are more popular and more important than ever.

What Exactly is a Hybrid Car?

A hybrid car is defined as any vehicle that uses two sources of power to propel it. Hybrid cars will use an electric motor for town and suburban driving, and have an internal combustion engine that can run the vehicle on the highway. The electric motor is powered by batteries that recharge automatically while you drive. These are some of the efficient features to look for in a hybrid vehicle:

* Hybrids have smaller and more efficient engines
* They utilize regenerative braking - when brakes are applied, the kinetic energy dissipated charges the car batteries while the vehicle is slowing.
* Periodic engine shutoff - when the car is stopped at a red light, the engine is shut down. Putting the car in gear restarts the engine.
* Hybrids are aerodynamically designed to eliminate drag.
* Hybrids utilize low rolling resistance (LLR) tires. They are stiffer and have less drag than conventional tires.
* Hybrids are made from lightweight materials. This helps to increase efficiency.

Tax Credits for Owning Hybrids

Currently there is a substantial tax credit for purchasing a hybrid vehicle, but be warned - this may run out soon. When a manufacturer sells 60,000 vehicles, the tax credit will no longer exist. The credit will be available to the end of the quarter that this limit is reached and again through the next quarter. After that, the credit will be available at 50% for six months. Following that will be a credit of 25% during the next six months, and then the credit will disappear. Unless Congress changes this plan, tax credits will remain in effect until December 31, 2010.

Think it won't be much? Guess again. Honda offers a credit of $2,100.00 on its Honda Civic hybrid. If you buy a Toyota Prius before Oct. 1, 2007, the tax credit is $787.50. The Nissan Altima hybrid will fetch a tax credit of $2,350.00 if it passes IRS certification in January.

What Are Other Advantages?

Besides the tax credits, owning a hybrid vehicle saves you considerable money in fuel efficiency. A Honda Civic Hybrid, tested in 2004 by Consumer Guide over a six month period got an average mile per gallon rating of 48 mpg city and 47 mpg highway. Compare this to a large SUV, such as the Dodge Ram SRT-10, which averaged 9 miles per gallon city, 15 mpg highway. The choice is obvious.

The Biggest Advantage

From a green point of view, the hybrid car is the best deal. America is responsible for 20% of emitted green house gases world wide. We are dependent on foreign oil. One-third of foreign oil produced is destined for the United States. We are at the mercy of the big oil companies, and people often have to make major lifestyle changes just to afford gasoline to commute to work. With gas currently over $3.00 per gallon, the idea of a hybrid vehicle becomes very tempting.

What About Image?

It is a proven fact that the American public displays their image through the type of vehicle they drive.The emotional value when purchasing a vehicle is greater than most people think. What it says about you and the way it makes you feel are important factors in the car buying arena. Now, in the days of more environmental awareness, saving fuel is a fact that is just as emotional as the image of a Hummer or Lincoln Navigator sitting in your driveway.

Going green is an advantage, not only in money saved, but also because the impact on the environment is lessened. Consider a hybrid vehicle for your next car purchase.

Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.